It’s not about you

Really enjoyed this column by every liberal’s favorite conservative columnist, David Brooks.  Definitely worth a read, but here’s the best part:

This year’s [college] graduates are members of the most supervised generation in American history. Through their childhoods and teenage years, they have been monitored, tutored, coached and honed to an unprecedented degree.

Yet upon graduation they will enter a world that is unprecedentedly wide open and unstructured. Most of them will not quickly get married, buy a home and have kids, as previous generations did. Instead, they will confront amazingly diverse job markets, social landscapes and lifestyle niches. Most will spend a decade wandering from job to job and clique to clique, searching for a role.

No one would design a system of extreme supervision to prepare people for a decade of extreme openness. But this is exactly what has emerged in modern America. College students are raised in an environment that demands one set of navigational skills, and they are then cast out into a different environment requiring a different set of skills, which they have to figure out on their own…

Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life. A relative suffers from Alzheimer’s and a young woman feels called to help cure that disease. A young man works under a miserable boss and must develop management skills so his department can function. Another young woman finds herself confronted by an opportunity she never thought of in a job category she never imagined. This wasn’t in her plans, but this is where she can make her contribution.

Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.

The graduates are also told to pursue happiness and joy. But, of course, when you read a biography of someone you admire, it’s rarely the things that made them happy that compel your admiration. It’s the things they did to court unhappiness — the things they did that were arduous and miserable, which sometimes cost them friends and aroused hatred. It’s excellence, not happiness, that we admire most…

Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.

A little more on Edwards

Good article in the Times about the difficulty of the government’s case.  The crux of it, comes down to this:

Proving a criminal case against an individual is much more difficult than pursuing a civil action against a campaign, he noted, and “the main question is whether the money from Mellon and Baron is given to benefit the campaign or to help save John Edwards’s marriage and personal reputation. If it’s the latter,” he said, “that’s not a crime.”

What’s so absurd about this is that of course saving Edwards’ marriage and personal reputation benefit the campaign.  Every campaign depends upon the personal reputation of the candidate.  And, for married candidates, their personal reputation depends, in part, upon their marriage.  If you follow DOJ’s logic though to its necessary conclusion, somebody paying for the Edwards to have marriage counseling would be an illegal campaign contribution.  I’m also bothered by this at the end:

If the case is not struck down before trial, Mr. Hasen said, jurors might find themselves eager to punish Mr. Edwards. “The fact that Edwards’s conduct seems morally reprehensible will make it easier for prosecutors to win their case no matter what the law is,” he said.

Lets hope jurors go by the law, not how much of a bad guy they think Edwards is.  Of course, I’m sure that’s a problem in many a case.

A cad, not a crook

First, let’s just get this out of the way– John Edwards is a horrible person.  What he’s not, is a violator of Federal Campaign Finance laws.  The case against him strikes me as facially ridiculous and another example of politically-motivated prosecutorial over-reach.  Does it benefit Edwards campaign to keep the affair hushed up?  Of course.  But, how many people would really and truly consider hush money paid to a mistress to be a “campaign expenditure”?  If the standard for campaign expenditure is anything that benefits the campaign that is a really, really low bar that would probably lead to just about any candidate with rich friends being liable for prosecution.

The contributions were intended to help “protect and advance Edwards’s candidacy for president of the United States” by concealing his “extramarital affair with Person B and Person B’s pregnancy with his child,” the indictment says.

To this charge, I say, of course, but more generally they were intended to salvage the political and public career of John Edwards write large.  Even if he were not running for president, but simply wanted to remain a public figure, it’s pretty safe to say he would have resorted to similar means to cover this up, if he could.  Just because the revelation coming out would damage his campaign does not mean that preventing the revelation from coming out is a campaign expenditure.  There’s a basic failure in logic here.  And, from what I heard in an NPR story, a basic failure in any campaign finance precedent.  Stuff like this just pisses me off at prosecutors.  I don’t think we should use our valuable federal criminal justice resources to essentially prosecute a man for being a scoundrel.

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