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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Where's All The Black People At? (apologies to Blazing Saddles!)

I used to consistently watch the Oscars but now watch much fewer movies in theaters, not a big fan of the host and the whole "they are all white" thing is a bit off. Won't watch them tonight though it isn't some sort of "boycott." Of the films, The Martian was disappointing, The Big Short good but didn't quite work with all that info as a movie and sorry was really bored with Inside Out. Opening to Bridge of Spies really bored me; decided to stick to the book. None of the other things stand out at first blush. Have yet to see Brooklyn though.

Update: The Big Short got a deserved writing award with Spotlight getting the picture slot in a film that sounds like it is better as a complete movie. Brie Larson got actress for a kidnap victim. Don't care about Leo's movie. This is ironic funny but sort of inside baseball (Stacey Dash is a FOX commentator, so a funny "black voice" to use and the type "they" would use.)

The Mummy

Fun film but Svengoolie had the original (and an actor from the '99 film) on last night. Great classical opening, Boris Karloff was great as usual, Zita Johann was fun with an Acquanetta-like vibe at times though the others (including the assumed "hero" -- she turns out to save herself with some goddess help) were rather pathetic sorts. Overall, it was a fun film but had some rather silly aspects. The scene when she tells about the death of her dog is kinda hilarious, especially his horrible acting. Sort of thing that adds to the fun.

The Faithful Executioner: LIfe and Death, Honour and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century

In this vividly drawn portrait of the life of an early modern executioner, Meister Franz Schmidt, Joel Harrington immerses us in the world of crime, violence and honour of 16th- and 17th-century Germany.
This can be a Rev. Joe (haven't done that for a while) segment as seen by the title. One theme of the book was that the long time (about a half-century, especially given his apprenticeship with his dad) executioner, torturer and corporal punishment guy for Nuremberg (most of his career) Germany in the 16th and 17th Centuries was his sense of morality.  Meister Franz Schmidt left a journal of his work (and a later letter trying to protect his family's name) and the historian here shows us how he saw his job as bringing justice, even to teenage thieves, even if this was by the wheel and confessions obtained by formalized torture.

We get a very good feel of the overall setting (including such things as the fear of arson) and can imagine the hellish jails and torture cells, questions sent in by air vent or from outside the cell. The author has to infer various things since there is little of Schmidt's voice especially regarding his personal life.  For instance, being an executioner was a nice living if you can get it, but socially poison for unsurprising reasons.  The author infers a few things here from the evidence; we would like to know a bit more.  The executioner comes from middling folk (his father was originally a woodsman) not that introspective about his work; still has things to say. Like other historical figures, it is amazing what we can determine from this distance while hoping for more. That's part of the charm -- imagining.

One part of history that I think is often not expressed or at least realized by some people is the differences of the past. We see this in movies, especially when (right you are John Oliver) the character are played by white people when they are not.  You lose the color, so to speak, there especially the different world.  The book reminds us that 1600 Holy Roman Empire (even if Voltaire told us it was none of them) was that though basic similarities can be felt as well. The people here might come from a more nasty world (e.g., torture exists in civilized countries today, but formalized torture of the nature here is still of a different animal)  but we can still recognize them. The legal reforms of the early 16th Century is an example, this is the "early modern" world, with the Protestant Revolution just occurring etc.

The book is helped by many photos and a basic down to earth tone. It is also that mid-200s or less length that appeals to me these days. At times, it did feel a bit dry; this just might be my grumpiness the last few years -- too much online reading, perhaps.  Overall, recommended.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Melissa Harris-Perry Leaves Show

 deemed less worthy to weigh in than relative novices and certified liars

Melissa Harris-Perry is a tad pissed people. MSNBC also just hired someone fired by Ted Cruz. Not good visuals. The concern is that they want more political coverage but there is room for a voice like MHP, especially given all the alternative views she puts out there. There is just so much political news even if Rachel Maddow wants us to know it's super fascinating.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Enumerated, Delegated and Other Powers

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
A professor at Concurring Opinions, who has self-referenced himself as Republican leaning but is fairly reasonable if sometimes saying things I think pretty wrong,* argued that: "prior to the Constitutional Convention there was almost no discussion of using enumeration as a tool to limit federal authority.  Moreover, there was almost no discussion of this during the Convention itself."  A couple comments pointed the 10th Amendment, which many thought (explaining why some didn't think much of it) only declared a basic existing principle.  Reaffirming it in writing mattered.

An article by Prof. Balkin on the Commerce Clause was helpful here, since I was thinking of an important resolution that was passed in the midst of writing the Constitution setting forth a principle that the federal government should have those powers that the states were unable efficiently enough to carry out.  The enumeration of powers in Art. 1, sec. 8, which is not the only place we find legislative powers (more so with amendments) was a textual expression of the principle. I think using that specifically over merely putting in the resolution matters.

The final text came at the end of the process, of course, so specifically enumerating powers very well might not have been focused on then. The Articles of Confederation, e.g., does not have such a clear list though it does delegate certain things to the Congress specifically.  But, as suggested in the blog post, the logic of using enumeration as a limiting principle was pretty obvious and was used right away during the ratification wars. Anyway, as the article says, the meaning of text and structural principles behind it  "may only become apparent over time."  So, as a student of history (I do have a B.A. in it), what they talked about matters, but only so much.  We the People have to decide these things using current knowledge.

Look at the Tenth Amendment. It doesn't say "enumerated" powers or those "expressly delegated" or something. The Ninth Amendment, which was half of a limiting principle brought up at that time in various ways, in fact says enumeration alone can blind here.  How are "powers delegated" (yes, text matters, though its meaning is not always obvious, even if one view seems reasonable)?  Many assumed (or at least now assume) certain subjects are basically inherent to national sovereignty, though what ones and how (or even the very idea) was a matter of great debate. The Necessary and Proper Clause also is an open-ended power, which also is used to carry out powers in other articles. The Guarantee Clause is also potentially open-ended.  Just appealing to enumerated powers was a concern then too -- slavery, e.g., could be greatly limited by using the Commerce Clause as literally phrased.  James Wilson:
Whatever object of government is confined, in its operation and effects, within the bounds of a particular state, should be considered as belonging to the government of that state; whatever object of government extends, in its operation or effects, beyond the bounds of a particular state, should be considered as belonging to the government of the United States.
I'm using this not to suggest such an appeal to authority trumps, but it is informative of the thinking at the time, plus since high school appreciated well phrased arguments (used op-eds as launching pads of thinking about issues, which is still used in effect these days on blogs).  What this means is unclear but note it isn't the same as looking at the enumerated powers alone. Thus, marriage is generally seen (to reference basic federalist arguments) as a state matter, though you can formulate a range of ways to use enumerated powers to greatly nationalize marriage. So, marriage as (generally; e.g., you can't wrongly discriminate) a state matter is argued to be a "10A" issue. It isn't just a matter of "enumerated" power.  Prof. Balkin covers that too in his own fashion in the article, particularly when discussing U.S. v. Lopez.

So, the text matters ("delegated" ... not "enumerated"), but what it might mean is unclear and complicated, plus "may only become apparent over time."  And, there are various reasonable ways to look at it, though there is a tendency to skip from that to making assumed understandings as the only reasonable and logical approach. Plus, let me add that I'm not fully accepting of Prof. Balkin (his whole "originalism" shtick, and at some point it seems that way, included), but think that is a good article overall.

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* At Balkinization, e.g.,  sarcastically didn't "feel the Bern" because he said that for sure he would appoint justices firmly against Citizens United as if this was somehow a violation of judicial ethics (saying before being a judge that you'd do something), putting aside the concept of campaign puffery.

I also have challenged his idea that "bill of rights" as a description of the first ten amendments was not understood until basically after the Civil War.  First, I found various definitions of the term that match what is found there (e.g., freedom of the press or jury rights are basic examples).  Second, Jefferson himself in at least one letter I found referenced it as such. That is around 1791.  I think other cases can be found, especially with some skilled digging with better databases.

Third, I couldn't find anyone who pushed for a "bill of rights" say "that isn't one!"  Some thought it was too weak, which isn't the same thing.  GM's rule that it had to have some general principle skips over 2-3 (if you count the preamble of the 2A; if not, the last two) doesn't work.  It didn't have to be at the top of the Constitution either, which sounds like a silly rule anyways.  Finally, there are citations like Joseph Story discussing the 2A as "this clause of our national bill of rights."

Was the term underused and the Bill of Rights (especially capitalized with such a central sense of place as it is now) as a whole not a major concern until later? Yes, and that is an interesting story.  But, it's a somewhat different one.  I think the debate here is telling in how part of history is used to conclude something not quite as strong as some make it out to be.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I am Princess X


YA book or not, the premise mixed with use of an actual comic to help tell the story caught my interest and overall it was an enjoyable read. Mostly in the voice of sixteen year old May, who finds evidence her friend did not die, it also gives us two other voices (including the neighbor teen that helps her). At some point, you wonder about the two risking it, but it is a book. And, overall it has a nice sense of place and a good heroine at its center.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Stun Guns and other Petitions

And Also: A bit of nuance on what influences judges -- it is not all partisan or all robotic judge machine; it's somewhere in between.  TPM has had some good things on the early Republican hardball tactics on replacing Scalia. There are reasons, but it still is so absurd to me -- you have the votes to simply reject the nomination the normal way.  If slow walking it so basically Obama had one shot.  2/3 of them at least will oppose anyone like done for Sotomayor/Kagan even when merely a trade of likes occurred.  If necessary, a few more can use the "took a look at them, but don't want to change the balance of the Court now with this nominee ... let's wait until after the election."  Can't do that though. smh.

Part of inside baseball is the "petitions we're watching" page at Scotusblog (possible future home of one Barack Obama), which includes a "Petitions Relisted for the Next Conference" list as well. There are more cases to clarify the application of Miller v. Alabama (life sentences for teens), a case about a NJ law barring licensed mental health counselors to do certain things regarding gay conversion therapy (professional speech a potential avenue of confusion / development*), a FFCC case involving same sex adoption that is getting some attention and one about a homeless (or living at a hotel) woman having no 2A right to stun guns.

The stun guns case is interesting though having nuances -- it doesn't involve the home, for instance -- that suggest it is not a great avenue to finally have them take another 2A case. Plus, this seems like something that warrants a full bench.  Still, looking over the opinion below and state brief, the whole thing does look somewhat confused.  First, there is some requirement that the weapon is akin to those around when the amendment was ratified (being a state claim, guess 1868?), and well, except on Wild Wild West, the fictional post-Civil War spy show, yes stun guns are more a modern invention.  But, that can't be right -- it has to be the function of the thing, not no direct analogue given technology.

Then, there is the discussion of "dangerous and unusual," which is an exception cited by Heller.  Now, to be fair, and this is cited somewhere, the opinion didn't do that much to clarify the rules here. Me personally, I think they should have remanded the case to allow factual hearings to apply the new rules they set up.  Instead, after fifty or so pages, we get a few words on how the rules make the provisions unconstitutional. Regardless, "dangerous" cannot simply be -- to quote the state court -- "instrumentality designed and constructed to produce death or great bodily harm," since I gather that is what guns generally are created to do.  And, the fact many more people use regular guns, but still owned by 200,000 civilians, doesn't to me sound that unusual.

It's quite possible that stun guns can be banned without violating the 2A. They can be particularly dangerous, alternatives for self-defense available including for those more likely to use them (physically weaker women etc.) and maybe regular guns and knives have constitutionally received some sort of recognition by long use. The case is in no way a slam dunk -- my state bans them, but this argument that some might rather use them over alternatives (and deserve the right to do so) makes sense. For instance, the state brief tried to differentiate an opinion that protected dirk knives. Knives logically would be "arms," but if those things are allowed, not sure about stun guns being banned. A knife like that can be more dangerous.

Of course, there are three to four votes on the Supreme Court not friendly with a RKBA anyway, and at best will be very unwilling to override regulations.  Kagan to me is a bit of a wild card there though the Cruz voter will assume see is a lost cause, even if she was Scalia's hunting buddy.  Still, some clarity here is important. And, how about the whole bit about the home?  Even if Heller gave special notice to it, personal self-defense in general was the right honored.  This includes outside the home, be it a hotel room or not -- people walking in the street have a right to self-defense. Again, stun guns might be particularly dangerous given possibility of mistake etc. over let's say pepper spray or the like, but it would be passing strange to allow gun with bullets to let's say a diamond merchant or crime victim in a public place, but not something less likely to hurt more than one person (or at worse the user).  This goes to the state interest involved.

McDonald v. Chicago was decided about six years ago. The 2A is going to come up again eventually. Maybe not for this interesting case though. Odds are probably against it; but, it does show the things up in the air.

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* One claim is that a recent opinion about sign regulations required to be neutral suggests limiting what licensed therapists can say about the subject is a problem. But, if strict scrutiny is going to be placed to uphold professional licensing involving speech, such as therapy, that can open a big can of worms. There are possible problematic cases here -- e.g., biased scripts for abortion providers on what amounts to ideology -- but a medical judgment that something is harmful should not have to be proved in courts by strict scrutiny.

The argument that there is some special right for religious believers to have licensed professionals work under different rules here also seems rather problematic.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Thanks to the Press For Sharing With Us

Chief Justice Roberts in a bench statement honored Scalia before the first oral argument held after his death, a statement provided here. The link is a Word document of this statement released to the press, for "their convenience only" and "not for publication." It is not found on the website. That is somewhat absurd but not the first time the press received special treatment. Bench statements should generally be public, especially something like this.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Girls in the Van: Covering Hillary

The reporter who wrote this account of covering Hillary Clinton in the 2000 Senate race is still around, focusing on travel news. It's overall well written and insightful and her sense of humor/delivery comes out in this video promoting the book. It seems familiar including being scripted/arguably feeling too entitled and people being impressed at her intelligence, experience and effort/ability to connect with the voters/her future constituents.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Scalia Replacement

There is some talk that a black appointment would help black turnout that (this is curious to me both for Democrats and a Clinton particularly, but more than one person said it) apparently needs a push. Maybe, though Loretta Lynch would be more trouble than it's worth, plus gives Republicans cover to oppose her. Black judge better option. A recess appointment is basically a no go, especially with the basically made up ten day limit set forth by SCOTUS.

Update: The general assumption is that no one will be appointed until next year, which is sad on a civics level, but net helps liberals as compared to him being there since his fifth vote rarely helps them. A rejected/no action pick might help Dems though.

Better Call Saul


There is a good scam scene and Kim has a major role, but the first episode is mainly a wait and see episode. This includes waiting to see how a dweeb will get his for being stupid enough to fire Mike. A bit disappointing, but still nice to have it back and the full hour discussion with the cast and crew (minus "Mike") afterwards was a nice touch. Call.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic"


Never read Maus (graphic novel representation of Holocaust experience of author's family), but this "behind the scenes" volume is good with interviews with the author, transcript of his interviews with his father (tiny font), photos etc. My library copy does not have the companion DVD. A bit too inside baseball at times, especially on technique.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Judge Jane Kelly

Another person has been put on the top of many short lists, but this is an intriguing option. Public defender. Supported by Judiciary Chairman Grassley the last time. Unanimous vote. Midwestern. Crime victim. Went to law school with Obama. Woman. Other issues?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

“One Child: The Past and Future of China’s Most Radical Experiment"


Interesting account of China's one child policy. Smooth reading.

Scalia? Wow

Update: I started this post after first hearing about his death last night and continued it in the morning after some coverage. One annoying bit there is him being referenced as "pro-defendant' because of certain rulings. True enough and this showed he wasn't just a hack (he was enough times to well earn much of his critics' scorn), but it's silly to use such a label without a big "but" given as a whole he was far from pro-defendant in a range of cases.  This is a pretty good look at his overall record, including how he Trump-like helped divide the country including with intemperate language.  Also, Irin Carmon discussed the famous RBG friendship.

Coming in from the f-ing cold (it's, without wind chill, in the single digits), I came home to news that Justice Scalia has died. Don't recall that last time news was as surprising -- Bin Laden being killed? Maybe.  That was sort of expected at some point.  Scalia dying during the Obama Administration? No. That is truly surprising.  Shocking actually. When was the last time a justice left simply by surprise?  Fortas?  That was a slow burn.  This suddenly? Guess Vinson.  And, bring in Warren suggests the importance this might bring.  A lot of gears churning.

I respect Scalia, though think him wrong on various things, including because he gave as good as he got. He cheapened his position at times being a clown, and using skewered reasoning no less wrong for being cocksure and bombastic, but he was one of the greats as a general matter. RIP and sorry for his family and friends including RBG who not too long ago had to deal with the death of her husband.  A person I read regularly who clerked while he was on the bench has a personal remembrance.
"Tea Party conservatives such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, appeared impressed as well. Cruz, who clerked with Srinivasan at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, quipped, "I am hopeful that our friendship will not be seen as a strike against you by some."
The first thought (other than "oh shit!) of leading Republicans is that there should be an eight person bench until at least mid-2016 term (that would be Spring 2017).  In Obama's statement honoring his passing, he in passing noted that eventually a nomination -- cited as his duty (ditto the Senate confirming as appropriate) -- will be forthcoming.  It is only February, which makes this quite tricky.  Now Judge Srinivasan was then seen as the leading possibility for the next Supreme Court slot, if one arose during Obama's presidency.  Be more tricky to find something controversial about him than Sotomayor and Kagan, but hey, I have faith in the Republicans.  Leaning toward a confirmation this year, but it's not firm by any means. Interesting times.*

A few questions posed -- there are lots out there as the blogs and others think through the news.  Few quick thoughts.  Hey, I don't want to spit on his grave and honestly respect him on some levels, but understand why some might want to do so. Second, some cite him as somehow pro-defendant because of his sentencing opinions and some others. Okay.  Depends on what sort of defendant.  Next, be some sort of holding action on various issues with the Court split 4-4 (e.g., the Fisher affirmative action ruling really seems a bad one to decide now with a seven person Court).

And, again, wow. Sometimes, one is truly surprised.

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 * There is some argument out there that the judge referenced is too young (will be 49), but other than the former clerks connection with Cruz (oh so rich), the guy was confirmed 97-0. The reason was that he was seen as just plain clearly qualified and would be a prime choice on that ground. By coincidence, Judge Merrick Garland -- also on short lists in the past and in his mid-60s -- swore him in.  His age would make him and perhaps his record (he's cited as a moderate, but who knows how Republicans of today view that, especially since he would replace Scalia) though he still easily can serve fifteen to twenty years.

I think Judge Srinivasan would be a logical choice, particularly because he was already vetted but two years ago and apparently (97-0!) found satisfactory.  Of course, this is the Supreme Court, but why not? We shall see. Some will try "got to replace him with someone ideologically similar" line -- you know, like Thurgood Marshall/Clarence Thomas. Does Cruz's friend count? Here are some others.  Good list.  Top choice still favored.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Clean Power Rule / "Nationals"

A discussion on why there is no reasonable argument that the Clean Power Plan the Supreme Court just stayed is unconstitutional. John Oliver in one of his shows referenced how those in American Samoa are "nationals," not U.S. citizens; here is coverage of a lawsuit against that. The lower court opinion is interesting, including the reference that apparently locals as a whole support that approach. Huh. Not sure though if beng a "national" will [or how] lead to a looser equal protection rule (see opinion) or why they should be different than Guam here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

NH Primary & Related SCOTUS Action

Just what the NH primary results mean is far from clear including because Huntsman coming in second didn't mean much four years ago. But, seems Christie is out and talk of Rubio on life support (seems a bit soon). Sanders winning was also expected and he barely lost Iowa. But, Clinton still much favored and Sanders is not an establishment (sic) alternative akin to Obama was. Significant stay (5-4) of carbon pollution controls suggests what is at stake.

And Also: (1) Why couldn't either faction of justices explain pro/con this atypical move? (2) Trump in his speech suggested actual unemployment numbers could be up to 42%. On Twitter, someone noted with underemployment etc. it can feel like that. Truthiness in action?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Carolina Has Their Second Bad Game of Year at Bad Time

Manning looked lively early though the first drive's three points reflected the offense overall. But, the defense, a questionable call (but Panthers didn't have to turn it over afterwards) and Panther penalties led to the one sided result. Missed FG too. It took a mid4Q turnover to clinch it though -- Panthers were one TD drive away until then. Commercials weak.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

idNYC

The ID NYC program was designed to provide government-issued photo IDs to people who desperately need government identification but have had difficulty getting it -- undocumented immigrants, primarily, but also homeless folks, formerly incarcerated people, teenagers and older adults. But as a result of the sweeteners offered with the card -- free membership to museums, zoos and botanical gardens, and discounted memberships to city recreation centers and YMCAs -- it has also emerged as a hipster cultural credential.
I'm a resident of NYC, but don't often take advantage of many of its resources, though basic things like stores, transportation (especially ready train/bus service), population diversity and multiple libraries in walking distance underlines the value of living here.  Have gone to various of the main places at least once (e.g, regularly pass the Bronx Zoo, have gone there but not for a long time), so not a total culturally illiterate or anything.

There are a lot more things I can do though and often for low prices. My new NYC ID will provide me more chances to do them, since one perk are annual memberships to a range of places.  To take a for instance, I can now go to limited rehearsals at the NY ballet (how does one dress to go to such a thing?), go to various museums for free (one can now, but various ones have an entry fee) and get various discounts to other things.  Not that I do it these days, but the card can be used as library card at each borough (three of them are hooked up to the NYPL, but Queens and Brooklyn are separate and my cards to the latter are surely out of date now).  Might actually go to some of these places more if it only is a matter of carfare.

The basic value of the card is free identification, including for those who otherwise would not be able to obtain it. For instance, there are special rules for the homeless, including those a victim of domestic violence. I have a driver's license, but it surely wasn't free, and it takes more things from what I recall to obtain.  And, all it took was a trip to the main Bronx library though there were various other places I could have went.  The card also has an "in case of emergency" feature.  It is not:
The IDNYC card does not authorize cardholders to drive or provide proof of identity to obtain a driver's license. The card also does not authorize cardholders to purchase alcohol or tobacco products, receive public assistance benefits, or travel on an airplane. The IDNYC does not confer immigration status or provide work authorization.
I take it that such things are state requirements and this is geared to city residents; it therefore can be used by non-citizens though you have to prove identity and residency.  Then again "public assistance benefits" seems fairly general. Anyway, it's very useful, especially since it can be used if the police asks for id or to entry city buildings or to open a bank account.  OTOH, to show how voting id laws are different, the things not covered underline how people with id that can be used for everyday things might not be enough.  Nonetheless, it is a useful device.  

Friday, February 05, 2016

"Love's Complicated" (Hey, It's Piper!)


Cute Hallmark film. Conflict management group stuff a nice touch.

"Trapped" and Religion

The religious right has succeeded in stigmatizing abortion by claiming the moral upper hand, making many, even in the pro-choice community, concede that abortion is inherently wrong, albeit often necessary. But Trapped rejects this moral divide. In one powerful scene, Callie Chatman, a recovery room attendant in Montgomery, consoles an emotional abortion patient. “The same God that got you through all, everything that you’ve been through? …. He’s still there,” Chatman tells her. She prays over the patient, her hand on the young woman’s forehead. “Amen,” they both say at the end. In Chatman’s faith, in Dr. Parker’s faith, we find a compassionate, pro-choice God.
The documentary title concerns targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP), but this portion highlighted in the article has long been a continual concern of mine. I say more in the comments there, but in basic part the differences involving morality and religion here is a major reason why there is a constitutional liberty. Laws in effect unconstitutionally favor one view here though some do not see it as exactly a "religious" divide (like atheists can be against abortion, putting aside the narrow view of "religion" this implies).  Plus, it isn't just a government thing -- these issues in large part are influenced by what people at large think and believe.

To suggest the length of time I thought about this issue, the "value voters" deal in the 2004 (a decade plus ago? sheesh) still rankles. Al Franken at the time noted liberals have "values" too though that was a code at the time for "conservative."  Code words abound here -- "family values" or "tradition" etc.  In each case, it is a spin deal, the truth more complex and diverse.  Note also here, which is overall a good discussion on a ruling regarding a problematic gun friendly law that abridges speech of doctors. Future possible cases are suggested, particularly hate speech. But, a major area of content based regulation of doctors is abortion.  This is not novel -- back when that blog was freestanding and I still commented, its not covering that issue rankled. It is a reminded it leans more conservative than simply libertarian.

Anyway, I have a book in the hopper on this issue, so might get back to this thing eventually.*  But, overall, as with gun owners who support regulations (most of them), sane Republican voters (some exist; hey, I know a few), etc., it's best to not totally concede these things to the other side. Surely in the case with religion and morality, there is a lot liberal people to promote.

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* Okay, added that link, which includes a reference to the book by a liberal Christian long involved in the move of the clergy to support reproductive rights.  A somewhat ironic theme is that such clergy at times were more radical than Planned Parenthood itself, which was more establishment minded.  It starts with a discussion of "sacred" and how religion is basically about supporting something beyond the "profane" or secular world, particularly concerned with justice.  See also, the book Sacred Choices, which uses a similar definition and discusses how different religions think about abortion.  Recommended. 

Then, it discusses how Margaret Sanger was involved in the birth control movement and worked with clergy, particularly Protestants and Jews. A few cases where the clergy helped change policies about birth control, including doctors at Catholic hospitals and providing it at public clinics followed.  Useful reminder current controversies are not new.  And, the last few chapters are about abortion, including the clergy involved in the 1960s to help women find providers when it was still illegal. 

The book is not about defending the pro-choice religious approach by citing doctrine or biblical verses as such as much about a history of their involvement in the movement.  It is useful in that respect, including its discussion of the changing views of Catholics regarding non-Catholics, the earlier negativity shown to be largely defensive in nature.  I think at times the book came off as something of an overcorrection itself in regard to the importance and strength of religion in promoting pro-choice values.

But, in this society, it is an important and at times ignored part of the equation. And, it will continue to be an important resource to response to threats and criticism.  This is readily apparent in the same sex marriage area.  Worthwhile addition to the story here.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Brain on Fire


The video and this article (also takes you to the official site) summarizes the scary details of this well written book. A young journalist mysteriously in effect loses her mind and later fills in the gaps using her skills once the mystery is solved and she recovers. Made into a film.

Update: Book seemed to be tapering off late ... thought we were going to have more of her investigating her own illness.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

"Mutiny on the Amistad" (Book)


The subject book overall was a good small volume (about two hundred pages) read that was put out again in honor of the movie, which not surprisingly isn't quite history. The one thing about the case the book seems to miss is that there is a possibility (if not honored by the opinion) of a mixture of person and property in a slave and we need not and should not focus one or the other. The law in various respects did understand that.

Stephen Colbert Taping

Live performances have a certain special flavor, including feeling the energy of the room while also often being intentionally dramatic as compared to real life.  This helps explain how people continue to desire to go to them even with so many at home video alternatives as well as the price of many of these things. I saw this myself while watching a two person play recently (a Xmas gift, but even off-Broadway with fees was around $50 ... though you can find cheaper ones of that sort with care) and the subject of this post, which was free of charge.

An example of the latter is the somewhat amazing freeze frame look which we saw at the open of the live performance of Grease, one version being one or more characters in effect "freeze" in the background while action occurs elsewhere. On television, we would usually see only the people performing now, but of course there is a live audience that sees the whole stage. And, for whatever reason, the other cast members do not simply leave the stage. The other thing that impresses me is how people on stage in effect "look out there" as compared to a particular person. When I watch people on stage and are fairly close to them, fear staring at them or making uncomfortable eye contact. 

Last month or so, I checked again and there were tickets available for yesterday's show.  Wouldn't know upfront who the guests were and there was a small chance it would clash with my schedule, but well it's free. It worked out schedule-wise though the perhaps not hard "pick up by 3:15" ticket time turned out to be pretty close (got there around 3 -- my ticket was "281," and you are on line numerically).  The taping starts around 5:30 with a warm-up comedian and performance of the band earlier. So, it might clash with the normal work week.  Got my hand stamped and came back at 4:15, checking out the Rockefeller subway station underpass area -- bunch of stores there and an underground path connecting various buildings. Jimmy Fallon's taping is around here too.

The higher number meant a longer wait time, a delay occurring right about when my set of people was going in. We were given some brief instructions including not to scream things like "we love you Stephen!" and a guard with a big drug sniffing type dog was hanging around for some reason. Went in, had a bit of annoyance about the metal detector (why have me go in with a jacket with metal? belt also went off -- didn't take it off, this not being the federal courthouse or something).  The ticket translated into a balcony seat, which gives you a good view of things while being above the other seats, so it felt a bit strange. Where's the rest of it? Good view of everything though.

The warm-up guy -- had an image of Fozzy on the new Muppets television show -- was pretty good, a former lawyer (you know, like the guy behind Pearls Before Swine).  My worry in cases like this is the chance I will be singled out in the banter with the audience part and someone right next to me actually was.  But, that was avoided, other much more amusing sorts chosen, including two older sisters, one of which noted she was with her friend, who also was the ex-wife of her ex-husband.  One thing he focused on was making sure the crowd was energetic, since there is no laugh track, and it's important to have that added to the show.  And, the only sense of the audience -- other than a quick shot in the closing credits (was I visible? well didn't catch me in the flash of an eye shot we got) -- on the actual broadcast of this episode was just that sound.  The band came out and each member (including the sole woman) had a good solo moment.

And, then the big man himself came out for a personal audience introduction and to take some Q&A -- audience seemed a bit shy, but asked a few questions, including about his pets (turns out the family has a three legged rabbit, a result of an unfortunate incident).  The actual show started and we got a view of things behind the scenes, so to speak, including what happened during commercials (chatting with stage manger, touching up makeup etc.) .  The comedy bits were amusing.  The great guests (David Schwimmer, Joel Osteen, M. Ward [musical guest], but decent stuff there too.  The eclectic looking band members and as one person near me said "atmosphere" provided for the music numbers (one for the Internet and a bonus one for the audience) was more lively than the singer.  And, look! That old guy helping with the set-up is Pat Farmer from David Letterman!

It was fun and the price was right!  After the musical performance, Stephen (we are on first name basis now) taped a segment from which the actual toss to the next late nite host was made. He also re-taped saying a couple of words.  Watching the beginning of the show on television -- didn't see the whole thing -- a few things seemed a bit different, like they did some mild editing.  Not all of the graphics (like the shot of all the candidates, now with at least a couple more suspensions, out of date) was visible during taping. We also didn't see the animated opening.  Just a taste of all those behind the team guys and gals do. These blog posts are a decent comparison.  Imagine what a bit of flash and editing will look like.

Monday, February 01, 2016

New York v. Uplinger

"in a public place for the purpose of engaging, or soliciting another person to engage, in deviate sexual intercourse or other sexual behavior of a deviate nature."
Interesting obscure privacy case. The Supreme Court was able to avoid deciding the constitutional rights at issue involving such sexual behavior (here speech related) for a couple more years by punting in New York v. Uplinger (1984).  Four justices wanted to decide the merits, noting as much in a brief dissenting statement written by Justice White.  His authorship of Bowers v. Hardwick might seem to many suspicious here, but have seen various references that Justice White had a consistent concern about settling circuit disputes. And, just what the right to privacy cases meant as to sexual behavior was an open question, as noted by the Supreme Court itself in Carey and splitting circuits at the time.

Justice White here argued: "As I see it, the New York statute was invalidated on federal constitutional grounds, and the merits of that decision are properly before us and should be addressed. Dismissing this case as improvidently granted is not the proper course."  The per curiam, however, said the ruling below was opaque, in key part based on an earlier case SCOTUS didn't deem cert-worthy and accepted by the parties here, and arguably decided on independent state grounds. A footnote also cites a further bit of confusion where the state attorney general and local county district attorney that actually argued the case clashed on the correct understanding of the law. 

And, really, that seems appropriate. The lower court held the statute only dealt with "to punish conduct anticipatory to" conduct protected in an earlier opinion.  The opinion makes sure to say "we have neither discussed nor decided any overbreadth questions by implication or otherwise," but this was a confused issue during the Supreme Court oral arguments.  So, ultimately this seemed like a back-ended way to deal with a case the Supreme Court didn't want to hear before. The earlier case anticipated Lawrence v. Texas by more than thirty years and was based on the law being "proscribed by the Constitution of the United States" though push comes to shove (as it did in other cases) the Court of Appeals might have determined the New York Constitution also protected the conduct.*

The state court in the earlier case did a very good job ruling on the question, including finding a way around a summary affirmance that some argued blocked protecting this sort of behavior, but the question still was controversial. States should avoid complications here when necessary by clearly holding, unless it isn't the case, that their own constitutions would provide "independent state grounds" for the ruling. This would avoid various unnecessary federal court disputes. Meanwhile, one judge provided the potential to apply a right to privacy to personal marijuana use.

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* The intermediate ruling on the case covered all bases there by citing an earlier case that gave broader "liberty" protections under the state constitution as well as providing a useful summary:
[I]t is seen that the concept of personal freedom includes a broad and unclassified group of values and activities related generally to individual repose, sanctuary and autonomy and the individual's right to develop his personal existence in the manner he or she sees fit. Personal sexual conduct is a fundamental right, protected by the right to privacy because of the transcendental importance of sex to the human condition, the intimacy of the conduct, and its relationship to a person's right to control his or her own body [law article cited]. The right is broad enough to include sexual acts between nonmarried persons [cases] and intimate consensual homosexual conduct [Tribe treatise citation].
See also, this article three decades later (abortion). 

Heavenly Creatures


Saw the movie years back -- many probably still don't know "Anne Perry" as a teen helped murder a friend's mother -- and just read the book now titled Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century (old title didn't highlight Anne Perry as much) by a former barrister who worked with someone involved in the trial. Film good (Kate Winslet, so of course); book pretty good. Too much detail regarding lead-up to crime, too much detail of their teenage girl silliness.