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

Friday, May 30, 2003

Family Leave: A good article on how federal tax cuts further the problems of state finanical woes can be found here, one on John Edwards (with some commentary in reply) over here and a discussion on the Nevada v Hibbs case.

This last one surprised some, perhaps a bit too much by upholding the right of workers to sue their state employers for violating federal family medical leave rules. The real surprise in my eyes is that Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the 6-3 opinion, one that broadly upheld the right of Congress to pass laws that enforce equal protection for women in tones that one would expect from one of the Court's liberals. He also did so by holding it is reasonable to assume that states are guilty of discrimination, since congressional power to "enforce" the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause has been held by past cases to not include requiring benefits for their own stake, even if it would promote equality in general. Thus, its recent "federalism" and "state immunity" cases are not to be read too broadly.

Baseball Update: Nothing like the Red Sox to make the Yanks get back on track ... taking two out of three, they are back to within 1/2 game. Clemens didn't get 300 quite yet, but Detroit is the weekend sacrifical lambs, so he should get it then ... and it looks like they will even be up a 1/2 after today's game. Bit of a scare though when the out of practice (two sweeps interrupted by the Boston series would do that) Rivera gave up a 5-1 ninth inning lead, but they won it in the bottom of the inning via a bases loaded walk (after an error aided triple). The Mets won two of three from the Phillies, thus continuing their stream of good games, going back to the San Francisco split. They even look like they can play defense. The Braves are in town though, and an early interference (ball hitting runner) and failed suicide squeeze (no runs in inning) and quickly given up lead is marring the Maddux v Glavine match-up thus far.

Meanwhile, after a pretty lackluster relief effort in the one game the Mets lost against Philly, Cone officially retired earlier today, the same day John Franco was put on the active roster. Cone won't win those last six games for a round 200, but Franco should play in two more games to be in 1000.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Baseball Update: After being up 6-1 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Mets started to give up the lead to the Atlanta Braves, but hung on by the skin of their teeth via game ending play at the plate ... 6-5. Next, Tom Glavine, perhaps feeling guilty for leaving, was gone by the fourth, but not before giving up a triple to the opposing pitcher. After hitting the grand slam that won the game, Burnitz hit another home run, tying it 1-1 in the eighth in the rubber game. This saved another excellent Seo performance (seven innings, few hits, one home run), but hot/cold David Weathers again couldn't get that last out ... so it was Smoltz (futility) time. Meanwhile, the Yanks slipped some more, and Boston fans wonder as Clemens prepares to try to win #300.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Further Reading: An important issue in electoral reform is addressed by recent proposed legislation, dogs are protected by the Fourth Amendment, at least so says the Fourth Circuit, and prisoner Steven Martin (no not that one) did not get any relief for having to wait a year to get married.

There is something wrong, though the opinion did not think so ("And what could be the damages from delay?"), for delaying a marriage (constitutionally protected) for a year (again, the delay, surely notable, is treated as rather trivial "only postponed" and "every delay" does not "violate the Constitution") as a result of a prisoner grabbing his girlfriend's butt during a visit. In jail since 1987 for murder, the action is not shocking, while the defendant is far from sympathetic. All the same, he got a disciplinary ticket for abuse of privileges and could not see visitors for only thirty days, though the girlfriend was put on a a restricted list. [They would not see each other for eighteen months.] Thus, the "crime" was not particularly serious either, and a marriage clearly could have commenced with the two separated if a nontouching period would be a just punishment for the violation. The one inflicted does not seem to be one.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Various Thoughts: I commented on various issues over in the Slate fray over the last couple days, including: "character witness," genetically modified food (Europe blocks US exports, President ready to bring suit), and "Bush: What Me Worry?."

Latest struggle: the stress of the first Mets/Braves series of the year. Mets actually, toying with fans, played rather well of late, though some late game meltdowns ruined a chance for actual consistency. Piazza is now out for a long time, but the young guys ... including backup backup catcher cum first baseman Jason Philips ... are showing some flair. Floyd is also stepping up (on his bad achilles) and acting Piazzalike of late. Their killer Phillies/Braves set of series started badly ... blowing a 4-1 seventh inning lead (end result: 11-7), but two come from behind wins (with an assist via a bases loaded walk from old friend Turk Wendell) had them 2-1 going into Atlanta. Atlanta resisted a sweep by the Reds in the final game before the two match-up, which is probably a good thing. As with the Yanks ending a slide by facing Boston this week, the Braves probably see the Mets as an easy way to get back on track, while trying not to laugh at Tom Glavine. Well, the first half inning went okay ...

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

TV Seasons Ends: I recall a time not too long ago ... oh maybe it was, tempus fugit ... when I enjoyed watching television nearly every night of the week. The few hours a night, one hour here, two hours there, provided a nice rest after a day of work and/or school. These days, and maybe in some sense it is a good thing, finding good original programming is much harder. It is partly a matter of taste, since I do not care for the current batch of crime dramas (mostly prosecution orientated ... the "two separate but equal groups" of "Law and Order" are not the prosecution and the defense) and reality programs that dominate. The alternatives are quite often lame sitcoms or tired dramas, like "ER," which I did once enjoy.

And, then, the quality of some of the few shows I do enjoy became mixed ... though overdramatic, the finale of "West Wing" was good, but too many episodes over the season was not. After Paris Gellar was cruelly treated in an episode of "Gilmore Girls," the remaining episodes of the season was a mixed bag, and the whole Jess character was annoying anyway. And though I admit Dennis Miller got old fast, John Madden was no great replacement to the old MNF team. And when "Less Than Perfect" (it's often amusing and a decent show, but B material on a good day all the same) was probably the best new show of the year (to me, at least), something is wrong. Oh, right "Mr. Sterling" was good, but it surely looks like it was cancelled.

One is left, at least I am left, to look elsewhere. For instance, the soon to be translated to American British sitcom "Coupling" thus far seems to me to be a sexier "Friends," when that show was not as tired as it is now. Catching repeats of "Daria" or even at times "Clueless" (ok ... that opening song is catchy) is at times a good way to relax for a half hour or so. My current favorite repeats, especially (in my area) Sunday nights before I go to bed, is "Dharma and Greg" ... remember to tape the closing credits to catch the title cards at the very end. There is baseball, though I have a dish, so do not get Yankee games (I live in the Bronx ... the cable provider, after a year of not carrying it, finally accepted a deal with the YES network) ... getting a heart attack at my age is not a good idea, so watching too many Mets games (or certain parts thereof) might be a bad idea. David Letterman and "Seinfeld" repeats are still funny. Finally, weekends on C-SPAN, one can catch some good book related programming. So, I still manage to get my television fix, but it is much harder than it once was. [How about all those other channels? A whole lot less worth watching imho than the number offered might suggest, that's all I will say.]

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Concerned Women For American Are Concerned About Me: Though I had to pay the $1.95 archive retrieval fee to read it, since I caught it too late, I was honored to see that my little letter to the Washington Times, which was a condensed version of my extended rebuttal of a Nat Hentoff criticism of the Democratic filibuster of Bush judicial nominations, was the target of THOMAS L. JIPPING, Director Judicial Appointments Project Concerned Women for America.

The letter ignored my rebuttal of Hentoff's fast and loose comments about opposition to nominee Priscilla Owen, criticized me for not being "precise" because my mention to an old "filibuster" (to use a word used in a Republican Policy Committee of the US Senate press release) of Justice Breyer's appellate nominee did not mention that it failed (as this one might very well), and argued that a "permanent filibuster" would be a misuse of the constitutional authority I noted gave the Senate a right to set rules of proceedings because it would be an illegitimate supermajority requirement. As compared to the various other times when one or more senators blocked appointments for any number of reasons, I guess. Oh well ... I appreciate the concern.

My extended rebuttal got various replies over at the Slate fray, including yet another attempt to make this all about abortion. Let's put aside that the most important "right to privacy" case this term involves homosexuals. In point of fact, broad concerns involving balance of power and the fate of the lower federal courts (article not free on web, so provided a repost that also has some strong commentary attached) -- where most of the action takes place, now more than ever -- is what truly is at stake here. I know that since the President got his job in part because of the courts, he might feel a desire to have carte blanche in filling key seats in them. Doesn't mean the Democrats should roll over and let him, does it now? Finally, enough with this "crisis" talk ... two filibusters a crisis does not make.
I'll appeal this ticket all the way to the Supreme Court!: The US Supreme Court has lots of important issues to squeeze into its tiny docket (less than half than it used to be in the 1980s), but it managed to fit a case summarized by the dissent below as "whether the city must provide a hearing within 48 hours to contest a $134.50 fine." As noted by the majority opinion below in its deserved to be read in full statement of facts, Edwin David "expected to get back fairly quickly, but, as it turned out, he did not return to the place where he expected to find his car until 3:15 p.m. Alas, his car was not there." It was towed, he recovered the car after paying the required fee, but argued the city of Los Angeles violated his due process rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to provide a sufficiently prompt hearing.

"In David’s eyes, the towing and storage of his automobile were directed by one of the City’s myrmidons, and any decent public servant would have been more kindly." Besides, his constitutional rights were violated. The appellate court agreed (though they rejected most of his arguments), showing off its vocabulary by saying: "We are somewhat puzzled that twenty-five years after we pointed out the impropriety of undue delay, the problem is recrudescent." In fact, as the dissent (via an opinion basically shared by the Supremes, who summarily overturned the lower court without holding oral argument via a per curiam opinion) noted, the caselaw really concerns seizures of cars, not money ... David got his car back right away, it was his $134 that he was annoyed about, $134 that he was quite able to pay. And, past precedents allowed a similiar delay when a lot more was at stake. So, even if one read appellate precedent broadly, their ruling appears to be wrongly decided.

All the same, why take the case? Various reasons, not necessary in this order: (1) The Supreme Court doesn't much care for the Ninth Circuit ... overturning a disproportionate number of its decisions (2) It felt the case was an abuse of the federal courts, wasting its time for such a trivial claim, so a precedent had to be set, and (3) It's an amusing little trifle. I'm inclined to agree with the second and third reasons ... waiting less than a month for a hearing to challenge a towing fee (a fee one could afford) in the city of Los Angeles is not really a matter of federal constitutional moment. Yes, if the car was impounded, such a delay would be a serious matter. If the person did not have the funds, it would also be a closer case. But that was not the case here. All the same, I would note that at least the dissent below made these distinctions. The Supreme Court was blithely dismissive, reaffirming a case in which a thirty to ninety day delay after a loss of a job was uphold. So, the case of City of Los Angeles v David did not just overturn an apparently clear case of overreaching, but did so in an abrupt open-ended matter that covered cases much worse than this one. Cases much more serious than this amusing little trifle.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Cleaning Up Saddam's Mess?: I have been consistently dubious about Gulf War II, especially given the administration's slipshod attempts to promote it. Support of a war, a war promoted by a President I personally find more distasteful than not, would have been hard for me at any rate. I'll be honest. Nonetheless, war should always be only commenced when it can be defended to a degree that even those on the fence are convinced. This is surely the case when it is a war of this magnitude. And, it does not help when it is promoted by those whom appear to have a troubling case of amnesia.

It is actually is amazing how I can still be so pissed when I read yet another example of this. Charles Krauthammer, who some might be surprised to realize once worked for both Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, explained how this time the US is rebuilding a mess not of its own making, unlike after WWII. As is sadly de rigueur from certain parts, he ignores how the U.S. helped Saddam build and retain his power for so many years, including during the Iran/Iraqi War, which Iraq was in danger of losing quite early on. And, said support came at the time when he was guilty of all those war crimes Charles Krauthammer sneers at "the left" for selectively being concerned about. And, given the administration's support (or lack thereof) of international treaties protecting the environment or human rights, "the left" has a right to sneer a bit themselves at the administration's supporters honoring it for attacking Iraq for humanitarian reasons. Finally, sanctions, two wars, and various bombing campaigns surely helped this "mess" as well.

It just is not honest to pat ourselves on the back for being so idealistic and "noble," when our actions are a bit more mixed. This is true even if you believe on the whole, our actions were necessary and overall honorable. It is noble to note that we overturned a despicable dictator, but one who did much of that despicable stuff while getting our support. When did we remove this threat to human rights? After his control of Northern Iraq (Kurds) is removed, his military might greatly diminished, his vast number of WMDs (guess where he got them) is nowhere to be found, and most of his victims already died or suffered much of their injuries (again, when?). This was done via a war that caused further destruction, thousands of casualties (including many civilians, who continue to die via cluster bombs, broken infrastructure, random disorder, etc.), and a questionable future.

So, if we accept that he is right that "It is fine to carp about our initial failures at reconstruction. It is well to remember, however, the nobility of the entire enterprise," said nobility is a bit less clearcut as some might think, and "it is well to remember" that fact as well.
Dems Debate In Iowa: If the South Carolina Debate was somewhat obscure to much of the nation, the Iowa Debate was even more so. I caught a few minutes of it, and the key thing I noticed was that Lieberman (honoring Sabbath and probably not likely to get that many Iowa votes anyhow ... liberal he might be [wink]) and Kerry (NH commencement address) were nowhere to be found. The audience was union, but news coverage [www.nytimes.com] emphasized the attempts to target Bush's record on terrorism.

Also, Howard Dean got in a jab at the Federalist Society's hold on the judicial nominations/courts, John Edwards made a reference to Mayor Bloomberg (nominal Republican/NYC) having to cut jobs and tied it in with the Republican convention that is to be there, Carol Moseley Braun made another joke, and Sharpton made a funnier one ("Mr. Bush will not be, in a Sharpton administration, the head of missing persons." ... the joke btw is the middle phrase). I also find it funny when candidates unlikely to even be frontrunners, less so winners, talk about how "when I beat Bush" (Gephardt did it this time). I wonder if he said that in 1988.

Another amusing moment of sorts was related to the habit of the union sponsors calling each other "brother" and "sister" ... at one point, the moderator asked Mosely-Braun (or "sister") to sum things up. At first, I was thinking it was some hip/black thing or something. Dennis J. Kucinich also suggested why he is not much of a candidate when he couldn't even supply or get back much enthusiasm when he mentioned that he was a cardholding member of the union that sponsored the event!
Baseball Update: To quote the AOL Sports Ticker, "The largest crowd in Pacific Bell Park history saw something unique - the first regular-season win by the New York Mets at the 4-year-old stadium." They had lost the last twelve games, though had a key win in the 2000 playoffs. As Lisa Olson and others suggest, it's time to pare away expensive and underachieving veterans, leaving hopefully enthusiastic young players that might be the path to the future. And take instruction on how to play the damn game! After all, who is one of the few bright spots? Rookie Ty Wigginton. The lower expectations would be ideal as well.

For the moment, Met fans are left with such small pleasures ... and it was nice that Steve Trachsel was the one who got the win. The guy has consistently been a gamer, but just as consistently been let down by the team (oh ok, he had a few bad outings, but fewer than one had a reason to expect). On the subject of baseball, a respectful nod to another impressive performance by Woody Williams of the Cardinals, and a sad one to another loss by Kansas City ... their improbable first place berth might be about done. Fingers crossed! Oh, and it's that time again ... the Red Sox are neck and neck with the Yanks ... Yanks fans are soooo scared. Ok ... that Cubs/Red Sox World Series is just around the corner ... right you are!

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Well, I decided to start a blog ...