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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Monday, July 16, 2018

SCOTUS Watch

The first scheduled summer order is a list of rehearings denied. A discussion on why they have only Catholics and Jews (Garland would have followed the trend). A fair cross-section would have a non-believer and a couple non-evangelical Protestants (so phrased to deal with the Protestant/Catholic mix already there). And fictional SCOTUS: The Good Fight.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Good Fight

A Danielle Steel (read one other, years back, with a WWII plot) for the times. It starts with young Meredith's father going to be a lawyer in D.C. during WWII, be a lawyer at Nuremberg but still being very conservative, her grandfather getting on the Supreme Court (replacing Murphy or Rutledge), her going to Vassar and meeting a Holocaust survivor (whose life we also follow) and growing into a lefty lawyer (helped by a large inheritance!), including getting involved in some 1960s events. I got interested in the characters and liked the historical plot. It is written in a straightforward style but has some very serious material. Starts to get a bit boring in its episodic way later but nice final plot device. No sex scenes!

ETA: This is a book that could have benefited from a brief message from the author regarding her research and so forth. Not sure of a reference to a "computer" in a small law office c. 1970. But, overall, the history seems accurate enough.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Greatest American Hero


Early 1980s t.v. show that is this week's Decades Channel "binge" that has a great theme song and pretty good cast (and sorta a Meghan Markle look-a-like lawyer love interest). It's not quite The Most Wonderful Time of the Year good, but Christmas Connection with the same female lead is a charming Hallmark Channel movie as they replay Christmas movies.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Furnace of Affliction: Prisons and Religion in Antebellum America

The author has a new book out about the Kiowa Indians and their struggle to retain their religious traditions. But, this one was the one at the library now. Interesting subject (focused on New York prisons), but was a trudge at some point in its short page count (under 200 pages). Felt repetitive and perhaps better for a shorter monograph.

Showtime At Night: Erotic Obessession


Abella Danger stars in Erotic Obsession, which has some charms, including a little bit of a twist ending that I liked. She has an interesting look. It is available on demand and has a notice before it starts that promotes the "natural sound" (how I would phrase it) aspect. Not talking high art, but appreciate effort not to look and sound cheap. Involves a kooky roommate. Good scenes, last is the best. The husband is a familiar face.

And Also: Today's date. The remake of the movie was decent. "Final Friday" actually tried to have plot. The series was okay. Maybe the planned Child's Play series will work.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

It (No Evil Clowns Edition)


Borrowed a DVD of film with "It" girl Clara Bow with a documentary produced by Hugh Hefner (!) included. Fairly interesting doc and she's very good. It is actually pretty easy to watch the silent film (didn't seem forced or anything) though after about a half hour was a bit bored with the plot and skipped to the last reel. Amusing with her roommate quiet believable as a sick mother she filled in for and thus started the plot. Her love interest is a bit old for her.

The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

In his last book, Bart Ehrman touched upon the dark side of Christianity; this book by someone who is a daughter of a monk and nun gives a fuller account. I found this strong criticism. A positive review here. It did have a flavor of a polemicist (she is a classicist) but the matter does warrant balancing so there is a place for it. Think it could have been crisper too; seemed a bit repetitive and rambling. Book best read with a disconcerting eye.

Monday, July 09, 2018

New SCOTUS Pick: Federalist Society Gold Standard Again

Me in 2006: "Meanwhile, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as circuit judge. Sigh."

ETA: Don't have much to say about the pick other than it is really a red meat pick as compared to a more bland Federalist Society type (basically the back-up option, Hardiman). His pro-executive power writings (Clinton not being investigated edition) will be an easy target. His opposition to agency deference can be a time bomb waiting to go off. Basically, not a "stolen seat" in the Gorsuch way, but tainted, especially since Trump is under investigation. I guess to be on the safe side, no "Justice" for him either.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Is it Football Season Yet? Oh, wait I remember last year ...

Also: Look what the dog dragged in ... Jenry Mejia found a means to end his "life time ban" for cheating.  Mets didn't just dispose of him though not sure if their provisional contract (why?) will require any payment now.  Just let him go.
The Mets have either lost or split their last 14 series. Their last winning series came when they swept Arizona at home May 18-20, giving them a 23-19 record.
This striking stat is also telling when you consider approximately equal parts of the season occurred before and after that date, roughly speaking. The article about "these miserable Mets" (NY Daily News beat writers basically have the tone at this point) provides their current record: (35-51). So, back in late May -- which had them four games over .500 at 42 games -- has somehow led to sixteen under at eighty-six.

The five wins in June, a low point for that month for their full history as a franchise, suggested the period of futility. In the midst, for a while at least, they seemed bad, but not quite that bad.  Then, before you knew it, they had the worst record in all of the National League.  The Marlins was just whipped by the Nats recently, including blowing a 9-0 lead and giving up 18, so staying there isn't easy.  Meanwhile, the Reds have been playing dent and the Padres had some life (dropping closer now), so other than the "hey, we knew we were going to stink this year" Marlins, the Mets only have a couple teams in the American League ("hey, there is always the Orioles to feel superior to") to look down to these days. Not enough AL Central games!

The Mets #2 starter has been hurt for a while now but it takes more than that to only win five starts in a month. Their top of the league ace is 5-4! Ditto Cespedes, the human salary drain (no-trade clause? don't care! get rid of him!) being out.  That won't help, but the team has a level of futility that is downright impressive. Not hitting helps (they were almost no-hit today, admittedly the Rays do have decent pitching) as does dubious pen. Seth Lugo was put back in the pen since he's like the only reliable arm other than the closer (who was hurt some this season too), if someone who gets so little chance to pitch.  Toss in non-clutch hitting and now just sloppy, low energy games.

The false start was a 11-1 affair where everything generally seemed to go right, including a nice pen with Gsellman/Lugo thriving there. Lugo went into the starting rotation eventually but seemed to tire out some, and anyways, no one -- even Gsellman these days (especially in the second inning) -- seemed to be reliable.  Blevins, their quirky leftie, is having a horrible year.  Their new eighth inning guy got hurt and now is regularly doing lousy.  A few rookie types showed some life but not much any more. Today's fill-in starter (Chris Flexen) just isn't MLB material at this point. A DH tomorrow will bring Oswalt, who was okay for four innings last time. Tuesday is a question mark.

The last two weeks brought a chance to show some life since they had a stream of mediocrity -- Pirates, Marlins, Blue Jays and Rays.  Well, they did have three wins last week, but no winning series. The low point was Wheeler's start vs. the Blue Jays where the starter how to leave early and it was 6-1 late.  Well, they lost it 8-6.  They split the series because the other Jays starter had a bad game and the Mets both managed to take advantage one inning at least and the fill-in starter for them this time didn't blow it early.  The first win was a messy one vs. the Marlins, who won the first two.  The other win was an unearned run plus a two out grand slam by Bautista (after the Mets got out of a bases loaded 1-1 jam in the top of the 9th) versus the low scoring Rays. But, those were the only runs scored in the series plus it was still another game that DeGrom couldn't win (eight innings, one run).

It's really depressing but the SNY crew (especially Keith Hernandez, who has found Twitter, posting a lot of video of his cat and family, though he has been low energy in many games -- hard to blame him) does help. When Keith and Gary Cohen were both off for the Toronto series (including 7/4 in Canada!), it was rather dull.  It was nice to have a woman sideline reporter. There is Kristie Ackert on Twitter though she has been not too active the last week or so, perhaps she is on vacation or something.  There are few bright spots, even Michael Conforto struggling. Cabrera at times has some good moments. Brandon Nimmo, known for his smiles, is often glum. And, that tbh stupid "pepper grinding" thing they started to do? Well, don't see that any more. Rarely score.

To me, the Mets for the last twenty years at this point often has a conservative mentality, making a few big ticket moves but relying on the "if everything goes right" mentality.  They consistently seem kinda close though they had some bad years mixed in as well.  You get the idea that is still the mentality; "hey, we went to the World Series in '15." (Murphy a key piece and if the Nats didn't have an off year, very well might not have even got to the playoffs or maybe a 2016 one-off)  The same injury problems seem to be occurring.  The same simply not crisp baseball play. etc.

Who knows the solution? I have been harping on the likely dream-on idea of getting rid of Cespedes, who is getting 29M a year now to be injured a lot.  He had a great run in 2015, but so did other people. He didn't really have so great of a 2016 to warrant a four year expensive contract. Maybe, it is telling no other team wanted to spend big bucks on the guy. His strutting his stuff (the whole yellow canary thing etc.) is charming when he is thriving. Other times, he rankles. If somehow they can even get a fraction of that money and move him, it will help them move on from something that is simply dragging the team down. A lot more possible, when he was doing nothing for around two months, was a DFA of Reyes, who has no future here. So, he showed some life. Who cares? Disposing him when he was doing noting would show management had some standards. Give someone else a chance to play.  It's like them calling up a fourth OF and now he has three plate appearances in around two weeks and not one start.

Personally, hoping over and over again that David Wright plays again also is annoying. So he might. Might hurt himself again too. Reason to care when team is dead in September?  Him retiring could be a sign of the team moving on, like Sandy Alderson going on medical leave and probably not coming back.  Something else they need to do, other than apparently teaching basic fundamentals at times, is getting some more people in the minors.

The second year in the row fire sale might help some there though they might need to let go one or more of their bigger name pitchers to do that.  Maybe, do more than tinker tinker (Harvey got back a nice back-up catcher who if he stays healthy might even be more; Bautista is a nice trash heap deal; moves in the off season more "okay, yawn" material with safe moves like re-signing a corner outfielder who now is hurt and overpaying for a questionable reliever and ... Vargas for two years? Why?

A person being wary at the start of the season with the talent on the roster is one thing. The level of horrible the Mets had after mid-May? That is quite another.  2015 was one game after another without offense, but they stuck around because of pitching.  It helped that other teams in the division struggled more than the Phils and Braves (who both did have some growing pains eventually) did this season.  The Nats in fact are in third place though with some help, and one of the other teams faltering, I can see them pushing back into contention.  And, the Mets rarely are totally out of it it seems because DeGrom, Wheeler and Matz (and to some degree Lugo) keep them in games.  But, that's only three, and the pen and hitting stinks.

Syn and Vargas (who cares?) are likely to come back eventually as is Cespedes (I'm done with him, seriously), I guess, and as things go, the team might show some life eventually. But, struggling versus mediocrity means that they have to step up a lot even to go .500, which would mean a low 70s record. And, then, as well they should, they might have to do it without a few pieces that actually have some talent and value in winning games. Trading Famalia will make the back-end longer. Trading Cabrera will take one key at times clutch bat out of the line-up.  Still, they have to do something, since just playing the string yet again without at least getting something back, is just pathetic at this point.

And, that is the mid-season Mets report. Cheers!

ETA: In tease territory, the Mets with various spot starts and players hurt and Conforto still slumping (but that is standard: key players are always hurt, someone struggling), have split their games in the first ten with a four game stretch vs. the struggling Nats to close the first half officially.  Two of the last four wins were 10th inning jobs, the last one yet again a DeGrom no decision -- no runs in eight with the Mets scoring in the 10th off a Nimmo homer. Basically, this is holding serve with some life day to day.

SCOTUS Watch: End of Term Orders Again

Also: Some talk about likely SCOTUS picks including McConnell worried about complications with one or the other senator.  Shall see since the rose is supposed to be given tomorrow night.
Breyer aptly warned that the decision threatened other consumer protection provisions: as one example, he cited a California law requiring hospitals to inform new parents about child safety seats. And just two days later the Court told the federal appeals court in California that NIFLA might be grounds for striking down a local ordinance requiring cell phone providers to warn users that keeping a cell phone in a pocket might result in radiation exposure in excess of federal guidelines.
Breyer in a recent interview also recommended Adam Winkler's We the Corporations book. The interesting reference in today's weekly Jost on Justice blog post was one I missed the first time, part of the summary dispositions of the end of the term order.  See also, this article on "post-truth" speech regulation.

Various cases were sent back to re-examine per cases decided this term. This one involved a cell phone warning passed by California, one of many such things. Generally, disclosures and disclaimers, even those involving campaign speech, have been upheld.  But, the crisis pregnancy ruling suggests not so fast. This is part of the "weaponizing of the First Amendment" that lead to such a strong dissents (see also, Janus).  There also was another case in the Scalia interregnum involving credit cards that was sent back but it was a sort of faux minimalism since Roberts' majority still said there was an important free speech interest at issue.  When examining the next justice,* perhaps something to think about.

Another summary order of some interest was a loss for unions.  Another involved a lower court that went the other way regarding cell phone data:
Cell phones—once figments of science fiction—now live in most Americans’ pockets and purses. These devices are double-edged swords, increasing convenience at the expense of privacy. Each time they make or receive calls, they leave a trail of digital crumbs known as historical cell-site location information (CSLI)—business records kept by service providers identifying which cell towers routed which communications.
There are a lot of little things in these orders that have some interesting footnotes, such as cases not taken or technical things including things accepted under seal. Sometimes, there are things that make me go "hmm."  There also are orders like this that suggest the potential breadth of opinions.

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* I don't call Trump by the same moniker as President Obama or Gorsuch by the same title as Justice Kagan.  For various reasons, including taint of the process, neither deserve the title, though less use my bit of protest in the latter case.  The upcoming nominee is part of a corrupt process, including someone under investigation choosing a person key to various disputes involving him personally, but (guardedly) not thinking it is so tainted that "justice" is not warranted.  But, I might change my mind.