Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Apologia Pro Vita Sua: Why I Am Voting for John McCain

Apologia pro vita sua: As the 2008 presidential campaign winds down, we reach the final point of reflection for those few remaining undecided voters – and, indeed, for those of us who have decided but perhaps wish to reexamine our reasoning once more. Given the lateness of the hour (figuratively speaking), I feel obligated to offer up an explanation for how I will vote next Tuesday. Many of you have heard me express my frustration and anger over the direction the Republican campaign has taken in past few months, and I cannot express strongly enough my condemnation for certain tactical choices. However, I will still vote for John McCain on Election Day. Given this disconnect – and given my love for long, wordy articles that nobody wants to read – I feel it necessary to offer up a description and explanation of my logic.

For all of my dismay over the events of the last eight years, I am still a fundamentally conservative person. I still believe strongly in the basic Republican values of smaller government, lower taxes, lower spending, strong national defense, encouraging small business, and a general desire to stay out of the way of ordinary folks. I’m not sure Reagan’s axiom that “government is the problem” is still accurate; but the old statement that the government that governs best is the government that governs least sure is. One can argue about whether or not these values, as I have written them, are still what Republicanism is all about these days – I happen to think that they are, or at the least certainly ought to be. John McCain – for all his faults – is closer to these values than Barack Obama.

I will admit that I like Barack Obama. There is a wonderful line from the 1961 classic film Judgment at Nuremberg – one of the judges on the tribunal asks Spencer Tracy’s character where he falls politically. Tracy responds “Me? I’m a rock-ribbed Republican… who thought Franklin Roosevelt was a great man.” That’s kind of how I’ve always felt about Barack Obama – I don’t agree with him on much, but I think he’s an excellent man who will make a very good president. He represents something fresh and new, and it is hard to overlook the history-in-the-making aspects of his campaign, too.

That having been said, John McCain is much, much closer to me on the issues than Obama. This isn’t to say that I agree with everything McCain wants to do – his proposal to kick Russia out of the G-8 would be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying, and his health-care plan is, um, non-existent. Nor does it mean that I disagree with everything Obama is proposing – I’m a fan of his internationalist views on foreign policy in particular. It merely means that I think that the underlying principles of conservatism and the principles I believe in would be better achieved by a McCain administration than by an Obama administration.

No assessment of the McCain campaign would be complete without a discussion of his vice-presidential candidate. I’m solidly in the Frum/Sullivan/Parker/Buckley camp – the Palin choice was a disaster. Not only is she completely unqualified to be President of the United States, but she represents most of what is wrong with the Republican Party today – anti-intellectual, aggressive to those who disagree with us, ignoring the consequences of our actions past next week, questioning the patriotism of our opponents, perpetuating an us-against-them mentality, making decisions from the gut instead of from logic, encouraging the lunatic fringe of the party to greater heights, and freely squandering whatever goodwill the party once had in the name of victory. Victory, it is true, is the goal – but even should victory be within our grasp, it would surely be a pyrrhic one.

And yet. And yet. And yet. Even with all that, even with the poor choices the campaign has made and the tactics I find distasteful, I still cannot find it in myself to abandon this man. I still have great faith in John McCain. I believe he is a better man than all this. He is wiser than he seems at this moment, an excellent senator, a man of principle who once refused release from a hellish prison camp because his comrades would not be brought out with him. He is a man who would make an excellent president and would be a great leader for this country in all aspects – morally, intellectually, and politically.

If the polls are correct, next week Barack Obama will be elected the 44th President of the United States. I will not be voting for him. Two-thirds of people my own age and two-thirds of people in my home state will vote differently from me. So will a majority of the American people. I understand that. I respect that. I think we have been given an extraordinary choice in this election – for the first time in decades, we have been blessed with two truly excellent choices. I will be voting for John McCain. Although he may not win, and although he is not the popular choice, he is a candidate whom I can still be proud of.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Simpsons Reference of the Day

(Scene: After eating lunch with friends at the GSB's cafeteria, I walk through an automatic door)

Me: Thank you, door!

Alex: (Does spit take as he nearly loses his Coke from laughing)

Reference: "Bart Sells His Soul", Season 7, Episode 4

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Movie Review: "The Dark Knight"

Well, it definitely gets my coveted "See In the Theater" rating.

As for the rest, I'm still trying to wrap my head around The Dark Knight, especially the final fifteen minutes. I'm not giving away any spoilers here, but the plot goes off in a direction I never really imagined (those who have seen the film know what I'm talking about). Part of the reason why this review is going to be somewhat disjointed is because I still don't quite know what to make of the ending - it makes sense from a certain point of view, but I don't know what to think about it.

Of course, for a film as rife with moral ambiguity as this one, that may be the point. The movie has been called an allegory for 9/11, an allegory for terrorism and the War on Terror, and an allegory for crime-fighting - and it is all of these things. Analyzing the line between hero and villain isn't exactly new territory (The Departed, Unforgiven, Episodes II and III of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, High Noon, and countless others have all explored similar territory - in fact, come to think of it, most of my favorite movies explore the line between good and evil, like The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Reservoir Dogs, Munich, The Fugitive, Casino Royale, The Manchurian Candidate, etc., albeit not in the specific is-the-hero-really-the-villain-and-vice-versa style as this film), but The Dark Knight presents these questions in a more explicit format than I have seen in any other film. I don't think you are supposed to draw any conclusions from it - like life itself, the line between good and evil in the film is never clear.

Part of the appeal of the movie is using the comic-book film genre to explore these questions. I mean, let's be brutally honest here - comic-book movies in general and superhero movies in particular are inherently silly. It is hard to explore serious questions of morality, good and evil, right and wrong, etc. while dealing with protagonists who wear silly costumes and can fly and antagonists who are launching various plans for world domination. Where The Dark Knight stands out is the manner in which it takes the basic comic-book format - masked costume-wearing vigilante battles masked costume-wearing villain with a plan - and stands it on its head.

Batman, of course, is hardly your traditional superhero - he has no superpowers and relies on technology, training and superior martial arts skills to save the day. The Joker, too, is equally anti-traditional - he has no real plan, and seems to exist solely to cause chaos. The film explores the distinction between the motivations of the two men - Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) seeks to do some good in Gotham, while The Joker (Heath Ledger) exists solely, as Alfred notes, "to watch the world burn". The monkey wrench in all this is the actions of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the new Gotham district attorney, who wants to same things as Bruce Wayne and is eventually destroyed by those desires.*

The film's exploration of these issues doesn't necessarily pave any new ground - it more presents modern moral ambiguity in a different light than I've seen it presented before. You all know how this is going to turn out - it's a narrative version of Robert McNamara's wonderful line from The Fog of War: "How much evil must we do in order to do good?" Batman and Harvey Dent must commit evils and become something of villains themselves in order to do good. Good becomes bad, bad becomes good, dark becomes light, white becomes black, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!** Unfortunately for me, the movie doesn't seem to draw and real conclusions, beyond the fact that nothing in Gotham is as simple as it may seem.

Okay, on to some more specific analysis.


Generally, the acting in the film was superb. Christian Bale does as excellent a job in this film as he does in Batman Begins, demonstrating the moral dilemmas Batman and Bruce Wayne face with aplomb. Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and Michael Caine (Alfred) are awesome, as always (I think I would watch the two of them if they decided to do a remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space or Manos: The Hands of Fate, two films widely regarded as being the worst ever made). Maggie Gyllenhaal is much better as Rachel Dawes than Katie Holmes could ever hope to be, and even bit players like Eric Roberts are excellent in their small roles. I also couldn't help but giggle at the scene where The Joker places a knife to the throat of a wealthy party guest, mostly because said wealthy party guest is played by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.***

Special notes on two actors: First, Heath Ledger is nothing short of spectacular as The Joker. He takes the character in an entirely new direction, making him just about the creepiest and scariest villain I have ever seen. His villain is more animal than man, lashing out at anything and everything. There seems to be a rising movement to get him at least a posthumous Oscar nomination for this role, and I think the honor of a nomination is at least somewhat in order. If nothing else, a twisted villain like this is a fitting end to a career that was snuffed out far too soon.

I find Aaron Eckhart to be one of the most frustrating actors in Hollywood. He is capable of creating marvelous and entertaining characters in some films (like Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking), but he is also capable of some of the worst acting performances ever committed to celluloid (The Black Dahlia, anyone?). Fortunately, this performance seems to go more in the former category than in the latter. I would never call him an incredibly talented actor or suggest that he has much range - indeed, he seems to be more like a less clueless version of Keanu Reeves more than anything else. Like Keanu, occasionally the right role will come along that will suit his talents or lack thereof - kind like how Keanu's role as Neo in the first Matrix film was the perfect merger of actor and role. Eckhart can't play much in way of characters beyond Nick Naylor, but his view of Dent is merely a slightly more twisted and less funny version of Naylor. Regardless of the source, it seems to work here.


Director Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan co-wrote the screenplay for The Dark Knight, and the generally did a decent job. With the exception of some incredibly hacky lines - like Dent's admonition that "You die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain" - the dialogue fits the film well. The Joker, especially, is given some wonderfully quotable lines (heck, my buddy Chris and I have been quoting the lines "Good evening, Commissioner!", "You made plans. Look where that got you." and "Here is my card." to each other ever since the first trailer came out). As I say, it's a little dodgy at times, especially when given some of Dent's lines, but it usually works well.

(Brief digression - none of these hacky lines are nearly as bad as Natalie Portman's line "Kiss me again, like you did on Naboo" from Revenge of the Sith - a line that stands out as the corniest of all possible lines in one of the hackiest scripts ever written. Damn it, George Lucas, let other people write your scripts.)


Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. I don't know who Nolan hired to shoot the movie, but interplay of light, action, and the Chicago setting are marvelous.

A word about the setting: Chicago has never, ever looked quite as wonderful as it does in this film. Part of the joy of watching it for me personally was to get to see all of the buildings in my adopted semi-hometown up on the big screen. It looks as if Nolan took all the best parts of the city of Chicago, all the wonderful architecture and cavernous city streets, Upper and Lower Wacker, the Chicago River and the like and made it look like an entirely different city while retaining the essential nature of the place. Like Chicago, Nolan's version of Gotham is dark and forbidding (especially the scene set outside the Chicago Board of Trade) yet somehow also relentlessly urbane with a real sense of the community that lies underneath. By the end of the movie, you get a real sense of the darkness that lies in the soul of any major metropolitan city, but also a sense of the hope and desire for good that is constantly fighting to rise to the top.

(Incidentally, for those who have seen the movie, look closely in the chase scene where the helicopter crashes and explodes. You'll see my office building in the background. The burned-out wreckage of the helicopter was in the street outside my office for about a week last summer when they were shooting the film.)

On the whole, I give The Dark Knight my highly coveted "Drop What You're Doing and Go See This Movie Now" rating. It's a little choppy and confusing at times, and the themes aren't anything new, but it is still one of the best films I've seen in recent years. Plus, as we all know, I'm something of a sucker for good action movies, and this one takes the cake.

Special thanks to The Long Road Around and her husband for organizing last night's movie outing.

Previous Movie Reviews:

*I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that Harvey Dent eventually becomes Two-Face, one of the traditional Batman villains. Come on, you knew it was coming.
**As per usual, you get bonus points if you recognize which movie that sentence is a reference to.
***Or Governor Nehi, has Dustin Hoffman's character in Wag the Dog refers to him.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Love Hank Steinbrenner

Hank Steinbrenner is rapidly becoming my new favorite MLB team owner. As a non-Yankees fan, I generally think that anything an everything associated with that franchise has the taint of pure evil about it. However, Steinbrenner is quickly becoming an exception to the rule.

Of course, this isn't because of Steinbrenner's ability as a major league executive. Quite the opposite, in fact. As ESPN.com's Bill Simmons has repeatedly pointed out, "Kim Hank-Il" seems determined to take the lessons learned at his father George's knee literally: make bizarre, hysterical statements; play into media biases; spend money like a crazy person; whine when you don't get your way; and generally run your franchise like a lunatic.

Hank is the same guy who declared that the Yankees would not re-sign Alex Rodriguez if he opted out due to some gibberish about A-Rod not being a "True Yankee" - despite the fact that A-Rod is probably the best player in Major League Baseball today (here's a link to one of many firejoemorgan.com articles making that exact point). Hank paid several hundred thousand dollars to rip up newly poured concrete at new Yankee Stadium to remove a David Ortiz jersey an enterprising construction worker-cum-Red Sox fan had buried there in order to "curse" the Yankees, even though there's no such thing as a curse. As this blog post points out, Hank repeatedly threatens his management team with termination if they fail to make the playoffs - even though beyond actually assembling the team, management has very very very little to do with the action on the field, and given the complete randomness of an individual baseball game, it is borderline insane to fire the manager for a loss in one game (of course, Hank isn't alone in doing so - rumors were flying this weekend that the Mets were going to fire manager Willie Randolph if they didn't take at least two out of three from the Rangers [Ed. note: this was published about three hours before the Mets actually fired Randolph early Tuesday morning]). Plus, as has been repeatedly hammered into the ground in the blogosphere, Hank has also admitted that his favorite actress is Jennifer Love Hewitt, which should alone be enough to have him committed. At least he didn't claim Kate Bosworth as his favorite.

Anyway, today Hank decided to continue his insanity by calling out the National League for daring to have pitchers hit. Yankees "ace" Chien-Ming Wang tore a tendon in his foot running the bases in an interleague game, and it looks like he'll be out until at least September, leading to this Kim Hank-Il tirade:

"My only message is simple. The National League needs to join the 21st century," Steinbrenner said in Tampa, Fla. "They need to grow up and join the 21st century... "Am I [mad] about it? Yes," Steinbrenner added. "I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."... "This is always a concern of American League teams when their pitchers have to run the bases and they're not used to doing it," Steinbrenner said. "It's not just us. It's everybody. It probably should be a concern for National League owners, general managers and managers when their pitchers run the bases. Pitchers have enough to do without having to do that."

Um, Hank? This was kind of a freak injury. Yes, National League owners, general managers and managers are worried when their pitchers are out there running the bases. They are also worried when everybody else is out there running the bases. They are worried when any player steps on the field. They are worried when their pitchers step onto the mound and start throwing warm-up pitchers. THEY ARE WORRIED BECAUSE INJURIES ARE PART OF THE GAME, AND ANY PLAYER CAN GET HURT AT ANY TIME.

I'm on record as being opposed to the designated hitter rule, simply because I think it makes the game more interesting when the pitcher has to bat. There's no real right or wrong answer to whether or not the DH is good for baseball - frankly, I think it's one of the cool things about having two leagues with slightly different rules. I'm not a big fan of the DH and my favorite team happens to be in the National League, so I guess I'm more of a National League guy. I know people who are of the opposite view. Again, there's no right or wrong answer: it's just a difference of opinion.

That said, blaming Chien-Ming Wang's freak injury on a late 20th century rule change is borderline insane, and was probably said to distract Yankees fans from the tricky problem that the Yankees now have no pitching to speak of (which could have been remedied if they had made that trade for Johan Santana, but hey, hindsight is 20-20, right?). Anyway, Hank, keep it up: you're definitely entertaining this baseball fan.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gradumacation Day

About 18 hours ago, I graduated from law school.

(Waits for applause)

(Suddenly realizes he used this same joke two posts ago)



I will have more to say about my law school experience at some point, but for now, I wanted to leave you all with two brief comments.

First, my complete and utter excitement at our entrance music today. Our graduation ceremony was held in the Harper Quadrangle, an outdoor forum. I was quite delighted to discover that we would be entering with a group of bagpipers leading the way (kilts and all) and doubly delighted to discover that their first musical selection was Scotland the Brave, the unofficial Scotch national anthem. Of course, I was excited merely because this particular tune also doubles as Rowdy Roddy Piper's entrance music from both WWF and WCW:

Enjoy Rowdy Roddy Piper's entrance. I always do.

Anyway, I also wanted to express a quick thanks to all my classmates from the past three years. You all have made law school an overall enjoyable experience, and I don't know where I would be without you.

As I was driving back home from dinner with my family this evening, the song "Body of an American" by The Pogues came on. This song was known as the song played on The Wire as a farewell for departed characters, and I can think of no better tribute to those friends I have made over the last few years than the sentiments expressed therein:

Anyway, I love you all. I'll stop being sentimental tomorrow, I promise, but for now, just know that I appreciate and love you all.

Carcetti out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

2162 Votes

Congratulations to presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

In the words of Sen. Arnold Vinick: "Okay. Let's go win this thing."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'm So Excited! I'm So Excited! I'm So... Scared!

Apologies for not posting much lately. I spent last week pulling double-duty, running from final exams in the morning to my bar exam prep course in the afternoon. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank both the University of Chicago Law School and Bar/Bri for their thoughtful course scheduling that made my life a living hell last week. On the plus side, I'm now entirely done with law school.

(Waits for applause)

Ahem. Okay. Well then.

Anyway, I had planned a whole introspective post on law school, but let's be honest, you don't really want to read that. How about a "By the Numbers" post instead? I haven't written one yet for CarcettiBlog v.3.0. Consider this my graduation gift to you all.

Oh, also, I'm currently trying to give up caffeine, so if my thoughts seem a little, well, hazy and unclear, that's probably because I haven't woken up yet.

Carcetti By the Numbers

Days Without Caffeine: 2

Number of Times I Almost Fell Asleep in Yesterday's Bar/Bri Class: 3

Expected Number of Times I Will Almost Fall Asleep in Today's Bar/Bri Class: 5

Likely Correlation Between My Efforts to Give Up Caffeine and My Falling Asleep in Bar/Bri Class: 100%

Time I Woke Up This Morning: 7:15

Current Time: 11:45 A.M.

Number of Hours Spent While Groggy: 4.5

Likely Correlation Between My Efforts to Give Up Caffeine and My Current Grogginess: 100%

Hours Played of MLB 08: The Show Over the Last Four Days: ~10.

Video Derrek Lee's Stats (Through Video June 1): .475/.514/.616/1.130; 88 hits; 6 HR; 35 RBI; 35-of-39 stolen bases.

Real Derrek Lee's Stats (Through June 3): .293/.349/.531/.880; 70 hits; 13 HR; 37 RBI; 3-of-5 stolen bases.

Absurdity Level: Incalculable

Approximate Age of the Woman Who Hit On Me in the Bar on Saturday Night: ~35

Number of Children She Had: 3

Age of the Oldest Child: 16

Age of My Youngest Sister: 16

Minutes Spent Talking To Her After This Revelation: 1

Number Of Times I've Related This Story in the Past Three Days: ~10

Hours Spent on the El in the Last Two Days: ~4

Hours Spent Jogging in the Last Two Days: 1.6

Hours of Train Ride Spent Reading Sports Illustrated: 2

Hours of Train Ride Spent Watching Battlestar Galactica on My Video iPod: 2

Hours Spent Reading For Class at Home: 2

Possibility That I Could Just Kill Three Birds With One Stone and Listen to Bar/Bri Lectures While Jogging: 0%

Number of Curse Words Shouted Upon the Last Realization: ~12 (Depending on whether you count "son of a..." as three words or part of the larger curse phrase)

Estimated Number of Whiny Posts in the Near Future About How Bored I Am at Bar Exam Prep Course: 5