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

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Mets lost ... that makes 0 for six vs. the Yanks ... went the "one bad inning" route this time. It is depressing when one hopes for mediocre. The Mets fan that thought "well, they will win tonight, so what? It's only one game out of six," sadly was too optimistic. Jeff Weaver used the Mets as his balm. Can't pitch well against the Devil Rays, but then, the Devil Rays won a few games against the Yanks. In fact, it beat the Braves yesterday. And, it has the benefit of being expected to do bad, and having a payroll about a third of the Mets.
Gays, Abortion Posters, and More: The biggest end of the year decision is a 6-3 vote that broadly (Justice O'Connor voted in a more narrow fashion, but that still left five) struck down the Texas homosexual sodomy law in such a way that conssensual sex of both sexes was broadly protected. I discuss the opinion here. The opinion basically rights the ship by recognizing past privacy cases that protected heterosexuals (doing so in such a way that strenghtens the implications of such cases on the right in matters of heterosexual sex in general) also covers homosexuals. It skims through the history of sodomy to do so (the briefs fleshes it out some more) and honors past privacy cases in broad strokes. The opinion, oral argument, and many interesting briefs for Lawrence v. Texas can be found here [end of March, 2003].

Seventeen years ago, Justice Blackmun ended his dissent of Bowers v Hardwick, overturned by this decision, thusly: "I can only hope that here, too, the Court soon will reconsider its analysis and conclude that depriving individuals of the right to choose for themselves how to conduct their intimate relationships poses a far greater threat to the values most deeply rooted in our Nation's history than tolerance of nonconformity could ever do. Because I think the Court today betrays those values, I dissent." He has passed on, but his voice rings out in Justice Kennedy's decision. At its heart, is an equalitarian vision of one's right to choose one's personal moral path, which is in my view at the heart of liberty.

A more distressing case which I discussed here involves severe limits on prisoners who wish to visit with family and friends. I discuss a NY Court of Appeals ruling that holds that the state is not truly offerring "sound education" to New York City students as the state constitution demands over here, including the core aspects of necessary educational reform. The Supreme Court did not accept an important abortion protest case involving "wanted posters" deemed to be criminal threats. I have mixed feelings about the troubling case, which I write about here. It is a bit surprising that no one dissented from the denial.

Finally, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 that California could not extend its statute of limitations for child molestation without breaching the Ex Post Facto Clause. The opinions are interesting and to a degree amusing to read, but the principle is quite important. I particularly would note that the alternative is extending the statute of limitations potentially decades with all the problems old evidence, witnesses who most recall events long ago, and so forth. Murder has no statute of limitations for a reason ... such limits are an important value and policy judgment that changes the calculus when the crime is tried. It is an inherent part of the punishment and logically falls under the clause.

Sports: The Mets just lost their fifth of six games against the Yankees. Yesterday, they lost 6-4, when Seo decided it was time to have a bad outing (five runs in the first two innings). Today was worse. First, the Mets rookie who did fairly well before the rainout last weekend (called right when the Mets were rallying), did bad, while the rookie long guy did fairly well after it was too late. Clemens pitched eight in the 7-1 game. The nightcap had Glavine vs the Yankee rookie. He did fine ... Glavine was out in the fifth, after giving up six runs. I shut it off when it was 7-0 ... the Mets rallied to 9-8 in the eighth (it was 9-4), and that even after Mariano came in to get some work. Alas (or of course), the final 3 RBIs (with one out) came on a play that ended with an out when the batter tried to stretch it into a triple. Okay ... they still had four outs, right? Easy ones.

Justice or probability warrants at least one win out of five or even one great comeback in say a month, two months even. Didn't happen. Like the sacrifice bunt that made it 4-0 by stopping an inch or so before becoming foul, yet again, is it really just them? Now, it's Weaver (obligatory mentally suspect Yankee fifth starter) v. Leiter tonight ... as was the case Saturday night, one might think the Mets are favored. After all, chances are even a bad team will take one out of three, split a day/night doubleheader, or win when it's rookie v. veteran. Well, the Mets was swept in all of its doubleheaders, didn't reap the match-ups today, so why not get swept in its six games? Weaver is due to have a good outing yet, right? Sigh ... mediocre is bad ... but the Mets are one step below that these days.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Affirmative Action, Internet Filters, and Nazis: I discussed the affirmative action rulings here [summary] and here [Justice Thomas' use of Frederick Douglas]. The Internet filter ruling was discussed here [summary] and here [internet as public fora and libraries as 1A defenders].

To summarize: the affirmative action ruling was an acceptable compromise by striking down a policy that gave minorities an automatic twenty points (but see here) but upholding a more individualized program for law schools ... which are different (less nonracial solutions, narrower problems, etc.) from undergraduate schools anyway. The filter plurality went much too far in saying the internet is not a public forum and that libraries might not have First Amendment interests. Anyway, filters burden adults and (as ignored by all the opinions) mature teenagers as well.

Of the other lesser reported rulings, one worthy of note is a 5-4 ruling (the dissent was written by Justice Ginsburg with Justice Stevens, Scalia and Thomas in agreement ... not a batch that dissents together that over!) which struck down a Californian policy of requiring any insurer doing business in that state to disclose information about certain policies sold in Europe between 1920 and 1945 as an interference with the President's role in foreign policy. The majority/dissent basically disagrees on the nature of said policy ... all the same, unless executive agreements or treaties run counter to what California is doing, it should have the right to conduct its business as it sees fit. The case reminds me of a case that struck down Massachusett's ability to boycott Burma ... where is this interest in states' rights we hear so much about? The same can be said by the 6-3 ruling limiting the discretion of local libraries to decide on their own how to filter their computers without worrying about important funds being cut.

Sports Update: Before the rainout, the Mets seemed to be showing life vs. the Yanks ... they matched them well on Sunday too ... until Benitez could not get that final strike. I honestly don't know why we keep on hearing about the Yanks wanting him ... he continuously shows an inability to perform at key moments. The error assisted meltdown in the 11th suggests, of course, he isn't alone in this department. At any rate, after a good road trip, the Mets are back to losing. Take the good when we can get it, I guess. It is notable, as well, that Clemens lost again today (vs the Devil Rays) 4-2, making his record 7-5. The bullpen often didn't help him, but his decision to retire after this year might be sound ... his habit of not quite making it is starting to be just that ... a bit of a habit.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Some thoughts: The "A" word, Proof Through Repetition, Harry Shows His Teeth, Secret Ballot (Iranian film), and WMDs.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Supreme Court Round-Up:

The article on the trespass regulation dealt with in VA v Hicks is correct to note the limited nature of the ruling. The regulation, which is open-ended in that there are various possible troubling applications to its broad terms (e.g. arguably legitimate expressive conduct, touched upon in the article), was broadly opposed. The test therefore was a high one for the petitioner.

All the same, it troubled me that the Supreme Court (unlike an earlier Findlaw article on this case that partly disagreed with the current article as well as the state courts below) totally ignored why the person was there. This article notes it, but in an arguably snide way: "At the time, he claimed he was delivering diapers to the mother of one of his children." "Claimed?" Is there any evidence he was not there for that purpose? And, if he was, surely it is relevant ... as noted by the earlier article, parental rights (including familial association) have constitutional significance. Arguably, they also have 1A applications.

Something is wrong with a statute, perhaps not as applied here, that doesn't specifically take into consideration that a parent is involved. The unfortunate fact that many in low income housing (proportionately in many cases much more than gated communities in general) are single parents also must be taken into consideration. And, yes, there is some "expressive" conduct involved here. When one visits one's family and children, there is usually some "expression" involved, also known as talking.

As with the decision last term that broadly gave the state power to remove residents from public housing who did not know their fellow residents used drugs (in some cases outside of the residence itself), regulations like this one are on some level obviously a good thing. All the same, they can be applied in troubling ways, especially if the interests at stake are totally ignored. Furthermore, the comparison to "gated communities" is a bit too blase. Many in public housing don't choose to live there ... and yes, when the government runs things they should at times be put to a higher standard. The power of the state as well as the overall limitations applied especially to them warrant it.

So, I'm not too upset at the result here, but I still am uneasy that it was deemed besides the point why Keven Hicks was there. It seems to be a tad bit relevant.

Another case handed by the US Supreme Court dealt with an old law that bars direct corporate contributions to candidates. A law few might have a problem with aside from those concerned with the free speech ramifications of preventing corporations to totally be unable to support candidates that whose interests are supported by them. The importance of funds to issue advocacy is much clearer when non-profit advocacy groups are involved, many of which are corporations for legal reasons. FEC v BEAUMONT dealt with just this sort of case, but did not treat such corporations differently. The rights of freedom of expression, including by associations established for that purpose, at their core raised in cases such as this one. The case therefore suggests the problems of unnuanced application of regulations on corporate spending and probably was wrongly decided for that very reason.

Sports: The NY Mets were involved in three one-hitters in a row (Fathers Day vs Angels, then they were one-hit by the Marlins, and then they returned the favor), winning two of them; the third was a 1-0 loss against Marlins' star rookie, as well as a pretty good return by Tom Glavine. Steve Trachsel went the distance after two poor outings, while Seo had help (Weathers and Benitez, continuing to look great), after he had to leave after 6 2/3 because of a split fingernail. The latter one-hitter was the first times the Mets knocked down the team minimum of opposing batters, the one hitter "caught" stealing (he was probably safe). The game was also close until late, the first run scored via a homer in the seventh, the rest in the ninth. The Father's Day game gave Reyes (grand slam, 5RBI) and Burnitz (two homers) a chance to shine. Meanwhile, Acevedo went to the Blue Jays, and Jeff Weaver continues to suck. The Yanks under Torre never did have a great fifth starter.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Sports: After he was fired, a NYT sportswriter had this to say about Steve Philips: "Phillips was good as a general manager, but overrated. In fact, he has been overrated throughout his career. He was an infielder drafted by the Mets in 1981 - ahead of Roger Clemens. Clemens goes for his 300th victory today, and Phillips ends a so-so front-office career with the Mets by being fired." Well, comparing him to Clemens (fourth time the charm for 300, Roger?) is a bit much, but his firing is past due. In point of fact, he should have gone along with Valentine, because bad moves (i.e. overpaid players prone to injury or subpar performance) over the last few years was surely equally to blame as managing for their problems. I would add coaching, since the decrease of defense alone since 1999 cannot be solely blamed on personnel alone. Anyway, Philips is gone ... what will they do next? Who will they get rid of? I don't know but I think Seo, Wiggington, Reyes (announcers were drooling over this twenty year old prospect as he got a chance in the Texas series ... Texas Rangers), and not much more are untouchable imho.

Yes, it's interleague play, so the Mets weren't playing the Astros, the Yanks were. This, along with the bad omen of Jeff Weaver getting another start, meant it was they who were due to be no-hit. This last happened in the 1950s, but the impressive thing is that six pitchers were involved. After their ace lasted but an inning because of injury, the Yanks must have felt the Astros were in trouble. Instead, it was the Yanks who were in trouble, even against a couple middle relievers whose ERA were far from scary. Mets refugee Octavio Dotel ... who struck out four in the eighth because of a passed ball [the game also had an error, a hit by a pitch, and three walks ... once a combination of all three led to the bases loaded; the count went to 3-0, Posada missed a sign, and swung ... that took care of that threat] ... now not hitting him was not too bad. Not hitting a guy with an ERA of over 5 was a bit more problematic. Have no fear ... they came back from behind (against some of these same pitchers) ... and won the series. And the Red Sox lost, so the Yanks (again) were on top by .5. Be a lot of back and forth, I bet.

btw: below I had some strong things to say about Sosa, who is currently serving a seven day suspension (originally it was eight). Some argued such thoughts are exaggerated. Well, talk about him leaving baseball might have been a tad bit much, but I don't have much sympathy for the guy. He cheated and some of the abuse from sportswriters is influenced by those who know things about him that makes him not quite as great of a guy as some make him out to be. I put that aside, I don't know the details ... I just think the guy has a higher standard to meet, and if he wants the public to think he is just your typical ball player, one who you know cheats now and then, good for him. It just knocks him down a few pegs in my opinion, and probably in many others as well. If he didn't know that there was a risk of that, that corking was even more stupid than it was originally thought.

Other: A review on a book on legal writing piqued my interest, since the review promoted general goals of argument and rhetoric, which has broad value.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Media: I just re-read an interesting little volume entitled A New Birth of Freedom: Human Rights, Named & Unnamed by Charles L. Black Jr. It argues that a good foundation of national human rights law can be based on the Declaration of Independence, the Ninth Amendment, and the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment. The first, especially the "pursuit of happiness," is basically the core guide for the other two. I think he tries to argue a rather unusual argument as more obvious than it really is, but I am supportive of his efforts. I also think, however, other components of the Constitution (broadly interpreted, in part because those three components encourage us to do so) is an important guide in this effort. Black (not related to the justice, to my knowledge) briefly touches upon this, but probably not enough.

As long as I'm recommending books, "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith [woman detective in Botwansa] and "Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America" by Victoria Freemen [last chapter drags] also are worth reading. Also, "Whale Rider," was also enjoyable. It concerns, in the words of the NYT review, "young Pai [who] must overcome resistance as she tries to assume her destiny as the leader of a tribe on the New Zealand coast."

Baseball: This is useful information in that lately NY baseball teams do not bear recommending ... Seo started things well v. Seattle, but Leiter/Bacsik was about as successful in the doubleheader as Glavine (hurt) and Trachsel (fever) did vs the Brewers ... in fact, both aces only got to the second inning, and the backenders lasted around five but gave up loads of runs -- Bacsik did have four good innings. Astacio joined the injury brigade and will be out for the rest of the year.

The Yanks? They also won Game One vs. the Cubs. In the second game, Clemens took a 1-0 lead into the seventh until relieved by ... Acevedo. One pitch, it was 3-1, via a home run by the replacement of a player earlier out with a concussion. Acevedo, the latest in a line of relievers after Pettite left way early, also gave up a couple key runs in the rubber game ... when Charles Gibson was picked off first in the ninth, the Yanks scratched back to 8-7. Acevedo this time managed to pitch his first inning with no score ... these two are not long with the club in all likilihood, if anyone wants them.

Further Joe Reading: On impeachment, antiquities loss in Iraq (and also), and WMDs.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Sosa Corked:
"The first thing that went through my mind," said his former Cubs teammate, Turk Wendell, on Tuesday, "was why would a guy like that be using cork? In my eyes, I could see guys who are little shortstops, who hit two or three home runs a year, using a corked bat so they could maybe hit one or two more homers. But Sammy doesn't hit paint-scrapers. He doesn't need help getting his balls to go out of the park. He hits moon shots. So I don't understand why he'd use a corked bat. ... Now everything else he's done has question marks around it. His home run records, everything. It's all surrounded by question marks." [thanks to Jayson Stark for the quote]

Depressing ... Sosa last weekend was a hero for hitting the game winning hit (his first one he got after coming back from the DL) in the 16th inning in a 1-0 game vs the Astros. This time, I presume he timed it since the umpire involved already has his moment in history, he "accidently" (I guess so, it was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for crying out loud) picking up the corked bat he used to wow the fans during batting practice. This is lame in itself, but again he is just off injury, and that maybe is the reason he used the bat.

[After all, after he came off injury, he struck out eight times, and had to deal with the indignity of having the guy in front of him intentionally walked ... and they got the out. He got his revenge later in the game, but surely, yesterday's game was not the game to cork one's bat, right?]

It taints him. I think McGuire, legal or not, was tainted for using supplements. Now, Sosa does something truly stupid like this. A local reporter over my way said that while he sits out his suspension, the bats in the Hall of Fame from his key home runs should be X-rayed. An investigation will be made, but how can you prove or disprove this? Obviously, most of the bats are gone. If any cork is found, the reporter suggests Sosa should be kicked out of baseball. This very well might be justified ... either way, his record will be tainted forever. Along with past whispering that Sosa is kind of a s.o.b. at times, it will always be used to tar him.

The Cubs can't be in first place w/o being punished, I guess. Well, perhaps they can stop Clemens (again) from failing to get his 300th win ... he is matched up with Kerry Wood ... and the Yanks are having trouble buying a win [16th inning marathon with the Astros? how about a 17th inning marathon with the Tigers?!]. That's always something, right? Mets fans btw would love it if Kerry "accidently" hit him ... when one of their pitchers tried to do it, he missed. The pitcher, Estes, incidentially is now with the Cubs, so it's only fair.

Other Stuff: Thomas Friedman today has a column discussing how there are various reasons why we fought with Iraq, the real, the moral, the right, and the stated. The stated (WMDs), as many have been reporting, is looking more and more to be at best overblown, at worst fraudulent. The real reason was that we needed to fight someone in the Middle East after 9/11, and Saddam was the easiest target. The moral reason was to get rid of a murderous dictator, while the "right" reason (his reason) was to help pave the way to a freer society in Iraq and the region as a whole. The real reason is sadly cynical, the moral reason selective, and the right reason questionable ... there was other ways to go about it. A honest column all the same. Another good column discusses the limitations of the Family Medical Leave Act and the decision that upheld it.