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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

The promise of an adult comedy/drama along with liking one of the leads in Dan in Real Life provided a reason to see this along with punctuation in the title. The writer also gave us the superior Tangled. I'm with the reviews that gave this a thumbs up even if it isn't perfect in all respects. A prime three star film almost worth that overpriced movie ticket in a theater near you.

It is a mature trip to the movies that is funny and touching with a talented cast in often in low key fashion repeatedly add to whatever they are in from oh that's the guy from Fargo to younger rising stars like Emma Stone (she was on Conan, who again is a fantasy of a character, and noted she is naturally a blonde).* The film's maturity helps it manage some fairly uncomfortable aspects of the heart without being boorish about it, such as teenage crushes. Given the married couple here were teenage sweethearts, in fact, young love covers most of the craziness here in some fashion. And, the film respects how very serious it actually is to the people involved without just making it a joke. This really shouldn't be only left to "wonderful" people, but in the immature world we live in, sadly, it often seems to be.

The film has a sentimental heart (SC is deemed out of date, but RG uses a move from an eighties teen movie?) that favors the true love of the central character but is honest enough to realize that it "cannot promise you" that it will always work out totally well in the end.** [We might get a hint that it might, but divorced parents can tell you that they can still be friends while not getting back together again.] It sets up the man on the make Ryan Gosling (who apparently can handle any role with skill -- he's one of my favorite actors) as a guide to Steve Carell, but just how useful his skills are later put to question. I thought the amount of success SC had was overplayed, but again, I said the film wasn't perfect or anything, right? Overall, it has a generous spirit that welcomes honesty.

A good message done in an enjoyable way makes for a good movie. I just added a footnote -- that's another thing; there is a lot of things that can be said and discussed about this movie. It is actually somewhat nutritious without being unpleasant for those turned off by the specter of that sort of thing. Another plus.


* Kevin Bacon, not seen too much of late, has a pretty thankless supporting role that is probably the only character/actor that doesn't come off well. The youngest daughter (played by Joey King, a sort of young Selena Gomez) might look familiar -- see was in the Ramona movie.

** The NYT review notes the somewhat uneasy "attempt to balance skeptical wisdom with dreamy reassurance," one I think many viewers will relate to and notes:
With understated sympathy to match its sense of human ridiculousness, “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” when dealing with this weary, worried couple, navigates a zone of adult ambivalence and disappointment that most comedies are too timid to explore.
The criticism that two female leads are -- though nicely treated kindly -- not given enough time seems to be somewhat true. Emma Stone is a supporting character. She is not likely to get as much time; Ryan Gosling after all has more to do as a character overall. As to Moore, yes up to a point, and it doesn't help that Kevin Bacon (nice touch: she is impressed that he noticed her hair being cut) provides a weaker catalyst of sorts. I also wasn't that upset with the conclusion of one love triangle (the gift was questionable) and found the last twenty minutes fine.

Friday, July 29, 2011

More Austen

As I have noted, recently I've been in a Jane Austen mood, akin to finding a new television series (or, as here, an old one that I did not fully appreciate) to enjoy. This included reading all her novels, including a lesser known novella and two unfinished ones, both only published after her death.

On the last point, two of her "authorized" works actually were published shortly after her death too. An article in the book cited below makes the sound point that Persuasion very well might have been edited if she lived longer. She also put Northanger Abbey on the shelf after changing the name of the character (another "Susan" coming out since she wrote it). And, to me, it seems somewhat not quite final draft worthy. After all, P&P [an earlier version offered but not accepted for publication back in the 1790s] and S&S underwent a lot of revisions before 1810s publication.

But, upon thought, I am not a true Austen novice, having seen four adaptions of her books and one Bollywood twist. And, of course, The Jane Austen Book Club (now three times -- in the theater, with someone on DVD and recently again on DVD). That film is one of those comfortable slippers worthy of repeated viewings. I did not have to read any of her writings in school, but did find Readings on Jane Austen (Greenhaven Press Literary Companion to British Authors), a collection of essays (with an introductory mini-biography) aimed toward young adults. There are plenty of like commentary; a recent trip to the library came across three alone. This one was not that great; also, curiously largely male authors.

The mini-bio is nice. The excerpt on 19th Century criticism is interesting though for some reason (maybe the full article did) left out any discussion of Sir Walter Scott's admiring book review. An essay (one of the women) on how Austen is actually often all about sex (such as sexual attraction), just not what goes on in the bedroom, was worthwhile too. A bit too many references to her irony, though I guess it is a major aspect of her technique. A few different arguments for "best" Austen. Some boring essays or those that I thought off. Overall, enough to interest. One of the charms of literature is analyzing it and in the process bringing forth various points of view.

I also watched the 2009 t.v. adaption, which has a lot going for it -- the acting, atmosphere and writing overall was quite good.* The movie version with Gwyneth Paltrow is perhaps most well known and it was on t.v. a few times of late, but before I read the book. Some don't like it; can't judge from seeing but a few minutes. Do like the "Emma" here, including her facial expressions (very funny at times) and overall personality. The first ninety or so minutes seems to flow better than the rest, though not watching in it four episode installments (nor straight thru) might have affected that somewhat. Anyways, I still liked the rest and recommend it highly.

There are various versions of Austen out there; some in the know take to use dates, like fine wines. I'm not quite there yet. Like Shakespeare adaptions, etc., there are always various nuances to each version. I noted my pleasure (she did not "vex" me, though current Commerce Clause doctrine is "vexatious" to some) of Emma. Anne Taylor-Weston is also a pleasant character, someone by chance I saw in an earlier film. Christina Cole is also fine as the unpleasant Mrs. Elton. The adaption also tweaks a few things for a t.v. adaption, including a type of introduction (the famous line doesn't begin the film) and a quick (but equally acceptable) add-on at the very end. These add spice, a 100% loyal scene by scene, word by word, adaption somewhat boring if even possible.

Next up are some Austen letters and in the queue is Austen inspired fiction. Not sure about the arrowroot.


* One of the characters played a more pleasant role in a t.v. version of Mansfield Park, the one where Fanny is played by the actress now playing a call girl on cable. Miss Price would not like that.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Victoria Nourse

Another fine judicial nomination with true bipartisan support being blocked for petty reasons [in part] by Feingold's replacement. One more painful result (if more minor) of the '10 elections. I talked about her book (see this nuanced article on Lochner too). More b.s.

Planned Parenthood Attack: Deja Vu

According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid (“stink bombs”).

Then, there are crimes against persons ... . So, fits a pattern.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Early Evening Baseball Update

Joe Torre on call: oops! Seattle finally win. Indians have a "1-0-5" line in a no-hitter. Mets get something good for a Beltran rental.

Baseball Update

Victory for the suddenly falling in a deep well Mariners: not being no-hit. The Pirates lose in the 19th inning in aggravating fashion (E-U?). The Mets still are competitive, especially against mediocre teams like themselves that give up six unearned runs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NY Joins Anti-DOMA (sic) Suit

See here. The state AG previously rejected civil unions as a suitable compromise. So, no surprise. Brief is almost boilerplate by now.

Goodwin Liu -- State Court Judge?

Pretty good shot. Good luck!

Daniel Murphy

Nicknamed Roger Ramjet by Keith, DM did it again yesterday -- reckless enthusiasm mixed with hitting. Yeah. Still like him. He plays his position adequately given his hitting. NL-style. But, with Ike Davis, he really has no position. Turner works better at second.

One Side Is Just Full of Shit

They work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table. And when these Americans come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington. They see leaders who can't seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans. They are offended by that. And they should be.

-- President Adult (House Leader Child responds)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jane Austen Juvenilia

These are various writings from her teenage years. I didn't find it worthwhile enough to read it all but there is some pretty witty stuff here, some pretty silly. A few other notable toss-ins in the volume I found includes her notes on reader responses of two novels.

Drop Dead Diva

The episode had a "find that gay guest star" (Michael Gross is not one of them) theme to go with a two lesbians going to a prom plot, a bit stalely portrayed here. It does continue to be a real issue. Fans (including lesbians) did get a nice shot of Stacey in a bikini.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mets Update

Under .500 after an aggravating loss against the f-ing Marlins after David Wright pushed them ahead and Acosta gave them two great innings.  Yeah, still don't trust Parnell.  Games like this piss me off.

Guns and Pot

I respond a few times to "The Second Amendment and People Who Have Past Minor Misdemeanor (No Jail Time Possible) Marijuana Possession Convictions."  Not a big fan but if pot is illegal, the law seems reasonable. More so than some make it out to be.

Gay Rights Update

The long winding road to end DADT is getting shorter.  As the end of the tunnel is visible, same sex marriages are about to be allowed in NY.  Of course, as before, people like this couple could have a religious ceremony (or be denied one). Next up, end of "D"OMA

Mets Update

Their 50/50 (literally) record underlines their season, gutty as they might be without various players (is Bay even there?).  Annoying loss against the Marlins (per usual), but with low expectations, the team is okay.  Will they keep it up for pride? If they lose one or more players?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Grant: Savior of the Union

This work is being reviewed pursuant to the Book Sneeze service wherein it provides to people free books in return for an honest independent review of the books provided.

Grant: Savior of the Union reminds me of a collection of biographies of American presidents -- it is only about two hundred pages, in no way can be said to be a comprehensive biography of the subject and the source material (and maps) will not be found in much detail here.  As to editing issues, well, I can understand why one reviewer didn't care for that. But, I admit to not picking that up in my quick read.  On the other hand, my failure to stop and closely read the account suggests the limits of the volume.  It provides the basics but seems to be more a young adult level biography than an overly worthwhile account even as a summary volume. The collection of presidential biographies volume is recommended for those who wish for a brief biography on this man.

The book is okay and the man himself had an exciting enough life that even the limitations of this volume will not the reader from being impressed.  A preliminary statement states that the book does not wish to glorify the subject.  This is appreciated and it appears to be fulfilled by this account of this imperfect individual (such as his limits as an executive during his presidency, various scandals occurring).  But, the same can be say about this volume -- I think another star might be warranted if it was intended for young adults or new readers.  For adults looking for a biography of Grant, it looks good on the outside, but a bit too slim inside.  Too bland and not enough insights.

Two stars.   

Scarecrow and Mrs. King (S2)

There are currently two seasons (of four) on DVD now and both on the whole are enjoyable entertainment. No extras. Various amusing guest stars like "Niles" from The Nanny. A few tedious episodes. Good overall batting average; some very good and/or amusing moments.

Let me change into nothing ...

She looks like Catherine Keener but also does things like this. Getting past the clothing thing, nice if you are into that sort of thing (natural can be better), the interviews are actually serious affairs. Worthwhile. She also does other activist type things clothed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Machinery of Death Continues

Behind two SCOTUS denials of execution stays (more division below) are some interesting stories -- a survivor opposes the execution ("the state" doesn't) and a rare videotaping of another one to help settle 8A questions. FWIW, I might add. You need multiple samples there.

In Passing ...

Jane Austen's brother was adopted by nobleman Thomas Knight a few years before Mr. Knightley vexed Emma Woodhouse. Scarecrow and Mrs. King guest star alert: Michael Richards (flunky/bad guy)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


There's always Barnes and Nobles, but as I say here, a certain Borders gave me years of enjoyment. There are various means available, but the hard copy and bookstore still has their charms. Kindle isn't quite the same. A Signet paperback was a better Austen experience.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The author’s knowledge of the world, and the peculiar tact with which she presents characters that the reader cannot fail to recognize, reminds us something of the merits of the Flemish school of painting. The subjects are not often elegant, and certainly never grand; but they are finished up to nature, and with a precision which delights the reader. This is a merit which it is very difficult to illustrate by extracts, because it pervades the whole work, and is not to be comprehended from a single passage.

-- Sir Walter Scott, review of Emma
A re-watching of the Jane Austen Book Club and a reading of her main works is now complete. One half of her novels were actually written or written in some form long before they were published from 1811-1818. Northanger Abbey* was actually sold to a publisher, as a note in some editions notes, some thirteen years before (shall I say three and ten?) before (she inserted the comment to inform any reader who might find some fashions outdated) finally being released a year after she died. Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were actually written in some form (the first at least as a series of letters like her unpublished novel Lady Susan) in the 1790s.
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
Emma was written at the height of her success, after Mansfield Park (her first "adult" novel) was published. The Prince Regent (a bit of a cad, so she wasn't too pleased) even asked her for a dedication, him a fan of her previous work. The book was something of a lark after the much more serious (when she wrote comments about her books, some found it, at least it's goodie toe shoes protagonist, Fanny Price, a tad insufferable) MP. A look at her collection suggests some back/forth in flavor -- the serious/more playful P&P after MP with Persuasion following the more playful Emma.

Austen herself at times was the book/character as her special favorite, like Mr. Knightley, even for all her (its) flaws. I read the Signet Classics version, the convenient pocket-size paperback with a critical introduction. Quite so here: the analyst in fact had a rather clear dislike of the book, thinking it too parochial for her tastes. I think it a bit unfair of a critique, more sympathetic like some reviewers cited on this site. Not all her heroines can be Elizabeth Bennett or Fanny Price, after all. And, her discerning and satirical eye (sometimes you aren't quite sure, but assume such ... like when she names one family "The Sucklings") though with a with a 17th Century poet (Austen liked her poetry) of that name, who knows her intentions?

My favorite is clearly Lizzy and Darcy, for which I am far alone, though I have some pleasure in the lesser known Lady Susan. Fanny Price and her cousin are a bit too priggish for me; I like the deemed more devilish women in that novel. The Mary/Martha like pair in S&S are somewhat interesting (as with some others, the background is more so) while Fanny and Anne Elliot (her book seems a bit rushed, perhaps as the author became ill; the force of her feelings and some goings on of other characters are highlights) are a bit too restrained, though Anne has a good head on her shoulders. Emma is more of a fun character, even if she starts off too immature. Here, she, not the guy, is the one who needs to be "trained." Or, rather, matured. Meanwhile, a lot of amusing stuff is going on around her.

The introduction wonders at her going no further than a neighbor (who is over fifteen years her senior and unmarried; the intro wonders if he was waiting until she became "nubile" enough to get married!) and to live with her father. But, especially since her father was a widower and his other daughter married with children further away, someone would need to be there for him. Cassandra Austen (intended long dead by disease) staid with her widow mother, never marrying. And, if Fanny can married her cousin, why not Emma her brother-in-law? The interbreeding of the elite was not unusual, I reckon at the time.

There are various television / film adaptions of the book (let me add that I overall enjoyed it and her writing style overall, but find Austen a tad too verbose at times; amusing as it truly was, the ramblings of one character got to be a bit much). The most well known here is likely the Gwyneth Paltrow version. A British version from a couple years ago, clips from on this charming blog, looks interesting too. And, there is Clueless, an amusing semi-translation that takes place in a modern day high school, the television version somewhat respectable though less Emma-like.

A semi-crash course in Jane Austen was a success, including a P&P graphic novel and a book concerning Austen and her times. It is unfortunate she died (early for her immediate family) before she finished any more novels, her novel begun promising to be a change of pace once again. I am left to her "juvenilia" (works as a teen), letters and perhaps other commentary/biographical works on the author.  And, then there are Austen knock-offs aplenty. And, at least one film version of Emma. Well, I am not quite done, even without re-reading, the sign (per the book club movie) of true Austen-phile.

So, I need not be quite "vexed" as of yet.


* The books release alone with Persuasion is something akin of an early book or film released after the author/actress succeeds with better material. The book is somewhat promising, a satiric look at a young woman (of somewhat middling class) who has read too many Gothic novels. But, it is quite short compared to her other works (Persuasion excepted) and it seems about 1/3 of the novel is removed or something. She just gets to the title locale and before you know it, the conclusion is upon us. It is not a wonder it was unreleased at first though her basic satirical voice, character style and style is there.

I tried to watch a television adaption but got bored. The main character is the least interesting of the bunch, probably, and watching her handle Bath and then blunder along in NA was not to be in this form. I would add that the bit where the male lead informs her that it is the 19th Century, snap out of her Gothic fantasies was amusing. It is a like a movie character says "this isn't a movie!" to inject a bit of realism to events.

Monday, July 18, 2011

World Cup News (We Sorta Care)

Hours of play (two goals each) and it comes down to losing a best of five in a shootout.  A way to deal with All Star Game ties?  Not my cup of tea, but the USA women went on a nice run and did us proud.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Is LWOP Better Than the Death Penalty?

An apparent case (not really knowing the details) of prosecutorial misconduct is discussed by Dahlia Lithwick. The purpose of defense attorneys and judicial oversight/review is to balance off such flaws in the system. Elected prosecutors dealing with "tough on crime" sentiments and/or those who want advancement which rarely is inhibited by going in that direction in close cases are but some reasons why we can't just rely on self-correction. It helps when the judge has a mixed background.

This led on the fray (which might be ending soon, so more links on this blog to it will be dead) to a discussion of the death penalty and how life without parole is not better.  A popular entry on this blog is my refutation of this sentiment. Without linking to it, I will post my recent sentiments on the subject, including some of the sentiments on the other side. The original thread is here and I start by responding to someone who also was against the argument made by the lede post. 
LWOP is more cruel then the death penalty? That may be so, for some people. Many others would choose life, even if they are in jail. At least LWOP is reversible though.
Right. Most, even if given the choice, are not "volunteers" who quicken their sentence. For them, it seems um paternalism to determine that its too cruel for them to keep living. The cruelty of LWOP also is partially a matter of the prisons we have. Execution is not the only solution there. And, if some can handle it, the trouble others have is tempered by the fact that they are heinous murderers. They too have rights, but some unpleasantness is part of punishment.

Finally, it seems to prove too much. What about others who have very long sentences, such as rapists or multiple felony offenders who are in prison for decades? When does this become cruel and unreasonable as well so that we need to execute them for the humanity?

I don't wish to trivialize -- for some, LWOP would seem cruel as compared to execution. But, there is no easy answers here. The system we have makes execution problematic as well. And, the problem there is that there are no backsies. LWOP has problems, but selectively executing a few people while keeping others in cages for a long period of time doesn't seem to be a great solution. That is how it always has been -- always a small somewhat arbitrary subset has been executed. This highlights the importance of life in our society (and distrust of state power), so that the state doesn't involuntarily kill people except in very narrow circumstances. Even heinous criminals. It is very unclear if the pretty arbitrary system that results is constitutional or just.

Perfect justice might allow execution, but we aren't there.

[The original person responds, some excerpts in italics.]
You are presuming things that i do not feel or think. You are close, but not enough.
To forestall confusion, what you feel or think (which is subjective) is not my immediate concern; my concern is to address a certain argument. 
My entire argument was from the perspective of society. The convict isn't my interest here.
I appreciate the clarification because when you said "cruel and unreasonable sentence imposed on criminals" and used words like "cruel" that are found in provisions that are partially concerned with the convict, I thought they had something to do with things. But, again, my game is bigger than your specific feelings or sentiments. But, I appreciate you taking the time to spell them out below.

[From past experience with this writer, though usually while I used a different name, his ability to calmly set forth his positions without personal bias and assumptions (what I "presume" / mistaking what he "feels")  was somewhat lacking.  It's hard to debate opposing views with such barriers. His reply was therefore appreciated for its basic straightforward nature.]
1. Timidity - hence my comment, by sentencing someone to jail for the entirety of their life society is condemning that convict to death, only they are doing it slowly because they are too timid to act on their ethical/moral convictions (no pun intended).
Everyone dies. The sentence doesn't do it. The sentence affects the means. The ethical/moral convictions put forth here is that executing them as compared to some other means (including having them die in prison) is wrong. Where's the timidity?
This convict is not being rehabilitated, society has given up on them - otherwise there would be no caveat "without parole". So since rehabilitation isn't the goal - then incarceration is simply to remove that person from society permanently. This is a death sentence, symbolic but no less final for the person.
Society gives up on them when they execute. And, since rehabilitation can take a long time, including after a decade or more in prison, this is particularly bad here. Finally, LWOP in actuality might not be LWOP. If the person becomes feeble, e.g., their ability to be placed outside of the prison or in some sort of hospital or halfway location changes. Some of the helpless cases in the old days now can be handled with psychiatric drugs and other methods. etc. If they were executed a few years before this method was found, they would be out of luck.

The inability to be able to rehabilitate basically is the inability to put them back into society. This doesn't mean, and often this is seen, that they have no ability to have some value or ability to exist inside the prison. We would be left with a few exceptions where people kill in prison though even there a few probably are mentally unbalanced enough that killing them would be questionable.

Like a person in other institutions, including old age homes, this is not totally "final." They are still alive. This is why so few rather die than be there. Like old age homes, the conditions often are horrible, but the ideal solution to me is not just to kill them.
2. Uncertainty - his partners with timidity, but expands on it. By imposing life without parole society is proclaiming that this person is being locked up even though they aren't entirely sure he or she is guilty.
Curiously, you use this to support the death penalty as if society is better off if the person is executed, though there is a chance (reaffirmed by experience) that some subset shouldn't be there since they are either factually or legally innocent. I'm with others in not finding this proper.
3. Cruel - while I think you have a point in that paternalism certainly enters the equation, consider what a willingness to confine another person against his/her will for the entirety of their lives is.
I believe that future societies will find our "solution" of the criminal class of putting people in little cages for years on end to be as heinous as some of the things we now deem heinous about past societies. But, this proves too much. It would call into question as I said any type of long sentence. If the issue is too small cells, again, that can be fixed in ways other than killing people. This has been shown in prisons in certain European countries.

Finally, though I'm not gung ho about it, our system does currently seem to assume that punishment includes a retribution aspect, so the fact prisoners suffer some would be acceptable up to a point. Especially since rapists and thieves suffer long time prison sentences in small cages, why society should help heinous murderers out by shortening their time is unclear.
My argument has nothing to do with false convictions, overly aggressive prosecutes, overly zealous defense attorneys, or the imperfections of our criminal justice system. It is an examination of what life without parole reflects on the society that developed it.
The other stuff, however, does complicate handing out death sentences and even taking your interesting moral position on its own, it doesn't seem to work.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blah Blah Blah

I continue to think that -- all the strum und drang aside -- including about the 14A, some settlement will arise from this debt limit business. The Dems will act like adults and given the control of the House, the solution will include some stupid cuts of social spending.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

TV Quickies

TV, especially with "on demand" features to view shows even without DVR, has lots of choices these days, enough for most to find something they like. I caught a couple character cop shows this way, Rizzoli and Isles and Memphis Beat. Decent time wasters.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sister Wives Polygamy Case

I briefly alluded to the federal lawsuit filed by the polygamous group involved in the Sister Wives reality show. Jonathan Turley linked the complaint on his blog. They are challenge an Utah law that has been the subject of some state rulings already, one that covers those who "purport" to be "married" or cohabits with another while married. This is not a mere adultery statute (which he railed against for years) or targeted at those who claim each spouse are "legally" so, attempting to obtain legal benefits (including a license; only one wife was legally married here) arising out of that. So, it is more than a simple claim of bigamy.

Upfront, one can see the problem here. If a couple "cohabits" with a third, which let's say includes a shared sexual arraignment (is that even necessary?) under the same roof, many would not deem this issue for the criminal courts. The group here does not claim civil benefits. They do not wish the state to recognize "marriage" includes polygamous unions. They wish to live together as a family and be able to label themselves "married" (as a same sex couple might without state license if a church blessed their arraignment) in a purely religious sense.

The key case they wish to build off is Lawrence v. Texas. They want to protect an "intimate association," one that does not require the state to provide a "formal recognition" but just not make their "private sexual conduct a crime." The complaint notes in some detail the historical, religious and current presence of the practice of polygamy as well as how open it was, including to governmental officials. The complaint was submitted after the family was under investigation for violating the state law prohibiting polygamy, which only did so after the family went on national television and in effect made their actions blatant. The state even set up an outreach program with polygamous families.

The complaint also notes that the state selectively enforces its laws, particularly targeting certain people in polygamous relationships. This is the normal when such morals legislation is in place -- a consistent application could not be credibly accomplished, so arbitrary rules are set up. Or, someone who is particularly troublesome, such as are too open about what they are doing. This raises freedom of speech and in this context religion concerns; like it or not, the Supreme Court upholds general applicable laws even if it burdens religious exercise. So, peyote use can be banned, even as applied to religious use. But, if only certain types of polygamous relationships are targeted in a way that raises religious biases, it is a problem.

Polygamy is sometimes raised as a slippery slope when same sex marriage or relationships are protected.* The issue here isn't the same as SSM as generally discussed, which is a matter of state recognition, not private practice. This is more akin to a case involving a lesbian couple that got married in a religious ceremony and it was used to bar one from getting a job as a prosecutor since same sex sodomy was illegal at the time. One step further here since criminal penalties are involved. The selective targeting involved here also is problematic.

Various problems related to polygamy are raised. But, that would suggest at best that a polygamous relationship might nullify state marriage benefits. I doubt this group would consent to relinquish the one legal marriage to live in a polygamous relationship, but by my understanding, even if the four were not legally married, they would currently break the law by "purporting" to be married. A purely religious practice would be constructive polygamy. This seems problematic. After all, how many would wish to criminalize a free love commune?

Avoiding sex discrimination in monogamous marriage is still a step beyond polygamy even taking this into consideration. But, fears of slippery slopes or not, Lawrence does suggest protection of various intimate sexual relationships beyond marriage. It's somewhat artificial, but I think a line can be drawn here once a couple gets married. State marriage benefits are in place in part out of the assumption that only one couple is involved, even if adultery or threesomes might be imagined. Actually setting up shop with two or more spouses might be a hard line to draw in some fashion, but that seems to be a step above.

The law however is troublesome for the reasons offered. Putting aside the selective prosecution, the reach is dubious. The cohabitation provision is particularly so. And, overall, criminal laws against consensual adultery are problematic violations of consensual intimacy that is but a step beyond banning fornication. I'm not sure, particularly yet, this will help a man and his four sister wives, but some sort of successful as applied challenge can be imagined given this law's breadth.


* The other is incest, which also raises various line drawing, involving step, adopted and outside of the nuclear family (what level of cousin?) questions. I watched a miniseries recently where a woman couldn't marry her now dead husband's brother because it was illegal at the time. This was WWI era England. They waited a few decades, having some children along the way, until it was.

A fair fight?

And Also: Jonathan Turley, off a failed impeachment defense, is now challenging the criminalization of polygamy. A hard road, but as compared to benefits (the key to SSM), attacking what amounts to an adultery crime law might work, if not on this level.

Dahlia Lithwick reminds us that civil and criminal trials provide justice writ large, not always immediate justice of the sort we want for the victims, using a politically charged civil case and a tabloid criminal case as examples. I say a few words here. One thing that stands out is that the victim (alleged) does not just lose out either. If the prosecution is based on bad evidence, convicting the wrong person isn't going to help the victim.

And, even if they lose, victims often appreciate a fair shake via a proper trial process. One point of said process is to provide a mechanism where two sides (at times more) can offer conflicting arguments using a general standardized and objective system of procedures. I often desire this to be in place when the issues of the day are discussed. I can disagree with one side, but if that side is rude or provides cheap arguments, it annoys me. This is true (if a bit less) if I actually agree with the side using such techniques. However, some issues are so emotionally charged, that arguing past each other seems like the fated result.

I was watching Democracy Now! recently and they actually had two sides on to debate the question of investigating/trying Bush officials (up to the top) for torture. The very fact two sides were on is unusual on the show, which tends to put forth a consistent alternative point of view, an appreciated but still incomplete approach. Unfortunately, the "anti" side here had stock replies, oh so tiresome. Is this the "Catholic University" approach? Talk of "antiwar left" (people who supported the war in Afghanistan?), suggesting "torture" is just to hard to define and the specter of political trials once new parties come in office (so, NO one can be prosecuted in such cases? is that a serious claim?).

So hard to have common ground. I am reading a book where some of those on opposite sides are related by blood or marriage. This and other ways to have some basic bond that requires some understanding is necessary to reach some common ground here, if only on the mechanism of debate and conflict.

All Star Game

Turned on a homer, though the imbalance of arms (an injury and the "no Sunday pitcher rule" hurt) was an issue. Jeter should have came -- his "Mr. Baseball" bona fides got a hit. That 3000 hit ball guy got stuff for the joy of giving back. K-Rod trade was a good thing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FNL: Season Finale

And Also: I also found the original True Grit novel; the latest film version is very loyal to it. No wonder I enjoyed both.

I borrowed the Season Five DVD. It has some deleted scenes (less than the other sets), two commentary tracks (no actors involved), a slide show of pictures and a little feature on the show ending. Not having Direct TV, it also allows me to watch the (extended length) finale a few days early.

Some of the early episodes of this season felt a bit off and lacking, but the last two packed in lots of stuff and gave a proper send-off to fans of the show. An abortion themed episode in Season Four (giving a good subplot for Becky, who was somewhat less well provided for by the screenwriters afterwards) drew me in and I basically saw five seasons in the span of a year via television (even caught a bit on syndication -- it's now going to be on ESPN), Netflix, DVDs and Hulu/IMDB.

Season Two was a letdown and after a full length S1, the others were abbreviated. But, this was quality television. It wasn't perfect -- too many come from behind last minute finishes (down to the last) and various things weren't covered (other than Buddy, apparently Eric and Tami had no real friends and even there he wasn't Tami's drinking buddy). But, with so many characters and story-lines, you aren't going to get perfection. From that opening music on, you got close enough to really enjoy the damn show. The closing montage was a proper conclusion, down to those who wanted all the characters to be going in the right direction.

It was noted that the writers didn't give much to the new characters this season, down to Buddy Jr. who showed some potential, broke his leg and just hung around some. We never heard what truly happened to the foster girl (however you spelled her name), underlining we really wasn't supposed to care for her that much. And, Ruckle, or whatever, was a pointless character too. Best was when older characters, especially Mindy, got to shine. Unless the actress wasn't available, why Devin didn't get a chance for a bit for air time is unclear. She's someone who was interesting. Oh, and it would have been nice to see Lyla again. At least Smash got a reference or two.

[Many places provided ongoing blogging on the show, including Slate, which is the source of the below quote.]
As for the Sarah Palin moment, I did not buy it at all. FNL has always been praised as the great red-state show, the one drama with values—faith, family, community—any Republican could love. But it's always been faking it as a red-state show. The real-life version of Tyra would want to be Sarah Palin, not Tami Taylor.
Why? Ever heard of a gal named Ann Richards, who would have had a word or two (neither nice) to say about Ms. Palin? FNL was a red state show that focused upon red state values without most of the b.s. The reason why people are inclined to vote Republican, even if the party itself has become something of a cesspool. But, not trying to be political. Just saying I don't really buy that. BTW, the Palin citation is one of the few times you would realize that the show takes place in the 21st Century. Even the use of cell phones (like by Vince's father) was not the norm earlier in the show; in fact, this season had various computer references, including a website exposing the criminal past of players and a YouTube deal.

I do see Tyra getting into politics -- she has the no nonsense qualities to be able to get through the hard work involved, the smarts but also enough of the Texas girl to connect with the people. She is "wonder woman" after all! We didn't get to see too much of her, but the idea that her and Tim would go their separate ways after Christmas and build separately so they might be able to come together later was a nice way to go. Eric realizing that it was Tami's time and Tami saying that her surrendering to him yet again would shame her in front of her daughter both was powerful as was the realization that Tami would still have stayed -- as with Julie having Matt ask for her hand, the Taylor women still had some old fashioned Texas in them. Still, another time, Eric? You were married in the 1990s -- things have changed, but not THAT much!

As to Vince having so much on his shoulders, true, but putting aside that Tinker is still there with him, would Jess (congrats girl!) always be there? His dad coming to the game very well might have helped them reach some sort of understanding. He is the team leader and has enough support that he is not all alone. Becky has two families -- her mom and Tim/Billy/Mindy plus Luke, who is going away, but is her future. As to Julie, it looks like she got into a local college and will start a life with Matt. We never really saw Julie as completely her own person, as an adult on her own and when she went to college to do that, she couldn't handle it. She now has Matt to try to find her path. BTW, nice to see Landry and Matt riff together one more time.

I tried watching the film, but couldn't really get into it. Really enjoyed the series. Each time this season on NBC, a voice at the end told us that there would be a new episode next week (well, when there was one). Not any more. Thanks for some quality television from the cast to the direction to the music to everything else. I guess I can watch it on Friday one more time as well on ESPN now. Time marches on.

Monday, July 11, 2011

No Bikini

Caught this cute short film with a good message after finding it free on demand. A seven-year-old ("Robin") finds it freeing after not wearing her ill fitting top at swim class, being mistaken as a boy. Lead is very good. Those interested can find it on YouTube.

Sunday Night

The Mets did decent as a hard run of games continue but those last two were pretty depressing all the same. Giving the Giants two runs Saturday annoyed me as did the sad little half-swing to end it. Drop Dead Diva was pretty good; nice to see Jennifer Tilly.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


As Jane Austen was dying, she started to write a novel about a health resort. The fragment is interesting, including its satiric comments about changing times. As usual, lots of the fun involving supporting characters. The apparent lead is something of an observer of events.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Watsons

This Austen fragment is intriguing, the lead character (Emma Watson) an interesting character, surrounded by the usual vulgarity and distasteful rich people. Her father dying etc. led her to stop writing. It has potential, particularly the low station of the Watsons.

NYM Update

I don't think any miracles will occur but this is a gritty bunch that is playing above their abilities. Nick Evans is back -- he actually got a hit this time. Overall, guarded optimism is appropriate.

GG Again Goes Off The Rails

Glenn Greenwald in various ways is a strong voice that speaks truth to power and has stuff to back it up. In other ways, he is a blowhard, who when you point out the excesses of his rhetoric calls you a Obama bootlicker. I found this repeatedly when doing so, along with commenter after commenter calling me names and ignoring the substance of my comment or pathetically taking a specific criticism to mean across the f-ing (it is really pissing me off) board that I support everything he does. Mature adults don't do this sort of thing. This is not the "reality based community."

To take an example. GG was simply appalled when Harold Koh testified in Congress during its investigation of the Libya "hostilities" (sic) that some single thing Obama said as a candidate taken on its own would be a wrongful stance of the current legal understanding on executive power to use military force. I found this amazing. It is somehow a problem when an executive official forthrightly states that something a candidate said might be too simplistic, particularly if we (as GG does too often) have a myopic focus on the bald statement alone? I pointed this out and comment after comment (including GG who misleadingly "loved" certain things I said, in his tedious attack boy mode) ignored my critique to call me names or accuse me of thinking someone I repeatedly think is flawed could do no wrong.

The latest for GG is this headline:
Reports: Obama pushing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare
Obama supporters, at least those who lean progressive or left, are supposed to be shocked at this given they voted for someone who would move in another direction. Like those clueless sorts who thought the person who wanted to expand our fight in Afghanistan is some type of peacenik, "give me a break" comes to mind here. It was rather apparent, which is why many Republicans and Republican leaning "independents" voted for the man, that he has various "third way" tendencies that would support compromises in the promotion of general principles. Like it or not, that is who you were getting in '08.

It is therefore rich for GG to frame Obama as some sort of hypocrite or fraud for being the sort of "centrist" (these days more right leaning given how far the lines have moved in the last few decades) that would push for some sort of cuts as part of a larger effort to promote an overall progressive agenda. I really don't know what is so shocking here. We are in an economic mess at the moment. When the average person has money problems, s/he sometimes cuts back general spending that involves less money for food and medical care. You know, more pasta dinners and such than meat or going to the dentist once a year instead of two.

I need to see the cuts and balance this off with the expansion of spending (or tax cuts for those who need it) in other areas, including the expansion of health care that the "Obama is no better" crowd selfishly (since it doesn't matter to them) or stupidly (since it often does) ignores. Finally, it is notable that Republicans control 1/2 of Congress and the balance of power in the Senate are Blue Dogs. I know some hate to admit this, but it is actually realistic to realize that a somewhat fiscally conservative approach will pass.

If we want a different equilibrium in this country we need to maturely address the current situation. GG and his lackeys (comments are tediously slanted) in their passionate advocacy miss the point and in the long run are counterproductive since you need to know the nature of the situation before you can change it. Their tedious smarmy over the top tone (if emotionally pleasing at times) is tiresome but ultimately this is the ultimate problem I have with their approach. Sadly, I think GG might have jumped the shark. I find him too hard to take of late.

More on Lady Susan

And Also: A shout-out to Heather Vandeven, whose talents can be seen in Life on Top et. al. This is not an euphemism -- she is truly an actress, not just a sex performer. The amount of soft porn on late nite t.v. underlines there IS a difference. Meanwhile, Femme Fatales is of the "overdramatic" variety, but has some charm.

Before reading Emma (which I did start), as noted, I listened to Austen's Lady Susan, which was only published when a relative wrote a biography and included it along with The Watsons (an unfinished work) and excerpts of Sanditon (the unfinished work she was writing when she died at 41, not too young for the time, but atypical given the long lives of her immediate family). I have yet to finish the latter two though the latter starts well. I also borrowed the Penguins Classics volume that includes all three plus commentary and notes.*

I have found the portable and compact Signet Classics paperbacks the most enjoyable and attractive (the others can have a blah textbook feel), but this was fine, helped by its brevity. I did read Lady Susan after listening to it -- it is after all only around seventy pages -- and caught a few things that I missed while listening. The commentary notes it is a worthwhile work but flawed, in part because Lady Susan is so superior dramatically than the other characters. I think this is fairly accurate, though Mrs. Vernon comes off fairly well (the thesis of sexual jealousy is credible, but given her character, CV's objections are well-founded independent of that). It has the germ of a good novel, I think, the more finished work would be one providing the richer characterizations suggested by the intro here.

Austen, of course, literally "wrote" things, since we are talking about the days before the typewriter. The epistolary novel underlines the importance of letters in that day and age, though the introduction suggests others were more literary in their personal letters than JA was. Jane Austen: A Companion, a mixed bag guide to the Austen universe (good brief bio, some tedious and at times incomplete discussions), does suggest some interesting aspects. Unfortunately, her sister destroyed some of her letters that dealt with personal matters such as the death of Cassandra Austen's intended, so we do not a complete view there. Letter writing is not as important these days, emails and so forth providing a long form alternative when one cannot simply speak to a person on the phone.

I'm not sure, however, that learning cursive is quite akin to "like being able to churn butter and knowing how to hitch a horse to a wagon," though with a report of Indiana no longer making it a requirement, many seem to think so. I might just be getting old, but really now? I took classes five years ago in which handwritten class assignments and tests were involved. Unless public schools have personal computers for each student, I'm unsure how tests are done these days. People still write notes and so forth that require that thing known as "writing," and block printing is a tedious way to go if you have a lot to write. Again, in school, this would be rather relevant. Finally, there is probably a degree of skill and grace involved that puts one in good stead. I say this as someone who has lousy handwriting and whose teacher once pointed to the charm of word processing in my case.

One more thing -- it was noted that some have a condition that makes cursive difficult. I find this unconvincing. I reckon that others might have some condition where cursive is easier in some fashion, particularly given the nature of writing it is different. There is a certain easy flow involved that -- though I might be wrong -- probably helps certain people as compared to those who have to write in block letters. Any number of things, including related to typing and reading computer screens, can be a problem for people with a given condition. It is not a reason to not teach something. And, as to time spent, how much time does it really take? Schedule the time differently; continue to teach cursive.


* The notes are helpful given the Austen universe has various components that the modern day reader might not fully understand, but the absence in the Signet Classics version overall was not a major defecit for me given the overall charm of the volumes (including for most an introduction and for some another essay after the book was done).

But, they are somewhat overdone here and elsewhere in the editions that I do not favor, though the introduction in this copy is a fair length. The need to note the various word edits involved is unclear. It must have killed the editor to determine Lady Susan didn't require any notes regarding "obscure points of meaning or social detail." Given a felt need to discuss "leeches" in another work here, I somewhat question this.


A busy episode that was chock full with penultimate episode plot that basically all worked (the Luke rejecting Becky bit didn't quite work); nice to see Tyra again though she and Matt look darn old for people around twenty. Tami does pissed well. Her mom even had a cameo.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Jane Austen's Bad Girl

Reginald is never easy unless we are by ourselves, and when the weather is tolerable, we pace the shrubbery for hours together. I like him on the whole very well; he is clever and has a good deal to say, but he is sometimes impertinent and troublesome. There is a sort of ridiculous delicacy about him which requires the fullest explanation of whatever he may have heard to my disadvantage, and is never satisfied till he thinks he has ascertained the beginning and end of everything. This is one sort of love, but I confess it does not particularly recommend itself to me. I infinitely prefer the tender and liberal spirit of Mainwaring, which, impressed with the deepest conviction of my merit, is satisfied that whatever I do must be right; and look with a degree of contempt on the inquisitive and doubtful fancies of that heart which seems always debating on the reasonableness of its emotions.

-- Lady Susan
Lady Susan is a short epistolary novel (the letter format common in the 18th Century) by Jane Austen, which is quite different from the six novels published by her (the last two posthumously via her brother). It is an amusing affair about a 30-something scheming recent widow to get her Fanny Price-like daughter married off while finding amusement of her own. It starts with her running away from trouble (arising from an affair she was having while keeping his sister from getting a man LS wants for her own daughter, though said daughter wants no part of it). The plot gets a bit intricate, especially given trying to keep everyone in order in the letter format (we read letters from various characters, which is interesting). I found drawing up a character family tree of sorts helpful. Austen ends things with a regular non-letter conclusion, which might have been tacked on later.

The letter format is a bit tedious (especially later on when lengthy letters are required to fully express what happened) but the scheming (letters to a friend* providing a means to show her true thoughts) is fun. A current day revisionist attempt [Lady Vernon and Her Daughter] to explain that LS is actually a good person sounds like a ruining the fun sort of deal. The shortness of the novel, the somewhat creaky technique and the unAusten-like morals of the lead suggests why Jane Austen never had it published. It was included in a later biography by a relative. Such slightly wicked charm is left to supporting characters in her novels, but this early effort underlines Austen's abilities. One almost wishes she could have wrote a full length book with such a lead.

The novel, as with many other works in the public domain, can be found online. Project Gutenberg in fact has an audio version with different people doing each role. It is a quite good effort though again I found the longer letters hard going. It paid to have the text available to skim over stuff that I didn't quite get the first time. Austen is often re-read anyway and listening (especially while doing something) only makes a first read that much more productive.


* Of a similar sentiment, as shown by this excerpt:
What could I do! Facts are such horrid things! All is by this time known to De Courcy, who is now alone with Mr. Johnson. Do not accuse me; indeed, it was impossible to prevent it. Mr. Johnson has for some time suspected De Courcy of intending to marry you, and would speak with him alone as soon as he knew him to be in the house. That detestable Mrs. Mainwaring, who, for your comfort, has fretted herself thinner and uglier than ever, is still here, and they have been all closeted together. What can be done? At any rate, I hope he will plague his wife more than ever.
Some characters in her novels are bitchy, but this has some bite!


Lite Beer is annoying in general (how macho!), which might be why there has to be so many commercials to insist that it is so great. But, "here we go" is an especially annoying slogan.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

SG's First Loss?

The effort discussed 7/4 failed, 5-4, and the person executed. No surprise. A short stay for the reasons Breyer spells out works for me, but "hypothetical legislation" is a somewhat iffy thing.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

DOMA Attacked Again By Obama DOJ

The Obama DOJ is strengthening its efforts in opposing DOMA, supporting Karen Golinski's claim for SSM federal benefits. [Edit: It says a reasonable argument can be made for rational basis. Not sure if this means they totally concede the point. Still, fail.] More here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


A somewhat saner Cuba Policy (Congress blocks a better one) -- yet another reason Obama is better than Bush. Dawn Johnsen criticizes Obama with a degree of perspective (reading GG?). More on Clinton's (D-NY) replacement, who so many deemed a lousy choice.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Coming Revolution?

This is a review of the book The Coming Revolution Signs from America's Past That Signal Our Nation's Future By Dr. Richard Lee, which I received from Book Sneeze in return for providing a review for my blog and a major book selling website.

I chose the book because of an interest in American history and how people interpret its meaning. The book uses an expansive look at the Founding of the U.S. to provide a warning to the problems of today. The problems can be summarized as the lack of religious spirit, the lack of patriotism taught in schools, and the breakdown of the traditional family unit. It is one of those books that promotes the idea that a rightful understanding of our history can be a guide to how to live today. Of course, this results in various views of just what our history means and this is no different in that respect. Overall, on that front, I am not convinced. A selective reading can get you to the conservative place this book wants you to go, but a full-fledged one does not. What "is" is not the same as what allegedly "ought."

The perilous of the approach is suggested by one review: "I would have also liked to have seen the author show a little more non-bias in his recounting of history, which I believe will lead to most non-believers disavowing this book very early on." This from someone who (unlike I) shares its overall point of view. I guess it might be useful to understand what a true believer thinks. Acceptable on that level though if you actually want a historical account, not a moral one, I suggest you go elsewhere. 

Two stars. 

Solicitor General Starts Job On A Good Note

The Obama Administration takes the rare step of urging the Court to block temporarily a state from executing a convicted individual — in this case, a Mexican national who contends that Texas violated his rights under an international treaty, the Vienna Convention.

An ongoing issue (it's discussed here back in 2005) is the right to consular assistance for foreign nationals charged in another country that is enshrined in a treaty the U.S. signed in 1969. The Roberts Court held that to give teeth to this requires Congress to pass enabling legislation, ruling against a determination by the Bush Administration that held otherwise. Such legislation was passed to enforce an anti-torture treaty.

Such legislation is pending; it would give a foreign national the right to a court hearing to determine if non-notification "caused actual prejudice to the defendant in the process of administration of criminal justice." [I quote Justice Stevens' concurring opinion.] Stevens as well as the dissenters supported a stay in that case to give Congress time to pass legislation to no avail.

The new Solicitor General, who was involved in a lethal injection case a few years back, asked the Supreme Court to stay the execution of Humberto Leal Garcia (due to die this week) to give Congress time to pass such legislation. His case is discussed here.  Five justices are needed for a stay.  Important as that is, it unfortunately seems like as much of a long-shot as the legislation passing soon. But, knock on wood.

[Idea of post expanded upon.]

Stand up, John!

I see fireworks! I see the pagaent and
Pomp and parade
I hear the bells ringing out
I hear the cannons roar
I see Americans - all Americans
Free forever more
"Molasses to Rum" is powerful stuff too.

FNL Had a Subpar S2 too ...

I have praised the Cinemax shows Lingerie and Life On Top, but it seems like Season 2 of the latter has various new characters that aren't as interesting. The apparent conclusion of S2 of Lingerie was pretty good though. The same core staying helped.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Bongs Hits: The Book

The "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case was something of a "lame ass" affair. James C. Foster's book, with loads of notes and source citations, was rather pretentious. It covers the subject okay if not great; the problem was the style. Material is prime but the result is not.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Not FULL Terms ...

Mr. Weiner, a seven-term Democrat who was once viewed as a rising star in the party, resigned on June 16 after being felled by a scandal over his lewd online behavior.
Not a bad run. Ended badly though.


I discuss the episode some here

Friday, July 01, 2011

Male Circumcision

Largely concur with the sentiments discussed here, particularly how it is trivial next to the female version.  OTOH, I really don't see it as a BIG autonomy issue, personally, and can name other much more harmful childhood stuff like some forms of education.

Medicinal Marijuana: Federal Policy

Obama has been disappointing on this (my thoughts on the general issue), but his policy was never great anyhow and clearly the ball is in Congress' court. Various comments of the "same boss" variety are tiresome as I note.  And, the Republicans are just worse.