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

Friday, January 30, 2004

Federal Appellate Ruling Strikes Down Gay Adoption: A federal appellate court upheld a blanket ban on gay adoptions, and I think it probably was a good idea ... it is best to go slow, especially in the federal courts. All the same the blanket ban is troubling, and Florida is the only state that goes that far. We are left with a court arguing why it's more "rational" to allow single people to adopt (25% of those who adopted were single at the time), to leave children in foster care (where gays can be foster parents and permanent guardians), to not have a similar blanket ban for drug addicts (some are recovered addicts and therefore not found to be a danger), and so forth, than to allow gays to adopt. [more]


In the post-1990s global economy, America must aggressively compete with other developed countries for the international talent that can spur new industries and new jobs. By thumbing our nose at the world and dismissing the consensus views of the scientific community, we are scaring off that talent and sending it to our competitors.

-- from Creative Class War: How the GOP's anti-elitism could ruin America's economy


Chloe Sevigny, who sublets a 20th-floor studio apartment from fellow actress Natasha Lyonne, is among the residents who've been coping with an invasion of the rodents in recent weeks - apparently sparked by a construction project in the neighborhood. ... As for Sevigny, her publicist said, "She thinks this started because construction disturbed their little mouse houses. ... Mice are cute."

-- one problem, I don't have in my much cheaper apartment

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Bush administration said on Thursday that the new Medicare drug benefit would cost at least $530 billion over 10 years, or one-third more than the price tag used when Congress passed the legislation two months ago. ... The $530 billion estimate apparently does not include the cost of another feature of the new law, which provides tax breaks to people who establish savings accounts for medical expenses. Mr. Bush says he hopes millions of people will set up such accounts.

-- More details one might want to have when the law was exactly passed; going along with the (true) costs of the war, tax cuts, etc.

[Being President means you don't have to say you're sorry.]

Damn Conservatives: Democratic members of the FCC commission are complaining media owners are not being charged high enough fines for violation of decency rules, such as Bono saying a bad word on an awards show. Oh grow the fuck up.
While judges should not be isolated from the society in which they live, they must take special care that their extra-judicial activities do not create a conflict with their judicial duties, give rise to an appearance of impropriety, or create a reason for questioning their impartiality. As you know, the ethical rules apply to both the public and private conduct of a judge. While such rules might be considered burdensome to a private citizen they exist to protect the public and to preserve the integrity and independence of the courts.

From a letter from Sen. Leahy and Lieberman to Chief Justice Rehnquist regarding a trip that Justice Scalia and Vice President Cheney was involved in, weeks after the Supreme Court took a case involving Cheney's energy commission. Efforts were made to keep the trip secret (I think more for Cheney's benefit, he of the undisclosed location) and the "use of private jets and facilities provided by an energy industry insider" was reported. The CJ replied with a brief note saying that individual justices have the final decision in matters of recusal.

Justice Scalia is a long term friend of Cheney's, and has strong/firmly held beliefs, so I do not know how much the visit would really influence his vote. As to keeping things secret, Scalia has been on record basically not giving a damn if he sounds and looks controversial. Still, it is totally possible that the mentality involved that allows him to go on such a trip, one that surely he should know furthers the cynicism many have of the impartiality of their public servants, influences his votes on such matters. Things like that have a tendency to feed off each other. The more important thing is the message this sends to the public. And, yes, if not him, some would be influenced by such interaction and conflict of interest. It is why the rules are in place to begin with.


To add to the discussion yesterday, the fact that the information supplied to those (including you and me) deciding whether we should go to war is starting to be questioned has led many to focus on the human rights aspects of the war. It is interesting how some of those who you'd think would be most supportive of such ends were dubious. Maybe, because of the ad hoc, slightly hypocritical nature of the argument. For instance, both Human Rights Watch and Samantha Power (Pulitzer Prize winner for her book on genocide, including in Iraq) opposed the war. Anyway, Condi Rice was out there still firmly demanding that we had to go to war. Sigh.


Happy Birthday ... sis

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

BETTY ONG: "My name is Betty Ong. I'm No. 3 on Flight 11."
ONG: "And the cockpit is not answering the phone. And there's somebody stabbed in business class. And you can't breathe in business class. Somebody's got Mace or something."
DISPATCHER: "Can you describe the person that you said -- someone is what in business class?"

This is part of a recording of a conversation between a flight attendant and the tower played during a meeting of the 9/11 investigation committee headed by Thomas Kean (a friend of the Bush family). He asked for more time (60 days) to process the millions of documents and tons of information, in part because of delays from wrangling with the administration. Time they might not get because of political concerns. David Kay, the U.S. weapon inspector says that we had faulty intelligence, so now the buck is passed to the CIA, who has been faulted in the past. But no heads rolled. Conservatives are growing more concerned because of the risingdeficitss and lack of fiscal responsibility of this administration. All the same, including when they treat detainees in ways military lawyers are comparing to George III, they continue to say "trust us."

Sorry boys ... no go. I read today how Dennis Miller, best known for his failed MNF years and various "what else can I shill" commercials (sorry, the guy annoys me, and I used to respect him) was changed by 9/11. It made him support the hardline programs of the President, who he plans to support in November. Excuse me? If you care so much for national security, why in the hell would you support someone with this record? We go to war technically for a WMD danger that now we find out was based on faulty intel (see, if one was a bit more careful, it would have been okay ... you might still be wrong, but not look like an ass for saying how it's such a slam dunk, so give me the power w/o the safeguards). Stonewalling and rushing (after thinking Henry Kissinger should head the things) a commission investigating 9/11 (this is disgusting ... simply put). Not doing a bloody good job doing the rest of your job.

The guy deserves to be fired, if only on a "buck stops here" standard. Only a damn liberal gives someone THAT much leeway. This includes the obligation to take the responsibility for your underlings. If the intel was bad, look for this to be used as an excuse, the top doesn't get off the bloody hook (even if the CIA head is a Clinton holdover). [This actually is a CYA excuse in that when the CIA actually provided negative intel, it was often ignored and/or criticized. Reports of Cheney et. al. cherrypicking intel has been reported by several sources. It's getting so bad that Bill O'Reilly (1/27) is starting to become testy about the whole matter.] A business is liable for its workers, the President is liable for his as well. I truly fear the ability of the Democrats to put forth a candidate that can beat this guy, and it is aggravating. [Many like John Kerry, if he's the one, but many others see him as a "best of an inferior lot" sort, and I'm sorry to say, it is really not COMPLETELY wrong to so think. IMHO] All the same, this guy has to go.


Other News: Cold winter doesn't mean count out global warning ... misspellers (I can relate) lead to eBay bucks ... Soup to Nuts? [Not quite ... "Rice argued during the trial that Johnson's anxiety might stem from other experiences [other than being served the wrong soup], including a prison term for sexual activity with a child under 12 and his public listing as a sexual predator."] ... Dean as vox populi.

"I feel that underwear sometimes is so constricting," she says. "And you know, we should all just be free."

-- roomie on College Hill, new black reality show praised here.

Film: My take on the Academy Award nominations

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Fruit: I bought a couple oranges today and opened them up to see red pulp, as if they were mini-grapefruits or something. I never saw such a thing and wondered if something was wrong. Silly me didn't realize that they were Moro oranges. They were pretty good; I like the color (and the taste's kewl and all too).


Texas thinks promoting sex toys is a bad idea ... I don't.


Politics: Though by my watch, they started three minutes early, Clark won the vote in the first town that voted in NH (8-7 in the Democratic vote with 11 voting Republican). They used the safest method of balloting ... paper. On the other hand, it looks like by the numbers I just saw that he tied for third in statewise votes. [I defend the other guy's "other twenty years of public service" here.] Well, that early bird vote means a lot.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Politics: Just like on West Wing, C-SPAN will be airing the first votes in New Hampshire at midnight. Great theater. Apparently, there are new buttons that say "Dated Dean, Married Kerry," the idea being that you date a crazy guy like Dean, but marry a safe (but boring) guy like Kerry. [see here, 1/26] This is a bit much, but I must admit that Kerry doesn't excite me, especially when I watch him. The idea is that you don't "get him" the first time, but over time. I wonder how much "time" you have to put in ... will the voters do it? As to Dean, I go on a tirade regarding the criticism of his post-Iowa "rant" here. As a reply noted, Dean has caused a lot of trouble himself, but I just think he had a bit too much help doing so.

FELLERS v. UNITED STATES: A grand jury indicted a person on drug charges and the police went to his home, warrant in hand, to talk to him, leading him to make some incriminating statements. He was not given any Miranda warning, but was at the stationhouse, whereupon he again made the same statements. The Supremes unanimously said "uh no" ... too late guys. The grand jury indictment and warrant makes this a somewhat special case, but Miranda held. So, good, if somewhat small, step.

Also, the Supremes accepted for argument a juvenile death penalty case in which the lower state court struck down the punishment because it held executing those under eighteen was cruel and unusual. I'd think that the Supreme Court wouldn't go out of its way to uphold the practice. This plus the fact that four justices are already on record against the practice bodes suggests a majority is available to strike down the practice. Time will tell.

Sports: Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone injured his left knee playing basketball and may be out for the season. Stupid! Oh well, one more hole to fill with some $$$. [Update: Actually, the Yanks did okay here. Basketball playing violates Boone's contract, so they can get rid of him (chances are he won't play much or all of the year), and only pay one month (c. 15%) of his ridiculous salary. The pickings are slim, but he wasn't a great prize so far anyway, so if a rookie like Erick Almonte or some journeyman player fills in, and they save a lot of salary, it will be mostly a wash. Or so it seems to me.]

Happy Birthday: Paul Newman (TCM is playing his movies until late into the night) and Ellen DeGeneres.
Politics: I discuss "the deserter" question in depth here; I get a bit emotional about Kerry here; and I still respect Dean in many ways, suggested in part by a NYT piece today that suggests he really is more nuanced than he appears to many. A good essay on the stance of the top four Democratic candidates on the issue of tort reform. And, a conservative explaining how the President is no fiscal conservative, maybe not a real conservative at all.

And for the political bookshelf, you can add Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them...A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken. There are many books that criticize the President, the Right, and so forth, and they each have their good points. Franken's book is a worthy addition to the genre in that he mixes humor, a lot of research, good writing, and passion to supply an excellent book that is both serious and funny.

He could do without the crud fiction that was in bad taste (and imho not that funny), but a two person play spelling out how Bush's tax policies affect a waitress and well paid lawyer was on the money. The comic "Supply Side Jesus" was wicked. His chapter on the Wellstone memorial hard to read. Good stuff. My only other criticism is that Fox, O'Reilly, Coulter, and Hannity are rather easy targets, who he might focus on too much. All the same, they deserve their licks, and he supplies enough other material to make it worth our while.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Politics: David Brooks submits a good challenge to Kerry voters ... is he really a nuanced thinker, or is his nuance just a now and then sort of thing, while his liberalism stands out over time? I find his columns usually dreck, but this one had a more balanced tone and is worth pondering. And challenging ... just the sort of thing you want from the other side.

Blogs: Jack Balkin (1/23) provides some interesting thoughts on blogging in honor of his first anniversary. He was about five months ahead of me, but I mostly agree with his comments. This blog actually is a sort of companion to my fraying, that is, discussions on the Slate fray/discussion boards. As to diversity, the discussions and the stuff I post/link to are clearly slanted to a certain point of view (though complex enough to not be stereotyped too much), but if anything, the Internet allows me and others a greater chance to interact with opposing points of view. I also get a chance to share a tiny part of the ton of interesting stuff on the web. Some of which others actually care about as well.

Stupid Local Editorial: This one led me to write a letter to the editor. It involved an otherwise liberal sort (she co-wrote a book with Al Sharpton) going overboard demanding that we shame people more, this time high school girls. We have hyperbole like "There is no longer a stigma attached to teen pregnancy" and "There should be some consequence to having a baby out of wedlock." Also, she is upset that words like "bastard" and "loose" are in disfavor.

What brought upon this tirade? A new policy allowing teenage moms to have maternity leave, largely because the alternative tends to be that they drop out. Ms. Hunter wants them segregated (I admit this word might be offensive, but so is her views in my opinion, and it is exactly what she wants -- a badge of dishonor, the suggestion what they did is so horrible that they "taint" the rest of the school so much they should be educated elsewhere) to night schools and "alternative" schools. The realization many (especially if they are of age) will drop out is mostly ignored. Tough love is important, but they still will be required to meet all educational standards and so forth, and their life will be far from pleasant in various ways. So why the need to rub their noses in it? The desperation voiced by such sentiments is evident, but it remains both sad and wrongheaded.
Politics: Though I admit it looks bad, I still respect Dean for various things that got him in trouble. This led to a back and forth with me and someone who doesn't care for Dean, the third time things got a bit heated in such discussions. Okay, I upset supporters of three different candidates, not counting Bush and Lieberman. Next I shall deal with religion. Anyway, lol, I analyze the recent New Hampshire Debate here. I also got a few interesting questions when I asked about the weaknesses of one's favorite candidate.

Movie: I saw an interesting, if flawed movie tonight entitled Made-Up. It concerns a woman who presses her sister to take part in a college film, first involving a makeover (thus, body image is one theme), but broadening out into various unexpected directions as she tries to make something exciting. The movie itself is a family effort, directed by Tony Shalhoub (his directing debut; also seen in Monk and Wings; he also played an amusing role as a restaurant owner/aspiring actor), written by his sister-in-law (who also co-starred as the sister), starring his wife (Brooke Adams), filmed at a family home, and involving other family members in various roles. It is an episodic film that deals with various family dynamics as well as being a satire of amateur film making. I didn't quite like the ending and felt it fell apart a bit toward the end, but it was amusing and different. Worth checking out if it comes to your area.

I got a chance to see the cast in person after the show. Tony Shalhoub came off the best ... for someone whose first main role was the stereotypical taxi driver on Wings, he has a lot to offer. His direction and low key performance was two of the best things about the movie. The daughter, no relation, also was quite good. And what a name -- Light Eternity!

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Ridiculous and Sad News: The next bachelor for a somewhat popular reality show will be the back-up QB to the NY Giants. How embarrassing to (male) fans! Olivia Goldsmith, the popular novelist, recently died because of complications of cosmetic surgery. A sad end that all the same would not have surprised the characters in her best known works of fiction.


In the true "Internet Election" no campaign, national committee, or organization will decide where and when the conversations take place, who participates, or what is the agenda.

From many conversations, the best arguments and the best arguers will gain traction. Some may jump to other conversations to increase interest in their issues, and others may leave because they're still not convinced. Barriers to entry in any conversation will be low; listening will be valued as much as speaking; and the best ideas will survive because the market for them will only grow.

In the end, voters will turn out to vote in higher numbers because they chose the candidates and policies at issue, on their own terms and timelines. Disillusionment and jadedness about politics will decrease sharply.

-- from an essay by Lauren Gelman on the future role of the Internet in elections

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Gilmore Girls consistently remains one of the few reasons to watch television.


A new $22 million system to allow soldiers and other Americans overseas to vote via the Internet is inherently insecure and should be abandoned, according to members of a panel of computer security experts asked by the government to review the program.

-- the government, however, is planning to ignore the experts they hired and go ahead with the system; what's the point of the experts then?


Tommorow is the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which upheld the right of a woman to choose an abortion, except in limited circumstances (somewhat expanded over the years). Here's an essay by someone who had an abortion and strongly feels her right to be able to do so is fundamentally important and threatened.


A federal judge has struck down the obligation of the Justice Department to report to Congress individual judges felt to have abused their discretion in sentencing a defendant as a violation of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.

Also in federal court news, the President re-nominated someone from out of Maryland to fill a vacancy (previously held by a Marylander) to the Fourth Circuit, violating traditional practice. Not only that, and the fact a liberal is being replaced by a conservative in an already conservative heavy district, the irony is that the nominee worked on Sen. Helms' staff. This is the same senator that for extended times blocked various Clinton nominees to the circuit because they were deemed too liberal. Life tends to be ironical, doesn't it?
"He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient" [Art II., sec. 3]

I'm still kind of waiting for the President to supply the first half of this equation. I find the SOTU a tedious bit of political theater and find the current occupant's every utterance hard to bear, surely the political motivated pap he submitted to Congress on the "state of the union" this year. Here and here are two who blogged the thing in real time, each with comments from readers [I can have comments as well ... thinking about it, but the readership base seems to small now too so warrant. Still, see here.]. Another response noted the absence of much at all in way of environmental statements. USA Today suggested some things were um slightly misleading. And so it goes.

Many also agreed the Democratic response (from Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Daschle) left a lot to be desired. Others didn't think Kerry did a great job either. Again, I think this lackluster energy is why we need a force like Dean. Or maybe Edwards. I saw Dean on the tube yesterday giving a generally dry policy sort of speech (with the usual "Bush is bad" mantra), looking somewhat worn out, and it was decent imho. It's not why people flock to the guy per se, but the idea he's only for bashing people is silly. All the same, Edwards is in the catbird seat, Kerry on top ... at this moment.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Iowa: I believe the "I told you soes" about Dean's negative style are partly overblown, especially given how far it got him and how it benefits the party as a whole on some level. Furthermore, it is not like the winner, John "Comeback Kid" Kerry was not negative. He won on experience, message, and winnability. A significant part of this was "Dean doesn't have the experience, can't win, and has a bad message." [Slightly change the wording, and you can also fill in "Bush."] Attacks on Dean from loser Gephardt, future loser Lieberman, the media, et. al. also helped. All the same, yes, Dean needs to tweak his message in part because he has other positive qualities that can do be put to good use. If nothing else, Iowa might be a good learning experience for him. Those foaming out of the mouth against him or for Kerry [endorsed by Dukakis! he's a lock now!] are tiring, but I rather see Kerry's hangdog face on my AOL News page than Michael Jackson any day!

Meanwhile, legitimate concerns about experience (his vote on the war hurts some, but isn't too far different from Kerry to matter too much in the end) aside, Edwards is getting some "hmmm" looks. That whopping one percent statewide Kucinich got suggests their Iowa partnership idea didn't work too much, but does suggest how he can attract supporters of other candidates. If you don't like Dean or Clark, he might very attract you more (largely for his enthusiasm, partly his populist message, and maybe even for his relatively short time in politics) than Kerry. He also is from the South, so it's harder to tar him as a "Northeastern liberal." Anyway, I might have been too hasty yesterday in saying I want the also rans gone, since they do have their roles to play. Still, Sharpton's role is not very productive, is it?

State of the Union: James Carville had a good line about the President being one of the most entitled men out there and running a candy store for the country in his cheery "don't you want all this candy" sort of way. Rush the 9/11 panel trying to find out what really happened? Oh well, you didn't want to know the exact state of the union, did you? One of you viewers of my humble blog did come here via this search: "nicole kidman + nude + free + pictures + cold mountain." We here at Joe's Eclectic Thoughts try to be as eclectic as possible, providing the information the country wants. Like belly dancing enjoyed by naked mole rats.

Salt of the Earth: It was a pleasant day today as I tried to avoid more ice than experienced by your average hockey player. My neighbors are not typical viewers of my blog, but I do wish y'all have more of a passing involvement with salt. Fantastic resource, so valuable in ancient times that it was often given as pay ("salary"), and useful to cover up the blandness of frozen food products. Seriously, a couple years ago I slipped on the damn stuff (a half block away from my place) and was sore for over a week. A while back, a relative broke a leg, and it never fully healed. The stuff can be dangerous ... it's fun and all, lovely to look at, but careful now, ok?

TV: While it was announced that Kerry and Edwards won in Iowa (Gephardt is out ... okay, now if Kucinich, Lieberman, and Sharpton would follow), I was watching an excellent movie on Court TV entitled Chasing Liberty. It starred Juliette Lewis (excellent in an atypical role) as a lawyer defending an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, but it made sure to focus enough on the latter to be a balanced account. Movies like this often tend to focus on the well off white person (often guy) and not the real story -- the person struggling against injustice. It was a fictionalized account but based on true events ... and I suggest people check it out, if they can.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Iowa Caucus Day: Certain select forces are quite excited and concerned about Iowa, but seriously, most aren't really too excited the whole thing. I suggest those too into it read Dave Barry's accounts to keep things in a bit of perspective. One reason the media is so excited is that this year it looks to be quite close, perhaps so close that we may not even know who really won. Howard Dean got in trouble for past statements that the caucus system was flawed because it is controlled by special interests. He also is worried about the closeness of the race. At any rate, like his other controversial statements, there is a lot of truth to that criticism. For a look at the positives and negatives of the system [one thing that stands out is that it violates the "secret ballot" idea that many think of as basic to our voting system] and an interesting comparison to proposed elections in Iraq see here. [more]

The Iowa caucuses will be important for those running (and it's too early to know the results as I write this), but we should never forget the ultimate goal -- the defeat of President Bush in November. The current de facto parliamentary system with Republicans in control is described in all its "glory" here. A change at the top will be an important step, so ultimately the decision for the Democratic voter is choosing who you feel would be the best person to challenge a Republican Congress while leading us in new directions.


More on the Pickering Nomination: Some conservatives and others are happy about the recess appointment of Judge Pickering in part because it is a small step toward ending the appointment logjam (and, of course, because of his politics). They apparently don't see the injustice of Republicans benefiting from a "let's play fair" approach, after years of doing the opposite. Likewise, even some conservative sorts are not crazy about this pick. One sarcastically suggested their motto should be: "Doesn't violate the letter of the ethics rules! Has the bare minimum of ethics to prevent professional responsibility professors from calling for his impeachment or resignation!" And, there's always the possibility that it gives the Dems another argument against the President.

The fact that there is a good chance he won't be confirmed once the recess appointment runs out (requiring him to retire, but with a full pension, suggesting why others without that option might not have taken this option) might just not be too upsetting to some of them, if they were honest about it. On the other hand, there is the interesting argument that a recess appointment threatens his independence or maybe even is unconstitutional [see 1/16; pretty interesting], since he is basically up for a "recall" vote a year hence. Historical experience has shown an allowance of such moves, but the argument is strong enough to suggest we should be careful. Judge Pickering is not really a close call.

Or not too much of a big deal, in the scheme of things, according to some (1/19). On the subject of judges, here's an amusing take on recent comments regarding Justice O'Connor. And federal judges' penchant to see themselves as immortals.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The choice, then, really comes down to this: Is the middle class better off with the parts of the Bush tax cuts that Dean's rivals would leave in place or with the $2 trillion less in deficits that Dean would produce over the next decade?

-- doing the numbers, one person argues "not really."

Politically it's said to be suicide, but arguably it's a brave thing to do. Anyway, all this talk about rescinding tax cuts at all is a bit ridiculous given the need to work with a Republican Congress. "But the candidates' budget plans are important, because they tell us something about the men who stand behind them."

Football: Peyton Manning was great, more than great, the first two games of the playoffs. Not this time ... they finally punted, but repeated interceptions, fumbles, and (on the first punt attempt) an overthrown snap that led to a safety made them look mortal. All the same, six (yes six) trips to the Red Zone by the Patriots without a touchdown (after scoring on the first drive; one drive ended with an interception in the End Zone), the game still went down to the wire. And, though the snow stopped by then, the game was in the hands of the kicker (24pts, 17 on kicks, including that safety, which was kicked into the End Zone). 24-14, Pats.

Ricky "No Relation" Manning was great this game of the playoffs -- three interceptions. Playing a physical game, the Panthers continually stopped and overmatched the Eagles, who for the third time in a row lost a title game at home. McNabb was one of the victims, injured earlier, he gutted out (with a sore gut) three quarters. His backup gave up the final interception when it could have been close and this time they were stopped in the final drive when it was 4th and long. 14-3, Carolina, after beating the top two seeds on the road. Pat/Panthers, both tough, well put together and coached teams. Should be a good game.
Various: It is quite striking how every few days you read a story about one or two casualties in the war in Iraq, but rarely hear about the wounded soldiers and medical evacuations. As discussed in a story here, the numbers have broken the ten thousand mark. This is remarkable, and way too underreported. [All the same, my local paper had a good article on the wounded, set by them at 2,500, the day after I first wrote this.] Justice Scalia recently went duck hunting with Vice President Cheney (long time friend and subject of a pending case) ... cynical jokes/comments aside, just how important is this? Perhaps, more than my first "oh well, there he goes again" reaction. And, to expand upon the suggestion that the President misleads and twists the information he gives regarding the "state of the union" I offer this.

Media Bias: C-SPAN just aired (to be repeated 1PM later today, EST) a panel discussion on media bias that basically broke down into a debate over the Iraq War. This was somewhat unfortunate and suggests the need for good moderators. Actually, it touches upon a broader problem that I see in part in my time on message boards and the like -- people talking past each other. This is complicated by people coming from things from very different mindsets. It pleases me when such people can find some common ground, and it actually does at time occur. [more]

Talking about Media Bias ... Though I first learnt of it from BTC News, Columbia Journalist Review's new blog of sorts on Campaign 2004 is getting a lot of mention in the blogsphere (if my small sample is representative), and it does seem worth checking out periodically. The recent entry praises the NYT for supplying helpful background to the recess appointment of Judge Pickering. I discussed the LAT article here, suggesting how the importance of such background and how sometimes it might be somewhat misleading. For instance, the NYT article doesn't mention Judge Pickering was defeated by a committee vote and then re-submitted. Just tossing in the he and "several others" (under ten, 168 confirmed last time I checked) were "blocked" is misleading. It was a good, but somewhat flawed piece ... IMHO.

One More Thing ... Read an article in my local paper about people buying fresh (and I mean fresh) food, partly out of fear of mad cow. I often pass a fresh animal market on my way to the subway, and (even if I ate the stuff) I personally would find it a bit hard to consume animals I saw up close. This might be a urban, non-farm (overly emotional) mentality, but "out of sight, out of mind" seems to be the general philosophy in this day and age when it comes to animals ("poultry," etc.) raised for food. On the other hand, animal husbandry is not the only profession in which this disconnect helps further problems currently inherent in the industry.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Aren't necessarily technical virgins, but rather what Molloy calls "situational virgins." This basically means a woman (typically in the 24-34 age range) who is sexually active (after many dates, of course), but doesn't dress like she is when she meets a man's parents.

-- from a Ladies Home Journal article on "What Type of Women Do Men Marry"

Guys are quite familiar about this sort of thing. They are often "situational gentlemen," which basically mean they could be major jerks, but try not to be when they want to score with "situational virgins."

Movie: Toni Collette is probably best known for being the mom in The Sixth Sense, but she suggests her range (and sexual power) in Japanese Story. The movie snuck in at the wire via a limited LA release, so it is eligible for the 2003 Academy Awards. I don't like these technical entries, but Collette surely should be top in line for Best Actress consideration. She was excellent as an Australian geologist forced to accompany a visiting Japanese businessman, including into the desert (wonderfully photographed). The resulting experience touches them both in surprising ways (the businessman is a bit of a cipher, more of a plot device, but not as badly as some reviews suggest). Collette, in turns strong (she is known for roles in which the characters tend to be somewhat weak), fierce, sexual, and emotional, almost carries the movie on her shoulders. She is well up to the task. Superior adult entertainment.
He Knows How To Pick 'em: Among the various political subplots in Washington today, one of the lesser known (but still quite emotional in its own sphere) is the fight over judicial appointments. The battle has been going on especially sharply since the Clinton Administration, and the Democrats in the Senate aren't quite ready to leave it in the hands of the Republicans quite yet. All the same, nearly everyone is still confirmed with only a handful of the most egregious (or easily targeted) blocked. One was Judge Charles Pickering, the reasons touched upon here (with some background) (I discuss the recess appointment in particular here). He also was among the two (over 100 were confirmed) rejected by the Democratic Senate as a whole (2002), that is, the short time when we had that sort of thing under President Bush. This is the one the President decides to install via a recess appointment, good to Jan. 2005. His political connections, including to Sen. Lott, might have something to do with it.

Molly Ivins (with an assist from Lou DuBose) in Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America (a follow-up to Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, which helped me reject the guy before Nov. 2000) helps put this in context by discussing the other nominee rejected by the whole Senate (the two rejected plus all of the thirty odd others rejected in committee were re-nominated right away, leading even some conservatives to raise an eyebrow), Justice Priscilla Owen. The book also provides an overview of the various other ways the President and his administration are a threat to the common man. These two have clear progressive biases, but being long time Texas sorts, they know their man.

Anyway, the recess appointment of Judge Pickering to the appellate bench doesn't take him off the hook; it just allows him to be an acting judge for a year. It also is probably a symbolic gesture of sorts, but one that also just aggravates the situation, especially since the failure smarts as well. Part of the reason for these battles is because certain appellate circuits are narrowly divided and lower court judges have large discretion when so few cases reach the Supreme Court. Thus, conservative judges in the lower courts have great power. One area where this is the case is in death penalty cases such as these (foreign consulate involvement) .

Politics: Though I don't know just how important overall Iowa (where Pat Robertson did very well in 1988) will be, the race is getting close there. John Kerry in particular is showing some life. John Edwards as well, perhaps because he visited all 99 counties. The caucus is sort of a beauty contest in which showing up is more than half the battle. Wes Clark skipped Iowa to focus on New Hampshire, but I discuss the Clark v. Dean decision, including Clark's problems in the domestic arena, here.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The new Afghanistan Constitution (discussed) is rather interesting.

As public servants, the officials of the State must be presumed to have a high degree of competence in deciding how best to discharge their governmental responsibilities. A State, in the ordinary course, depends upon successor officials, both appointed and elected, to bring new insights and solutions to problems of allocating revenues and resources. The basic obligations of federal law may remain the same, but the precise manner of their discharge may not.

This is from the conclusion of recent opinion stating that the enforcement of a consent decree that springs from a federal dispute and that furthers the objectives of federal law does not violate the Constitution. It honors federalism, but reminds us that respecting the role of states in our constitutional system need not ignore the national limitations placed on states. Or, at times, vice versa. This is sometimes forgotten, especially via creative readings of the Tenth and Eleventh Amendments. A fair and balanced method, as I suggest here in a case involving federal discrimination law and state obligations relating to court access, is surely possible.

Democratic Candidate Lit: You can get a decent feel of those running for president by checking out their campaign books. I discuss John Edwards' (lively, populist, and Southern) creative technique here and Wesley Clark's (intelligent, somewhat above the fray, but critical all the same) policy tome here. From what I saw of it, John Kerry's (idealistic, good for you, but somewhat hard to connect to) book fits the bill.

As does Howard Dean's (bland and somewhat impersonal, generally anti-everything Bush, standard Democratic rhetoric, and proud of the people's movement nature of his campaign), which also shows his savvy by being available in a cheap paperback version. And, no, I still don't quite know why this guy suddenly decided that he in particular (1) should be and (2) could be elected president. His foreign policy limitations are also avoided. I, like most of the country, have not read the bios of the rest of the bunch.

TV: Caught part of one of the final few episodes of Friends ... the show has gotten some praise the last couple of years for its serious plots, but this is not quite why I originally started to watch the show. These guys are all grown up, except maybe Joey; thus, it's a good time for the show to end, leaving Joe as the one still on t.v.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

State of the Union: West Wing had a decent, but still somehow missing something, episode tonight built around the lead up to the State of the Union. The ability of the president to select the tone and details in this constitutional exercise was suggested, as does current activities in the real world. I first read about the administrations' editing of health care reports around Christmas, and posted something about it here. A report sponsored by Rep. Waxman (D) and others goes into more detail. See also here (1/14). A taste:

In elaborating upon these findings in the executive summary, the scientists used “disparity” or “disparities” over 30 times.

The final version of the National Healthcare Disparities Report, by contrast, avoids the use of the word “disparity.” It favors the word “difference,” in part because this term does not imply the need for improvements in health care.

As the response to my comments suggest, this sort of spin is defended in several ways. One, the President has the right and perhaps duty to personally edit certain information before releasing it to the public. Two, these sorts of reports tend to come from Washington DC sorts who have their own (often liberal) biases. And, three, the final product is the best result. True (the final effort rises and falls on the criteria used), sure/it depends (and are the final result less so?), and I leave it to you (given the results thus far) to decide.
Commercials: For fun anti-Bush ads, check here. I do not quite see the charm of those new Nextel ads involving such things as a business meeting, a wedding, and a Shakespearean play. Each involves the participants speaking in short bursts, suggesting that users would have to learn a new code when they speak on them, like the abbreviated speak many use for instant messengering online. Does this not suggest the quality of the phone is somewhat subpar? When I speak on the phone, I don't want to be required to do so with two word bursts. And, here's Kuwait's answer to Barbie.

Sports: More news on Yankee South ... the Astros picked up two more former Yankees ... Kenny Rogers and Jeff Nelson. Also, lifelong AL pitchers like Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens should have fun batting, doncha think? I know many players wished Clemens was up there in the batter's box more often, especially people named "Mike."

Please give blood ... it's easy, feels good, and is quite important.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Outspoken = Off the Wall?: Many, including in some cases their fellow candidates, frame Howard Dean and Wes Clark's comments as outrageous. As one bloggist noted: "There's a pretty widespread tendency in the mainstream media to say that Clark makes off-the-wall claims about the war on terrorism or the Iraq war ... It's more accurate to say that Clark has a habit of making points that many in high political circles consider impolitic, impolite or simply in poor taste to bring up."

I would agree with columnist Richard Cohen (who insists on tossing one in anyway) that the same applies to Dean: "Dean's problem is that his candor has established a persona -- a shoot-from-the-hip guy who talks before he thinks. That's somewhat the case. But not everything he says is a gaffe or intemperate. In his case, the controversial is being confused with the contemptible. In due course, he will learn his lesson, revert to standard American political pablum and end each speech with "God Bless America."

And I respect them highly for their outspokenness. I rue the day when criticism of the sort being inflicted on ex-Treasury Secretary O'Neill because of his new book will lead them to start backtracking on a consistent basis. In O'Neill's case, a respected official fired because of loyalty issues (as the first article linked suggests, perhaps the core principle of the current administration, and one reason why I don't like them) first said that "the focus" was on overturning Saddam from the start. This is being watered down to basic planning in lieu of policy that harkens back to the Clinton Administration. Watch out for that spin, those edges are pointy.

Investigative Stops: The Supreme Court unanimously held today in ILLINOIS v. LIDSTER that brief investigatory highway stops (here to collect evidence on a hit and run) were reasonable, unlike general checkpoints in place for general crime control. A reasonable ruling, though the concurrence (by Justice Stevens, originally from Illinois) was likely right to dissent on the point of wishing the lower court would have had the job of applying the test to this particular case, and noting the stop is not totally harmless. Lower courts apply the facts of the law since they are factfinding bodies closer to the scene than the Supreme Court. The majority opinion was sure to not be too broad ... even this sort of stop has to be "reasonable" and such factors like the fact everyone was stopped, it was brief, and no discrimination was shown were relevant. [Local article on the decision.]

An interesting essay on a new NJ domestic partnership law that suggests the unequal status of homosexuals, even when their unions are partly protected by the government.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Politics: I caught a re-broadcast of a radio appearance of Wes Clark late last night on C-SPAN. He was pretty impressive. He has a certain easy charm, not totally comfortable like a seasoned pol, but clearly there. You saw it especially when the show was in commercial or after it was over (the camera lingered), the latter showed him talking with the host about her own child's time at preschool (making sure to get his policy points in). [more] [comments on data mining included in full discussion]

Good take on the candidates. 134 undervotes not counted, election decided by 12 votes, and only a flawed paper trail in the electric voting machine to check. This is the sort of problem that 2000 should have prevented by 2004, surely in Florida!

Sports: One of the more touching stories of last season was Roger Clemens' final season, including his extended attempt for that elusive 300th win (including against the Cubs, the game stopping for a spell when a player was hurt). Now, it seems that he will be coming out of retirement (one a lot shorter than the new Redskins coach) to join his pal Andy Pettite over at the Astros. Besides giving the team a killer rotation, it kind of makes all that sentiment (especially his World Series appearance) a bit of a cheat. Perhaps, if he said "this is going to be my last year, except if it's not" things would have been a bit better. When was the last time 4/5ths (if one counts Jeff Weaver, which I admit is a dubious proposition) of the Yankee rotation playing other places a few months after the World Series?

4th and 26??? Okay, I'm not quite over that yet. You get in with a miracle (thanks to the Cards), you leave with a miracle (just not yours). Now it's up to Carolina to beat both the Number 1 and 2 seeds ... they are half way there, and the Eagles tempted fate already. If the Eagles soar and the Colts win, well that would be just a bit too much. Anyway, Rush "The ACLU believes in me" Limbaugh was at the game. Wasn't he the guy who cut a hedge in McNabb's neighbor's yard for tickets?

Moron Award: I mentioned recently a tragic fire near my neighborhood that killed two relatives of a soldier in Iraq. My local paper had an update and it seems that a depressed teen started the fire in a failed "suicide while looking like a hero" attempt. The idea was that he came from a strict religious family and just killing himself would have been dishonorable, thus his plan to make it look like he was trying to save people in the building. Apparently, he got the idea because of a failed arson attempt on the same building last year. Suffice to say, he started the fire, but didn't die or look like much of a hero in the end.

[Meanwhile, another item discussed a woman who committed suicide, thus complicating a case against her sister, who killed the father and attacked her. And some people wonder why I get so caught up in football games -- better than thinking about this sort of thing, right?]

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Brutally frank and uncomfortably intimate, it delves into a world in which young people grow up faster, are more sophisticated and, statistics show, are increasingly diagnosed as troubled. Perhaps more important, rather than appeal to parents, it asks young people to take action themselves. Each message ends with the words: "Your choice."

-- from an article discussing a new style of public service announcements (PSAs) for teens

Football: A rather exciting divisional playoff round this weekend, starting with a double overtime win by the Carolina Panthers over the St Louis Rams, a result of miscues (and great feats) on both sides. The nightcap had the Patriots win by the now almost obligatory deciding field goal, though this time though it was very cold, it wasn't snow or OT. The Colts, not punting once, even as the final seconds ticked away at the end of the game, just had too much of an offense, even for Kansas City at home. Finally, the Packers lost in OT, getting there because the Eagles manged to convert a make it or die 4th and 26. I didn't believe it, am just about getting over it, but they did it. This time it was the Packers that committed a turnover in OT. The balances of fate finally caught up to them.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Baby it's cold outside ... Well, heck, it's winter! So, it should be, right?

Movie: Neve Campbell has co-producer and co-story credit in The Company [directed by Robert Altman], and also does all her own dancing (she has training in ballet). The movie is clearly a labor of love for her, and is quite enjoyable for the movie goer as well. The movie is as you can guess not about the CIA, but a struggling Chicago ballet dance company, including all the little dramas involved behind the scenes. It also has many ballet dance numbers [an actual ballet company served as extras], suggesting the talent, skill, and grace involved. I enjoyed Contact, a musical that was largely dancing, but am not a big fan of this sort of art per se. All the same, as the Italian leader (Malcolm McDowell, finally getting a decent part for a change) of the troupe begs those who gave him an award for his work, it might encourage others to be a bit more enthused and accepting (including perhaps me) of an art form that often gets more ridicule than respect. Anyway, good small treasure of a movie.

Update: Here's an interview with Neve Campbell. The interview helped me recall a David Letterman appearance ... she mentioned a nude scene. Sorry guys; it's a shower scene, but hidden from view. On the other hand, there is some surprising (given the PG-13 rating) causal partial nudity (not of Neve) in the dressing room. We at JET like to keep on top of these things for artistic purposes. Anyway, the movie itself is based on the Joffrey Ballet company, the site of which provides a link to an excellent review in that it shows all that the film has to offer. As to Ms Campbell, I had a discussion recently with someone regarding movie stars trying to go beyond their natural talents (btw those pretentious ads trying to explain just how DEEP Tom Cruise's new movie is annoy the life out of me). Campbell surely shows the diversity of her range here.

Politics: The only thing for sure is death and taxes. Bush I got in trouble denying the need to raise the latter; Gen. Clark might get into some trouble for promising a certain form of the former will not occur. In his administration, "We are not going to have one of these [9/11 sort] incidents." Well, I hope so, but I hope his crystal ball is right. On the other hand, his administrative ability might be better than the current President, if former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is to be believed. He noted that President Bush was so disengaged during Cabinet meetings that he was like a "blind man in a roomful of deaf people." O'Neill was fired partly for not being a good enough "salesman" for the President's most recent slate of tax breaks. A fiscal conservative like Howard Dean might be a better alternative given the tendencies of the current bunch.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Presidential Tidbits: While the President decides to go into "hey look at all I'm doing" re-election mode, maybe we should take a look at what else he "did." We have Powell now admitting that, yes, technically Al Qaida doesn't really seem to have connections with Iraq. He and others did kind of give us the impression they really really did, but hey, it's still possible. The Carnegie Endowment For International Peace report [clip] gives more evidence of how trumped up the "evidence" (again, hey, we had some, sure my report was supposed to be conclusive evidence not the "ham sandwich" needed to indict, so sue me) of WMDs was.

Kenneth Pollack, whose book in support of the need to go to war was quite influential, has a perhaps even more damning criticism given his role: "The war was not all bad. I do not believe that it was a strategic mistake, although the appalling handling of postwar planning was. ... That said, the case for war—and for war sooner rather than later—was certainly less compelling than it appeared at the time. At the very least we should recognize that the Administration's rush to war was reckless even on the basis of what we thought we knew in March of 2003. It appears even more reckless in light of what we know today. ... Fairly or not, no foreigner trusts U.S. intelligence to get it right anymore, or trusts the Bush Administration to tell the truth. The only way that we can regain the world's trust is to demonstrate that we understand our mistakes and have changed our ways."

And, as the President tries to take care of mostly forgotten Mexico, we can look back and see how we antagonized much of Latin America with our heavyhanded "our way or the hard way" strategy. See also, the Wes Clark alternative.

Meanwhile, the race is on to get this guy out of here. C-SPAN had a bunch of alternative candidates on (not third party, alternate Democratic and Republican candidates) last night. And, I thought no one in the party was fighting the President. Anyway, on the desperation front, there is Sen. Kerry, who is trying to show how he has the best experience in both the domestic and foreign policy front to win. Trouble is, and again his craggy/hangdog look suggests a tragic figure, these sorts just don't become presidential candidates, or rather win elections. Who was the last one with both? I guess Bush I, but he was vice president first. Same with Nixon. Kennedy was a lesser senator. And so on.

Finally, in non-political news, we have Pete Rose. ESPN Classic had a game of his on last night, toward the end of his career (9/11 1985 ... Tony Gwynn looking young, Bruce Bochy as a player, but Joe Morgan still was the announcer), when he broke some hitting record. Shoot, the guy isn't too old. Old enough though ... he had enough time to repent, but even now his former teammate thinks his "apology" is weak. If former teammate Joe Morgan questions his integrity, part of the requirements for entering the Hall of Fame, what hope does he really have? He also had the ill advised timing of releasing his book now, arguably upstaging the current entries into the HOF. If only there was a Hall of Infame ... quite a few infamous sorts did some impressive feats.

Oh well ... time to start the day.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Update: I noted below that I find it a bit sad that the state of the economy will play such a large part in the opposition's ability to challenge the President in November (yes, the year is upon us). This led to an interesting discussion on the economic matters and the current frontrunner of that opposition. Interesting stuff.

Animals: Read an interesting little piece on how pet custody is a growth issue in divorce proceedings. This is part of a commendable trend in which pets (and animals per se) are not seen as mere property. For instance, I noted a while back that a recent court decision treated them as "effects" for Fourth Amendment purposes. Overall, I believe animals are at least "quasi-persons" that deserve our respect, partly because it is in our very interest to do so. [Though it's not why, one way to explain my vegetarianism to the doubtful is to refer to the health benefits. These people need not know I'm not exactly that health conscious overall.] One essay I wrote on the issue can be found here. It includes mention of the recent trend of better treatment of animals raised for fast food.

Politics: My review of Winning Modern Wars [I was impressed] can be found here. I got notice that my reserve for Molly Ivins' Bushwacked book has come in, so that will be discussed eventually. Following my resolution to focus on politics in my reading material as my state's primary approaches, I also plan to read John Edwards' Four Trials and Howard Dean's autobiography. It is useful that these books tend to be quick reading. The New Republic has a some interesting pieces on why you should choose a particular candidate, though the Lieberman piece in my view (though it has some good points) misrepresents some things. You decide.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights will oppose legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide.

"Many fear that creating an environment where a potential for encouraging someone to end their life - a life some perceive as having less value - would be creating a slippery slope," said a statement from the coalition.

This line of argument troubles me. Groups such as these talk about "slippery slopes" and all that -- who's next, and so forth. Well, let's turn that around. Who's next here? When we remove the right to make moral choices from individuals, where do we stop? All moral choices that matter deeply can potentially lead to tragedy. Such is the nature of the beast. Will those who desire pain relief that might lead to death be stopped? How about those who do not want various sorts of care? Does abortion when birth defects are involved do the same thing? And so on. Not to sound patronizing, but their concerns are sound, but their solution leaves a bit to be desired as well.

Limits of strict enforcement of laws against illegals: At a time in which the President is putting forth an amnesty program for "undocumented workers," it perhaps is a good idea to cite this article. It concerns a proposed law that would make it much harder for local police forces and other agencies to not look into the legal status of individuals they deal with in carrying out social services and the like. The issue of giving driving licenses to undocumented workers and so forth enters the mix as well. Tricky issue that even the California police are split over.

Happy Birthday ... Katie Couric and Nicolas Cage. And, thanks again to that woman with an angelic voice -- I overheard her on the subway, and it was quite pleasant. I even complimented her on it -- see, you can talk to strangers in NYC and get away with it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

"Depression isn't a disease of the rich or of affluent countries. The World Health Organization reports that it's at least 50 percent more common among poor people, whether in Ethiopia or Germany, Zimbabwe or the United States. That most poor people simply live with their pain doesn't mean they don't suffer."

-- Virginia Postrel

Interesting: What "facts" should we be concerned about when looking at legal opinions? Taking the landmark Marbury v. Madison case as its platform, this article (.pdf) argues that various political and social facts should be taken into consideration if one wants to truly understand the reasoning of the opinion. A bit of legal realism explained in basically layman terms, this draft of a future article is worth reading for those interested in the subject.

Politics: A federal court upheld the mid-term redistricting in Texas which will increase the Republican presence in its congressional delegation. The reasoning is two fold: it was not unconstitutional as a political gerrymander (though a pending case might change the test) or for being mid-term and did not violate civil rights laws in regards to upholding racial equality (the dissent disagreed in part on this issue). The latter issue being somewhat esoteric, I'd focus on the first two -- they might very well be right.

All the same, as a political matter: "frequent redrawing of district lines will undermine democratic accountability and exact a heavy cost on state independence as federal congressional leaders exert their influence to shape state districting behavior." Thus, Congress should (as is their right) ban mid-term elections, and this current one is bad pool. And, there is good evidence that it is a pretty blatant political gerrymander that affected minority power, even if it didn't reach the level so that a federal court could strike it down.

David Brooks stupidity strikes again! The NYT needs conservative opinion writers, but this one leaves a lot to be desired.

David Letterman came back from vacation yesterday, after visiting the troops over the holiday. He eloquently praised their patriotism and service, suggesting why I continue to not only enjoy, but also respect, his show. It also seems that his new son is now an ongoing thing for guests to talk about. Jennifer Aniston was on and joked about he's keeping the "so-called" mother of his child hidden. This followed Julia Roberts making fun of him not getting married and so on. It's amusing, but might get tired after awhile.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Thoughts: I added my .02 in discussions of spelling rules and vanity acting roles, while discussing (link supplied) an interesting Weekly Standard article on due process for [alleged or otherwise] terrorists and other like minded sorts. Finally, I have discussed my thoughts on the president and the judicial appointment process in the past. The Federal Appointments Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis reminds us of the complexity of the process as well as the importance of looking at things partly in a historical institutionalism sort of way.

Politics: I just started Wes Clark's book Winning Modern Wars, and it seems promising. My general sentiment on Clark is that he would be a good asset for the Democratic Administration, let's say Secretary of State or something, but perhaps not as the Chief Executive (he has a lot of good domestic policy ideas, his time in the military and so forth [e.g. he chairs an alternative energy firm] forced him to defend some of them, but he still seems a bit weak in that department). His competition is mixed, so don't count me out yet Wes.

As to the Dems winning, it is said that economy and how the foreign policy stuff is going will be the final difference, especially the former. I find this a bit sad -- my opposition to this administration is at its base an opposition to its basic philosophy of government as well as its basic style of doing things. Pocketbook issues are honestly not what is upsets me the most about them. If they had a smart economic program, I'd still be against them. All the same, yes, I'd admit that the vagaries of economics might very well be what matters. Seems so shallow. Marx might be laughing somewhere.

Sports: I have gotten caught up with the whole Green Bay/Brett Favre madness with his dad dying, the team playing great vs. Oakland the day after, Arizona's miracle win to allow GB to get to the playoffs, and so on. I was quite annoyed when they couldn't win it in regulation as if they somehow deserved to win, even though Seattle almost should have won given how great their QB played (dropped passes led to the need for an OT where the opposition caught the crucial pass, but damn if Brett's former backup [talk about the Maytag repairman of the NFL] tried to tackle the player ... failed, but gutsy to the end). Anyway, it was a great game ... better because that end of regulation field goal missed.

Okay, so Pete Rose admits now to betting on baseball, including on games in which his own team played. So, besides being a gambler, he now admits to being a liar too. This is supposed to make us all feel better, since he repented and all, so hey let's allow him back into baseball (maybe, after a probation period). No, don't really buy it. I'm all for reasonable punishments and all, but the guy had years to tell the truth, but all he did was thumb his nose at the game, and continue lying. To make matters worse, he made out as if he was the victim. And now he should be reinstated? The rules say that in a few years it will be in the veterans hands to vote him in, and I guess the "jury of his peers" so to speak might best have that decision. Still, as a fan, I have some symbolic role. And I say ... keep the SOB out.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Thoughts: Elf was a great movie -- it was touching, hilarious, absurd, and great fun. A perfect way to end the holiday season. A few thoughts on the latest presidential candidate debate. Good Wild Card weekend, except for a blowout in the Broncos/Colts game, starting with the Colts going up 13-3 after the Broncos failed to touch a Colt player, allowing him to get up and run for the score (well, the Colts finally won a playoff game). The Titans finally beat the Ravens, Green Bay won in OT, and Carolina beat Dallas fairly easily (Dallas fans can put this in the "bad" category).

Interesting: Human rights advocate Samantha Power had an interesting review of Noam Chomsky's latest work in today's paper. Also, a piece on interrogation techniques and torture, cited by an article on "Interrogation, Torture, the Constitution, and the Courts," is worth reading.

[To add to the debate thoughts, a few things about Sen. Edwards. It is unfortunate that he is stepping down from his seat after the end of his term; his voice is needed in our government. He visited all 99 counties of Iowa ... don't quite know why, but that's a lot of counties! His hair also is like mine. I noted already that Dean went to medical school in my old neighborhood. If a few try to make Kerry's hair an issue, perhaps I should choose my vote on account of Sen. Edwards' hair. Just kidding.]

Friday, January 02, 2004

Thoughts: In response to an article critical to the wall between the criminal and intelligence divisions of the FBI, I put in my two cents here and here (good discussion thread with a link to a broader discussion by the piece's author provided). In response to concerns Wes Clark does not have proper domestic experience, I asked for a response from his supporters. I got a few interesting replies. [See also here ... the threads with IWonder were particularly enlightening.]

Interesting: Dave Barry had a couple very good columns about football advertising and his annual summary of the years news. An amusing criticism of limits on professors having affairs with students and other like restrictions can be found here. The end of the year report for the federal judiciary included a clear disapproval of the failure to obtain judicial input on a law targeting a perceived problem of too much leniency in sentencing. The provision for collecting information on judges was particularly deemed "troubling," especially given their constitutional/independent role. [The separation of powers issues concern even a conservative such as the author of the report, Chief Justice Rehnquist.] The fact sensitive facts found in sentencing reports could also become public knowledge was not noted, but is also a problematic feature of the law. And, there is a lawsuit out there against an anti-Haitian video game that seems to me a patent violation of the First Amendment, if a rather racist form of entertainment.

Movie: I enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring as I noted a few weeks back, and even sold a free booklet that I received at the showing for $20 on Ebay (I asked the woman, "do you know what this is for?" It was a nice booklet and all, but a ten page booklet that surely was handed out elsewhere isn't quite worth that much.), but have had mixed luck since then. Calendar Girls, based on a true story of older women posing to help raise money in honor of a recently deceased husband was a pleasant diversion. I actually saw the calendar while purchasing my calendars for 2004 (I got them yesterday, and they were already half price). The "good parts" are tastefully hidden and they surely look better than the older guys takeoff of the concept. They came off rather well, if this younger guy's opinion means anything.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Dis: "Bleached of genuine drama or human interest, an excellent driving-in-the-car-while-looking-for-parking-place-near-the-beach read."
Kirkus Reviews (05/15/2001) [for the book Around Again] [Update: Well, once she found out it was kept in a smoke-free environment, someone did bid on it. You never know how much time you will need to spend on parking these days.]

News I Rather Not Have Read: Local fire, arson suspected, kills family members of U.S. soldier in Iraq. ... Intimate, I really don't want to read this, details about Neil Bush's extramarital activities. ... Anything to do with Michael Jackson (do I even have to see his picture? sad all around).
Interesting ... The growth and future success of online news and blogging (thanks to BTC News for the link).

Overdone but still fun ... Cold Mountain. I have not read the book (I tried, but couldn't get into it), which some say is a darker work, but this Oscar bait of a movie is good holiday entertainment. The final movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy probably should get the most honors, probably won't, and this is better than the rather disappointing Master and Commander movie. It just is hard to take it too seriously with Nicole Kidman as the struggling heroine, Renee Zellweger as the tomboy hillbilly (her pappy is a fiddler), and Jude Law (a bit too lifeless and stoic ... the comic relief he meets is more interesting, and we mostly care about the homefront) as the beautiful tragic hero. It is not quite the Gone With The Wind for the 21st century, but it's no dramatic masterpiece or anything either. It's good entertainment though. For those interested, I supply a helpful summary here.

Let ... the New Year be a good one for you and yours. Heck, and me too, while I'm at it!