Monday, May 28, 2007

Mayberry Machiavellians 'member Memorial Day

"The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago, and very little has changed. It stank then, and it stinks now. Only today, it is the fetid stench of corruption that hangs in the air." - Lisa Simpson in "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington"

On this Memorial Day, the traditional media will focus on the war in Iraq and the senseless sacrifice of our brave and honorable soldiers there. And it would be trite on this day to impune their mission. Suffice to say, that the democracy they are defending has been blighted and dishonored with cronyism and politicization of our laws by those charged with faithfully executing them.

I am refering to the recent scandal at the Justice Department where a number of federal prosecuters are alleged to have been fired for political reasons. While dismissals of appointments have in the past been matters of scandal (Andrew Johnson's impeachment), and the whole of the executive staff "serves at the pleasure of the President," there is no precedent for firing US Attorneys in the middle of a term. This makes the motives important. Throughout the last two months top officials from Justice have been called to testify in front of Congress. At question is: what was the reason for the firings, and who made the decisions?

Those questions are straightforward and can probably be pieced together from the recent memories of the Justice officials and their emails and memos. Except the Attorney General, a brilliant lawyer and career bureaucrat, had trouble remembering who was involved in the decisions, but was pretty sure it wasnt him. It may have been his Deputy AG Paul McNulty or Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson. Was the White House involved? Its tough to tell. The White House Liaison, Monica Goodling, a vivacious blonde and graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School, could not recall what she told the White House political staff, and in particular, then White House Counsel Harriet Miers, about the potential dismissals. Likely she did not want to perjure herself, as any practiced lawyer giving testimony would...except she's not. Right after graduating law school she took a job slinging mud for Bush's campaign and then moved up through the press office to the executive office, to Justice. I digress. Goodling was granted immunity for her testimony where she subsequently admitted to "crossing a line" with respect to the civil service rules.

Thats as close as the buck comes to stopping these days. A truly disturbing anecdote was relayed through former Deputy Attorney General James Comey in one of his testimonies before Congress. Comey was the acting AG when John Ashcroft was hospitalized for cancer treatment. Apparently, the White House needed certification of their NSA domestic wiretapping program by the Attorney General. Comey had refused, seeing it as unconstitutional. So then-Chief of Staff Andy Card and then-White House Counsel paid a visit to Ashcroft's hospital to get his certification on the program, which was thwarted by Comey's intervention.

You cant make this $h!t up! This is the most Machiavellian administration in history. Setting aside Bush and Cheney's relationship to the military contractors and oil companies that have profited enormously from the war and geo-political events set into motion by the administration, its apparent they have a "give a f@%#" attitude to the Constitution, Congress, and the American people at large. You have to wonder how history will judge this time in American history where our duties to future generations environmental well-being were tossed aside, and our international reputation tarnished hopefully not irrevocably. But as Bush said to Bob Woodward: "History. We dont know. We'll all be dead."

No $h!t.

Happy Memorial Day. Ill put up some happier links and ideas in the next few days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Move Celtics to Vegas, Its Baseball Season Now

It’s a sad day in Celtic Nation (if there is such a thing) as a chance to have Oden or Durant in green evaporated last night with a swift kick to our collective junk. My conjecture is that since the system is so complicated with thousands of numbers and a machine selecting balls, that there is no way it’s not fixed. The league might be punishing the Celts for their deplorable ownership and management, or indifferent fans.

At any rate, its where do we go from here time: Should the C’s blow up the team? It might not be a bad idea. Pierce wants to win, we have Ratliff’s expiring deal, and a lot of young moving parts. Also, there’s a chance Yi Jianlian or Joakim Noah will still be at the five spot.

One interesting tidbit, though. Deebs Mullen sent in an email yesterday stating that on May 22, 1843, a wagon trail of 1,000 settlers started off on the Oregon Trail. 164 years later the Portland Trail Blazers received the first pick despite having only a 5.3 percent chance to do so.

I’ll look to get away from the NBA in the next couple days since there’s been a lot more (though equally frustrating things) going on.

Monday, May 21, 2007

10 Things I hate about LeBron James

With the Suns losing this weekend, the NBA Playoffs are in LeBron James' hands. If he becomes Superman and lifts the Cavs to a victory, then the NBA could pull some decent ratings. Unfortunately I'm less than confident that LeBron can submit the minimum of 4 superhuman performances required for the Cavs to escape this round. I also think the Pistons are a smart enough team to see what the Spurs did to Steve Nash, and how it ended up affecting the series. I think one of Jason Maxiell's elbows has LeBron's name on it and he wont be able to shake it off like Nash did.

Not to mention, I've been waiting patiently for four years for LeBron to step it up. This season was my breaking point, I hate LeBron James. These are my reasons:

1. He's not clutch
After the Nets had gone on a 14-0 run in the third quarter and LeBron
came back in the 4th and the Cavs facing a deficit, LeBron did what all the great do: took a pass from the point guard and stood on the wing quickly darting his head back and forth. Once the game was in hand, LeBron decided to turn it on and pad the stats. To be fair, I'm pretty sure Flip Murray might be the best player he's run with over the last two years and Carlos Boozer decided to abandon him for the whiter pastures of Mormon fraught Utah (which speaks volumes about the city of Cleveland).

2. He hasn't called for Doc Rivers' head
I have to assume that if the Global Icon spoke up, Doc wouldn't cancel practices to check out his son play 4mpg for Georgetown anymore. Although, if he wanted to do something about his current coaching situation first, I would forgive him. At least Doc Rivers has a good "let's go!" clap and he smiles like a Mongoloid after a bad call. Mike Brown looks constantly overwhelmed. Nothing about the man inspires confidence and he looks like he could curl into a ball and start sobbing at any moment. Cavalier brass should just put him in one of those jumpers that you put a baby in. I've never seen a baby look concerned while bouncing around in one of those.

3. He doesn't dominate inferior competition
I understand the whole "save yourself for the playoffs" mentality, but when your 6'8 245 and the average guy who's guarding you is 6'6 210, through physics alone, you should be able to do some serious damage everynight.

4. He makes me hate Kobe Bryant less
Congrats LeBron, you may not be able to get a shot off with the game on the line, but you can make he hate a guy who raped a girl and then minutes later attempted to throw one of the 5 best Centers of all time under the bus a little less.

5. He re-signed with Cleveland
You could probably blame Isiah Thomas for this one. If he hadn't been busy trading any asset he had for the likes of (according to my main man Tommy Heinsohn) "fat" Eddy Curry, you could have created some cap space and compiled some lottery picks and LeBron would have walked to MSG. Now Cleveland fans are into the whole "he re-signed with us! He's going to be a Cavalier for life!" mindset. Now they get to watch him carry a team of corpses to the Eastern Conference Finals for 3 more years and just as he's reaching his peak, promptly leave town.

6. He cares as much about his Microsoft stock as he does about basketball
"I think I've grown as an individual and a businessman," and my free throw percentage has regressed to 70%!

7. He jumps around like Ronnie James Dio before tip-off
You've seen him do it, and if you haven't, watch Sportscenter. They've made the conscious decision to show his "slap powder on his hands and get the crowd psyched up" routine before every Cavaliers highlight. The man who's tried to ruin Black Sabbath for the past 27 years does the same thing on stage. God I hate Dio.

8. He doesn't play defense
LeBron is such a liability defensively that the likes of Eric Snow and Ira Newble have gotten bit time minutes for the Cavs. If he could cover this up by playing better help defense that'd be one thing, but that's not the case. At this point in his career and with his athleticism, he should at least be an average defender.

9. He doesn't wear those cool stickers that cover his tattoos like he did in high school anymore
This one's selfish on my part and probably varies based on your opinion, but I think LeBron needs a better ink man. Shaq's Superman tattoo leaves an impression. I don't even know what's going on with LeBron's ink. Unless his rationalization is, "I was in Vegas, I had been up for 50+ hours, was drinking grain alcohol and experimenting with peyote" then I just don't get it.

10. He's not MJ
Competition seems to be like crack to Michael Jordan. Between his multiple comebacks, his attempt to play baseball and his affection for card games, Jordan wants to beat someone in anyway that he can. There's still time, but right now LeBron seems to have no motivation or reason to crave competition.

As my associate jbg pointed out, Jordan was cut from his High School basketball team which motivated him. I agree, but I also think that it has more to do with the fact that LeBron grew up 20 years later and things have completely changed for High School basketball players. I first heard about LeBron James when he was in 9th grade, I've known about Greg Oden for about as long and I first heard about OJ Mayo when he was in elementary school. Its been written about ad naseum, but with the current system, players competitive spirit is slowly diminishing. Its not just LeBron, its everywhere. Fans care way more then the players do. Perhaps a Jason Maxiell flying elbow would....

I'm also pretty sure he's responsible for all the missing bees. I'm still piecing it all together and don't want to be libelous, so I'm holding back on that one for now.

Friday, May 18, 2007

NBA Playoffs Flop

The NBA playoffs are over. Golden State got knocked out Tuesday night by a less-than-compelling (even if Derek Fisher's daughter has retinoblastoma, they still play a ho-hum brand of basketball), though talented Jazz team. Phoenix was legitimately jobbed by the refs, first by letting Nash get smacked around (face, balls, whatever) despite playing his heart out, and then by suspending Diaw and Stoudemire for game 5 (which ended up being a gritty effort by the Suns in front of the home crowd. Kurt Thomas played the game of his career and but was clearly overmatched on the defensive end). In game 6, it looks like the series has taken its toll on Nash with uncharacteristic turnovers. Still, he hit big shots late and played with unparalleled passion. Its like that line from Rudy: “if I could put your heart in Lebron’s body…”

In the last week Ive gone from being indifferent to the Spurs to hating them. Duncan’s quiet superstar thing is tired and Manu Ginobili is every soccer-loving Euro-trash flopper I hate, and as Bill Simmons wrote Wednesday, Bruce Bowen may be one of the cheapest players of our generation (although j'aime Tony Parker toujours!). Unfortunately, the 2007 NBA Champion Spurs do everything right. And I mean everything. Their D is tenacious and closing the series at home, Parker and Ginobili both scored 30+ and Duncan was a block short of a triple-double.

Back East, LeBron James has been taking a lot of flack. In game 5, I dont think he broke a sweat (it was tough to tell though; the bartender didnt feel like seeing if the game was on in HD) in their shot at a home elimination game. Sure the Nets grabbed a big lead in the third, but the two teams went a combined 4-32 from the field in the 4th! Arent they all professionals?! That sounds like an opening round of the Special Olympics wheelchair tourney (too harsh?). This should be Bron-bron's coming out party, the stage is set, there's nothing else going on in the East. After the game, he said that he had more important things than basketball to worry about, namely his family. His girlfriend, who is eight months pregnant with his second son, was taken to the hospital at halftime. As he was sitting press conference he didnt know what was wrong with her. I’ll give him a brief pass on that because we all gots to take care of our baby’s mommas.

Last night in game 6, Bron did put up 23-8-8 as the Cavs closed out the series on the road. Really he was most conspicuous by his absence when their 15 point halftime lead disappeared as he rode the bench with 4 fouls.

Lebron's biggest problem is that his stated goal is to become a global icon. Only he's been told he would be one since he was 12 years old. MJ got cut from his high school basketball team. Gilbert Arenas wears 0 because thats how much his college coach told him he would play. He signed a $90 million dollar Nike deal while he was still in high school. He's got no fire in the belly.

The FJP is pleased to welcome a new sports editor on Monday.

- Face

Friday Items

Piece of $h!t tries to microwave daughter: A two month old girl is recovering from 2nd degree burns in a Texas hospital after her father placed her in a motel microwave. The 19 year-old father blamed stress for his actions. He had moved into the motel a week ago with his wife, daughter, and mother. He was looking for a job as a minister, following a call from God to quit his job at a southern Arkansas Sonic Drive-in.

"There is a thief among us" hailed Dean of Students Gordon Quimby over the PA. I was sitting in Music Appreciation my junior year of high school. There had been a rash of stolen graphing calculators (you know the TI-83s, 83pluses, 85s, 86s, and of course the boss 89s). They were used in every class, if not for pre-calculus equations in Math or Physics, then to play Tetris or Space Invaders in English. Quimby, a bearded ball-buster, told us that someone was stealing them out of lockers, and it was disappointing that in our community (a Catholic high school) that someone was committing such an heinous crime. While it was never officially known who the thief was, everyone had their hunches. What made me think of this is something one of my co-workers, and an avid reader of the FJP, brought up earlier this week. In our office bathrooms there is a bin for a charity called Save our Soaps. It benefits homeless shelters and the like by having people drop off toiletries. The reader dropped off two sets of disposable razors, and discovered later in the day that one was gone. As he said "the one left was a woman's style razor," which leads one to believe that the scumbag, er, person who pilfered it from the men's bathroom intended to take it for personal use. Since we work in finance for a large custodial bank, one should assume that everyone who works with us can afford to buy their own razors. So why would someone take toiletries out of bin for charity?

On an unrelated note, something has been bothering me lately. For the last few months I havent been dreaming. I dont know if this is a bad thing or not but I think I feel more tired in the morning because of it. It just seems troubling because I used to have very realistic, semi-lucid dreams. Sometimes I would wake up with a start and just think to myself "woah." The best ones were where I was skiing and I would hit a roller and then just fly and fly and not be scared (which apparently you can now do, check it out on the video on the internet site under "ski gliding"). Maybe its because Im pretty content right now so that there are not a lot of things for my subconscience to chew on.

From the Public Editor:

In more recent posts this blog has been giving the blogsphere a closer examination. With discussions on its nature and some links to personal blogs, the FJP has begun to connect into the medium that delivers is content. Regrettably, I let my personal experience and bias (of 5 straight years of raggin’ on Deebs) overtake priorities of professionalism. We tend to remember things happening the way we would have like them to…Deebs actually got into Super Bomber Man for a couple months in between Winding,net and the Super Ghouls and Ghosts era. To be frank, the legend of Deebs does embellish on the man. My apologies.

Some of the criticisms are warranted and appreciated. The editorial isses will be addressed in the form of a pledge to be more professional. First, I have forgotten that brevity is key to communication. That it is written haphazardly does not make it a blog. More time will be devoted to good writing and editing to make the content more readable and reduce the frequency of narrative asides. Second, the lack of links is an egregious breach of my responsibilities to inform readers. It will surely be corrected currently, retroactively, and in due time.

My personal relationship to blogs has been at an arm’s length because my media diet is almost entirely traditional. And it certainly tends towards Eastern liberal elite: The New York Times, NPR, The New Yorker, and the like. For this reason I haven’t read many blogs. I appreciate Deebs’ linking to his writing project and if any readers have a good blog or article, please pass it along via email or a comment post. At the same time I will absolutely make an effort to diversify my media diet. Mostly though, Ive missed Deebs’ blog for its entertainment and insight, and owe Derka much of the inspiration for the FJP.

In the early stages of this blog I did not realize that all media is a dialogue, a lesson that will surely not be forgotten. As such, I will be enabling anonymous comments in an effort to make feedback more accessible.

I will be updating old posts to provide links. Stay tuned tomorrow for a recap of this past week in NBA playoff action. Cheers and have a great weekend!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Blogs to Your Face

Here are a bunch of quick items and some links to the greater blogsphere:

This Year's Vlad: Rock critic-at-large, Vladimir Wormwood's personal blog. This Year's Vlad (ahem, of course a trip on one of Elvis Costello's finest albums) is back from a hiatus owing in large part to someone in his building now having a non-password protected wireless connection. When Wormwood says "God told me to skin you alive," he waxes existential by throwing down the most obscurely sublime punk proclamation and making it his own.

Adventures of an Unemployed Jewish Girl: Jess Winston's candid and quixotic diary of being a young professional in a Manhattan. Its a riveting and side splitting account of being "the poorest girl in Murray Hill." Winston's writing focus's on her family and personal life (something far more ballsy than my blogging, and something that will surely net her a book deal far before I am put back on staff at a national literary publication) which are indeed good subject material. "A JAPs Guide to Budgeting, Dieting, and Infrequent Sobriety" says it all.

While we're on the subject of blogging, the aforementioned Deebs Mullen admitted to me last night that he "reads more blogs than he writes." Thats not to hard considering Derka was last updated in October. (This is really little more than a thinly veiled attempt to shame Mullen back into blogging). But it made me think about the nature of blogging and something that Lauren Collins wrote in this month's New Yorker in Bansky was Here about the elusive and enigmatic British graffiti artist, Bansky. She said "the graffitist's impulse is akin to a blogger's: write some stuff, quickly, which people may or may not read. Both mediums demand wit and nimbleness. They arouse many of the same fears about the lowering of the public discourse and the taking of undeserved liberties." Talking with Vlad Saturday night I mentioned that I sometimes feel a bit arrogant that many of my posts are mere reguritations of the things that I read or see and its more than a little conceited to believe that I pay more attention to whats going on than everyone else. And maybe I am, but I hope Im not lowering the public discourse on issues, I would like to think that Im just sharing what I think is interesting. So if you are reading something and think its horse-hockey, or uninteresting...let me know. Comment, nuckas! And tell me what you want to read about.

Having said that, here's a story that caught me this past weekend. Bode Miller's cousin, Liko Kenney, a 24 year-old high school drop-out from Franconia, NH had a long running fued with a local cop, Bruce McKay. When McKay tried to pull him over, Kenney told him to call for back up (as a judge apparently told him he could do after McKay broke his jaw in 2005) and sped off. McKay cut him off a ways up the road and told him to get out of the car. When Kenney refused, McKay pepper sprayed him. Kenney pulled out a .45 and shot McKay 4 times, then proceded to run the officer over with his car. As this was happening, Gregory Floyd, a 49 year-old ex-marine was driving by with his teenage son. Floyd pulled his car over and sent his son to the patrol car to radio for help. Floyd grabbed the service revolver off the ground next to McKay's body, and told Kenney to drop his weapon. When he appeared to be reloading, Floyd shot and killed Kenney. The Franconia police department has declined to press charges on Floyd related to the shooting.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

To Deebs Mullen!

(Photo courtesy Vlad Wormwood)

Since I’ve left college a lot of people have asked me about some of the things that almost reflexively come out of my mouth: “Pack it.” “Commit it.” “Nuck your face.” I often tell them that I can’t take credit for them, nor fully define them outside of “commit it,” which is simply a colloquialism of “kill yourself.” The person who can do these things and more, though is Deebs Mullen.

Mullen was a prominent member of the de facto fraternity I belonged to at Syracuse University. His influence on our collective speech is a fascinating treatise in groupspeak. Deebs would be what Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point describes as a connector. He brought the unusually mannerisms and affectations from his upbringing in the northmost reaches of New York State to a community that was virtually self-contained. One of the first things Mullen introduced was the term “slot.” Slot was an ingenious term for biddies a few reasons, first is its evocative resemblance to gash or box. Second was Deebs’ reasoning behind its use that “the term slut was offensive, so you just call ‘em slots.”

What started as a group of a college students telling each other essentially to kill themselves and get really f^%(ed up, turned into a dialect that would be incomprehensible to an outsider (which on occasion I was told it was). And maybe that was the point. Because our clan spoke in a dialect of drunkenly-slurred modern-college English, we knew what was going on and everyone around us was slightly confused. There is a degree of security and intimacy in having a closed language, and it can only develop under the right circumstances: having a group of smart, creative people living together without taking anything, much less each other seriously.

Which brings me back to Deebs. If he weren’t such a character, a nucker, in the most literal sense, I doubt we would have come up with any of it. You can see Mullen’s definition of “derka” on his now defunct blog (Derka), its in the first post. An aside on Deebs to give you a better sense of the man, the myth… The Derka blog was not his first attempt at contributing to the great modern discussion that is the Internet. was a half-baked site based on the apartment complex he lived in and we partied in our sophomore year of college. It was abandoned because “the semester was too hectic to commit to putting out a good product.” In actuality Deebs got pretty heavy into Super Ghouls and Ghosts (at one point vowing not to leave his South Campus apartment until he beat the game [and with Campus D providing an almost endless supply of chicken parm he didn’t need to]. Alas he eventually left when he had a finance midterm, Mullen never beat the game and it became his white whale). His current blog was abandoned as hap-hazardly and may have had something to do with his hauntingly cryptic final post.

When Mullen was contacted for comment on this article he pontificated lengthily about the nature of groupthink and how it relates to the internets’ blogsphere which creates subsets of cultures based on blah blah blah. What it really came down to, he concluded, was “pack it.”

Sorry this post was a little inside, but I haven’t really been paying attention to the world so I don’t have much to report this week. On the other hand, there’s some really exciting basketball being played by the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns which is definitely worth staying up for (and also makes me disappointed I attended a dozen Celtics games this year and not a dozen Warriors/Suns game...I almost want to, hmmm, commit it). Also, look forward tomorrow for some links to my favorite blogs.

Monday, May 7, 2007

What's Happening

Here is what people are talking about... or at least what Im reading about.

New capital markets!
- Michael Lewis, in an online piece, The Jock Exchange, for, has revealed a new investment vehicle called Protrade which allows investors to bet on the future performance of athletes. Though it is currently only available in fantasy form, there is an incarnation in the works in which athletes agree to put 20% of their earnings (on and off field) into a trust out of which securities are sold. Since future earnings (endorsements and contracts) are supposedly tied to on field performance as well as marketability (JD Drew = exception rather than rule), you would actually be making an investment on a player's next contract. The value of these securities will fluctuate along with performance. It will also serve as a benchmark of how valuable players are which would have an impact on the salaries of athletes, so the market prices become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, as several states are enacting caps on carbon emissions, cap and trade markets are just around the corner. The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) is currently a voluntary market where pollutants are traded, but it soon could become the world's first and therefore most important exchange. Carbon however, unlike baseball players, is likely to be a more stable commodity simply because it will be tied to regulations that will be set by the government (much like government bonds). Both potential exchanges, as pointed out in the Lewis article, will be exciting in the initial stages as fortunes are swung as hedge fund privateers attempt to expose the inefficiencies in the markets.

Esquire, “State of the World - an imaginative and chilling look at the geopolitical landscape as Bush's presidency comes to a close. The author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, points out the range of scenarios that could play out over the next 5-10 years, and even the best cases (which arent too likely) dont end too well with actors like Iran, China, and North Korea, playing a high risk game of chess with the US, EU, and Russia for control of the Mid East and Central Asia. At the same time, the prediction is that Islamic jihaddism will spread south into Africa instead of West to Europe. Good news for us, because no one gives a shit about Africa.

NYTimes, Breaking News: Investment Bankers from Elite Eastern Schools like Drinking Cocktails with Same. - Ok, maybe not breaking news, but it was a good article by Allen Salkin in the Sunday Styles section about how the richies with academic lineages of prep school and small private colleges have begun gathering at a hip restaurant and lounge in SoHo. Both of the owners, brothers Anthony and Tom Martignetti, claim that their schools were "epicenters of preppy partying," an assertion that I would assume is shared by all preppies regardless of alma mater. The article spends a good portion of its column space dedicated to the quality of biddies and gentleman a scene like this attracts (princesses and tall men). Though a great example of the gender gap could be seen when comparing the outlook from the guys "You dont meet girls here you want to hook up with once, you meet girls here you want to hook up with multiple times." And from the ladies "women come here looking for their future husbands." Sorry, girls: players gotta play.

"Do You!" by Russell Simmons - Hip-hop mogul breaks down the keys to happiness and success: yoga, meditation, and doing good. While I dont know too much about meditation, I have practiced yoga on and off for a few years now, and I seldom do good. (Lousy do-gooders like pompous Bill Coplin turned me off to that.) So I'll mark myself as moderately qualified to comment on the subjects, and I'll leave it to Simmons to explain that it's impossible to receive any sort of lasting success from the world without giving something of lasting value to it first.

But meditation's benefits should be more evident than they are, given that our biology and brains (while significantly developed) are not meant to be plugged in 24/7. I think about my day: Alarm goes off = boom snooze, then snooze again, and sometimes a third time. But after the second or third, I turn on NPR to listen to the morning news as I hustle in between kitchen, bathroom, bedroom trying to leave on-time. When I get out the door, its a 5-10 minute walk to the T, and another 40 on the train before I get to my office. In this time I am listening to music while simultaneously reading a magazine and checking news and email on my phone. When I get to the office, its email, sports, news, and oh yeah, work in additional to catching up with office gossip and the like. Then I get to the gym, where I listen to the ipod, watch ESPN, and read...then pretty much the same on my commute home. Finally I get home and what happens? TV gets watched passively while I go about the rest of the evening - dinner, emails, blogs, talking to friends on phone/aim. Then when its bed time, I turn the TV and turn on BBC news on the radio which I hear until I drift off (theres something relaxing about British you know, I might have missed something during the day). My point is that there is literally no time I spend where I am doing nothing and just alone with my thoughts. And I dont think that Im atypical.

Which is why I like yoga. True, Im much more interested in the fact that my legs get a great strech and I can touch the ground with my palms afterward, but at the same time there are no cell phones in yoga class. And for about 10 minutes at the end you are supposed to do nothing but relax and think about nothing. Because the world is still out there, outside of you - and there are loan brokers at work, and bills at home, and crazy women everywhere else, but at that moment its just you...straight chilling, and if you can be cool with that, then you'll be alright with the world. My aunt once told me that you cant be with anyone until you can be by yourself. That's just part of why Simmons believes that all success comes from getting in touch with your higher self.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bourgeois Environmentalism: Green Aint Just the Color of Money

I’ve been meaning to write something about the new trend towards environmentalism in America for some time now. It’s a tough topic to write about though because of its scale. Contemporary environmentalism ranges from Dick Cheney’s view that “conservation is a matter of personal virtue not national policy” through to Tom Friedman’s global enviro-political outlook. In this post I’d like to focus on environmentalism as a social trend.

Not only is environmentalism something aware and committed individuals are talking about and taking action on, but (and this is a more recent phenomenon) “reducing impact” is something Americans are starting to incorporate into their day-to-day lives. My perception might be a bit skewed because I am living in an affluent and progressive city (Cambridge) and as such I see as many people biking to work as making 100 mile round-trip commute (I’m not going to speculate as to which is more common in America but I would suspect it tends towards the latter). But through my prism of the People’s Republic of Cambridge: shopping at the Harvest Food Co-op, buying used books from the homeless guy in Harvard Square and dodging cyclists on Mass Ave; I see a first-hand bourgeois environmentalism at play.

Bourgeois environmentalism as it is know in academia is an ugly phenomenon. It describes a third world development process of clearing out slums to build things that will benefit the upper class: hotels, malls, golf courses, etc. under the assumption that these are better for the environment than a bunch of poor people living in squalor and contributing human waste to the communal drinking water. Not that I don’t agree with it, but I think that we can re-brand bourgeois environmentalism. It’s easy enough to see that acting green requires either an investment in time or money, and therefore is bourgeois pursuit.

Some may find it incongruous to label environmental responsibility in such a way because bourgeois tends to connote materialism and conspicuous consumption. However, as blogger Seth Godin writes "Zero [impact] is the new black." Buying green, as much as acting green, is status symbol in that it displays moral and social superiority. Buying organic or local foods, spending extra on the electric bill to buy from renewable sources, and hybrid Lexus SUVs are to the 21st century what steak, lobster, cocaine, and BMW were to the 1980s.

If bourgeois environmentalism has a hero, it is “No Impact Man.” Colin Beavan is married with a 2 year-old daughter living in a pre-War on Fifth Avenue in New York City. His experiment, which is being chronicled on his blog and has net him a book deal, is to spend as The New York Times dubbed it “The Year Without Toilet Paper.” A year with him and his family making no impact on the environment. This includes using no electricity, buying no consumer products and the packaging that come with them, having a compost heap in their Manhattan apartment, and not even using an elevator (no small task on the vertical island). Beavan is attempting to show that living in such a way is not just for fringe fanaticals living in the woods of New Hampshire (like the parents of skier Bode Miller) but a lifestyle for the American upper and upper-middle class.