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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Various Political Stories

McCain double standard: religious edition. If McCain is illegible (probably not, but the rule is unclear), how would the supposed constitutional barrier be addressed by simple legislation? When will people stop defending Nader ... btw, I really like the "enabling doesn't count when it would happen anyway" defense. Naomi Klein is right -- a form of "not that there is anything wrong with that" should be used to answer the Muslim smear. Negative or not (and it feels at least a bit negative), Obama is showing he can respond against political attacks. And, since the next President will play a major role in judicial nominations, I'll toss in this chance to knock originalism.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dodd Endorsement

At first, the announcement that Sen. Dodd endorsed Obama didn't really impress ... the teaser made me think of the race for Edwards' endorsement, but actually it is an important thing. Sen. Dodd has both experience and progressive cred (though his fight against immunity ended on a bit of a whimper) on his side. The fact he went on record against a fellow senator is also notable. As an email noted, he for one thinks Obama is "uniquely qualified" to be President. FWIW ... and I think is is worth something.

Monday, February 25, 2008

80th Academy Awards

I caught the first two hours of the 80th Academy Awards, leaving for a train right before a nice bit, which warrants a bit of a prologue. First, it is just silly that with all the songs out there, one movie (the charming Enchanted) had three of the ones nominated. Were there so few original songs out there? And, they ruined one of them by just having the actress sing it, when the whole charm was the dancing vermin etc. in the background. They couldn't like project scenes or something behind her? She did sing it quite well, even vis-a-vis the other two that did have production numbers. And, obviously, they didn't win -- canceling out.

A deserving song did win, one from the musical Once, starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who also did their own singing/performing. The problem was that they were both soft spoken and had accents, the film taken place overseas. So, honestly, I could not understand many of the lyrics. Anyway, the two won, and Glen was cut off after a few remarks. Jon Stewart -- who was not as bad as one sports duo suggested, but was sorta bland -- let the woman (apparently as quiet in real life as in the movie) have her say after the commercial.

Sometimes, it is one of the lesser knowns that have the best speech. Now, many of the nominees were obscure, so even major winners such as Javier Bardem (who had a nice bit in Spanish about his mom -- I assume it was nice) and Marion Cotillard (charmingly speechless with her win for best actress ... might have to see her movie about a singer) were not too well known. I missed Diablo Cody, the stripper turned screenwriter (Juno), but did catch her on Dave a month or so ago, in her tattooed glory. You can see where the 'tude of the movie came from. One of the various foreigners who won that basically said "thanks" had a nice speech.

Some films/people were robbed, at least to the degree of not being nominated. I personally liked Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises and thought Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days deserved at least to be nominated. But, it simply annoyed me that Ratatouille won over Persepolis, a truly special film, above and beyond its animated form. The goofy clip showing the character's sudden burst of puberty does not really do the film justice.

A nod to technicals, including Sweeney Todd for Art Direction, since movie without them would be radio, if not filmed plays. The opening was lame. The ratings were low outside of New York and L.A. such areas. The writer's strike and somewhat dubious bunch of flicks (even the good ones were somewhat a special taste sort of thing with a nod toward depressing and blood) probably helped. Movies continued to entertain, all the same.

Oh, Waitress probably deserved a nod, at least a nomination.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Be Kind Rewind

And Also: Gotta love that Pinky & The Brain ... Pinky became President this time. NARF!

Be Kind Rewind is an imperfect film, but one that is worth watching basically because it has charm. Come to think of it, this can be said about many films Jack Black was in -- many of them aren't great [some I simply didn't like much, including the King Kong remake, and the very lame Holiday, a film in which he was not alone in being wasted], but some have their charms. Count this one among them. And, not just for the amusing hook of him and Mos Def making short remakes of films as a result of a plot development that doesn't bear referencing. There is probably less of that than some might like, though more can be found on its website.*

The film comes off somewhat underdeveloped, a bit of a lark (part of the fun too), but it does have something that makes it worth watching. The charm basically comes from the overall theme of the movie -- the importance of community, even one the downward slope urban New Jersey town. There is a good sense of place -- even if it is not always totally really (trying to make those films yourself probably would be rather hard). Danny Glover (his usual low key self, including an amusing bit researching the latest trends in DVD sales), Mia Farrow (nice to get some work) and (in a thankless cameo that leads one to ask why?) Sigourney Weaver also pop up.

The documentary Mos Def makes is also a nice idea as is the use of what appears to be many amateurs for people in the neighborhood. Honestly, I thought Melonie Diaz was one of those amateur actors, but it turns out she has some films -- including one indie where she was a lead -- under her belt. It isn't really fair to fully judge her performance, since everyone here comes off a bit amateurish, but she definitely had some presence. Very cute too. I'd like to see more of her out there in cinema-land.

And, the NYT has a charmed review too. Clearly A.O. Scott liked it too. It is good when reviewers give these little films the respect they deserve.


* There is also a scene near the end involving a criminal act, treated rather cavalierly, that was probably an ill-advised inclusion.

Let's Not Miss The Forest For The Trees aka The McCain Piece

And Also: Good discussion on the true limits of the presidency, including some excellent comments. Likewise, The Nuremberg Legacy: How The Nazi War Crimes Trials Changed The Course of History (half a summary of the trials themselves, half the "change") by Norbert Ehrenfreund (covered the trials, later became a judge) is very good too. This includes a balanced look of the trials that includes criticisms such as those (including the French) against the conspiracy counts. Also, criticism of Bush and company for violating the legacy, including their (over the top) opposition to the International Criminal Court. A good read, written for the general reader.

But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Though the failure to sue the NYT does not seem as determinative as John Dean suggests, his leaning toward supporting it is right. As the latter link suggests, this is not about sex, though darn if some appear to be spinning it that way (helped by the article's hook, surely). See also, Talking Points Memo for ongoing analysis of the charges. Charges in no way about events, again as some claim, that only happened long ago. Even if the "hook" might have, a hook that was meant as something that "underscored an enduring paradox" involving various other things as well.

Sadly, some seem to be missing the point, suggesting this is "old news" and not just a flawed story that has an important core of truth. Media Matters provides a useful analysis, including the double standard when Democrats were under similar scrutiny. We are reminded that imperfection doesn't suddenly make something unworthy of respect. [How selective we are on that count.] It also quotes Eric Alterman on the alleged affair: "[I]t's none of our business and does not belong on the front page of The New York Times, regardless of timing. What's more, the sex gets in the way of what is really important about McCain's behavior." OTOH, there is this:
Obviously, I don't know whether or not McCain had sex with Iseman. I suppose by "what the meaning of the word 'is' is" standards, he didn't even deny having had sex with Iseman. Certainly it'd be a bit rich of McCain to get outraged that anyone would even suggest that he might engage in sexual improprieties. After all, it's well known that he repeatedly cheated on his first wife Carol, of a number of years, with a variety of women, before eventually dumping her for a much-younger heiress whose family fortune was able to help finance his political career. That's well known, I should say, except to the electorate, who would probably find that this sort of behavior detracts from McCain's "character" appeal.

This is partially why claims that some of the issues discussed are "old news" or covered already doesn't quite work. How were they covered? I know someone who thinks Clinton is a slut and his wife is basically cheap for sticking by him. Others probably agree. But, McCain is this upright soul on that level (inferred, since it is never made an issue). Sure. Likewise, the article is not just about one lobbyist, though we have seen with Justice Scalia that the appearance of impropriety is very important, especially for someone apparently particularly concerned with the matter.

The core of the issue amounts to him being more image than substance, at least not as much as a god as some think he is; see also, his enabling Bush on torture. This is not too surprising, though after years of you know who, it is a useful enterprise. As Rachel Maddow noted, even if this takes a bit of the charm so much of the MSM has for him, it would be significant. And, since his image is very important for McCain to have anything of a shot to win in November, questions will be mucho importante. As one comment on TPM noted, it might have been helpful to learn about it before McCain became the clear nominee. There is again a sort of "horse out of the barn" nature to the enterprise with the sex angle providing a nice dodge ala Dan Rather and Bush/Vietnam.

The core of that story was missed for miniutiae too. Will press love of McCain or dislike of the NYT (whose editors endorsed him ... and then weeks later put out this story, which was obviously in the works for awhile), which is not just among the conservative noise machine that might hate McCain, but hate them more? We shall see. There are some promising signs. I also like his wife's reminded that she loves her country, after some took Michele Obama (who seems to have as much spirit as Elizabeth Edwards) comment out of context. Charming.

I deleted a quickie comment that in part noted that Clinton cannot just win by going negative. It seems her one attempt in the debate yesterday went badly, and thus she ended on a positive note. Good job, since negative campaigning against Dems is more of a Republican move. It does seem that it would be rather hard for her to win, especially since Obama is sure (even if he loses) to win a significant number of Ohio and Texas (which won't go Democrat when it counts, anyway) delegates. As the leader, that should be enough.

Finally, the claim is that he is not "experienced." In respect to the type of person many want to be President, it seems to me he is more so. [Reminds of the whole issue of "qualified" to be a federal judge -- it is a complex thing not just seen in simple legal experience alone.] Given his background [btw on the general subject of his background in the faith movement, this guy sounds pretty interesting], I also don't know if he is so much less qualified than recent occupants -- though some years as governors in a weak governor or smallish Southern states does amount to some executive experience. Time as First Lady, sorry, doesn't impress too much.

So, we are left with an extra term as senator. Wow! I might be somewhat unfair here, though not too much I think, but overall the "experience" thing is at the very best a wash, all things considered. It will be tougher vs. McCain, but more of the above just might tame the waters. Knock on wood.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Abortion Musings

And Also: Striking essay on how the feds search laptop computers without probable cause ... the "border exception" shouldn't be taken that far, should it?

Sherry Colb's latest Findlaw essay opens this way:
Unlike popular movies in the U.S. such as "Waitress," "Knocked Up," and "Juno," all of which are fun to watch, screenwriter and director Cristian Mungiu's film does not treat unplanned pregnancy as a happily inescapable event. In this respect, the film helps educate viewers not only about reproductive rights in 1987 Romania, but about our current political standoff on abortion as well.

The film referenced was excellent and should have been nominated for an Academy Award (if not more than one). All the same, the other movies do not "treat unplanned pregnancy as a happily inescapable event." It is true that -- I did not see Knocked Up, so will leave it aside -- the end results of the pregnancies were happy. Nonetheless, they were not "inescapable." The girl and woman involved chose to carry them to term based on moral and practical reasons. They had the choice to do this, even if the woman in Waitress* thought it "inescapable" on a personal morality level.

I did comment on how they fit the mold of movies that suggest abortion is a non-choice, but abortion was not illegal ala Romania. In fact, both movies made it a point to comment that a choice was being made, in Waitress not a very "happy" one early on. To move on, the essay wonders if "a person be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time." Yes. A person can think prohibition is practicably dangerous or (as in many issues of religion and morality) ultimately a private choice, but one that might be quite clear-cut on that level. Or, a bad policy for some other reason. Hard as it is for some to accept.

Meanwhile, another regular source of abortion analysis discusses an attempt to label Plan B as abortion. True enough in its denunciation of the extremes of the anti-abortion forces, including its anti-women aspects, but this concerns me:
And yes, I know, there are some people out there who will argue that if an egg is fertilized, anything that prevents the continuation of a pregnancy produces an abortion. But (1) technically, pregnancy doesn't even begin until the embryo implants and starts to generate the hormones that sustain a pregnancy and (2) lest we forget, about 1/2 of fertilized eggs don't implant anyway.

The term "technically" suggests a weakness -- it implies that colloquially "pregnancy" might be defined in a somewhat different fashion. After all, I do think "abortion" implies aborting something that was implanted. But, it could mean "aborting" the process of implantation (deemed by many as part of "conception," Plan B thus deemed "contraception"), and a few seem to so think. Also, many implanted eggs and embryos naturally miscarry too. Does this mean RU-486 (the abortion pill) does not really matter? Who knows when a natural miscarriage would have occurred?

As with "human life" (the term for many isn't just a human zygote but one of a certain stage of development) or "personhood" science only takes you so far here. Certain moral and religious meanings are given to these processes too, even if they are a result of looking at the science of it all. It is quite proper not to treat Plan B use as "abortion," and it simply is not a normal understanding of the term. In fact, regular birth control use very well can have the same effects (Plan B is basically a birth control pill of special strength), and even some who don't like Plan B are not aiming to attack it. Who hears of pharmacists not wanting to sell birth control?

[Update: Yes, one should be careful to assume too much sanity here, but in general, the arbitrary limitation of the arguments -- especially since birth control pills often act the same way at the end of the day -- is apparent. Quite tellingly.]

All the same, it is not always patently obvious that the pro-choice side is correct via use of definitions alone. The meanings sometimes require a bit more work.


* This choice was not discussed on the DVD commentary (the director was involved in some of the special features, but the commentary was done after her death; the commentary involved the star and a producer). Since I referenced the movie last time, let me say that overall the commentary / features were good, the DVD having a handful of "making of" sort of deals. Again, gem of a movie.

Interestingly, none of the three movies referenced had "deleted scenes," which is a bit strange since most DVDs with extras have them.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Movie Weekend

And Also: Happy President's Day ... let's give a nod to them all, not just two. As to 44, Barack Obama has an interesting upbringing. His mom's thoughts on religion are also of interest. The fairly early deaths of his parents (and stepfather even) is also notable. For me, his bio is a plus. As to his "unity" bit, honestly, it works (it hits the zeitgeist, even for baseball fans watching the steroid hearings). You go with what works, especially if you really do believe in it. And, you can only do so much anyway. All this talk about details is a bit silly. Like he is to be the prime minister crafting legislation.

A three for $20 deal at Blockbuster provided a means to purchase a few movies that were little gems. The fourth was paid for by a gift card ... and was suitable payback for the last Abigail Breslin film I watched, a sad re-make of Mostly Martha. A movie which -- like the other three -- worth watching again, including as a commentary track plays. This includes various moments that underline my love of movies.

Sweet Land is based on a short story, short enough that I was able to quickly read it at Barnes and Nobles yesterday. The story in effect supplies the setting and characters, not much more, and changed a few details at that. But, "A Gravestone Built of Wheat" provided an essential flavor that led to the movie as a whole. The commentary track also lets us know how long it took to be made, which is often amazing, when you think about how one movie among many was so much work.

[DVD commentary tracks are a passion of mine and let me add that the one for Gracie (of additional value, given the film's semi-autobiographical elements) is charming too -- I speak in particular of the brother/sister one (they have small roles in the movie too), including its play by play of the climatic game scene. It also has one from the director, who is Elizabeth Shue's husband ... so you have personal plus technical. Add the movie and nice "making of the movie" short, the DVD is an excellent resource.*]

Like the Super Bowl, it seems so transitory (shooting itself took only a month), but for those involved, it was a long hard effort. To add to the metaphor, supporting cast -- some with basically a cameo role -- played such an important part. They often -- and I do repeat it because it's true -- make the movie. Consider the "second bananas" of stars of movies, who really are more interesting that the pretty vanilla "main attractions." To toss a movie in the theaters, though Ryan Reynolds is not quite as white bread as he looks, Definitely, Maybe is helped by a small role by Kevin Kline -- nice to see him again.

Sweet Land concerns a young German mail order bride (at first thought to be Norwegian) who receives a rough reception at a Minnesota farm community c. 1920. And, she is not vanilla. The lack of subtitles adds to gap in understanding, but adds to the connection that grows between the couple on an emotional level. The movie also has a low key quality that makes it a quiet gem. For instance, the clear sexual tension that arises is "PG" only in a purely physical sense (the DVD clipped off a frame where we saw the butts of the actors, the scene where Olaf accidentally catches Inge taking a bath). The randy nature of Alex Kingston's character (playing American as well) is also well done ... especially the pie scene. Those with big families got them for a reason!

The bookend scenes (the central movie in effect a flashback) are a bit rough -- the commentary noted it was originally much longer -- but work fairly well too. It also gives a veteran actress a chance to shine. The movie also provides a chance to remind us about small town parochialism, the fear of others that later turned into acceptance, the dark side of farm life (foreclosures etc.), and how rules are sometimes bent for what is more deeply important. The development of the minister's feelings of the couple is of particular interest here. See also the discussion board at the link provided.

To skip ahead, one thing I liked about Sweet Land was the connections between the characters not shown in a blunt physical sense. Definitely, Maybe was enjoyable partially for that reason. It came out on Valentine's Day, and does have a bit "too cute" side (all the main characters have a white bread cuteness to them, including the daughter, best seen in Little Miss Sunshine) . And, the NY Daily News basically thought so. I am with the NYT, however, in thinking the movie warrants more credit. It might be "Hollywood" deep, but it does have a certain depth. Ryan Reynolds, after his turn in The Nines, also just might be getting out of the rather bad movie rut he is known for.

Shades of The Princess Bride, the movie is sort of a bedtime story [the credits sequence was cute too ... the fact I pass the area all the time was rather nifty too] for the character's daughter, who heard a classmate mention he was an "accident," after her school gave a sex ed lecture. Her mom and dad are about to divorce, so she is on edge anyway. [Abigail Breslin isn't just cute here ... some real emotional resonance.] So, his dad basically tells her (somewhat edited) how he came about having her. This involved three main relationships, only one which was to result in his daughter.

There aren't too many surprises, though everything isn't quite predictable (I liked that), but the movie takes its time (some thought it too long ... 112 min. is a bit long for a romantic comedy, though this is more than that) which was basically a plus. It also was a nifty way to have an extended look at the 90s, the story starting with him as a lowly Clinton staffer from Wisconsin during the '92 New York campaign. The film's length provides us time to see his life and relationships grow, honestly not with sooo much depth but real enough. It was overall a good effort, even if some might not go for it. Again, technically well done as well.

Various scenes had bite, including one which he commented that maybe impeachment would be warranted ("if he has so much trouble with a word like 'is,' how will he handle tough words, like 'truth'" ... paraphrase) . I must add that "Emily" (Elizabeth Banks) was great in Slither ... Snakes On A Plane was a bit of a disappointed. But, do see that. Also, and this bears mentioning in this day and age, smoking was key to a couple scenes. One comment on the IMDB message board even suggested it had a veiled add for American Spirits cigarettes (though the scene fit and was a nice foreshadowing of his future job).**

[The film has the Clinton years as an important background, and "Clinton" makes a cameo. Thus, there are real historical figures portrayed in some fashion. But, we have the usual "no characters based on real life" disclaimer. This annoys me -- tack on a "or used in a fictional way" clause people.]

The third film I purchased was Waitress, which I have not seen again, so maybe I will wait on that. Suffice to say the director/co-star in real life was murdered (for some pathetic reason) just when her career was showing particular promise. Well, if this gem of a movie (and commercial for pie) has anything to say about it.


* Let me briefly note that Gracie, semi-biographical in the the Shue family loved soccer, grew up working class in New Jersey (great use of locales and Springsteen songs) and had a brother die at an early age -- though in his 20s, not as a teenager -- concerns a teenage girl struggling to get on the boy's soccer team. This was a way to get over the death of her brother, which lead to a period of depression and risk taking (powerfully shown), and also to connect with her dad. The sports scenes might have a predictable arc, but the setting and emotional connections are powerful, and the film is technically excellently done. See also, Miracle ("do you believe in miracles?!").

In real life, Elizabeth Shue played team soccer as a girl, but stopped around high school (social pressures led her to stop; interestingly, it is the husband commentary track that tells us that, not hers) -- so don't assume the actress -- who some might recognize from the show Lizzie McGuire -- is completely playing her. OTOH, parts of the character really was like her, and the commentary suggested how personal the film was to the family members involved in its production. Shue plays her mom (some experience!) and her brother (Andrew, now playing a "McDreamy" part on T.V.) has a smaller role as the junior varsity coach.

** "Rated PG-13 for sexual content, including some frank dialogue, language and smoking."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

NYC Worse Than Chicago? Kinsley Hearts McCain

And Also: Is it baseball season yet? I just don't like basketball and hockey, though the Knicks are so pathetic, that it is almost fun.

A repeatedly useful Salon column that sometimes deals with voting issues flagged a NYT article pointing out various problems with the unofficial votes from February 5th in NYC:
In fact, a review by The New York Times of the unofficial results reported on primary night found about 80 election districts among the city’s 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district.

In the Harlem district, for instance, where the primary night returns suggested a 141 to 0 sweep by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the vote now stands at 261 to 136. In an even more heavily black district in Brooklyn — where the vote on primary night was recorded as 118 to 0 for Mrs. Clinton — she now barely leads, 118 to 116.

There is a graphic at NYT that describes the method of counting out lever machine created votes, providing a (negative, for us) comparison to (!) Cook County, Illinois, which it notes has few problems with its electronic voting system (a bit of research would raise a red flag or two, probably), while early discrepancies in NYC are fairly common. If so, it is not something that either (1) gets much press and/or (2) affects many races. And, there are relatively few truly competitive races around here. In fact, Obama himself at most will probably get a few extra delegates, if things play out all in his favor. I'm not sure that the final count will be that close.

Still, the Harlem district results (and Salon notes, Clinton also had reason to complain in some cases, though it didn't matter in the end for her) underline that the results can be pretty bad. This is a warning and a reason for local voters (even if cynics will say they don't count ... like those people without governmentally issued identification that need to go thru hoops to vote, but hey, maybe they can have their provisional votes counted if it is a close race!) to be upset. Those level machines might be as quaint (like, you know, the Geneva Conventions), but it is time for us to go beyond the 19th Century.

And, to the degree it adds to concerns of fraud and vote stealing, well, that is that much worse. Race only complicates matters further, as does the fact that (saying there isn't doesn't make it less so*) there is some division among the camps overall. Likewise, some are concerned about "superdelegates" ignoring the will of the voters (who matter, says Mark Penn, when they vote for Hillary), and this adds to the general voter disenfranchisement issue that is weighty issue for many. As it should.

Meanwhile, Glen Greenwald has more on our President's continual fear mongering. I was at the library yesterday and glanced at Michael Kinsley's column in a recent Time magazine. It was a playful criticism of Republicans for picking John "fine and decent" McCain as the nomination, since each candidate was supposed to be someone the other side can hate. But, McCain is such a great guy! Well, a reasonable liberal sort says so, so it must be true. [Spin] You know, the guy who enables and supports (on some things, like Iraq, maybe out Bushing-Bush). Advancing this sort of thing:
The President himself this morning dramatically intoned: "At the stroke of midnight tonight, a vital intelligence law that is helping protect our nation will expire." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gravely pointed out: "What will happen at midnight tonight is much more significant than stump speeches, steroids or superdelegates. On Sunday, the terrorist tracking program . . . no longer will be fully operational." National Review warrior and all-around tough guy Andy McCarthy fretted: "When the Clock Strikes Midnight, We Will Be Significantly Less Safe."

MK predicts:
If the Democrats nominate Hillary, both parties will have chosen candidates who are intensely loathed by more than a few of their own members. But the parallel stops there. McCain is widely admired among Democrats, and many Democratic Hillary haters will be happy to vote for him. By contrast, there is no constituency for Hillary among Republicans who can't stand McCain. Nor, for that matter, will many of them vote for Barack Obama.

The last comment is b.s. and recent voting results underline the point. In fact, h/t Rachel Maddow, a top advisor on the McCain team said he would step down if Obama won the nomination -- he supports McCain, but couldn't go full court press against Obama. See also, this article in Time. Likewise, M. argues:
Even though McCain is the candidate of the President's party and even though he is the biggest supporter of the Iraq war outside of the Administration, McCain is the one who will seem like a new broom that sweeps clean.

The operative word is "seem." Do you like promoting b.s., Michael? McCain is the one who said he wouldn't mind American troops staying there a hundred years. He thinks the "surge" worked fine. How is this like to "sweep clean" the mess there? The piece does underline, if in a backhanded fashion, that this is an image over substance game. For instance, voters couldn't quite believe he is totally serious on his antiabortion stance. Yeah, he is. We went thru this before ... "well, Bush can't be as bad as those naysayers warn ...."

Michael Kinsley, promoting media darling St. McCain, as part of his role as a ranking member of the fake reasonable people's club. War, war on choice, self-admitted weak on economic matters, loyal Bushie (the "maverick" tag helps that btw), etc. And, we will still have an uphill fight. Reality notwithstanding. Joy.


* Yeah, it's a double negative. Whatcha going to do about it?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Case In Point

Yesterday's contempt vote upheld the simple Constitutional principle that no one is above the law. If an ordinary citizen could not ignore a subpoena without facing severe consequences, the same must hold true for the White House. ... I hope that as you read those stories, you will remember that the path to today's contempt vote did not begin with just a subpoena, or a hearing, or even the firings in December, 2006. Rather, it began with the Bush Administration's politicization of Justice and its refusal to submit to congressional oversight. .... I commend [those] voting to hold the Bush White house accountable and who stood up for the rule of law.

-- Rep. John Conyers, "A Good Day for the Constitution"*

After the committee voted for contempt against John Bolten and Harriet Miers for refusing to even show up to testify about the attorney firings last year, it took until now for the whole House to (successfully) do the same. Let's underline what is happening here. The politicization of the Justice Department was so bad -- let's again give Talking Points Memo in particular a lot of credit for making the MSM to take it seriously -- that Alberto Gonzalez (Torture Czar #1) was forced to spend some more time with his family. The President shouldn't have had wiggle move.

You pick your battles, even when right and probably obligated to do more, and this was a good one. And, we have a case here when two officials -- including Miers who refused to testify even after leaving office -- did not even show up. They didn't show up and declare immunity, however fraudulently. They simply didn't show up. Some might, and be right up to a point, declare this as an admirable (in a negative sense) example of guts/strength. But, it also is pathetic. They repeatedly don't have the guts to act in public view, always trying to hide the ball. Their position is so weak, or they are so weak, that they cannot simply let their position speak for itself. The evil partisans are out to get them!!!!

[Various hearings have made this more difficult, added most likely to the lame duck -- in more ways than one -- nature of the Administration. And, Rachel Maddow suggested some of the comments are strategic -- to play tough, and frame the Dems as weak on terrorists. And, rope-a-dope involves some release, after all. But, the running out the clock strategy held strong for years, and as to Iraq and other matters basically succeeded, and still is operative in various cases.]

There is a basic principle here. An essential role of Congress is to investigate. This might not lead to anything, or only to the public and other branches (the courts play some role here too sometimes) being influence in subjective fashion. Further legislation, funding decisions or executive action (resignation/firings a type of junior league impeachment) is not always the result. But, in a sense, political action is fungible -- this stuff matters in the long run somehow. Yes, even though TC #2 refuses to carry out the contempt by doing his f-ing job as the attorney general. (Thanks Chuck! my senator!)

A Senate committee held Karl Rove in contempt. Some might think that was solely a power play, given his position. But, Bolten and Miers (already embarrassed by the whole Supreme Court nomination) don't have the cache. And, is a simple example of the Democrats showing they will stand up to the President. In a fairly minor way, one that simply won't cause the heavens to fall, but that is how principle is sometimes underlined. It is why McCain voting against making the Army Field Manual the rule of the game for the CIA is pathetic and shameful. Now, the few readers of my blog probably know the extent of his "maverick" side, but some still don't realize he is a fake.

And, they finally did it. It is unclear if the Dems will really make an issue of it, though there is some value this lingering bad taste hurts the Bush Administration. The hope is that it isn't just useful in getting the members re-elected in the Fall. Why did it take so long? Well, Dem leadership thought it would hurt the push for bipartisan unity, most recently to pass some economic package. [H/t TPM Muckraker] This is where the concern with Obama comes in. The partisan divide in the Clemens hearings drove people not usually concerned with politics crazy, disgusted them. But, as one sports host noted, he would have been annoyed at the Dems if they were wrong. They weren't -- Clemens (who btw wanted the hearing) came off as clearly guilty.

Bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake is stupid. And, the idea that Congress couldn't have formulated some economic stimulus package or whatever AND hold two officials most people in the country care little about -- and would not actually have to do anything since you know who will refuse to respect the contempt ruling (if he did, it would linger in court, underlining how radical the Bush position is) -- is also stupid. You can talk about Blue Dogs. But, these people are still Democrats. They have some responsibility to do something, don't they? If they cannot even do something small like this, what the hell does partisan loyalty mean? More tail wagging the dog.

Control of Congress does not mean unlimited discretion by any means, even when the control is more solid than it is today. But, it does bring some benefits, and when you can claim neutral principle ... well, that makes things even easier. And, politics means compromise, even when it's great that certain groups have a strong voice in the process.** But, only up to a point. I just got an email from my representative denouncing Bush for his economic policies. Fine enough. But, there is more out there than that.


* For now, the House also is not giving in on telecommunity immunity and the like, like the rush job last Summer. Also from the latest email (I'm on his mailing list):
I also want to commend the Democratic Leadership for standing up to the White House yesterday and refusing to succumb to political pressure concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Last August we allowed ourselves to be jammed by the Senate and the White House. Yesterday, we stood up in the face of the pressure and let the President know that we intend to do our jobs as legislators and not hastily pass the flawed Senate bill with retroactive legal immunity for the telecommunications firms.

Bush's bluster didn't stop congressional weakness in the past, but you figure at some point it might. TPM and Glenn Greenwald (Friday) has some more on this.

** This is why I supported Edwards twice, even if he was an imperfect representative of the principle, though rumblings he will endorse Clinton (since she's tough) are worrying. Please don't, John.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Steroid Hearings

And Also: Unlike the 11th, the Fifth Circuit of Appeals (Texas etc.) realized that sex toys is covered by the sexual freedom recognized in Lawrence v. Texas. You also buy contraceptives and abortions, after all. Good short opinion.

I found the whole recent congressional investigation of steroids in baseball somewhat dubious at best, but guess there is some value there. Baseball is the national pastime, illegal use of drugs could have been involved, and there was always the issue of interstate commerce -- in particular, an industry that receives a special antitrust exception. All the concern about the Congress wasting time really is hot air -- is Henry Waxman not investigating enough things? In fact, ESPN has it that Waxman was dubious about today's hearing, but Roger Clemens pressed the issue. [H/t WFAN]

Without this, would Congress suddenly investigate the Bush Administration or something some more? Oh come on. Just how much time and resources, relatively speaking, does it take for a small subset of Congress to investigate? Not that the whole thing isn't a bit of a mess -- who do you root for, really? Clemens did come off as a loser, but amusingly, so did the Republicans. I caught the end of the questioning on the local sports station, WFAN. The afternoon hosts are also shown on YES, the Yankee station.

They think Clemens is patently guilty. [Various reasons to think that, including apparently his accuser only wrong when it comes to allegations about Roger Clemens.] And, more amusingly, really hated the Republicans on the committee, who they saw as biased clowns. Clemens apparently a loyal Bushie sort and/or Republicans oppose Waxman by instinct. One of the two is a registered Republican, the other an independent who said he leaned Republican on some issues. They apparently are not aware about the tendencies of some of the Republicans here. Rep. Chris Shays, the representative of one of the hosts received particular scorn. Welcome to my world, guys.

[This includes "maverick" McCain deciding that haziness on torture, ignoring the dangers of wiggle room in this area, is fine. It also underlines the value -- even if nothing concrete comes out of them -- of public hearings, where the responses of the targets (and the actions of their questioners!) is on public display. Miers and Bolton, anyone?]

Meanwhile, I guess for those who cynically talk about business as usual in D.C. should note when it is not. We actually had two incumbents, including a Bush Dog (by progressive blog hero, Donna Edwards; the other was a Republican beat from the Right ... so there might be a "toss the bums out" mentality), get beat in a special election. And, for some time, I feared a Hillary v. Rudy race, but at least one of them won't be around in November. The support of newcomers for the telecommunications immunity bill suggests the limitations of "change," but it is there. If ever so slowly.

Or, at least, the necessary minimum necessary for the possibility to exist.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"May of Right Do"

The testimony of centuries, in governments of varying kinds over populations of different races and beliefs, stood as proof that physical and mental torture and coercion had brought about the tragically unjust sacrifices of some who were the noblest and most useful of their generations. The rack, the thumbscrew, the wheel, solitary confinement, protracted questioning and cross questioning, and other ingenious forms of entrapment of the helpless or unpopular had left their wake of mutilated bodies and shattered minds along the way to the cross, the guillotine, the stake and the hangman's noose.

- Chambers v. Florida (1940)

Near the end of the Declaration of Independence, there is the actual declaration -- the united colonies are now free and independent states with all the various powers (such as to form alliances with other nations ... cf. Art. I. sec. 10 as to let's say New York by itself not having such a power) which such states "may of right do."

My understanding of this phrase is that independent states do not have the rightful power (as compared to the might) to do everything. The Declaration in fact connects this early on to God. The "Laws of Nature and Nature's God" entitled them to declare independence, though said nature and nature's God also gave all men certain inalienable rights, which "just" governments may not violate.

"Positive" law (like constitutions and treaties [Part. III in particular]) in some rough fashion give life to these principles. The horrors of the 20th Century, which might not be as close to our psyches as 2001 but is still pretty important,* underline the importance of respect for the limits of national might. Underline being a nation of laws, not men (collectively speaking).

It needs to be underlined that there are always those who deem this cheap generalities to be used to satisfy our consciences, but to avoided in the heat of day, preferably out of our's view so we need not have to deal with it. Thus, Congress isn't allowed to see official opinions on the matter, videotapes are destroyed, and so forth. In this context, we have to question the relevancy of this Dahlia Lithwick's point:
What used to be an unambiguous legal test for torture—"conduct that shocks the conscience"—is hardly a useful bench mark anymore. How can anything shock the conscience after the vice president, in a parody of himself, crowed this week that "it's a good thing" top al-Qaida leaders underwent torture in 2002 and 2003—"a good thing we had them in custody" and "a good thing we found out what they knew." Even our conscience is a moving target. Water-boarding has gone from torture to a Martha Stewart slogan overnight.

But, it is not like there was no other time of stress where our conscience took a holiday. One case that "shocked" the conscience was forced stomach pumping to expel drugs. Many still would not find that too shocking. Many think we shouldn't really have a First Amendment, speech too free, religion too separate from government. Anyway, what is truly unambiguous? Some things, like racism and sexism, seem blatantly wrong. Torture does too. But, they continue, in part because enough people convince themselves of ambiguity. The problem was always there to face.

[After writing a form of this post, I learnt about Justice Scalia's comments on "so-called torture." Clearly, to cite one of the cases referenced, he does not quite agree that "the torturer has become – like the pirate and slave trader before him – hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind." As to his reference to the Eighth Amendment, duh. Torturing the not convicted is worse and raises statutory (let's put treaties here too) and constitutional issues all the same. Didn't he learn from the Newdow/Pledge case not to stick his foot in his mouth regarding pending issues?]

Our acceptance of waterboarding, a national surveillance state, etc. does suggest the possibility of changing standards can be both good (a credible run by a candidate of mixed racial heritage) and bad. The attempts to finalize a law that would set in stone broad powers to search our emails and so forth calls to mind a time when at least a third of the Supreme Court was wary of allowing many kinds of bugging with warrants. [See the dissent here.]

After all, the Fourth Amendment speaks of "particularly" targeting warrants, while such wiretaps were akin to the "general warrants" the colonialists were so concerned about, picking up everything, not just specific things necessary to use in trial etc. Now, we have to spend time explaining how governments do not have the rightful power to partially drown people to interrogate them. Or, how "faithfully" executing the laws (sort of the point of an "executive" to my understanding) means actually following the laws Congress passes. And, when you do break the law, you will get immunity.

[Sen. Obama voted 'nay,' Clinton did not show up. Not that he was anywhere perfect in that regard in the past, but it is something. See here (comments) about why I think Barack is not the same as Clinton, and part of why I favor him over her.]

We can end with the remarkable sight of Huckabee doing more to challenge a caucus than John Kerry did to challenge the results in Ohio in 2004. Similarly, though long ago the Supremes held (in the white primary cases, e.g. ... quite relevant during Black History Month) aucuses are not 'private,' but of public concern, Talking Points Memo has multiple posts underlining how little the Republican establishment cares. After all, as McCain says, he surely won (after they stopped a count with 87% reporting, the difference between the two within the margin of error), so what's the problem?

Mr. Maverick. Anyway, whoever wins, reminding them what they and the government cannot do will be a never-ending task, most probably.


* One of many books that underline the point was written by Samantha Power, now an advisor to Sen. Obama: A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2003.

Another one that comes to mind is The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang in part because when the Japanese waterboarded, it was deemed criminal. However, given the ends justify the means sentiment prevalent in some quarters, this is irrelevant to some, since obviously their cause was evil.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


A few updates on the side panel (books) and links (election site and two comic strips). After watching the NFL Network compressed version of the SB, a nod to the Pats defence too. Free Radio has some charm, though maybe not enough to watch full episodes, but not bad for a VH1 original series. Focaccia bread is yummy.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

State Rulings and a Get Out of Jail Free Card

And Also: Clearly, as shown by a sighting of a small campaign sign (Clinton here), hot dog vendors are important endorsements. Continuing on the excellent 2007 movies seen by me in 2008, the Academy nominee Persepolis based on an autobiographic comic book series of a girl growing up in Iran from shortly before the Iranian Revolution and beyond is worthy of more than an animated film nod. This special experience is worthy of a Best Picture nod too. It is an excellent use of animation and worthy of recognition there as well.

Death Penalty: Though a few states allow electrocution as a sort of fallback method, Nebraska was the only remaining state that provided it as the sole method. The past tense alludes not to the legislature being one vote away from outlawing it, but a recent state supreme court ruling holding it as unconstitutional. The court, with only the chief justice dissenting, held that recent evidence suggests too much risk to allow the practice. Its reasoning has clear relevance to the current issue of lethal injection protocols, now in front of the US Supreme Court. See also here.

Free Speech: Meanwhile, a California appeals court held that anonymous speech online is an important good, though the veil might be pierced if there is a clear case of libel per se (in effect, a really seriously sort of libel). Not the sort of "venting, much tongue-in-cheek, little pretense at sophistication or thoughtfulness, and an ample and obvious sense of irreverence" at issue here, or to target an alleged type of business tort. Thus, there was a sort of balancing test, but higher bar than what might bring many people to court.

The speech in question included references to "boobs," blow jobs, references to the people involved as cockroaches, and ridicule of the quality of the medical school that led one person targeted to use "Dr." IOW, what might be found on many message boards, including those that in various cases has serious discussions. I reference, for example, the comment threads to a typical Atrios post, which seems to have lower quality of discussion than some others. The Slate fray also has a lot of "harsh language and belligerent tone" few would deem "as anything more than an irrational, vituperative expression." Ditto, as cites on Glen Greenwald etc. suggest, many right wing blogs.

BUT ML still argues that said reasoning in effect immunizes executive officials that relied on them. Thus, the current Attorney General is right not to prosecute. [See the comment thread to the first link for multiple explanations on why this is absurd from people with more training than I.] To the degree the new torture czar (or covering torturers' butts czar) thinks waterboarding etc. is not or was not at the time criminal, sure. You can refute his reasoning, but it is consistent not to prosecute what you deem not a crime.
The only hypothetical exception to this would be in the almost unthinkable scenario in which the OLC lawyers and CIA operatives all knew that the advice was bogus and were simply conspiring to engage in conduct that they all believed to be unlawful.

-- Yes, Marty Lederman is talking about the Bush Administration here

ML, like the rest of his Balkinization buddies, things waterboarding and other interrogation tactics used by the Bush Administration is obviously torture, cruel treatment and/or illegal. They think the attempts to hide the opinions used by the administration from even Congress absurd. Opinions multiple posts deemed patently false and at best misleading. ML's past work in the OLC gave special weight to his analysis in particular.

BUT ML still argues that said reasoning in effect immunizies executive officials that relied on them. Thus, the current Attorney General is right not to prosecute. [See the comment thread to the first link for multiple explainatons on why this is absurd from people with more training than I.] To the degree the new torture czar (or covering torturers' butts czar) thinks waterboarding etc. is not or was not at the time criminal, sure. You can refute his reasoning, but it is consistent not to prosecute what you deem not a crime.

But TC here is in part trying to avoid the question entirely. The obvious question to ask him (did a member of Congress do it?) is some extreme scenario where a past ruling held something truly absurd (i.e., apparently, not the legality of partial drowning) and ask if this meant the people that relied upon it had a complete get out of jail free card. Now, obviously, the waterboarding allowance memorandum is just such an absurdity. ML's post here, see Dilan's reply for perhaps the best reason why, for some reason implies otherwise.

This sort of thing underlines why impeachment and many other things are in effect "off the table" -- when even those who clearly should know about the lawless sham in place here says it is a "unthinkable scenario" that people they like when different people are in office are part of the sham, we are in trouble. There is enough wiggle room -- even something we might deem very wrong might not be so wrong that heavy-handed tactics need to be used (i.e., declaration of a seriously stupid and harmful law as unconstitutional) -- for the truly passionate tyrant to get away with it.

It is a lot harder to play fair, which is why the next Democratic President will truly rue the abuses of the current one that will bring forth a backlash, but c'est la vie in a nation of laws and justice. Still, ML comes off as biased (to the OLC) and naive here. Annoying really.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Voting For Those Delegates

And Also: David Letterman had an amusing Super Bowl wrap-up.

As we enter the "Year of the Rat," the Chinese New Year upon us, it does seem that 2008 is really starting. I do have gift cards from Xmas, but Groundhog's Day is over (some station really should play that movie all day) and both Super Bowl Sunday* and Super Tuesday is as well. And, not only is baseball in the air (well, the Mets' new ace was introduced), but Lent is here too.

As suggested, I went to the polls aiming to vote for Edwards. Appropriately, my polling place is in a nearby public school. New York has quaint lever machines, it going the obsolete way much as it does with its fault divorce rules. Talk about quaint, I could vote for Edwards ... or Kucinich for that matter, but he had no delegates. See, you not only voted for a candidate, but also six delegates (one a back-up) from some pledged to the two remaining active candidates. Selecting what ones -- there was an excess even if one wanted to vote all Obama delegates -- is about as reasonably determined as our typical judicial election.

If a candidate gets at least 15% of the vote, s/he gets a certain number of delegates. Edwards btw got about 1% of the vote. Now, it might be useful to have the local papers to spell out such things on Election Day. I saw the 15% bit in a small article in the middle of the paper -- admittedly, there was a forty page wrap in honor of the Super Bowl. You know, another wrap after one on Monday. I'm thinking a picture of the "ballot" and maybe even a listing of the delegates. Unless that sort of thing is secret or subject. Unclear. It is not really evident that such information is on the state board of election page either.

Anyway, it might not be deemed a shock to say that though I checked Edwards name, I picked Obama delegates. After all, Edwards had none, and though I figured he would get more than a percentage point (though in some counties, not mine apparently, he got two), I knew he wouldn't get 15 percent. Now, apparently, Atrios hangs around with people who don't really care what one is picked. Some comments suggested that yeah some voters do. Sam Seder, subbing for Rachel "television commentator" Maddow did bring in a breath of honesty by reminding callers neither is THAT big of a prize; the key thing is to determine what one is more likely to accomplish their platforms.

OTOH, worrying so much about their health care policies -- as if Congress doesn't decide that sort of thing or if HC will stop at nothing to push her policy if the key people in Congress disagree (secretly, perhaps) -- is a bit silly. There is a reason why policy isn't a big debate here -- people realize that is not really the core difference that is likely to matter. That is, unless we compare the two parties. BTW, if we rely on "better than Bush," McCain would meet the test. Ok?

Anyway, via winner take all, McCain scored big (if not totally big, Huckabee winning some traditional Red states, Mitt winning some places too), the Dems had what amounted to a wash of sorts. Edwards did not really have much a role though. Ah, feels like primary day in 2004 all over again.


* It is true the Pro Bowl is still to be played, but it is so lame that Tom Brady decided not to play there. Shades of Bill Parcells sending you know (then a defensive coordinator) who in his place after the Jets lost the 1998 Championship Game. [Blowing a 10-0 lead.]

Monday, February 04, 2008

Well, sure ... it was on the road

And Also: Good episode of House, Mira Sorvino providing the spark. WGN had a mini-Corner Gas marathon in the afternoon that was also enjoyable. See my weekend comments to get a taste of my pre-Super Tuesday thoughts.

First off, Jordin Sparks --with a family connection to a player -- did a good job with the anthem. I didn't watch the Half Time show ... the first Super Bowl had a school band do the honors. Now, we have old guys. Even the 1/2 tit shot (I missed that too) didn't have someone I associate with football fans. Still, there are all those light beer commercials. Do fans drink that stuff?

I have voiced my annoyance/amazement that there is a conceivable reality that from 1989-2017 two families could control the presidency. It is also pretty amazing (if for me personally, much less annoying) that two brothers have not only won the Super Bowl as QBs in back to back years, but were Super Bowl MVPs (after beating the Patriots in some fashion). In fact, to add to the parallel, they played in opposite leagues, just like Bush/Clinton are of different political parties. Family members have been on the same teams (even father/son), but this is pretty remarkable.

I referenced in my quick after game comments my relief, yes relief, when the team won. This is how it feels when you beat a team, especially a high scoring team (if a bit less of late) 17-14, it being 7-3 as the Fourth Quarter begins. Repeatedly, a score that close means that the game could be lost, and down to the final minutes such was the case. There was an opening for an interception in that remarkable (there's that word again) final drive ... in fact, one of those desperation tosses down field after the Giants scored actually had a chance of being caught. The Giants had an end of the game goal line stand in the game that made it 1-2, so this nailbiting is almost to be expected.

Eli might want to imagine there being two minutes or so left earlier in the game, so that he could score more points ala his brother. The end of the half quickie points (helped by a stupid penalty that only occurred once yesterday, twelve men on the field, which the Giants survived ... even though it put the ball back on their own 39) in the Dallas game suggests two minutes are not even needed. The final game of the season, between these two teams, was 38-35. One team had more points than the combined score here. Plaxico predicted the final score would be 23-17. He assumed too many points. This sort of thing reminds me of the days of the last Giants Super Bowl. It was stressful then too.

New York sports fans have had a bit of a lull of late in respect to going the distance. As a fan, it is sort of amazing really to think of the experience. First, you have an idea that the team has a chance of winning each game. The playoffs, especially given the weak field, was to be expected -- though before it all started, some had their doubts. Tampa seemed a pretty soft opponent. Dallas, less so, but could they beat the Giants three times? And, then, well it was one game. Green Bay or no, you can win one game, right? Finally, the Super Bowl. Well, they came pretty close in the final game. I figured there was a decent chance for a close game. These blowout predictions seemed a bit iffy -- the Pats weren't blowing out teams of late. So, one had hopes.

And, then during the game. Slow water torture having a defense repeatedly stopping such a team ... even if their last game vs. a limping team was not that great ... and not scoring an ounce of offense either. A field goal would have been a lot, but an interception (not really Eli's fault) prevented the one shot they had in the First Half. You got the idea the Pats were antsy too -- that shoving aside a long field goal (c. 49) could have been as much about the young kicker as well as a desire to score more than three (iffy) points. Honestly, after the Pats scored (likely anyway as the First Quarter ended), missing the next two quarters would have not been a big loss. I missed the first few minutes of the Third Quarter, which also was no big deal. Caught the back end of the challenge.

The Pats finally scoring ... rather late ... again was almost inevitable. That too went slowly, injury timeouts delaying things. Lots of anguish. After the miracle escape/catch, you could taste victory again, many Giants fans (okay, this one) more akin to the Pats players in thinking the Pats score was a sorta gravity thing, a scientific inevitability to be praised in the papers the next day with "19-0." [BTW, there was a book written with that title ... might need to be edited.] Tom Brady methodically drove the team down the field, the Giants Defense gassed. The Gs even missed an opportunity to hold the ball more or even score points earlier in the quarter ... you knew the 10-7 score wouldn't hold up.

But, that catch did the trick -- a loss before that would have been oh so very annoying, the Defense holding up except when it really mattered, but then you WANTED it. And, you got it. An article last week supplied advice how how to pace yourself, how to save your voice given likely screaming and such during the game. Well, I was pretty much spent by that point ... stressing out during that Pats scoring drive. Amazement at the escape/catch (a two part miracle) is one of those special moments, like when I saw David Cone pitch that perfect game (I missed David Wells', out for the afternoon) or seven shut out innings after coming back in '96. Such moments belie the idea "it is only a game."

You almost feel bad for Bill ... not quite, since he is a jerk, but this time you can feel a bit sorry for the guy -- he was that close to having his team go 19-0. As a player noted, now they are like the 31 teams that did not win the Super Bowl. In effect, they are akin to the Jets and even the Miami Dolphins, whose predecessors remain perfect still. I have an idea that it might have done them good to lose a game. The Baltimore game was the one they should have lost. After all, Pittsburg -- the last Wild Card to go all the way -- lost one game, their first actually, and didn't have that on their back. The Giants went on a roll, amazing really, but they still lost some games. They even lost one on the road ... their first one there. They won the one that mattered.

[Bush league alert: there was a totally lame commercial promoting championship apparel on right after the game, sounding like some sort of automatic robocall that inserted "Giants" into the set lame script. BTW, I also got a robocall from Hillary. Deleted. BTW, there is a parade tomorrow thru the "Canyon of Heroes" downtown, but we had enough true heroes the last few years to totally be comfortable with applying that title to football players.]

It is oh so brief. Soon, the defensive genius might leave the team to coach the Redskins. And, the team will prepare for next year. Meanwhile, pitchers and catchers will soon meet. But, the memory will remain. The Giants can go 7-9 ... and past history suggests how the mighty have fallen in these cases ... next season, and the fans will still remember and not feel too bad. Who goes back to back? That would be like two brothers doing it.

Finally, a week or so ago, the NY Daily News had a sports cartoon of the NY Giants on the road, each team beaten crossed off on the side of the bus like confirmed kills on a war plane. Road warriors. They won all but once, including 2-0 on neutral sites (England/Arizona). Not bad.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Well, they had to lose sometime. Why not now? After the teams traded scores (the Pats answering the Giants "3" with a "7), the defenses held. And held. After, the Giants finally scored again in the 4th, the Pats did as well deep in the 4th on a Third and Goal to Moss. Expletive deleted. But, Manning did a Brady, and scored with :35 left with a pass to who else, Plaxico (denied most of the game). 17-14, and they hung on with :01 left. The field had to be cleared for the final kneel-down. Whew. And, yeah! [Commercials were lame though.]

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Film/Book Quickie

O Pioneers! turned out to have a pretty serious edge. I picked up an attractive Reader's Digest copy for a quarter at the library ... great find. Caramel (Sukkar banat), Lebanon's Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards also was a nice find. A type of Lebanon Beauty Shop, it portrays the dramas of a mixed group of women, of different ages and religions. The title arises from the use of a sort of caramel wax, the sweet/sting nature a sort of metaphor. The director/star does a nice job, even if "best" film might be a bit much.

NY Court Recognizes Out of State Same Sex Marriages

And Also: Darn. Now, I don't know how much winter is left ... as the temperature approaches fifty degrees in New York City today. Can't these groundhogs get their facts straight? Still, the other one is from a "red" state.

[Update: Essay on this case.]

Good news from New York. I know I have not spoke much about local politics and such, since honestly it does not seem too exciting -- I did get a robocall from my local congressperson (a pretty consistent lib) endorsing Hillary Clinton. Good to hear from you Joe. I'm not (yet) voting for someone who, among other things, still is trying to defend throwing a drunk the car keys in 2002. So sorry. Anyway, my local assemblywoman is a nice enough looking Hispanic woman from a political family, while my polling place is around the corner, basically. The local councilman also a credible enough soul, who went to the same high school as my sisters (not at the same time). Still, nothing much happens. Or, so it seems.

[BTC News now supports Obama with the not too enthusiastic logic of "well, he's better than Clinton" ... not that s/he was too pleased with Edwards, sorta going that way by default. This sort of thing does concern, but hey, every candidate is fine! The Republicans all stink! We will all be happy with either one of the Dems!!! This message sponsored by Air America and Mark Green, failed candidate for mayor and attorney general. I'm voting for Edwards. Force me to compromise in November.]

Oh, New York. TPM suggests Clinton -- no shock -- is favored here basically by ten points, give or take. This makes sense, not only because she is after all our senator (doing a fairly good job, I think, as good as the sanctimonious other guy, who voted for the Attorney General ... now supplying subpoenas to journalists when not taking TPM off their mailing lists ... why not stay there?), but favors careerist Dems who aren't toooo liberal. After all, she has that essential Ann Coulter (aka "conservative hatchet babe" or "right wing loon") endorsement down. Seriously, Michael Bloomberg is a prime representative of the sort we like -- socially liberal, but conservative enough on other things to satisfy various "independents"* and Republicans.

I digress. The point of this post was to reference an appellate ruling (one level below the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court ... the "Supreme" court is the lowest) recognizing out of state (or country) same sex marriages per a “marriage recognition rule.” To wit:
In the case before the appellate division in Rochester, Ms. Martinez and her partner, Lisa Ann Golden, formalized their longstanding relationship in a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001, and were married in Ontario on July 5, 2004.

A few days later, Ms. Martinez applied to Monroe Community College for health care benefits for her spouse. In November 2004, the college’s director of human resources, Sherry Ralston, denied the application, contending that the state did not recognize the marriage as a matter of law and public policy.

But, the court held the state did -- on such grounds -- recognize out of state marriages that the legislature did not specifically ban. This is why various states had to go out of their way to pass measures, some incorporated in state constitutions, to discriminate against out of state marriages of this sort. Namely, those from Canada and Massachusetts, the federal Full Faith and Credit Clause having a public policy exception that allows this sort of thing. [Or, rather, it is currently so interpreted.] This sort of step by step recognition of equality for same sex couples is often the way such liberties are guaranteed.

One attempt, locally, failed:
In 2004, the Council adopted legislation sponsored by Ms. Quinn [the lesbian City Council President] that would have required large companies doing business with the city to provide equal job benefits to domestic partners. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg vetoed the bill, and while the Council overrode the veto, the mayor said it violated state and federal laws and would prove costly to taxpayers. He sued successfully to block it in a case decided in 2006 by the Court of Appeals.

The whole matter again reminds me of how I dislike limited views of religion and morality, including public policy growing out of such views. Religion is a matter of determining what basic things matter, what you will be "tied" to (the likely origins of the word "religion"), and determine is sacred. This includes various events, which can be understood as sorts of sacraments. Marriage is one such event, the meanings given to it almost as diverse as the numbers of them each given year. The justice in denying an evenhanded application of state benefits to this class of married couples is lacking.

Even if we have a President who wants to amend the f-ing Constitution to do so.*
You believe that everyone should worship God in the way revealed to him. But that is not the way of this country. The way here is for all to do alike.

- Ivan in O Pioneers! by Willa Cather**


* Many "independents" support John McCain, who is a Bush enabler, and isn't even kinda a real maverick anymore. The name change of the "Straight Talk Express" was a truth in advertising move. Bloomberg also is deemed an independent savior. This means he is willing to switch parties at will, if it is personally ideal for his political needs.

Some also might forget a key reason he got elected in the first place was that Rudy supported him after 9/11, though Mark Green (most recently, a loser vs. Andy Cuomo -- he of the light resume -- for N.Y. Attorney General) was a lousy enough candidate that it would have be close anyhow.

** A reference, including given the person the book is dedicated to, that might work on several levels here.

Football, Politics and Garbage

And Also: I listened to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. It sounds like something he wrote while high and does a good job explaining the inspiration of the Duke character in Doonesbury. Has some amusing moments too. I'm not sure if it is too meaningful one way or the other, though. I am finding Willa Cather's O Pioneers! a charming read.

Football: Now, I don't know what one of the Giants' players was smoking when he predicted a combined final score of around forty (it is not out of the realm of possibility, though it would likely be bad, that one team got that ... the Giants lost last time 38-35). Still, putting aside a decent number of positive predictions by the NY Daily News (biased? nah!), one can fairly say that the Giants have a shot. I guess you can't really ask for too much more, given the Pats record. One radio newsbreak noted that most think the Pats will win, but want the Giants to do so. Sounds like a possible political metaphor. Darn, I want those guys too lose a damn game ... and no, next season won't quite do it.

Politics: I'm getting sick of Thom Hartmann blaming Reagan for everything. Reagan is like this malevolent force, who is the source of much of our ills. He took the solar panels off the White House roof. He stopped enforcing the antitrust act, including in respect to television news. He caused us to hate government. And, so on. It is a sort of a reverse of the Republican candidates making him into their patron saint. As shown by the Bush Dogs of the present, no one person, even one party, causes problems. The deregulation Reagan favored, for instance, started in the Carter years. Life is a tad bit more complicated -- and TH must deep down know it.

Meanwhile, he also isn't sure who to vote for -- Clinton or Obama. Hmm. TM repeatedly is concerned about the excesses of corporations, free trade and money in politics. But, hey, nothing wrong (though, you know, he favored Edwards) with a DLC candidate that supports a conservative leaning foreign policy to boot. He supported all of the three major candidates and argues that progressives will push them into being for the people. McCain, the likely candidate, will be a tough one though. And, Pelosi (sadly, in his eyes) is letting Blue Dogs let the tail wag the dog because they hold the balance of power. But, the candidate will you know go to the left. Surely. Just look at Bill Clinton, you know. Oh wait.

And, what is with Rachel Maddow repeatedly suggesting the Democratic primary/caucus voters are perfectly fine with Hillary? I'm not perfectly fine with her. I overheard another guy who was speaking about how important it was to give to Obama's campaign, how if she was the nominee that it would be hard to get up the incentive to be passionate about someone he felt basically not much different from McCain. Various callers, even to Maddow's own show (she a few times opened the phone lines), expressed the same sentiment. There is a clear let's say 1/3 that simply is not crazy about her. Some find it hard to stomach having to settle for her in November, even though most realize (doesn't make them happy about it) they might need to do so.

You can also see it in the blogs. The attempt by people whose politics are kosher to ignore the fact advances my depression of the pabulum we will be forced to eat, while people insist we should be ecstatic because deliverance has arrived. In fact, RM is not totally happy with her. She noted that HC's attempt in the latest debate to justify her 10/02 war vote was offensive. Well, yeah. And, many Obama supporters totally agree, and some quite honestly despise such things. She has some political experience now and is still a Democrat, who would do some good things. But, no, I still am not crazy about her.

Recycle: Twice I came across efforts to supply recycle cans, shiny new deals, that were instead used for regular trash. Now, I don't know how useful in the end recycling is on its own -- the core problem probably is industrial trash, and some types of recyclables are most likely not very useful. All that newspaper, cardboard and aluminum probably has some value though, and the effort itself seems to be of some use as well. Besides, if such bins are set up, it is just plain polite to follow the rules. Don't be a slob and throw in regular garbage. Sometimes, the little things matter. If you can't take the effort to do them, it is pretty pathetic.

Remember that on Sunday, guys. Finally, it is sort of annoying that the SB is on Sunday Night. The weekend is 3/4 over when it starts, and if it ends badly, the whole weekend ends on a downer note. If the Giants win, ala the Brooklyn Dodgers that special year, they really should make Monday a holiday ... at least for the tristate area.