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

Monday, May 30, 2005

Property Rights and the Judicial Nomination Wars

And Also: As I asked elsewhere, are detainees human or at least worthy of as much respect as stem cells? One never knows, since so many suggest certain Muslims (even who often turn out to be innocent), are basically "animals" while even possible wondrous scientific advances make experimentation on blasocysts doomed to destruction deeply problematic.

In a lesser known, but still important case [Lingle v. Chevron], the Supreme Court handed down a "takings" decision that clarified that an early opinion was not meant to give judges a broad power to determine the reasonableness of property regulations. As one account noted, like Gilda Radner, the courts said "never mind." The case is discussed in this Washington Post piece.

The decision was unanimous with Justice Kennedy briefly noting in a concurring opinion that there might be some extreme cases when a regulation is so unreasonable as to be unconstitutional. The decision was a blow to certain "property rights" theorists (also on the look out for an upcoming Takings case, Kelo) and those who used a vaguely open-ended throwaway line in an 1980s opinion with some success to strike down various property regulations.

And, it helps underline the importance of the judicial battles of today. The accounts, including yesterday's NYT, honoring the "compromise" and focusing on partisan battles tend to miss part of the point. These nominations are so much of a struggle because they are clearly ideological battles ... part of a continual attempt to put ideological friendlies to various conservative/libertarian interest groups on the bench.

For instance, Austin talked about Judge Owens' penchant toward corporation friendly rulings, even if she had to re-litigate the facts (something appellate courts generally do not do) to do so. Also, Judge Rogers-Brown is a strong property rights advocate, talking about property regulations being "theft." When she is said to be outside the "mainstream," Lingle suggests why -- even the likes of Scalia and Thomas are not as strong in their thinking.

There is a tendency to stereotype ideological battles as just about abortion and other social issues, but these other matters are quite important as well. This is so especially because social and business conservatives both are major, if competing, wings of those now in power.

Some might support this change in court membership and disagree with the sentiments of the below account. So be it ... but an honest account of the battles should underline what is at stake. Not just the changing of the rules in midstream (calls to mind the "clean hands" rule ... no equitable compensation if you don't have clean hands), but the ideological issues at stake.

This talk about "democracy" and "qualified" nominations treated unfairly tells but part of the story. "Democracy" (well, ideally) requires a full-informed electorate, right?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Downing, Koran, and Lies

[Mark Kleiman, as usual, has a good take on the Koran issue, dubious of all sides: "Anyone who says he's confident that the Koran-flushing happened or didn't happen is either a liar or a fool. We just don't know, and there's no actual way to find out." As they say, read the whole thing.]

Downing Answers: Rep. John Conyers along with nearly ninety other representatives has signed on to a letter to the President asking for some answers respecting the infamous "Downing Memo" that states that in 2002 the administration was ready to go to war with Iraq, the WMDs evidence was sketchy, but they would stretch it to fit their policy. The propaganda spokesman (as suggested by the comments below, the official lies and propaganda put forth by this administration warrants the right terms be used) said that the administration does not feel it necessary to answer.

Thus, Conyers et. al. has decided to obtain one hundred thousand signatures from regular Americans, and hand this "petition [to] the government for a redress of grievances" to the administration once more. I signed it, and it might be an adequate part of honoring the fallen this Memorial Day: demand some answers for the lies and mistruths said in their name by their alleged leaders.

Some are also calling for a vote for the startings of an impeachment inquiry ... to force the House to put a "no" vote on record. Since lying about war is not on par with lying about sex ... and anyway that was so two years ago (unlike say the sex, which also occurred years before) ... I guess this is silly.
It is not true, as many in the Arab world believe, that the United States has embarked on a reckless campaign of torture and abuse of its Arab prisoners of war. But what has happened -- a slow slide from coherent, consistent standards for interrogation and treatment of prisoners to a sometimes ad-hoc, occasionally brutal search for information at all costs -- should warrant public outcry. That it has not suggests either that this shift doesn't interest us because it affects outsiders, or that we no longer consider torture or near-torture to be beyond the bounds of civil conduct.

So says the conclusion of a useful Slate interactive feature on the United States treatment of its detainees, including the question of torture. The feature does something rarely done in many cases, namely provide the reader the ability to get an overall picture of a particular dispute.

For instance, how often does a particular paper or newsmagazine (full disclosure: I no longer am a big reader of newsmagazines ... before being online, I was more likely to partake, especially at a certain library I used to live near) provide a map that lets one know just how are troops are doing in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? The same applies generally to any complex subject. For instance, my local paper served its readers well by including a side panel that dealt with the pros and cons of parental notification laws.

The online interactive feature provides especially useful opportunities. For instance, the Slate feature provides links to and summaries of various governmental investigations as well as the infamous torture memoranda. Likewise, it goes down the list of interrogation tactics, pointing out along the way the ones that clearly or might have broke the law. This includes religious desecration:
The employee recalled, "I told him of a story of an interrogator using a Pride and Ego Down approach. The interrogator took a copy of a Koran and threw it on the ground and stepped on the Koran, which resulted in a detainee riot."

Ah, yes, the Koran. The NYT account of the official reports of the "mishandling"* of the Koran included a bald statement that the "article, which the magazine subsequently retracted, prompted violence in the Muslim world that claimed at least 17 lives." No, it did not. At least, so says the leader of Afghanistan, top officials in the Bush Administration, and any number of others. The article itself is not what "prompted violence," but at best, just used to antagonize the public some more.

A public that had a long list of grievances without having to read one more in this particular American weekly. In fact, even if the mishandling was the cause, there were multiple sources that addressed the matter before Newsweek. Is Newsweek somehow uniquely important to the Afghan public? So, basically, the Bush Administration's suggestions to the contrary was full of shit. But, misinformation goes with the territory ... such as the truth behind the death of Pat Tillman and the injury of the gal from West Virginia.

But, the administration has done well to frame things nicely. People, for instance, wondered how a Koran was "flushed," when in fact the allegation is more on par with a few pages (or by the Slate account, waste being thrown into cells that in part included Korans). Or, since "flushed" is particularly emotional, "mishandled" (including stamping on them) is deemed trivial. Likewise, even the fact the actual flushed allegation that was taken back was done so in somewhat questionable circumstances. Why the change after a few months? Why was not flushing matter not directly addressed in the interrogation? Why should we trust these people?

Anyway, back to the opening quotation. The path taken was "reckless" and it was in various cases clearly a "campaign" that involved the official use of what was plainly (as defined by precedent and common sense understanding) "torture." As noted by the summary, the Congress did not step in to provide its constitutional role of setting rules of war and law of nations, secrecy dominated, and the result was one-sided lockstep policy recommendations.

Furthermore, not only was this bunch authoritarian zealots, but incompetent ones to boot. This is the ultimate shame -- people expect more out of these people; they expect them to be heartless, but still competent. Not so, especially given the rush and use of underskilled men and women in the field, who have been thrown to the wolves unlike their more corrupt superiors.

So, yes, we are not dealing with a bunch of inhuman Nazis here. But, something downright criminal has occurreded all the same, even if it is cloudy enough (and involving people some deep down are comfortable with comparing to animals ... ignoring just how many did absolutely nothing wrong) that our leaders have let it go on without crying from the rooftops: this must not pass!

A final word. This is why fighting the nomination of Alberto Gonzalez (and the appellate judge nominations involved in the torture memoranda, one of whom is on the bench ... though he might have lied to Congress) is important. Yeah, it's not the Supreme Court, but that is not the only time to make a stand. And, it annoys me that people keep raising the point as if nothing else is not compelling as well. Ditto John Bolton -- the principled opponent of the administration deeply believes it is totally corrupting our image to the world. So, shouldn't the ambassador to the world, so to speak, matter to us?

[Anyway, the replacement of Rehnquist will simply not be deemed too much of a big deal, even if I think it should sorta be. Thus, we are talking about at most two nominees, one of which is sure to be truly key. So, we should only filibuster or whatever that one time? That is just dumb.]


* One freed detainee expressed what is at stake thusly: "In our religion, firstly, the Qu'ran is believed to be the word of God, who we refer to as Allah in our religion. Basically the Qu'ran is supposed to be treated with respect and most people believe that the Qu'ran should be placed in a high place in a house or only taken with respect in a certain condition of purification or ablution. It's never to be placed on a floor, on a dirty floor or to be treated or to be mishandled in any way."

Not that respect for religious faith, including those who seem too extreme, is something this administration honors, right?

Entertainment Round-Up

the solid directing, cinematography, production quality and writing all combine to give the film the kind of smooth polish usually only found in big budget movies where the lesbians are murderers or someone's best friend--an even more remarkable feat given that this is Wu's first feature film. All three of the lead characters may seem somewhat stereotypical at first glance, but they are quickly revealed to be interesting, three-dimensional women who defy easy categorization.

-- Saving Face Review (interview here)

I agree ... it's a very good first film, putting aside the predictable elements that even the above site (liberal slanted, lol) notes exist. The movie in fact is ultimately concerned about relationships among different generations in a New York City Chinese community; many viewers at the showing I went to was probably more interested in that than the lesbian angle. The charm of the movie, putting aside the good performances and overall technical elements, is the special touches that make the journey that is a film worth watching.*

As to another comment on that website, I understand this sentiment concerning Sin City, the graphic novel put on film: "I just want to see Rory as a hooker!" A fan of Gilmore Girls who watches the film will know what I mean!

Brunette Racing Hottie: I am no racing fan, neither not horse or car kind, but Danica Patrick just might lead me to take a look. She is just the fourth (and definitely youngest ... early twenties) woman to qualify for the Indy 500, and did so well that she won the second slot. Patrick is on the team co-owned by David Letterman, which won last year. She is obviously the focus of attention, her liveliness and youth sure to dominate the coverage, though of course the fact she is a brunette cutie does not hurt in the least.

Baseball: A-Rod should be given his proper kudos for promoting the cause of therapy, not only financially, but by sharing his own personal story. On that note, some point out his desire to be one of the "in" Yankees, those the fans truly love. His skill with the bat suggests he might just belong in this so-called "real" Yankee category, but then again the likes of Jeter and Tino Martinez also have a certain personal flavor to them that A-Rod does not quite have. Maybe, it is because he seems a bit phony, maybe he is trying to hard ... but, it is not there for me.

Keep on hitting those homers, Alex, but even the cynical NY fan offers their true love only with a bit more. The therapy thing is nice though ... at first I was wondering why he was talking about his private life etc. (not really a "Yankee" thing), but when I heard why, I understood the whole story. Good job!

And, the Mets? Well, mess up in Shea, disaster in Atlanta, and some life in Florida. Back under, at, and over .500 yet again ... inconsistent play, the true path to a .500 season.


* Early on, for some reason, the movie did not translate all of the Chinese dialogue. I did not mind too much, since it was not any really important material, but apparently something funny was said because the Chinese woman next to me laughed a couple times. Cute laugh, so no problem.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Governmental Follies

Judges: Unclear, now that Owens is on the federal bench, what "extraordinary circumstances" means? This might help. As to Owens, the vote was predictable, except that Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island was the only Republican to vote against Justice Owen. Two Democrats voted for her: Senators Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. All the paeans to the dignity of the Senate should include a point that push comes to shove, senators do not really vote on principle ... except if "D" and "R" is the final (and sole) determination.

As to the importance of the "advise" part of the compromise, see here. A final word in respect to those who point out that the filibuster (and Senate itself) is an anti-democratic institution that helps block progressive legislation because interest groups can more easily take advantage. Putting aside that the Seventeenth Amendment was supposed to help stop this sort of thing, there is a point there. My thought is that like the veto, the filibuster should be sparingly to defend senatorial privilege. Thus, the Senate should not generally block funding bills, but confirmations to lifetime appointments is somewhat different.

Re-Districting: Meanwhile, a conservative Democrat from Texas (DeLay Country) put forth a non-starter piece of legislation that would call for a principled method of re-districting. The account addresses an important area in which the Republicans have cheated of late, while threatening basic constitutional principles in the process. [Real elections, for one.] These things do tend to add up, don't they?

Stem Cells: One bloggist bluntly noted: "So he's ginned up a nonsensical compromise position. Fair enough; he's a politician and a liar." More news [from federal sources] that the Koran abuse allegations were quite credible show that pretty clearly. Yes, we are talking about the President. The immediate issue is his opposition to a bipartisan stem cell bill using bad science and illogical moral reasoning to help things along.

A truly comic example of this was the photo-op involving babies that apparently were born from in-vitro fertilization or somewhat. Follow me here. Apparently, funding of stem cells from embryos (fourteen day old) voluntarily supplied is immoral destruction of human life, though allowing the same people to destroy them in the pursuit of a baby is not.

Furthermore, since the law does not force parents to give unused frozen embryos up for adoption (no Brave New World here) against their will, if not used for stem cell research, they can very well be destroyed anyway. In fact, only if they were planned to be anyway, would the request be made under the legislation just passed in the House! Finally, stem cell research itself will not be illegal.

This plus the fact that there is some real hope that the research will save and improve the lives of many leads quite a few strongly pro-life members of Congress (including the likes of Orin Hatch, and previously, Strom Thurmond) to support this legislation. Not Dubya. There is some semblance of a point to his opposition, but the blatant comparison with babies is just so over the line as to be downright amusing, especially given the destruction of "life" involved in such in vitro parenting.

And Viagra: Anyway, this entry makes a good point involving an issue that has led to local editorial hysteria around my way: Viagra, as with any other sort of medicial sources, is quite rightly given to "sex offenders," if medically indicated. I assume, if said offenders found a means to struggle through their enjoyment of children (and many are not pedophiles, given the breadth of the label) and got married, it would be deemed wrong to help sexual malfunction arising in the marriage?

The principled argument, by someone who is no fan of federal funding of Viagra per se, suggests just what we are missing these days: logic over blind emotion.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Nuclear Winter Delayed

Abortion: The Supremes accepted an important case involving what standard is necessary to strike down a law restricting abortion. It is not the parental notification issue per se, or perhaps even the "health" exception (important as it may be), but this larger question that should be watched. Interesting that it was taken now, especially since there does not really seem to be a compelling split in the circuits, though one (Justice Owens' future home) did provide a dissenting view.

That having been said, it is a strange sort of victory, isn't it? If you believe that Senator Frist's nuclear option would have been illegal and unprecedented - as we do, along with many constitutional scholars and political analysts - then the Republican leadership should not have considered it in the first place. Is it a victory when the world is returned to what it should be? Do we celebrate normalcy?

-- Princeton Filibuster Group

Putting aside the "illegal" part, this is a suitable starting point respecting my thoughts on the "compromise" that (for the moment) precluded the possibility of a vote on the nuclear option respecting judicial nominees. It recalls Abe Lincoln's Cooper Union Address in which he spoke of how "cool" (wicked) it would be for a highwayman to bargain with the person he is robbing: the person's money and life is his own, so he need not have the obligation to choose among them.

To those crying "victory is ours," keep that in mind, including the bit about bargaining with thieves. The cry has a certain desperate and rosy-eyed ring to it anyhow. First, the top three worse nominees, deemed patently a threat if they were confirmed, basically are guaranteed votes. No "extraordinary circumstances" there [so says one of the compromise wing, though thankfully perhaps William "torture memoranda" Haynes might be.] Thus, those that even strong supporters of Bush have found wanting, will receive lifetime appointments.

Oh, say some, the far right are gnashing their teeth, and Sen. Frist looks bad! The fact that the forces of darkness (choose the dark side Luke!) did not get all their ice cream is something -- and, Justice Scalia is not a totally bad justice either. I still don't want his wing of the judiciary (or those worse) to dominate, and the fact that we might have received the right (if the compromise wing give their permission) to block a couple choices (to be replaced by same old same old) is nothing TOO exciting. Anyway, gnashing seems to benefit the other side.

And, you get the idea some feel this is the best we could do, since there were only 49 votes. Well ok. This is a "risk adversion" measure then ... it is not exactly a "victory," is it? As Sen. Feingold, who strongly rejected the compromise, noted he used a "extraordinary circumstances" test (without the need to check with seven Republican colleagues) throughout. He also noted -- sure to be forgotten -- that three Clinton nominees to the Fifth Circuit never received a hearing under the Republican controlled Senate. Up and down vote? Liars. But, what of ...
We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word "Advice" speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President?s power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.

Does not this and the survival of the filibuster mean something, especially when the Supreme Court nominees come around? You mean a horatory call of "encouragement" for you know who to "consult" with "Democrats? Does this include a "pretty please with sugar on top" or the choosing of the usual turncoat/doughface ones used by the administration when useful? Just how useful is this? Finally, this again ignores that lower court battles matter. Thousands of cases vs less than a hundred a year. And, the public clearly accepts battles for nominations of justices. I just don't think a nuclear option affecting them would have stood anyway.

Finally, as David Corn notes, what if Owen is nominated to the Supreme Court? Extraordinary circumstance? Why then? Would she suddenly be out of the mainstream then? (I don't really care for this meme anyway -- it has a certain ordinary/boring ring as if a truly special choice would be disqualified) All in all, his comments have a ring of truth, ending with "But undermining the filibuster is certainly more of a gain than a defeat for the GOP."

George Washington and company avoided total defeat by only losing a bit each time, while wearing down their opponents. By that standard, this might be a "victory," albeit (to use the metaphor) a bloody one. It just is not one I am that joyful about.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Various Thoughts

Subway Series (Mets Version) was a bust. The Mets was (as usual) good against Randy Johnson, was messy along with its starter with Zambrano (who was still decent, but Kevin Brown apparently is back on track, and was better), and totally screwed up in the rubber game.

Pedro pitched seven strong innings and the Yanks (a bit messy themselves this weekend) handed the Mets two unearned runs (the Mets earned one on their own). And, then, two errors led to two unearned runs, and the game (the Yanks scored the winning run on their own and tacked one on in the ninth). This is baseball: the fate of a weekend can rest on a ten minute span. Sigh.

Legal: A lawsuit is ongoing involving an "In God We Trust" display mounted in 18-inch letters that passing motorists can see on the nearby interstate. It is likely to fail, but even the dubious might be a bit uncomfortable with this display.

We are talking about degree here -- the words themselves are generally seen as a trivial establishment (at best), but when we are talking about foot and a half tall letters, you might have a bit of a problem. This is not a matter of tiny words on coins that no one is likely to notice. It is a tad bit blatant: "If you are going to get sued, you may as well get sued for big letters," says Larry Potts, vice chairman of the Davidson County Commission.

I changed the blogroll/links a bit. Mark Kleiman and SCOTUSblog was added and a website that has not been found up to snuff by this writer was removed.

Andy Rooney Moment: I have to make a confession: I basically never watch 60 Minutes. I guess it follows my general disdain for network news, even if it is of a higher caliber. Still, yesterday's episode had a striking piece on federally financed abstinence education, which in effect charges taxpayers to suggest to teens that condoms are of little value and promote slanted views on when sex is proper.

Oh, and supply an incomplete means toward "safer sex" that studies show leads to some delay, but when many who waited actually finally have sex, they are more likely to do so unprotected. [Amusing story tidbit: when interviewing a teen couple who planned to take "the pledge," we find out that the guy already had sex. OTOH, perhaps he was lying, since what teenage guy wants to go on national television and say he is a virgin? (Given social norms, the reverse might be said about the 'virginal' girl. Or, it might depend on the definition of "sex.")]

And, to add a personal Andy Rooney perspective. I have ".05 rule" when dealing with money on the floor: I only pick up anything a nickel or higher, since there is something slightly pathetic looking in bending over to pick up a penny. This is why I do not have them when needing a penny or two to buy something. Ah, the price of social graces.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

"Compromise," Qualifications, and So Forth

Of late, I have been reading some good books, including Linda Greenhouse's new biography of Justice Blackmun. The bio, based on his notes, is not meant to be comprehensive, but still provides some interesting material on the man and the institutions for which he worked.

Some time ago, I wrote him a letter (it noted my disagreement of his support of the constitutionality of the death penalty, suggesting how far back this was), and I still have the nice letter sent back. Form or not, it suggests the generosity and diligence of the man, and he is the type of public servant that can provide a useful model to us all. Imperfect he may be, but aren't we all?

I'd add that good reading material reaffirms my respect for the ability of many to write long form accounts so well. The number of books, many quite bad, out there suggests this is not really a remarkable accomplishment. Nonetheless, and my personal attempts at writing supplies a certain degree of special perspective here, it remains so.

The well written essay and book, especially those that unify Multiple sources into a comprehensive and interesting to read whole, is worthy of our fullest respect. I have learnt by now that facts and opinion, no matter how true, is of little value without a proper degree of skilled exposition. This is the key to politics, but the principle holds true across the board.

For instance, two useful expressions from practicing legal professions expounding on why various judicial nominees might be minimally "qualified" but still not worthy of appointment to the federal bench. The discussions provide a multifaceted argument, one a bit more convincing (if clearly having ideological flavor) than talk of them being "out of the mainstream" (see NYT editorial cartoons today) or the like.

The testimonial (of sorts) concerning the Sixth Circuit of Appeals nominees (one rarely hears about this circuit in the news ... at least I haven't) is part of the comments to a Kevin Drum discussion debating the views of a conservative sort that attempts to show that filibusters are different from other measures used by Republicans in the past.

On some level, there is a difference. For instance, so-called blue slip holds are in theory meant to serve a singular function of allowing home state senators to block those judges that negatively affect their states. Nonetheless, the net effect in practice were "filibuster-lite." Arguments to the contrary, including the implication that until now only those likely to fail on the floor were blocked in such as way, seem to be dubious at best.*

Anyway, a word to that bĂȘte noire of mine, David Brooks. His editorial today challenges Senate "moderates"** to have the guts to stick-up to their convictions, and forcibly demand a compromise solution. I can buy that sentiment. Still, what is the "very fair" compromise offered? Allowing the votes of a few of the blocked nominees, a promise not to use the filibuster except under rare circumstances, and a check on the Senate Republicans respecting its use the nuclear option. [A comment suggests we should not trust the SR to hold their side of the bargain ... I put that valid warning aside here.]

It is far from shocking that this was not taken too seriously by Senate Democrats. The attempt to block something like ten nominees (including, to name one not covered by my link, someone who failed to reaffirm his law license ... oopsie) is rather "rare" in my book.

The implication, as addressed in my last post on this issue, is that it can be used for troublesome (whatever that means) Supreme Court nominees. Maybe. Second, the three listed that the Democrats would allow votes for are (by Brooks account): Priscilla Owen, William Pryor, and Janice Rogers Brown! Yes, perhaps the three most explosive nominees of them all (now that Pickering announced his retirement). This is "compromise?"

If you want a reason, Brooks, "why moderates never accomplish anything in Washington," maybe this might raise a red flag. How exactly Democrats are supposed to be satisfied that two or three somewhat obscure (one of which apparently has something iffy in his FBI file ... a fact [Newsweek connection alert!] made clear publicly over a year ago, but Sen. Reid was targeted when he recently referenced it) nominees would be blocked out of over two hundred (or fifty-five or so appellate nominees) is somewhat unclear to me. Compromise is supposed to hurt both sides a bit more than that.


* Another technique, also suddenly deemed unwise now that Clinton is no longer in office, is the "Rule IV" option. This requires at least one minority vote to agree before submission of matter to the committee as a whole in certain cases ... a sound practice on the face of it. See here for some history.

** The current head of the Senate Judiciary Committee is said to be among this class, though his actions since late last year suggest its a somewhat dubious label. I admit to being a bit creeped out by his new bald look (has he had health problems?), especially given the size of his ears.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Matters of Life and Death

The LA Times discusses developments in the stem cell debate, including the President's threats to veto a bipartisan bill to expand federal funding.

Two things come to mind, putting aside an ultimate opinion on the substance of the matter. (1) This reaffirms my argument that science policy is a compelling reason to be troubled (or supportive, if that is your inclination) by this administration.

(2) A disputed moral matter of this type should at the very least be left to Congress overall. I question the consistency of the President's stance (see article), but even if it was defensible, it is quite open to argument. If a majority of Congress, even many "pro-life" members, support a change, a veto would be ill-advised. Yes, he has the power, but this does not mean it is well used.


On another issue of life and death, this blog entry provides some interesting links and such on the ongoing debate and litigation over lethal injection protocols. Of special note, four justices would have accepted the review of one state's protocols, agreeing with the dissent below that argued (internal quotes omitted):
It is undisputed that substantial pain and suffering can occur when the inmate receives an inadequate dosage of sodium pentothal and therefore retains consciousness and sensation during the injection of the second and third chemicals. ...

Missouri is using a combination of chemicals they knew or should have known would cause an excruciating death when they were telling the public it was like putting a dog to sleep, when their own veterinarians would lose their licenses for using the same chemicals on a stray. ...

The state's failure to counter Brown's medical evidence leaves Brown's evidence uncontroverted.

As one article linked noted, "in May, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed to permit a prisoner on Alabama's death row to challenge lethal injection. The prisoner, a longtime intravenous drug user, claims that cutting a path through his flesh to embed a chemical drip would cause excessive pain."

Other problems raised by the practice of lethal injection, in the eyes of Justice Stevens and others seen as the only non-cruel method of capital punishment, is involvement of medical personnel (raising ethical problems), and the overall distaste raised by such a "medicinal" model of death that is akin to putting animals to sleep. [Then, again, to some the executed are animals.]

Brown was executed ... five justices required for a stay of execution.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nuclear Option: Hypocrisy Again

Recommendation: Washington's General: Nathaniel Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution by Terry Golway, an interesting and smooth bio of a flawed but quite appealing (and largely forgotten) man. And, Downfall, an excellent German language film concerning the last days of the Third Reich.

A federal judge whose husband and mother were slain by a disgruntled litigant urged Congress on Wednesday to help bring an end to "truly dangerous" verbal attacks on judges that might lead to violent action.

AOL News. Right afterwards, Sen. Frist (the Senate Majority Leader) talks about Democrats wanting to "kill, to defeat, to assassinate these nominees." In other words, do exactly what he and other Republicans (sometimes by single "blue slip" blocks) wanted to do against Clinton nominees. In fact, after Dems had a rather good record confirming B41's nominees, the downhill spiral started when the Republicans took control. Now, since Republicans are totally in control, they want to change the rules.

This is known as "cheating." Or, at the very least, it shows that this is not some big matter of "principle" for these people, the hypocritical rhetoric notwithstanding.

Not that Frist et. al. actually cares about things like precedent, truth, rules and such:

Also, some Democrats have advanced evidence that the GOP gambit lacks support from the Senate parliamentarian, the official who typically rules on what is allowable under the chamber's rules and precedents.

Reid told reporters last month that the parliamentarian, Alan S. Frumin, had told him that he opposed the Republicans' plan and that "if they do this, they will have to overrule him."

Frumin, who was appointed by Republican leaders in 2001, has not been granting interviews. But a senior Republican Senate aide confirmed that Frist does not plan to consult Frumin at the time the nuclear option is deployed. "He has nothing to do with this," the aide said. "He's a staffer, and we don't have to ask his opinion."

Sure enough. They have the votes, so they can cheat as much as they want. As to Kaus [Slate blowhard] and his talk of waiting for the Supreme Court nominations, possibly, but two things come to mind: (1) the nuclear option would prevent blocking troublesome nominations for the higher court (2) a couple Supreme Court nominations are important, no doubt, but there is a lot more that is important too. And, the lower courts are given more free reign these days than they used to with the Supremes cutting back on their workload and prone to narrow decisions.

Anyway, a two year old post (tempus fugit) of mine on Justice Owen, which helps explain why her nomination is being opposed (or supported), can be found here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Gilmore Girls Season Finale

Since I do not like the forensic dramas, including Law & Order clones, there is not much for me to watch. There are a few shows, including Grounded For Life (suddenly cancelled last January) and Less Than Perfect (a disproportionate share of hits arise from a search of pics of the leads that send seekers to an image I posted last year), that I enjoyed. West Wing was decent. As I have made known, however, Gilmore Girls was a disappointment.

One fears that the show "jumped the shark" this season. Rory has suddenly become wild (with a glorified Tristan clone, for those in the know), Lorelai and Luke became a (boring) couple, and a bit too much downer plot lines dominated the season. The fifth season hit a point where changes had to be made, and I accept the need to do something with Rory. She needed a bit of wildness and so forth as well as a break of sorts from her mom. And once together, Lorelai/Luke unions often are a bit anticlimactic.

Nonetheless, it was not handled very well. Or, perhaps, distinct changes in the Gilmore Girls universe were not handled in a way that provided a satisfying season, even for those who might not have liked them. The season repeatedly had a "going through the motions" feel, both as to plots and to performances. The few times when fireworks occurred, including a special moment of vitriol when Lorelai found out what her mother was plotting was particularly striking for their overall absence. The shows also were not generally that enjoyable or funny, putting aside a few moments. A comfort with the characters carried it along somewhat, but at times, it was just not worth watching.

The season finale somewhat was a case in point. The last few episodes, helped by the lack of major downer plot lines, were acceptable (I missed last week). The tainted praise is intentional. Yesterday's episode generally met that standard. The Rory arrest (as with her sleeping with her married ex-boyfriend, apparently not likely to result in much negative response from others; I felt that was a wimp move on the writers' part) led to some serious plot complications, including her taking time off from Yale.

This appalled her mother, even though people do take time off. [Her plan to "triple team" Rory with the grandparents was hard to watch ... her watching Rory move in with the grandparents was a true emotional moment.] I do not think the episode "earned" the emotional high it was going for. As a viewer, I did not think Lorelai would be as distraught. Likewise, would Rory think of dropping out and changing her professional dreams just because one person thinks she does not have what it takes to be a journalist? A break might do her good, but her lack of self-esteem was depressing.

Lorelai also has been targeted by a big chain to sell the inn and was tempted. This too seemed flighty. She would not be working with Sookie (with a second child on the way and husband firmed rooted in Stars Hollow). Her independence in running an inn (Independence and her own, Dragonfly) was quite important to her, while being some sort of consultant does not seem comparable. And, what of Luke? Dean told Luke that Lorelai would be like Rory, and not want to be tied to a local guy like him. But, Lorelai (until now) showed no desire to move away, etc. Lorelai might not want to marry (never getting over her first love), but the whole plotline did not quite ring true.

Anyway, after leaving Rory, the episode ends with Lorelai telling Luke what happens. Luke goes into some stupid plan to force Rory to go to Yale, or something, while Lorelai looks on. And, the season ends with her asking Luke to marry him (he had plans to buy a local house just for such a purpose, but felt Lorelai was going to sell the inn and move away). Cliffhanger!

And, hopefully, a starting point for a better season. West Wing is moving to Sunday at 8 (ill advised on the face of it), and I need some mid-week television. As to Everyone Loves Raymond, I did not -- I found him whiney and his family annoying. I do not find either amusing, but many did. You have syndication, so do not feel too bad.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

They Doth Protest Too Much

[I read a local news story on this matter after writing the below entry. It is a rather good piece (though the headline sort of hides the lede, so to speak) and underlines the cause of my ire. It appears what the administration is truly concerned about is p.r. -- the article adds fuel to the "misinformation" meme raised by some commentators of this story. Compare the "breaking news" story with the "people already upset, so here's a bit of context" story.]

I referenced the current story respecting Newsweek apologizing for assuming that a high placed governmental source knew what he was talking like (as the person did in the past), but perhaps a more full accounting should be made. As is often the case, this is an arbitrary selection of a fairly regular occurrence (press error, worsened by the questionable use of anonymous sources to prove perhaps more than the available evidence suggests) in such a way that suggests that somehow it is particularly egregious.

It's not unless one is unaware that the press is not infallible (shocking news of the day?), makes bad choices now and again, and the intelligent reader takes this into consideration. The alternative is some poll that says 43% of the population now think the press is too free ... I assume they think they themselves are as well, since many of them made egregious errors of judgment (not illegal mind you, just egregious) that resulted in various real harm being done. In other words, more than what probably might be said about this case. As to the wrongness of the particular story and its aftermath, I submit the following, but simply put the crocodile tears of the administration and their ilk is hard to take seriously.

Harman, a former pizza shop manager from Lorton, Va., appeared in several of the most notorious photos taken at Abu Ghraib, and she was found guilty of taking other pictures.

The photos showed prisoners chained together in sexual poses, piled on the floor naked and forced to form a nude human pyramid.

In one picture, Harman posed with Graner behind a group of naked detainees. In another, she was shown with a prisoner on whose leg she is accused of writing "rapeist."

Such is the [AOL] news of the day. Likewise, the wrong here is thus: "Detainees have long alleged that guards tossed Korans in the toilet, but this was the first time a government official had seemed to confirm it." (Slate Today's Paper). In fact, as Newsweek explains:
"On Saturday, Isikoff spoke to his original source, the senior government official, who said that he clearly recalled reading investigative reports about mishandling the Qur'an, including a toilet incident. But the official, still speaking anonymously, could no longer be sure that these concerns had surfaced in the SouthCom report."

So, the information itself is not presumptively false, just the source. In fact, allegations of this nature, and many worthier of being used to rile up violence, have ALREADY been made REPEATEDLY. See here for discussion.

As to blaming Newsweek for the violence, Kevin Drum says it well:
The Taliban stages a resurgence every spring, anti-Americanism has been on the rise for some time, and the rioters in Afghanistan are responsible for the riots in Afghanistan. The Newsweek story is clearly just a pretext, and another story would have done just as well given their obvious animosity toward America.

Under any other circumstances, conservatives would heartily agree. The phony outrage over this is just a cynical excuse for the usual press bashing. Newsweek should buck up.

As near as I can tell, the Pentagon has demonstrated more genuine outrage over this incident than they did over months and months of disclosures of similar (and worse) actions at Abu Ghraib. It's revolting.

As to the actually flushing (apparently, more likely throwing it in there ... which as one discussion noted is interestingly comparable to one military interrogation psych education session involving a bible) ... it is unclear if it occurred. It is clear that many other egregious things have, that a trusted governmental source at first backed up the Newsweek story, and that the Bush Administration is full of shit.

Their outrage is a bit late and a tad bit suspicious. The story is now Newsweek, which makes their actions egregious as well, but their "sin" is relatively minor. (yes Virginia, the press makes mistakes ... see WMDs). The response is overblown, but sadly not too surprising.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Trivial or not, Minor Establishments Are Wrong

Interesting ruling handed down today, splitting Scalia/Thomas (Stevens joined the latter in dissent; ruling 5-4), striking down discrimination of out of state wine sales.

The motto is "patriotic and ceremonial" and "has no theological or ritualistic impact." ...

n2. In a very real sense they may be treated as "grandfathered" exceptions to the general prohibition against officially composed theological statements. Present at the very foundations, few in number, fixed and invariable in form, confined in display and utterance to a limited set of official occasions and objects, they can safely occupy their own small, unexpandable niche in Establishment Clause doctrine. Their singular quality of being rooted in our history and their incapacity to tempt competing or complementary theological formulations by contemporary agencies of government sufficiently cabin them in and distinguish then from new, open-form theological expressions published under the aegis of the state.

-- Hall v. Bradshaw, 630 F.2d 1018 (4th Cir. 1980)

A recent lower court ruling (Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'r) has held that a challenge a new additional of "In God We Trust" to Government Center Building does not meet the requirements for an adequate claim. This is a fair reading of its own precedents and selected dicta from Supreme Court cases, though the latter body never directly dealt with the question. The opening quote is taken from one of the citations used to back up the opinion. The footnote in particular, however, suggests the problem.

I am quite aware that this is a relatively minor manner and for simple prudential reasons one that might be best left out of the courts.* Nonetheless, I fail to understand the truth to the analysis. The fact that the motto is "patriotic" does not seem particularly useful -- in fact, the use of a deity for patriotic purposes seems like a patent "establishment" of its religious content by the government for its own purposes. Likewise, the "ceremonial" part is used as means to suggest it is not an active act (like a prayer), but purely symbolic. Yet again, however, religious symbols are quite powerful (note the current controversy over flushing a Koran**). Finally, "ceremonial" has a quite religious flavor, especially in the current context.

The footnote underlines the problem. It is an adequate means to limit the harm and has a certain eloquent flavor to it. Nonetheless, the "incapacity to tempt" is a denial of reality. Quite repeatedly, individuals use such "patriotic and ceremonial" uses of God to defend much more egregious mixtures of church and state. The apparent need for the state to recognize that a deity looks over us suggests a justification for much more. And, oh do people so suggest with days of prayer, Ten Commandments displays, religious court oaths, religious holiday displays representing sacred events, and other less "ceremonial" acts such as funding of religious schools and charities that discriminate by religion.

Prudence requires some artificial lines, and the quoted ruling (striking down a prayer printed on state road maps) does it better than many (including perhaps the current day ruling directly addressing the motto and thus upholding state religious expression -- opening the door for more), but the bottom line fiction should be remembered all the same.


* When I first wrote this, Kevin Drum and others were in the midst of a debate on the level of importance such questions should be given to by progressives. Various blogs also have cited (often later than I) a recent ruling that allowed discrimination against nature religions (in particular, a Wiccan) in respect to a prayer at a local governmental meeting.

Overall, those who bemoan the wasted and/or ill advised efforts of progressives in this area are raising a strawman while (including in Drum's case) somewhat diminishing the problems being faced (including in respect to school prayer). Anyway, why should we apologize for defending the strong moral beliefs of those who oppose governmental favoritism? And, enough serious wrongs continue to occur so that sniping at the select few that are concerned with absolutes is just stupid.

** It is unclear what exactly occurred, but even after Newsweek's half-apology, questions arise. Why did government sources early on refuse to deny the story? Others have raised the allegation of flushing of a Koran as a means to get detainees to talk. And, Newsweek has not said that the act did not occur, only that their source(s) no longer is so clear on where the information was obtained.

As with Dan Rather, this has a dubious taste -- the Bushies are on their moral high horse, but they have no right to be so gleeful. Finally, as to the protests and violence arising from the story, it is unlikely that the unrest in Afghanistan would not have occurred -- something else could have been used to incite the opposition. Kevin Drum hits the nail on the head.

Friday, May 13, 2005

GWB's Way, Or The Right Way

The Nation Watch: The website has some good articles, including one involving the distasteful actions of a top member of the "family values" brigade as well as one by Naomi Klein on the symbolic "value" of torture. David Cole also has a good piece on the Patriot Act and other violations of civil liberties ... useful summary of various issues.

Senator Lincoln Chafee, who came through with a yes vote yesterday [said:] "It's a no-win. Either we don't support the president or we vote for a very unpopular pick to represent us at the United Nations."

Yes, and maybe by voting for this "very unpopular" (unfit picks often are) pick, you won't win when you run for re-election. Fred Kaplan underlines Sen. Chafee's coward approach while you can find continual coverage on why John Bolton is a wrong choice here and here. OTOH, yesterday David Brooks provided his usual right wing talking points approach [it's sad how kneejerk his column turned out to be] in his NYT column, while being a bad prophet respecting the Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee that actually partially voted his conscience.

This "no-win" situation, of course, is the normal rule these days for Republicans with consciences bothering them. That is, supporting the president and supporting the right thing is two different things. Of course, it's only a "no-win" situation if you think supporting the President is more important than doing the right thing. Since the latter is deemed necessary these days for a majority of Congress, being right is now a problem. I would think that now and again you Republicans might be able to dissent, but it is deemed basically treasonous to do so these days.

Holding up a patently lousy choice a few weeks and forcing a "no recommendation" committee vote (remarkable as a historical matter, but perhaps only symbolically useful) is deemed a special act of courage. And, even then, pressure from above pushed the senator to agree to vote the guy out of committee ... even though he finds the guy patently unqualified and knows (perhaps with the help of a few turncoat Democrats) there is a good chance that Bolton will be confirmed by a floor vote.

Now and again, the a few Republican senators (and even some representatives) will do something to show that there is not a total lockstep approach (the "nuclear option" might not have the votes), but overall, blanket conformity rules the day. This is but one reason why the filibuster (and other checks on one party rule) is so important. [In the comments, "Joe" provides some commentary.]


Notes: A couple additional points. (1) Steven Clemons showed some restraint in reporting some rumors on some allegedly sordid sexual goings on by John Bolton unlike some others, including Atrios. The latter approach is unwise, since we need not drag ourselves in the muck to find things wrong with this guy; besides, it is dubious if the sex was nonconsensual etc. As to the Brooks piece, but one stupid comment was the part about no one being fired -- as a junior official, Bolton did not have the final say.

(2) As to kneejerk lockstepping, it bothers me when I come into contact with various sorts that basically know the current bunch are wrong, but out of loyalty and sentiment support them. One person on the talk boards in particular really (to be blunt) pisses me off in this respect, including when I see the erudite veneer come off and snarky anti-Democrat comments come out. The person's distaste for Bush and his ilk is nice and all, but if you fail to firmly oppose him, you basically deserve what you get.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Real Id ... Really Wrong

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, held the floor for more than an hour Tuesday as she went through the histories of several judicial nominees in the Clinton administration who were denied votes by the Republican majority, some because of secret "holds" put on nominations by a single senator.

"Which is better," Mrs. Feinstein asked, "a filibuster by 40 members on the floor openly declared, publicly debating an individual's past speeches, an individual's temperament, character, opinions? Or a filibuster in secret when one doesn't know who or why?"

-- Democrats reject Republican "compromise" on filibusters

The "compromise" (a reference to the title of the article) involved a vote of the blocked nominees after one hundred hours of additional debate. How exactly this is a "compromise" (in contrast to another offer by the Dems to agree to some but not all of the few blocked ... like one that served without a license to practice law) is unclear.



For those who liked an article by David Cole on the 'Real Id' Act, or maybe even did not, I recommend David Cole's book Enemy Aliens, especially the final chapter on a "human rights" approach to the Bill of Rights.

As to the 100-0 bill that this is attached to deviously, a good discussion on the limitations of the prohibition of use of funds for "torture-lite" is found here.

In general, two things. (1) A war spending bill of this sort is NOT the proper place to attach this sort of legislation ... it should be freestanding and debated as such [of course, since the 9/11 Commission and others with some respectful pedigrees found aspects unnecessary and even counterproductive, this would be a problem for the proponents]. (2) The anti-immigrant measures concerning exclusion and deprival of due process at the end of the day are as or more important than the driver license material that is being highlighted.

But, as Cole notes, provisions just focusing on disfavored groups -- not the populace at large -- are more easily upheld.

The Energy Task Force Case: Yeah, Again

And Also: Double Dare is a good documentary that provides a behind the scenes look at stunt doubles, in particular the two that doubled for Xena and Wonder Woman.

The end result is an incomplete picture. What went into that end result matters as well. Likewise, I think a functional view should be taken here. Justice Scalia put great stock on the ability of a participant to "vote." The very act of voting is not the only way one can be distinctly involved in the final decision. If one goes to the store with one's spouse, the fact one actually buys the item doesn't mean his or her "vote" is all that matters. This is shown in part by how proposed legislation from lobbyists turns out to mirror actual legislation. Again, without info on the how, including their presence and involvement, we wouldn't know this.

[read the lede post]

My local paper, the NY Daily News, discussed the whole Senate filibuster debate today. It had a side box that (without comment) basically cut to the chase ... showed the b.s. involved here. Not only does the Republican appointments* control a majority of the appellate courts, but the Democrats blocked 10 of Dubya's nominations to the Republicans 60 of Clinton.

The blocks were not "filibusters" per se when the Republicans did it, since they controlled Congress and had the power to not even allow a committee vote. The end result is the same though, no matter what semantics is used to try to play "gotcha." Oh, perhaps President Bush can also actually learn some history? How many IQ points is the populace losing because these people are in office?

The same double standard can be shown in the Cheney Energy Task Force Case, which might be about ready to run its course (victory for the forces of bad, no shock). As discussed in SCOTUSblog, the DC Circuit held (in a case involving Hillary Clinton) that an open government act "could apply to a presidential advisory committee if there was regular participation by non-government individuals, on the theory that their role made them de facto members of the committee." The applicable groups were open to disclosure laws and "are required to be balanced in viewpoint." Cheney's Energy Task Force was unbalance and closed, though outside forces clearly had influence on the final proposed legislation.

Nonetheless, pushed upon by the Supreme Court's ruling that remanded the case, the DC Circuit now has a stricter rule. The act is only applicable if a member has "[an official] vote in or, if the committee acts by consensus, [official] veto over the committee?s decisions." The brackets are mine -- the non-voting individuals that the GAO and now interests groups on both sides of the ideological aisle want information on clearly have a major influence, even if it is not "official." The practice of lobbyists basically writing legislation has been ongoing, and only more prevalent these days. But, now -- when Bush not Clinton is involved -- we are supposed to ignore it.

Apparently, this has something to do with executive privilege etc., though actually the court allowed the v.p. not even to have to raise the issue. And, of course, the General Accounting Office (or whatever they want to call the damn thing these days) was acting in its legislative role when it asked for information that the vice president refused to supply as did the members of Congress who supported the GAO's efforts until it was pressured to give up the fight. Likewise, the advocacy groups have a right to petition the government and a general interest in finding out how outside groups are involved in the making of major energy legislation -- legislation that many argue leaves a lot to be desired.

Perhaps, that is why they want to make it up with their unbalanced forces behind closed doors.


* Republican nominees also have been shown to be more strongly ideologically conservative than the most recent Democratic (Clinton) nominees are ideologically liberal.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

AEDPA Unconstitutional?

The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require

-- Article 1, Section 9

As noted here, the Ninth Circuit is raising the possibility that AEDPA (which limited habeas corpus review in federal courts in certain respects) is unconstitutional.

"Those wacky Californians" most people might be saying. Still, the blog cited a dissent (from the 7th Cir.) that agreed with the sentiment. Basically, Judge Ripple argued that lower federal courts have a constitutional right to develop constitutional law, and not be restrained by a need to only take cases that offer relief based on clear Supreme Court precedent. Congress can remove jurisdiction over habeas petitions from the lower federal courts totally, if it cares to do so, but while they have it, the lower federal courts cannot be restrained in such a fashion.*

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

-- Art. III, Section One

This is interesting especially given the recent trend of the Supremes to take less cases and to rule narrowly in many of the ones they do take. This in effect leaves many things open ... but since the lower federal courts are restrained from ruling (in habeas appeals, often concerned with state law) on various issues not clearly decided, they will remain so in many cases. The fact that this puts a lot of power and discretion in the hands of the Supremes has been noted before. And, given current norms, the Supremes as noted aggravate the problem (if it is one) by not being as active in its review of the lower courts than it has in the past.

I am curious how the challenge will play out. As my original source noted, it remains a minority view, but it does appear to have some force.


* A broader attack respecting the law's unconstitutionality can be found here. The thread overall is interesting.

Also, the name of the law itself sets up a warning flag. The need of an more "efficient" death penalty is unclear, even if the use of habeas appeals to slow down the machinery of death predictably angered some people. Likewise, the law decreases habeas appeals overall, not only in the area of death penalty or anti-terrorist cases (the "A" part of the act). Thus, as with the PATRIOT Act, it is more broad than the rhetoric behind it or what legislation title suggests.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


And also: In the middle of the night, two homemade grenades exploded outside of the building housing the British consulate (and various other tenants) in mid-town Manhattan. Only a little damage was caused, and not much was made of the whole thing. It is amazing that no one actually accomplished a serious act of violence after 9/11 ... it is remarkably easy for someone to do it with not too much effort. A suicide bomber surely could kill and injure thousands on the subways. But, knock on wood, not yet.

I THINK IN PICTURES. Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures. Language-based thinkers often find this phenomenon difficult to understand, but in my job as an equipment designer for the livestock industry, visual thinking is a tremendous advantage.

-- Temple Grandin, Thinking in Pictures

I was reading through Dr. Grandin's book recently. She specializes in construction animal/livestock handling facilities, and a couple years ago the NYT noted:
Executives found Dr. Grandin's approach "scientific" and not "emotional," Mr. Langert said. They marveled at her research techniques: how she measured animal behavior and conditions; how she paid attention to animal vocalizations; how she studied their response to electric prods; how she catalogued their adaptations to various conditions.

Indeed, Dr. Grandin often gets down on all fours to walk through a processing plant, as if she were an animal. She has autism, and she says things that bother her because of her condition, like loud noises, can bother animals, as well, McDonald's officials said.

She surely is "scientific" -- autistic in fact. Reading about how she views the world and learnt in a very concrete way, I thought about how I process things. For instance, let's take reading. I am an avid reader, as might be guessed, though a bit of a finicky one. As I read, I visualize what I am reading, including the "voice" of various characters (if applicable). This is fairly normal (some say that movie versions of books ruin the effect, since one's imagination is the best visual). Still, many cannot process books as fast as I can, and it does seem amazing one can do it so smoothly.
I'm not sure I see why my liberal friends are making such a fuss about Laura Bush's stand-up comedy routine.

If she wants to use the cover of humor to point out that George W. Bush is too stupid and lazy to be President, why should we object?

Also, sometimes I wonder how people view things in a certain fashion. After referencing a troubling lower court case that I discussed a few weeks ago, Mark Kleiman in my view basically missed the point. Two things come to mind: (1) It rankles that we are supposed to be "in on the joke," while her President is helping to lead us to ruin. (2) It is just plain hypocritical that she is "allowed" to be off color while social conservatives help her hubby's party rule the day. It rankles once again.

You see why the stand-up routine annoyed so many liberals? Lately, some co-workers were discussing basically how her husband is a f-up. It pisses me off, but you cannot dwell on it and retain your sanity. Still, watching Laura basically on her catbird seat getting laughs by saying things that deep down are not funny at all is a bit hard to take.*

But, I "see" things differently than people sometimes, so the difference of opinion is not too surprising.


* One thing that is just plain amazing by the way is that NO ONE mentions that Laura Bush accidentally killed someone when she was a teenager. The Clintons' past were discussed in detail, but the fact Laura killed someone (especially given her husband's activities, death penalty related alone ... yes, I know it was accidental, but the 'second chance' nature of her life is notable) is NEVER mentioned. This is ridiculous.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

NY Loses ... Again

The Yanks lost again ... another game, another series. I came home yesterday, after watching (not at home, of course, since I do not get the YES Network here in the Bronx) the rookie filling in for the injured Jaret Wright (replacement to Jon Lieber, who is currently 4-1 for the Phillies) pitching rather good. He breezed through three innings, but hit some problems when the Blue Jays finally were patient, and made him work. Still, he only gave up two runs, and I later discovered he pitched seven innings.

Didn't get the win, but a mention on the post game report of a "rubber" game meant the Yanks did win the game (they lost the first game of the series, one against the team's ace ... Randy Johnson losing again, just like he did last year for the Diamondbacks -- by pitching well, but not being perfect). It turned out that the bullpen blew another one, though this time the bats actually picked them up. Same result today -- bullpen blew a lead (the Yanks own Ted Lilly, a former Yankee), but this time the team could not get it back. This is the road to a 10-15 start.

The theme, however, is that these are the Yanks ... time will lead to improvement as is the case almost yearly of late for the (now first place, again) Braves. The usual suspects, however, are starting to be a bit concerned. This includes the radio announcers, who I am quite familiar of because my satellite provider does not offer the Yankee Network. Suzie Waldman, for instance, the new co-host is starting to be a bit wary ... or is it that she has not quite melded with John Sterling, the long timer that is a bit annoying with his cheerleading* at times? They still are talking over each other. Perhaps, she just needs time to adapt to her new color commentator role, after a long time stint as interviewer/reporter.

I honestly have looked upon the Yanks as a comfortable dependable sort of team while the Mets drive me crazy with their inconsistency (they are in their second four game losing streak ... due for another few exciting wins ... though manager Willie Randolph still has a better record this season than his former boss). So, talk that the (overpaid) crew has enough talent to win the division (really, can the Orioles keep this up?). Let's put aside the aging bats, including Bernie William (who even the manager admits is getting older) and a now steroids free DH. The questionable bullpen also is a concern. Finally, do we really trust this starting rotation? Though not all his fault, even Randy Johnson is not a dependable "W" these days.

Well, at least they put up a better fight than the NJ Nets ... at least they won three before losing four in a row.


* For instance, his constant emphasis of how fans fill the seats, though the high prices are not quite referenced, gets on my nerves. Sterling also repeatedly called the Toronto ace "Doc Halladay" and Waldman even did once until maybe someone finally mentioned that the Yanks were not being pitched to by an Old West figure, but Roy Halladay.

Saturday by the way was not a great day for the Mets. Their starting rotation consisting of Pedro Martinez, Atlanta's traitor in our midst Tom Glavine (well, the guy is pitching lousy), and a bunch of other guys (Heilman had two good starts, but you cannot trust these people ... it got so bad that one of the replacements needed a replacement. Still, pitchers are getting hurt all over baseball, including closers), they were on their way to a fourth straight loss. They got back into it with a three run eighth, but another rain delay turned permanent. No shot at another comeback.