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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Film Quickies

Starting to catch up on films via the library. I share this review's stance on Soul Sister about a teen surfer who lost her arm: nice enough, but not enough drama. Meanwhile, an older film: Falling for Grace was okay until trite plot points bored me. Two commentaries!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stretching Your Starter Too Far Watch

Pelfrey gutted out six last time with 125, was slipping but gutted out six this time with 99. He was about done. He was left in, and in and one lousy "wheel play" attempt later, a 0-0 score became 5-0. Well, that (second) use of Parnell Monday up 5-1 might not matter.

TV Update

Nice if not that funny Wizards.  Some interesting character stuff was the best thing about Drop Dead Diva.  Good episode of The Closer.  Decent Rizzoli, but I still find the show somewhat forced.  Good NY sports night with three games.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pardon me ...

I'm not a big fan of giving money to beggars, but hated when the subway had signs telling us not to.  The name of the game is a gimmick beyond the pathetic whine approach.  There is a lot of creativity here, including various types of performers, which gets somewhat boring for regular travelers, but is actually appreciated by others.  The pathetic whine approach (I'm being a bit mean here) is not really as appreciated, particularly as you are trying to go about your business.  A person actually went inside a post office today with that approach, asking me for money while I was at the counter -- this was deemed a bit gauche by another customer, even though she was given money by at least one person. 

The issue has various implications, including (to cite a concern of this blog) First Amendment concerns.  Giving to beggars after all is a type of charity, charity being protected under the First Amendment.  Various time, place and manner issues also arise.  For instance, outside of a subway vs. inside a subway. This article covers some various issues.  Again, I don't like giving to beggars since it is somewhat of a crapshoot, though this after hearing someone warning another not to donate to a certain animal charity because it spends so little on the actual animals.  I say they use the money mostly for free gifts like cheap personalized calculators, but seriously, even if much of the money is going to overhead, the organization is still helping animals.  The use of the money given to a beggar is somewhat less shall we say on the books. I don't give to various things though, doesn't stop me from thinking that they have the right to ask. 

Beggars have always been with us and provide an in your face way to be reminded about various social problems.  I think it's protected speech and abusive begging can be targeted not by outlawing begging as such (which I think can only be pushed aside just so much anyway)  but the particular incidents.  There can be certain time, place and manner restrictions.  It would be more understandable, if barely enforceable, to restrict begging inside subway cars where no one can walk away.  Or, outside of certain places like ATMs.  The asking for money in public places is starting to be less annoying than certain phone solicitations.  At home. 

Back to the inspiration for this entry.  I do find it annoying when begging seems to be in "inappropriate" places, that is, places where I don't expect it to occur.  The subways and various Manhattan locations are expected. Certain places in my outer borough or well yeah, the post office, not so much. Relatively speaking, one can deal with it -- again, there are more annoying things in the scheme of things. I don't scream about begging after all, while I do want to scream about certain things in the news.  Still, there is a sort of expected realm where this thing is not done. For instance, I while reading on a bench, I do not want some asshole to come up and not take "no" for an answer, especially when I'm in causal clothes that don't exactly scream "this guy has money."  This occurred once and I laughed it off, but you can imagine there can be a bit of concern there. 

And, overall, the pathetic whine is like nails on a chalkboard. I don't like various types of whining overall, who does?  Sometimes, we might whine a bit ourselves. But, we are not really that proud of it, and sometimes annoy ourselves. So, we are consistent.  I'm not using the royal "we" here, by the way.  And, why not stand outside the post office?  It was nice today -- it is pretty amazing how nice it looks after Irene passed through.  Still, I guess -- pathetic whine voice aside -- you got to respect the chutzpah.  Why go the few blocks to the subway?  Ah, too easy and boring.  The bank actually might have a security guard.  The post office just has a couple people behind bullet proof glass.  And, people might have a bit of money ready.  Oh well.

Irene: Not really a big deal for me

For the first time in my life, to my knowledge, the local transportation system was shut down for most of the weekend.  I took a bus out of the city Saturday afternoon and back in Monday morning.  Irene affected lots of people, but overall, wasn't as bad as it could have been.  I wonder how a Katrina incident would have played here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vera Farmiga

I was impressed with her work in Never Forever and her first directorial effort dealing with religious faith etc. looks very promising.  Good interview -- I concur on Anne of Green Gables!  This is why she cites Anne as her favorite fictional heroine:
For her enthusiasm, her self-acceptance and distinguished self image, her whimsy, the joy she spreads, the way she uses her words, her expression, her big ideas and her big words. “I’m not a bit changed–not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real me, back here, is just the same.” For “There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.” And for her phrase “kindred spirits”.
Put aside the personal commentary at the end and I don't know who my "favorite" is (find that hard to answer too), but the spirit is right.  As to her favorite food, must taste Marmite some day. 

Irene Pending, the Dog Has Her day

Irene has led to various changes in NYC -- the subway system, which was running by the afternoon of 9/11 -- included.  The Mets only have one game this weekend and it was a bright light in the darkness, a gem by Capauno PLUS some offense and defense vs. the Braves. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

SSM Issues

Various examples can be cited to underline the tedium cited yesterday and the discussion over at SCOTUSBlog regarding same sex marriage is but an example. Charles Fried highlights the point, just as he does when he finds the ACA litigation so lame:

Harvard law professor and former Solicitor General Charles Fried argues that although a legislative solution would be ideal, a narrow ruling invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act is preferable to a broad ruling in favor of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
I am not sure same sex marriage in particular being protected violates his not "forced by a Supreme Court ruling to celebrate what they deplore" standard while some ninety-something marrying a twenty-something or yet another marriage/divorce/marriage does not. Regardless, the basic illegitimacy of denying federal benefits to state recognized marriages only in this area is recognized by him.

The same sex marriage issue is standard by now, enough rulings alone to be tired of the various boilerplate arguments.  But, DOMA is particularly offensive to me.  States already were not required to recognize out of state marriages that violated their public policy and any possible loopholes (some "judgments" arising from them) were tiny.  Singling out same sex marriages even there would seem problematic, not a "general law" for purposes of full faith and credit. As to Section Three, why should this one type of marriage (cf. common law or cousin marriages) be singled out?  And, the very title is Orwellian -- "Defense of Marriage" by harming many who are, by various criteria including state law, already married.

The consistent libertarian recognizes these things and some will be on the right side here, even if they are on the wrong side on the ACA (where the "liberty" to submit to corporate health insurance policy and free ride is fought for).  But, the discussion still has the usual, now tedious, components. One is that we have to face a New Deal Era restructuring of rights and governmental power where only certain "fundamental" liberties are respected.  Just as it is false that pre-New Deal courts protected liberty more (as if; it didn't even overturn that many economic related laws, deemed a good or bad thing depending on one's philosophy, having a weaker "arbitrariness" standard that circa the New Deal was strengthened at least for some liberties), this is wrong.  The important Corfield v. Coryell (1825) ruling underlines this:
We feel no hesitation in confining these expressions to those privileges and immunities which are, in their nature, fundamental; which belong, of right, to the citizens of all free governments; and which have, at all times, been enjoyed by the citizens of the several States which compose this Union, from the time of their becoming free, independent, and sovereign.
That is, there are certain rights that are "fundamental" that must be put to a higher standard, not just a general "liberty" that the government needs to justify infringing in some fashion. See also, the Ninth Amendment, which (sorry Randy Barnett) doesn't reference some "presumption to liberty" as such, but "other rights" (see, e.g., this book) retained by the people. This is clearly a broad category, but it is not limitless.  And, it makes perfect sense to use various criteria, be it precedent, building off rights listed or so forth to determine these rights, particularly if courts are doing so to strike down popularly passed legislation. This process, as with the interpretation of enumerated rights, powers and other matters, develops over time in a common law fashion, a written Constitution providing one restraining force along with others such as the limited power of the courts in the first place.  As with interracial marriage, yes, marriage changes in the process.* 

We have the usual tripe that if actually consistently applied would be problematic. For instance, we are reminded that certain studies support the value of "two biological parents," but that can't be too helpful.  If it was, single parents who wish to re-marry should be stopped from doing so, since the alternative might encourage divorce and separation of biological parents. And, what are these "different gifts" brought by mothers and fathers? Gender stereotyping for $100, Alex. Anyways, without marriage, same sex (or blended) families would still exist.  They just would be harmed more by being denied basic protections.

Well, the saying "there is nothing new under the sun" is not new, so the fact that the same old issues are being covered over and over again, including many of the same all tropes, is to be expected.  This is furthered by people simply talking past each other.  I find this a lot online and it tires me out.  I spell out, taking time to do so, my position with support, and the reply ignores what I said and just restates the original flawed premises. This can go on forever as new flawed premises, often laden with attitude,  are drawn up, sometimes involving ignoring what was said.  And, equal standards too often don't apply, including standards of proof and respect.

The ability to find some common ground and to face up to the true matter of dispute is so important, but too often repeatedly not done.  Online and off, it is pretty depressing, aggravating and so on.  It really tires me out.  Still, the issues are interesting, essential and ever arising.  So, we solider on.


* The citation to Baker v. Nelson (1972) is used as a talisman for the anti-equality side but this usual trope is yet another tedious overused device that is much less important than some think. Not only is the Supreme Court judgment just a bare reference, much has changed since then (including in the area of sex discrimination) and the actual laws at issue tend to be much different, e.g., Prop 8 stripping rights while protecting gays in any number of other ways (a basically gratuitous bit of discrimination) vs. not applying old marriage laws to same sex couples. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

10 Christians Everyone Should Know

I received this book free via the Book Sneeze website in return for a review, not reliant on it being positive.

This attractive volume -- colorful color and easy to read text -- has an interesting title. Why exactly are these ten Christians so worthy of study so that "everyone" should know about them?  What lessons should we learn from them?  The ten are:

Saint Patrick
Anne Bradstreet
John Bunyan
Johann Sebastian Bach
Jane Austen
D.L. Moody
George Washington Carver
Sergeant York
William F. Buckley, Jr.

The book as a whole does a good job of providing us with ten short biographies of this diverse set of historical figures.

Their importance as Christians are fairly easy to see in many cases, including some like Carver and Buckley -- known for other largely non-religious reasons -- who were guided by their Christian faith.  Jane Austen might not be someone you think of as a Christian figure at first blush, but the daughter of a minister, one who included ministers as important characters (both positive and negative) in her books, not surprisingly had a strong Christian faith. The fact she was still able to have such a wicked sense of humor and write novels many do not see as much motivated by religion as such only underlines the value of including her.  We see the various sides of Christianity's influence, including in music and literature.

A particularly interesting choice is Galileo, who we now think of as a sort of religious rebel, since his scientific views got him in trouble with the religious hierarchy of the day.  The fact the book examines his struggles here adds to its value and it does not try to sugarcoat things. We see that a person (with a close relative a member of the Church) can be generally faithful, but still get in trouble with the powers that be.  This is a lesson to Christians and everyone, down to the current day when certain members of the clergy get in trouble for their views.  The chapter ends with the note that the Catholic Church has recently (1990s) admitted some error occurred regarding his treatment.

Some of the chapters ends with a sort of summary of the individual's place in Christianity, that is, how their lives were guided by their faith.  Others take a more general approach that lays down the details of the person's life, ending with their death.  As a whole, the book (written by various authors) is a good account of each individual, providing some insights on how they can serve as models of Christian faith and actions.  I'm not sure that we are really told why these ten in particular are so important that everyone should know about them in particular.  They are each worthwhile of a chapter, but I'm sure others might find others to fill in a list of ten Christians of all time.  But, I appreciate the overall theme of them being chosen for their faith was not done in a heavy-handed way and the general reader can appreciate the book.

I think it was overall a good book, but not really above average.  Thus, three stars.  

Blah blah blah

We need new material. Mets suck (no surprise/they had some life).  Obama lame (not as lame as all that).  Republicans, including Perry, suck.  Depressing they have power. Ton of stuff about one aspect of the ACA.  SSM, same old arguments.  Economy sucks.  Rinse/repeat.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Let's Play Some Football!

NY/NJ football: the jailbird making the move to the Jets apparently okay though there is always the injuries and stuff.  NFL Network etc. allows us to see a lot more games (and QBs) that don't count.  Both teams should get to the playoffs. How far?  Well, let's see.

Grow the f-up.

The Mets are in freefall and like certain blogs/Obama, we have the "just a bunch of losers" sentiment, like the baby-ish hyperbole shown here.  Perspective is for wankers, huh? Meanwhile, watching Season 4 of The Closer on DVD.  Pretty good.  Was Brenda that emotional in S1?

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The new iCarly was decent -- Gibby had some sort of puberty thing, huh? Mets are in freefall with more toughies to come. Drop Dead Diva was a good steady episode with some "Deb" stuff. Good guest stars.

New Nick Episodes (Who Knew?)

Nick has tossed out iCarly, True Jackson (series finale) and Penguins new episodes without much warning. I caught most of TJ, which I liked at the beginning of its run but not so much later and it was okay. Kinda stupid. Well, this explains Amanda's bf.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Just Rubbing It In Our Face

The expression on a fan as the wonderful comeback (completed against K-Rod! who "won") was starting to fall apart (it took a bit of luck in the end to prevent a miracle save) fell apart was a great catch. Go D'Backs. ALC/NLW World Series? Ha ha ha! Oh well.

Big Legislation, Must Be More There Than One Thing

There is something to the PPACA other than the "individual responsibility requirement" (sic) though much of the debate focuses on that.  For instance, the law helped mental health and addiction care, furthering the ends of this somewhat bipartisan 2008 law.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another Jackson Executed

These concerns overlook the meaning and full substance of the established proposition that the Eighth Amendment is defined by “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” [cite] Confirmed by repeated, consistent rulings of this Court, this principle requires that use of the death penalty be restrained. The rule of evolving standards of decency with specific marks on the way to full progress and mature judgment means that resort to the penalty must be reserved for the worst of crimes and limited in its instances of application. In most cases justice is not better served by terminating the life of the perpetrator rather than confining him and preserving the possibility that he and the system will find ways to allow him to understand the enormity of his offense. Difficulties in administering the penalty to ensure against its arbitrary and capricious application require adherence to a rule reserving its use, at this stage of evolving standards and in cases of crimes against individuals, for crimes that take the life of the victim.

-- Kennedy v. Louisiana (Justice Kennedy)
The attention given to the death penalty might seem a bit absurd given the limited number of people actually executed, even if we look to the days of yore before the current overabundance of litigation on the matter. The basic reason is that it hits to the core of our concern for our fellow citizens and residents overall, both their rights and security. After all, the basic trilogy often is cited as "life, liberty and property." The finality is another important aspect of the whole matter.  The importance of saving even one life here [to add something] also calls to mind a Christian parable, a theme repeated in others that in part has a theme of answering why so much effort is given to one person, one who often seems unworthy of it:
"Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it?  When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance." 

Thus, we have a few special cases of the Supreme Court addressing some final appeal in this area, including in the middle of their break.  I cited one such matter and now there is another, by chance with the person doing the heinous act having the same last name. This time two justices (Ginsburg/Sotomayor*) would have granted the stay. Sotomayor has shown a willingness to put herself out there to protect the rights of prisoners in certain cases, but has not personally addressed the death penalty directly as a justice yet. Justice Breyer has, even if he did not join Ginsburg's dissent or Stevens' concurrence in the protocol case:
The death penalty itself, of course, brings with it serious risks, for example, risks of executing the wrong person, risks that unwarranted animus (in respect, e.g., to the race of victims), may play a role, risks that those convicted will find themselves on death row for many years, perhaps decades, to come. [cites omitted].
Though this case also had other concerns (such as enough recognition of mitigating factors, which led a district court judge to grant habeas relief, later overturned on appeal), the new "cocktail" used was also cited as with the other Jackson. The case just cited (Baze v. Rees) requires some concern be provided when better alternatives are possible, but the fact Breyer and Stevens concurred on the matter underlines there is a lot of discretion still given. Thus, the use of pentobarbital (arising from foreign suppliers of the original drug not wanting to aid and abet capital punishment; the problem might still arise) was allowed. The concern arising (as Breyer cites, lethal injections for various reasons are not free from difficulties) led to an execution being filmed to help flag any problems.

When the cocktail case reached the Supreme Court a few years back, there addressing the safeguards used to ensure a paralyzing agent would not lead to the person being conscious but feeling the ultimate poison (leading at least one state to try a one drug cocktail without such an agent), at least one person I talked to who is strongly against the death penalty didn't really believe it was an issue. He saw it as a sort of makeweight to attack the death penalty through the side door by making it impossible to carry it out (see also, Alito's concurrence).

This isn't quite fair from my understanding of the issue, including per a discussion by someone with more direct knowledge of the matter (he is a defense lawyer and familiar with the practice) who talked about it on the Slate fray back then. There is some reason to be concerned about the flaws in the protocols used and the litigation hopefully will address the matter in a positive way. The methods were developed in at least a somewhat slipshod way (see, e.g., the opinions of Stevens and Ginsburg in Baze) and oversight over the carrying out of punishments is a core reason behind the Eighth Amendment concerns that drive the issue here.  It might not go far enough, but the plurality opinion in Baze v. Rees and other cases provides some real guidance, particularly if lower court judges and others involved takes the barrier to an "objectively intolerable risk of harm” seriously, a risk that does not only arise (per Scalia/Thomas) if the government blatantly intends to inflict it by use of things like the rack. 

It is partially a means to inhibit executions, particularly the foreign companies or governments who don't want their companies to help. Likewise, it is a way to keep the issue out there, a novel means in a way, while also showing that even lethal injections aren't some problem free way of officially killing people. We continue to be wary of executing even the usually rather horrible people involved here.


* As with a Sound of Music allusion on Victorious, how many viewers of A.N.T. Farm appreciated a Sotomayor joke?! One of those "for the parents" things, though given the theme of the show, more appropriate here.  It is a cute show; the upcoming Good Luck Charlie episode is as well.  Not overly funny as such, but pleasantly cute, particularly if you like the characters.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Supreme Court Watch

The Supreme Court denied an appeal of Robert W. Jackson III, who was later executed for an axe murder during a burglary from twenty years back (seems pointless after all that time). This ended a bottleneck in Delaware arising from the protocol used.

Season of Reruns?

While Volokh Conspiracy beats to death one aspect of the ACA, SCOTUSBlog moved on (my .02) to SSM, another thing beaten to death. And, did Rep. Barr somehow not read Section Three of DOMA? And, privatization wouldn't end the issue of government benefits.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Three Games, Four Pitchers

Tampa, going 2-1, used four pitchers (the closer worked once, in a non-save) against the Red Sox, falling victim (in one of the wins) to a triple play in the process.  Meanwhile, the Cubs managed to lose a series against the Astros, who finally won Game 40.


The Closer was enjoyable not too deep well acted entertainment, but the Mets entering their "yeah we sorta suck" period and the news really matches the weather -- blah. Such is my current thought.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mets Win

They still do that now and again.  Good day for Izzy though his 300th save (last done by a Met via Billy Wagner) took until the 10th (and was not easy) because Parnell blew another one among other things.  Of course, Dickey (Mr. Twitter) starting makes that almost required. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Definitely, Maybe

Another good film (not too deep, but still a romantic comedy with some nutritional value) with punctuation in the title.  It seems like I saw it in a different era, even though it was like three years ago! Good DVD commentary; good for repeated viewings overall.

Natural History of the Bible

While debating someone online who thinks I'm among those "modern liberals" who hate religious liberty, I was also reading The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures by Daniel Hillel.  An interesting look at things. 

Individual responsibility

This criticism of the opinion that struck down a provision of the ACA notes that it left open many other means to reduce the number of uninsured.  This underlines in a sense the limited nature of this fight, but is not the basic idea of not being a free rider very important?

Weekend Update

Drop Dead Diva was okay with a supporting character getting the best overall subplot.  The NYM are in freefall.  The upcoming episode of Wizards of Waverly Place is mediocre, but yeah, one more graduation. Everyone is growing up so fast.  Even Charlie is going to school now!

Friday, August 12, 2011

11th Cir. Strikes Down ACA Provision

So, it's the Reagan/Clinton nominee providing the sanity, while the compromise pick / conservative Clinton nominee joining in the stupidity. I'm sick of it. But, "sex toys can be banned" 11th's ruling is not really a big shock -- some circuit was due to decide this way.

Justice Kagan

Was I right to be upset with the nomination? Didn't expect her to be a loser or anything. Just thought someone better, particularly on executive power (still unclear), was possible. Still do. But, she's a prime "Obama type" and will have some good moments.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mets at .500 ... Again

Default title. Sloppy game last night. If they split this series, it's a waste. Care about the now. Now, you need to win 3 of 4. [Nope. Tejada suddenly can't field and Niese's great effort is ruined. Tedious]

The Secret In Their Eyes

This Academy Award winner for foreign film (the lead was also good in XXY) dealt with an "unresolved" rape/murder case. Very good with good audio commentary. Book probably had more procedural detail.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jane Austen Review

So, I have seen a television of film version of each novel, though only a few minutes of NA as well as a Bollywood version of P&P and one based on a book about a book club. I read a P&P graphic novel. I skimmed her Juvenilia, some letters and odds and ends (e.g., "Plan of a Novel"). And, her major adult works, finished and unfinished:

Short fiction
Unfinished fiction
Overall, the non-novel material was of limited interest though bits and pieces (including some goofy Juvenilia, a few comments in her letters and her summary of reactions to two of her books)  were noteworthy.  I also read two other books, a discussion of her times and some analysis of the novels. There are various biographies and lots of analysis and commentary on her works.  Likewise, I checked out a few websites / blogs associated with her works and two volumes by male relatives of a biographical nature.  Such things, like the works themselves, are accessible for free online.  I also listened, via online, audio to Lady Susan, each letter writer having a separate voice performer. 

Wikipedia also provides a summary, including useful links, on Jane Austen.  The source should be taken with some grain of salt, but it is a productive resource on the basics, particularly when links are provided to sources for those whom do not trust its content.  Oh, I also saw the movie Clueless, which is a take-off of Emma.  Somewhere, I noted the Bollywood version of P&P (just on, so I will repeat) and to add one more, Lost in Austen, where a present day woman switches places with Liz. There are lots of fanfics, online or off, based on Jane Austen's characters as well.  I found one not of interest, but there are so many, surely some are worthwhile. I wonder if there is one that meshes the various characters, a crossover deal, and/or one that is in effect a spoof of the works.

I enjoyed the novels and various video adaptations, Pride and Prejudice and Emma (the best books as well) coming off the best, at least as I recall S&S and Persuasion.  The last one seemed a bit unfinished to me; again, wonder if she would have been satisfied or if it was a type of rough draft.  The book had the most mature and passionate character, though the first two had stronger support staff.  NA also seemed a bit weak, like a not fully formed performance.  Fanny Price is a bit hard to like (her Edward even less so -- it is great he was nice to her but then he tried to push her on someone and then suddenly realizes at the very end she will do)  but the book as a whole has a lot going for it, particularly certain set pieces.  S&S was okay but the leads are a bit weak, the finish not very charming. 

Lady Susan was rather good, particularly given she wrote it first when she was about twenty and it is striking given it is in effect a "bad girl" novella in letters (as was the style in the late 18th Century). A few accounts suggest she figured it would not make a good novel, since that would require caring more about the characters, giving it more depth than it was intended to offer.  It was also suggested her family didn't care for it. This is believable.  I do think there was enough there for a novel, if she cared to write one with a Susan as the lead.  Instead, a similar sort of character, if not as bad, was the "dark side" in Mansfield Park.  The unfinished works are interesting too, the first because of the low middle class type position of the family, the other because it seemed to be a different sort of book.

Jane Austen knew how to write, having her own distinctive style, and had some real bite mixed in to what on the surface seems mostly silly girls going to parties. The various adaptions (except for a few minutes, I did not see two versions of any of them), take-offs, graphic novels and so forth underline how various media can be used here.  I know they have a "zombies" edition and all, but I would love to see or read a truly comical take-off of this material.  Her books often has humor, but good works are prime material for good satire or farce.  I would also like to see a video version of Lady Susan -- it seems quite possible. 

This post might be somewhat repetitive given previous ones, but since my failure to get into a fanfic seems to be the true end of a first run through (something, like a fuller length bio or another run at the bios by her nephews is conceivable), it is appropriate to have this bookend.  I will likely enjoy her more in some fashion, but overall, kudos Jane! 

Wisconsin Recall: Partial Victory

I agree with Josh Marshall here, particularly since the concrete success is more tangible than some other citations of resistance and such, but (sigh) it's such a slog.  The times are depressing. 

Monday, August 08, 2011

Mets at .500 ... Again

The pitching went downhill in the last 1/3 but then (helped by a newcomer) the team scored five runs in the last two innings.  A flawed snake-bit team again plays with heart and grit. 

Helena from the Wedding

A few familiar faces are in this well acted indie that isn't too deep but works on a smaller scale.  The short on the DVD is interesting; comes with a cast Q&A. The library, not Film Movement, was my source.

Jackson: The Iron-Willed Commander

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review.

This is part of a collection that provides short (around 200 pages) biographies of major U.S. generals. This volume has about twenty pages of notes and three or so pages (of some type) listing source material. I am not an expert in the field, but this sort of thing is reassuring. The book does not have an index, which is unfortunate.   It is of sturdy construction (nice hard cover binding) and I can see those interested starting a collection for their book shelves of each volume. There are also some helpful pictures. More would have been helpful. The text overall appears to be appropriate for the average reader. The "young adult" might appreciate it but readers of all ages also might as well. It is not meant to be a full fledged account, but is a satisfactory summary of the life of a major player of U.S. history.

As noted by one review, the book "brought to life" Andrew Jackson to the reader, including the military engagements he took part in. We get into the mind of the participants, so the book is not some dry account of history, but concerns living and breathing people. I don't really think it is a "superior" work of history but it is fine to get a sense of the individual and his times. I think three stars would be fair.

Drop Dead Diva

Good episode last night with some "Deb" flashbacks, a cute Stacey/Fred subplot and two nicely handled cases all part of a (a/an alert!) united theme. Might be done at the moment with my Jane Austen reading, not getting into a fan fic.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

North & South

There is the Civil War book/mini-series and there is the British version that takes place in the 1850s also having two versions. The library DVD section works out again. A touch of Liz/Darcy but much more drama and class conflict. Well acted and overall superior.

Mets Under .500 (Again)

The box score suggests the mess but it was pitching (Gee and Parnell) that cost them the game and (yeah him). Pagan choked after Bay again showed life in the 9th. A loser take is that it was rather gritty. Yeah, not enough for me. August 2010 with a bit more life.


As another tedious (however it ends; Reyes is hurt again, but that is but one issue) ball game plays, I will note that Skype is pretty neat even without video. Used it with a cheap microphone and had a clear (and free) conversation with someone from South Carolina.

Christine Nguyen

Christine Nguyen is another regular in the "adult" movies and shows that are familiar to late nite cable (or whatever) viewers. She is not as free and easy as an actress as some but has some presence other than in the obvious ways. See, e.g., her as "Bikini Jones."

Mets at .500 ... Again

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Mets Under .500 (Again)

This is a pretty good summary of last night's Mets game where everything but the starting pitching (okay, no bad baserunning) seems problematic. The Bay/Pagan one pitch wonders in the 8th was a low light for me. It's all about Daniel Murphy or Izzy though.

Responding to the Response to The Response

I referenced Gov. Perry's revival meeting ("The Response") briefly yesterday. Perry, who is being talked as a possible presidential candidate, is really upping his conservative religious cred. The event is not overly inclusive given the statement of faith involved: "including the infallibility of the Bible, the centrality of Jesus Christ, and the eternal damnation that awaits nonbelievers." Some also think Perry's involvement crosses the constitutional line:
The lawsuit challenged Perry's numerous acts of sponsorship of the “The Response” and endorsement of the American Family Association, including the governor’s use of the state seal of Texas on promotional materials and invitation letters, the governor’s proclamation, his video invitation and robo-calls urging people to attend.*
Paul Horwitz has a NYT op-ed on how to "respond," but it has some of the tiresome aspects that some "here's a reasonable approach on religion" tend to have. In a preview, he said: "absolutely forbidden actions aside, I think we diminish ourselves when we try to short-circuit the culture wars by invoking constitutional prohibitions." I don't know what is "absolutely" forbidden as compared to something like "clearly" forbidden or whatever. I do know the statement is thin gruel. "Culture wars" cannot be stopped that way. That's patently obvious. It is a means to address and deal with the problem, one among many. Besides, things like hateful beliefs are clearly protected, so culture wars will continue.

The op-ed also has this tiresome canard:
Moreover, by trying to banish religion from the public sphere, Mr. Perry’s critics end up cutting themselves out of the debate.
This is b.s. The critics of Gov. Perry come in all types and (even if it's possible, which it is not) few want to "banish religion" in this fashion. President Obama, e.g., uses religion in his public statements repeatedly. I have been upset at the nature of some of them, though overall they are respectfully inclusive, but never wanted to "banish" them. This is a canard that is repeatedly tossed out there when someone doesn't want the government to put its imprimatur on specific religious doctrine. This is quite different from people, in public, expressing religious faith. A few strident types aside, few wish that. Since religion, especially if defined broadly, is such a basic part of culture, I don't even think it's possible to banish it, even if we tried real hard.

I also don't see TPM and other sources only making this an "Establishment Clause" issue. In fact, often it takes a bit of interpretation to see that the clause is relevant. When we are concerned that some politician or government wishes to use selective religious doctrine (or "values") to diminish people or limit their freedom, we often do not think of it as a First Amendment issue. But, I think -- such as in the abortion context -- it often is one. There is some evidence of focusing too much on constitutional issues at times, but the failure of lawsuits against events like "The Response" underlines that not so much in this context.

The op-ed is correct enough that we should be able to talk about religion, including some problematic uses of it by public officials, without letting the First Amendment being the only test. If something stands up in court, it doesn't suddenly make it a good thing. Court action provide the upper limits; things below that can very well be far from ideal. The op-ed doesn't quite express the idea that well though. Also, this has some merit:
Politicians who invoke their faith to lure religious voters benefit from this paralysis. Consider Mitt Romney. When questioned by voters during the last presidential campaign about his Mormon faith, Mr. Romney commendably refused to disavow it. But he also refused to discuss it in any detail, claiming that would impose a religious test on his candidacy.
Damon Linker's book, The Religious Test touched upon this issue somewhat. It notes that some religious faiths, even if the Constitution allows their adherents to serve in government, have certain values that clash with democratic values. It is not wrong or in bad taste to talk about this. Also, a person's faith is unlikely to have no influence on their public life and ways of governing. How exactly is another matter -- there are quite a lot of different ways and stereotyping should be avoided when possible. And, specific areas of faith can be private. Still, it does not seem wrong to expect a candidate to discuss the point without violating Art. VI of the Constitution.

I'm not totally comfortable with the path taken where ceremonial deism that in practice favors certain religions over others is accepted in official governmental life. It is only likely result in this day and age, all the same, and respects a broad range of religious beliefs in the process. Many wish to go further (a few in the other direction, but how much weight do they have next to the base of a major political party?) and some call them on it. These people as a whole do not want to "banish" religion from public life and strawman feeds the other side. It isn't helpful. Try to find your "I'm so reasonable!" solution without that, please.


* The op-ed discussed here says this about the lawsuit:
The problem is not only that such legal maneuvers routinely fail; it’s also that they do a disservice to religious freedom and diminish meaningful public debate. There are better ways to express disagreement with religious statements made by elected officials than to use the courts to try to pre-empt them.
Use of state seals does not seem to be merely "religious statements made by elected officials." "[T]he author of 'The Agnostic Age: Law, Religion and the Constitution'" should know better. It is also not if even these people only use litigation to challenge this sort of thing. Canards and misstatements "diminish meaningful public debate" too.

Friday, August 05, 2011

A Couple of Books

Found the 1962 translation of Portrait of a Jew fairly interesting, if somewhat rambling (skimmed it). Various references to familiar topical matters like Sammy Davis Jr. Found this book on the Suez Crisis tedious: plodding and one-sided (Ike). Could not get into it.

Church and State, Together Again!

Good day for someone to go to my discussion of governmental religious displays. Now Rick Perry is as governor promoting major Christian events. And, another DL mix of church/state article. Remember, "Christ," not okay. Keeping Wiccans away, okay.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Torture Again

A Dahlia Lithwick article led to more discussion of torture over at the Slate fray and various tedious things arise such as long discussions about waterboarding including cheap shots (e.g., you must be motivated by Bush hatred -- how f-ing tedious; the "you hate Bush" b.s. again) and overgeneralizations ("torture doesn't work," full stop). Plus talking past each other (legal claims treated as moral claims etc.). Pretty standard.

Waterboarding is a symbol. It is something that has for a long time be held to be illegal and a torturous device. The point was to see if there was some line in the sand that the other side was willing to draw. The discussion at times includes people who say they are against "torture," but wish to define it in a certain way to make sure that nothing actually done is covered. Except the bad apples. And, even they will not be prosecuted. A person in the discussion actually claimed "no one" supports torture around here. How do you deal with such fatuous argument?

Torture is a basic wrong. There is a continual attempt to make it overly complicated. Reasonable people can disagree, and all that. If something basic like waterboarding, which clear precedent holds is wrong, is on the table, the line in the sand is hazy indeed. These same people will likely often cry if some other criminal gets off because such and such criminal statute requires some interpretation. Clear precedent will be enough. Some sort of microanalysis of the terms would not be required.

But, that is what is being attempted -- a settled consensus that torture is wrong, one centuries in the making, is being attacked. Maybe in extreme cases. Hazy on what that means, exactly, and I think that same government is an oversized incompetent mess. Trust them here though! Just this once. It won't have any aftershocks; we don't take certain things off the table even if it works in some fashion. It is not like slavery or child factory labor didn't have some benefit. It isn't that tough -- rather be waterboarded than go to prison. I rather you crush my toe than spend a year in prison too. So? And, the discussion did ultimately lead the person to suggest that even in respect to beating people, the rules are "arbitrary." So, torture is an arbitrary barrier.

Anyway, more on the Slate fray. And, elsewhere.

Paper Man

After seeing her in a recent film, I saw Emma Stone in Paper Man, a bit older one. It is a good if somewhat disjointed film about two injured souls (Jeff Daniels the other) who form a friendship of sorts.

Jane Austen Letters

I checked out The illustrated letters of Jane Austen / selected and introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallett. Nice format and skim-worthy, but not overly fascinating, particularly given the generally mundane subject matter. Also, key periods have little or no entries.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Baseball Update

Pirates on decline, Diamondbacks on the rise and the Mets repeatedly blow it late, helped by mistakes. The Mets' struggles versus the Nats and Marlins plus a sub-.500 home record contributes to the fact they are again at .500. Oh, Cards pitcher hits grand slam.

Healthy For Man and Beast

Sesame sticks (a local store sells little bags for under $2) are a good snack and can be used to feed birds too. For most of the time, two different pigeons raced each other. Also, there were little birds who favored carrying food away (though that involved pastry crumbs).

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Good Luck Charlie

I saw the upcoming episode (Charlie going to preschool etc.) on demand and it was a pretty amusing/cute one with the mom (the show, unlike many geared to teens, gives the parents a decent role) having a chance to shine. Love those lashes. Funny end bit.

ACA Helps Women

Historic new guidelines that will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost were announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Do "they" detest this too? When people talk about Obama gleefully cutting entitlements, do they mean this? Stuff like this has to be strenuously advertised, especially given the cynicism out there.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Republicans In Power = Bad Results Alert

They said they detested everything about the federal health law, which was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in a case filed by the state.
They want insurance companies to be able to refuse people with pre-existing conditions and marginal income people not to get help and needy clinics not to get funds. They are detestable.


Special summer special -- hour long trip to some hell hole -- has a nice nod to the end of the concert in The Sound of Music (who picked that up?) but overall wasn't that good (it was okay). I blame it on the appearance change of Jade; various lesser episodes since.

An Anatomy of Addiction

A very readable (with many pictures) look at Freud, Halstead (top American physician) and cocaine. Good summary of various topics.

2010 Elections

The latest debt deal is summarized here. Various commentators on the left blame Obama a lot as if the Republican win in 2010 didn't make something like this predictable especially with a Blue Dog balance in the Senate. I find the whole thing almost tragic myself.

Drop Dead Diva

Somewhat weak episode (another unknown old Jane love interest? plot seemed to go in fits/starts) though the Stacey stuff (down to the final BFF moment) was pretty fun. New Lifetime series seems okay.