Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I'm Happy that Scott Brown Won

I first discovered Scott Brown while watching local news. The last few weeks, I have been blitzkrieged by an outrageous number of commercials. I liked his style, his seeming independence from Washington, and his fresh perspectives. Tonight, Republican Scott Brown very surprisingly defeated Democrat Martha Coakley to replace the late Ted Kennedy. I am happy Brown won because it will improve the quality of our government.

One of the beauties of our government is actually its bureaucratic nature. For reform to happen, it requires compromises from multiple parties and multiple interests. Through these compromises, our government is a better machine as it ensures that the majority of people are happy with its leadership. It makes sure that the majority is not complacent and isn't trampling on the feet of minorities. This past year, I couldn't help but feel like Democrats have wielded their super-majority dominion in a trampling manner.

I am not that old, but I cannot remember another Congress that passed bills with such unanimous opposition. At first I thought it was the Republicans being cute. They had lost big in 2008 and they needed to show their constituents that they were willing to stand up to Obama. But after a year of these unanimous votes taking place, it gives the layperson the impression that Congress is just ramming bills through as fast as they can. For how much Obama talked about the olden days when there was comradery in the House and Senate and how he wished for those days to return, it didn't make sense to me how little the president attempted to reach across the aisle. With so many important issues, I believe that we need at least some inkling of support from the other party. In the alternative, maybe I am just really naive and this is how politics works. But I really cannot remember a time when one party was so unanimously against the other party.

Anyway, Scott Brown is now going to end this year of ramming. I hope that it will encourage more deliberation, more compromises, and better-quality bills. My goal, and maybe this is unrealistic, is to have at least one Republican vote for a bill in regards to issues that are important to all of us: climate change, health care, and financial regulation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jack Bauer and Civil Rights

It is very fitting for me to write about civil rights on MLK day. It is also very fitting for Fox to show the third and fourth episodes of 24's Season 8 today. You may not see the connection between 24 and civil rights, so allow me to explain. You see, we are stuck in an imperfect legal system. Jack Bauer is the solution to our problem.

One of the great paradoxes in the legal system is the dichotomy between accuracy and efficiency. Basically, the paradox is that you can't have both accuracy and efficiency at the same time. Why not? Flawed human beings conduct every aspect of the legal system--from the attorneys to the witnesses to the judge and jury. Teasing out inaccuracies takes time. In general, I think the legal system is improving. Technology has helped increase the accuracy of evidence in the court room. Also, civil rights in our country have improved markedly in the past few decades leading to less sociological inaccuracies. This has resulted in what I would argue is a more efficient and more accurate system. But accuracy and efficiency are still diametrically opposed to each other. We still struggle with an imperfect system of convicting people. I imagine people get wrongfully convicted all the time. You can't have both, . . . [pause for dramatic effect], you can't have both, unless you have Jack Bauer as the judge.

It would be very difficult indeed to watch a version of 24 with Jack Bauer as Mr. Proper Police guy. In fact, not only is it difficult to picture, it would be awkward, and downright annoying to see Jack Bauer go through with the formalities of the legal system to ensure the right person is being convicted. This is because Jack Bauer has that 6th sense. He's got the intuition that is so very accurate. We're OK with him not reciting Miranda rights to the bad guys. Jack can take a hatchet to someone's chest because it's clear they're guilty. With clenched teeth, he can take out a guard's jugular because that's what must be done. We're even OK with Jack approaching the torture line because he knows what's required for the information to come out.

How does this carry over into real life? Jack Bauer is the perfect ideal for combating injustice. As our intuition and knowledge of the real story becomes clear, the inefficiencies and inaccuracies in the legal system fade away. Jack shows us that there really isn't a paradox between accuracy and efficiency. You can have both.

In other news, Lucie is the new A.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

My Trip to Utah

The title of my blog is "My stories," but I don't really write about that many stories. Instead, I mostly write about my thoughts. But today I thought I'd change it up a little bit and write about a recent trip to Utah.

I left New Hampshire the day of my last final. I learned that it's not a good idea to leave a carry-on box unattended in the airport, unless you want to meet TSA officers and see a dog rummage through box's contents. My flights were good. You've got to love Southwest--a great airline.

Our family had a whole lot of fun together. We didn't play any basketball, in large part because of snow, but we did play the very popular board game Acquire. Rich joined the family, but it was me who won for the first time ever. My key to success: diversify your portfolio, especially early on in the game.

My dad and I had our usual political brawls. I would call them debates, but debates typically involve intent by both parties to exchange well thought-out ideas and good arguments. Our situation centered on my dad telling me that I am a "lib" and explaining why libs are bad. To most people it would be easy for me to demonstrate that I am not liberal, but not to my dad. We thankfully stopped these conversations after the first couple days.

I found out that the BYU law library is better than my library, but because of a certain lack of interest in this observation, I will leave it at that.

I have a niece by the name of Evyline who is about 6 months old. I love that little girl! This may sound weird, but I could stare at that small human being for a long period of time without losing interest.

My sister has a new boy of interest, which created quite the excitement around the house. I love the preliminary stages of a relationship because you don't know what the other person is thinking and it's kind of mysterious. But you don't always have to be in one of these situations to feel the excitement. Sometimes you can be an older brother. My role included consultant, editor and interpreter of texts, and wing-date. All in all, it was quality entertainment. I feel like I'm a good source of wisdom because I have a decent sense into what guys prefer in a girl. Obviously my advice only goes so far because the things that I care about are not the things that my sister's man will necessarily care about. But there are some things that are universal. I wish I would have had a reliable source, who had blazed the trail before me a little bit, willing to show me the ropes. Being the oldest, I could only really ask for advice down, which is not the most effective way to figure life out.

My sister tried to set me up with people. At first, I wasn't in the mood to meet new people. But I became more social by the end of my trip. I met a girl in SLC who turned out to be super cool. If only she shared in my passion of the internet. I met another girl in my neck of the woods. She is great. It turns out that she actually knows some of my family. This girl's pseudo name is hereby A. I just realized that I use the term "girl" very loosely. You may be thinking that once a girl reaches maturity, she becomes a women, right? But I think the term "woman" sounds too sophisticated for me. If you're reading this blog in 15 years, and I'm still on the lookout for Ms. Right, maybe then I'll refer to my prospects as women, but for now I will refer to them as girls. But back to my story about A, she is finishing up her undergrad, and preparing to continue her education, much like I am. I just wish I was continuing my education a little closer to home.

Now on to some of my thoughts. First, allow me to introduce you to my friend Denise. Denise doesn't know I have a blog and I am uncertain that I will ever see her again in my life, so I feel comfortable in writing very freely about the following section.

Denise and I worked together at the Brick Oven the summer before my senior year of college (2006). It's hard to believe that was 3.5 years ago. It was Denise who first brought the name Trenton into the mainstream. We were good friends back then and the wonderful thing about good friends is that you can pick up where you left off regardless of how much time it's been. She called me in a famished state, so we went to dinner, believe it or not, at the BO. I wasn't hungry so I just came along for the ride. My favorite quote of the night came from Denise when she explained of her struggle to make friends in her last couple weeks in Provo. She analyzed that in such a short space of time, "girls require too much effort and guys always have ulterior motives." Haha.

Midway through the evening, I asked her how she's changed since we knew each other. I thought it was an interesting question because I was sure in three and a half years, we had both changed in a lot of ways. But I realized after I posed the question that I did not really anticipate an answer. Deep down, I thought that she had remained the same person and I knew that there was no short answer she could give me to tell me how she's changed. I can't even remember what she said in response, but later that night, she answered my question.

A lot of times we use the term "cool" to describe someone. I don't know exactly what being cool entails, but it probably means possessing traits that others find exciting, interesting, or otherwise admirable. I would consider myself pretty cool, but I haven't invested that much in my "cool" stock recently. Don't get me wrong, I have definitely invested a lot in myself in the last few years, but not in the types of things that you could show off at a party. Denise, on the other hand, had, and it seemed to be paying off for her. She played me popular songs on the guitar, sang with the most beautiful voice, and was otherwise very interesting. If I were ever (in the pinnacle of my coolness) ahead of Denise on the cool scale, it became apparent to me that night that Denise had surpassed me, and I was happy for her.

I have a lot of take-home messages from my trip to Utah:

When trying to evade a political discussion, do not try and change the subject in an obvious manner. You've got to use subtlety.
The Christmas spirit is about giving, unless you don't have any money.
It's a good thing to make sure your kitchen is clean before inviting others over.
Stereotyping is easy, but not very inaccurate. Maybe you don't really know someone as well as you think you do.
Life goes by really fast and there is a lot that you can do to increase your cool ranking. But if you want to invest your time in other non-cool things, that's OK too.