About Me

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter

The time period (and for a few years, Kansas too) overlaps some with the other recent book written by a "Holly" (Hope). Found this while looking for The Farmer's Daughter. The author also writes fiction and non-fiction articles so it is not too surprising this is a good read regarding growing up with naval career father who goes into the gerbil business. Trials and tribulation of her preteen and teen years with a wry touch with some serious moments.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

José Fernández

Marlins players were still raw last night about the death of their young star pitcher in a boat accident, someone very honored and loved especially in the Latino community (he was a Cuban refugee, lover of life and him being an ace was but part of his charm). He's an example, an elite one, of how baseball is not just about skill and winning, though that helps. Like, unlike some, I wasn't ready to hand-wave a loss last night. Cards helped by being dominated (again) by the Reds. Still, yes, a game is different from a life.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Love and Friendship

Movie version of Lady Susan, the title rather generic and not really that apt (an early work has that name, spelled differently). Liked the book though interested in how it would be as not an epistolary novel. Had a moment few years back when I went thru Jane Austen except the Juvenilia. Not sure I would now. And, this sort of talky deliberate with some amusing dialogue film, might have handled once. Now, I found it real dull and shut it off.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Repudiating NAFTA

Years ago, I recall reading about the challenge to NAFTA, some arguing it is a "treaty," and thus wrongly negotiated. Seemed to me like a treaty (think commercial treaties of yore). A question, with various comments (including mine -- see especially the FAS links), involving a future President abrogating it is discussed here. Whatever the accepted rules, personally, generally think if two parties (Senate/President or Congress itself/President) requires entry, it takes both to exit, since revocation is in effect a new (opposite) agreement or treaty. Here there are rules and the President has delegated discretion. A lot more there.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Levy Family and Monticello, 1834-1923: Saving Thomas Jefferson's House

The author wrote a Brandeis biography and was in that video I talked about the other day. Found this book at the library, part of the story summarized here. It also talks about Monticello before and after. Interesting little footnote to history that touches upon bigger themes including antisemitism. Liked it more than one or more of the author's others.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Garden City: Dreams in a Kansas Town

Harper Lee helped investigate a famous couple of murderers involving a Kansas family and a biography referenced this book, the author's family having a cameo. It was published in the 1980s when the author in her early thirties, so one wonders about an update. We get a bit of that from this obit of her mother from a couple years ago. The book itself is a bit limited and plodding but interesting as a window into a life (second half are snapshots of others).

Update: Wrote this in media res; the autobiographical part was somewhat plodding and ends in her early 20s. But, the second part was interesting with various perspectives, including a Latino. One review complained she didn't have an Asian voice, but she does reference them and again did include a minority voice. True enough comes from a certain perspective.

Further Reading

After reading a recent Brandeis bio, saw an event with the author that involved Brandeis scholar Philippa Strum. Interesting. Follow-up with two of her books, part of a constitutional case studies series -- Mendez v. Westminister (Mexican-American students in 1940s; Trump connection obvious) and the more well known Whitney v. California (weak on "why concurrence"). Interesting materials, somewhat tedious (especially the first) accounts.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hillary Clinton Slogans (One Version)

If I had to guess the Hillary Slogans, they’d something like:

  •  Muscular Diplomacy as a first resort, Sane Limited Intervention as the last. (Not my favourite.) 
  • Sensible Economic Fairness (restrain the bad, support the good esp. at the bottom) 
  • Woman and Girl Issues Are Core * Social Justice Requires Listening and Respect.
  •  No One Will Work Harder For Everyone Something like that. 

(Just off the top of my head. If I did it again, I’d get a slightly different mix on domestic since there’s so much there.) (This is the positive message I’ve gleaned from her campaign.)

ETA: I would quibble with a lot of this or whether these are the right ones. She has a lot of policy thoughts. And detail is her style.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

I'm sad

I am with her for three reasons, in this order: Trump is a clusterfuck, my party's platform and Clinton has intelligence and experience (including dealing with Republicans). Her flaws are also exaggerated. It's sad #1 isn't enough for more people. Now we have this: "Nation's largest police union endorses Trump." Including talk of how he is a "proven leader." WTF? Why should I complain when people protest police if your leadership is for a racist asshole?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Happy Endings Are All Alike

Book by YA and mystery writer Sandra Scoppetone from the 1970s (re-issued later) about two teen girls in a relationship and what happens when one is raped. We get viewpoints from a range of characters, which I like, including unpleasant ones like the rapist. Good overall; the rape chapter is visceral. Also, sense of dread as we wait for the attack.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jane Wants A Boyfriend

But, she has Asperger syndrome. Her sister is settling with a boyfriend and dealing with her first big break in a Shakespearean play, but then her parents says they are moving out of the city and wants her to take Jane. Turns out the answer is a sketchy co-worker who turns out to be deeper than first meets the eye. The couple are well portrayed and some reviews treat Eliza Dushku as the sister a bit unfairly. Overall, it isn't great, but enjoyable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

NY Primary Day

There might be some local elections of some note but my district solely chose a female district leader, who very well might be important cogs in the party machinery. Still, have no idea who these people (two choices) are, the incumbent endorsed by my assemblyman. I received no information on her, including from local pols. So, filled in the oval for write-in and filled in a family member. Doing my duty, protest of sorts, received a sticker.

Update: Looking at a free paper, the incumbent won in a close race.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Football Begins (as Mets continue the WC Race)

The new rules seems to have significant effect in at least one way -- multiple missed extra points, including (along with a blocked chip shot field goal attempt) being the difference in the Jets game. Horrible loss in a season with a low margin of error. NYG had a shot for a repeat of blowing it but Dallas helped at the end. Pats beat Arizona with their back-up. Sigh. Various good games though the first had too many Cam Newton hits. More tonight.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

15 Years

I went to work in mid-town in a lower level work room and around nine o'clock (also was here for the 2000 election stuff) heard on the radio what was happening. Key moment for me was a radio reporter's anguish as she [somehow this detail annoyed someone, who for some reason thought I was being sexist for remembering each detail, including her sex] watched a tower collapse. Passed a key church daily and multiple funerals. So, any anti-American stuff "justified" by this is along with other stuff a personal affront. My Kennedy Shot moment.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Tim Tebow Signed By the Mets

Oh okay. Sandy "Mr. Politician" Alderson insists it is not a publicity stunt of some sort, but that would be the most logical thing. Amusing but not sure how much it all matters. More importantly, with them due to play each other, Cards & SF lost while Mets won, so there is almost (Cards played two less games, SF one) a three-way tie for Wild Card. Nice.

Update: As Thursday Night Football went on, Cards lost & Mets statistically has #2 Wild Card.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Birth of the Bill of Rights: 1776-1791

I re-read this book from the 1950s (have a used paperback copy, originally ninety-five cents). The subtitle is somewhat of a misnomer since it goes back before that. And, I agree with this review -- it is useful as an early narrative history [and is readable for the average person] that provides the whole picture (not "1787-1791"] but it goes in tedious detail at times while in others doesn't do enough to explain the intellectual background and so on.

Rizzoi & Isles

This show, especially "Rizzoli," was at times a bit forced, but overall it was good comfort food. It ended on a nice note, each character (including Maura's #2) having their moment.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet

This is a new intellectual biography (as one review calls it) of Louis Brandeis, a volume of moderate length (my type of book these days) biographies of Jewish figures throughout history (one upcoming: Jesus). Jeffrey Rosen -- whose book on privacy I read some years ago -- provides his evenhanded approach that makes his a good choice to be head of the National Constitution Center.  The subtitle aside, Rosen also saw him as a latter day Jeffersonian.

Overall, though it seemed to me to spent a bit too much time on his economic views (rather let's say ten pages been taken from that and added to the Supreme Court section), it was a good ... if somewhat straightforward (bit dry at times) read. The book does cover a lot of ground: his childhood/early career, economic views (and more broadly society -- he was wary of the New Deal at times too because he was against bigness in general), civic responsibility, time on the Court (focusing on speech/privacy along with his fact based), Zionism and a view from today (not too surprising each Jewish justice today voices support).

Rosen sees Brandeis as a very good model for today (e.g., something for both the left and libertarian right),* including his economic concerns that provides lessons for today.  He tried to find a middle path in his lawyer days, finding a way in the middle that would satisfy both sides. Brandeis was for a "living constitution" but (shades of recent writings of Jack Balkin?) he did so in a sort of originalist way in honoring the Framers' vision as he saw it (see, e.g., his concurrence in Whitney v. CA and dissent in Olmstead v. U.S. that appealed to historical values while applying them to current realities**).  And, Brandeis had a strong concern for the duties of citizens, free speech promoting that as well.

Brandeis' Zionism fits into his overall vision. He was earlier more assimilationist, concerned about "hyphenated" Americans. But, later saw Jews as supportive of basic progressive/American values (reason, concern for others, individual morality etc.) and needing their own homeland (he also supported this for others after WWI).  From my reading, it seems like Brandeis seeing the individual cannot solely be atomistic, a solitary individual, nor just part of the overall crowd as an American.  They would also have to be a member of a smaller group, a diversity of them a benefit of this country.  This would also fit into his overall free speech views.

One thing that impresses Rosen is Brandeis' use of language, including as a "prophet" for his causes -- thus his famous opinions on free speech, privacy, dangers of corporations, importance of experimenting (states as laboratories) etc. continues to impress. [Rosen argues that Brandeis changed his approach on privacy from his famous law article, which balanced free speech more than his later approach.]  Thus, Holmes is sometimes honored here, but in the long run, Brandeis is the true hero since we are provided with an inspirational reason based on American values, not some libertarian "marketplace of ideas" argument.  The value of this is seen if you compare the more thinly argued "right to privacy" cases (and then cases mostly reliant on precedent) with those (see, e.g., the dissents in Poe v. Ullman) that provide some more depth on how it fits into an overall ethos. Basically, the material it there, but we need more effort to form a complete account.

[this paragraph added]

The book recognizes his limitations, including on racial issues. He did support gender equality (including in his model laws for Palestine) though took time to sign on to the issue of women suffrage and supported protectionist legislation (given his druthers, he probably would have made it more evenhanded, but the doctrine at the time made this impossible).  His views on Zionism, e.g., was a bit too idealistic and not fully realistic of the facts on the ground (including Arab opposition). And, various other caveats are tossed out, such as why he concurred in Whitney.

Overall, it was interesting and intriguing summary that can be a model for studying the past lives and beliefs of historical figures. 


* Rosen also repeatedly compares things he said with modern day realities such as how such and such is like Google or brain imaging. And, this doesn't come off as forced as a whole.  His overall joy and enthusiasm comes out, which is also true when you hear him in interviews etc.

** The dissents in the wiretapping case as a whole take a sort of "spirit of the Constitution" approach that is appropriate. An earlier dissent, showing the application might not always appeal, also cites the principle: 
Such changes may result from change in the conditions in which, or in the purpose for which, a punishment is prescribed. The Constitution contains no reference to hard labor. The prohibition contained in the Fifth Amendment refers to infamous crimes -- a term obviously inviting interpretation in harmony with conditions and opinion prevailing from time to time. And today, commitment to Occoquan for a short term for nonsupport of minor children is certainly not an infamous punishment.
The language and basic reasons for it does not change under this view (though in practice we do in various instances alternate basic reasons -- see, e.g., McDonald v. Chicago discussing the changing concerns regarding the Second Amendment). What can change are "conditions and opinions prevailing."

So, there is "no reference" to let's say gays in the Constitution but the references to "equal protection" can apply differently as "conditions and opinions" develop.  As specifically the case in the Fourth Amendment context, this can be quite tied to facts, a major concern of Brandeis himself.

Frozen Ghost

Lon Chaney Jr. comes off as somewhat stiff to me and there is a lot of exposition here but overall fun movie with good atmosphere and supporting cast including the now familiar "twisted artist" character (seen him before in Sven films). Don't know the singer, but fun new song/music video. Angel Olsen is very good as well. Those mini-concerts are kewl.

Frozen Ghost

Lon Chaney Jr. comes off as somewhat stiff to me and there is a lot of exposition here but overall fun movie with good atmosphere and supporting cast including the now familiar "twisted artist" character (seen him before in Sven films). Don't know the singer, but fun new song/music video. Angel Olsen is very good as well. Those mini-concerts are kewl.