Feb 8 2010

I’m such an old man

Since some time in high school I’ve always seemed (to myself) to have interests and characteristics that more closer aligned with people a generation or two ahead of me instead of my peers.

I’m writing recommendation letters right now and found this line ironic:

Although she is very quick, in my experience raw intellect is often squandered by young students without the focus or maturity to appreciate and take advantage of the gifts that they have. XXXX is a shining counter-example…

The students that I’m writing for are not that much younger than I am, but the way I think that sounds (which is how I meant it to sound), is as though I’m looking back on my long years in education and drawing meaningful conclusions from the myriad students I’ve worked with. When I reread the letter and got to that line, I had the sudden image of myself even balder and greyer, in a robe with a pipe or somesuch.

I wonder if my future-focus/middle-aged mentality is static or dynamic. Will I someday reach an age where I suddenly find myself most comfortable with my contemporaries, or will I instead always be drawn to the ways and manners of those many years my elder?

Feb 1 2010

Citizens United v. FEC decision

I’ve been really fired up for the last week or so regarding the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which 5 out of 9 supreme court justices held that corporations have the same first amendment rights as individuals (in fact more with respect to the issue at hand) with respect to political speech. I’m not a lawyer and won’t do justice to all the nuances in the case, but it seems that the supreme court has severely departed from its previous precedent as well as overturned decades old legislation.

I hope to write a more complete response once I’ve had time to work through the decision, which will require some close reading as well as a legal dictionary. I started reading the dissenting opinion a few days ago after a friend recommended it.

Thus far, the dissent seems to be a pretty damning condemnation of the majority opinion. I’m not sure about what the normal tone of these is, but I was surprised to see:

“At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

-Justice Stevens from dissenting opinion (page 177)


Unlike our colleagues, [the framers of the Constitution] had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individĀ­ual Americans that they had in mind.

-Justice Stevens from dissenting opinion (page 124)

I also contacted all of my elected representatives regarding the issue, as well as the larger issue of corporate involvement in the political process. Lastly, I’ve started looking into ways to get involved in remedying the situation, but it seems like the way that the decision is written requires a constitutional amendment in order to overrule it.

Which is not to say that I’m opposed to that avenue, or really any avenue which shifts the balance of power away from larger corporations and back to individuals, I’m just not sure that this issue has the popular appeal necessary to inspire the political force that would be required to do that. The last time an original amendment to the constitution was proposed was 1971! (Although the 27th Amendement was passed in 1992, it was originally submitted in 1789.)

Given the political lethargy of the last several decades (generations?), I’m skeptical to say that this issue would be able to galvanize the necessary support to carry through to an actual amendment. Instead, I predict there will be some band-aid legislation that addresses campaign finance in minor form (eg Save Our Democracy) while failing to address the underlying issues. In light of this, I’m still figuring out where my efforts should best be spent on this issue. Email me if you have a suggestion.

Feb 1 2010

SMART goals

I’m not sure how pervasive the idea of “SMART goals” are; before taking a project management class, I had never heard of them myself. However it’s given me a useful tool to begin better frame my goals with an eye to actually realizing them.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive goals.

When I learned about SMART goals I immediately (for humor) started referring to my general method of setting goals as “not smart,” which unfortunately is basically true. Historically I’ve been worst at making my goals measurable and time-sensitive. I’ve also been bad at making them specific. The only thing that I’ve been really sticking to is relevance. Because I have a pretty clear view of my values, my small, medium and long term goals do tend to stack up pretty well. It’s hard for me to weigh in on achievability because how does one know if things are achievable or not? I mean, I certainly haven’t achieved many of my goals yet, but I’m not willing to take that as evidence that they’re unachievable.

So now, when I set a goal, I try to frame it with respect to this tool. Sometimes I decide that a goal doesn’t need to have a timeframe, or maybe that there’s no way to measure what I’m getting at, but I do at least make a conscious effort to run through all of these.