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

Monday, October 31, 2005

Iraqi Civilian Deaths

And Also: To give the devil his due, which even liberal bloggers like Atrios did, Kristoff did say "put up or get out" in respect to Cheney: come clean or you should resign or be removed. The felt need to clothe this in a glove (maybe there is innocent explanations) as well as shots to the Democrats still is quite annoying. Still, half nod to ya.

I have for a long time been interested in actual numbers of civilian Iraqi deaths, something a slain human rights worker (Marla Ruzicka) spoke out in support of as well. The NYT had an interesting article yesterday noting that a government report had some raw numbers -- basically hidden inside without fanfare -- suggesting such information can in some fashion be formulated. There is some understandable wariness about putting out death tolls and a less believable suggestion that it would help the insurgents by showing them the level of their success. Anyway, the numbers -- which many find on the low side -- help quantify the damage. To wit:
According to the graph, Iraqi civilians and security forces were killed and wounded by insurgents at a rate of about 26 a day early in 2004, and at a rate of about 40 a day later that year. The rate increased in 2005 to about 51 a day, and by the end of August had jumped to about 63 a day. No figures were provided for the number of Iraqis killed by American-led forces.

Extrapolating the daily averages over the months from Jan. 1, 2004, to Sept. 16 this year results in a total of 25,902 Iraqi civilians and security forces killed and wounded by insurgents.

According to an analysis by Hamit Dardagan, who compiles statistics for Iraq Body Count, a group that tracks civilian deaths, about three Iraqis are wounded in the war for each one who dies. Given that ratio, the total Iraqi death toll from insurgent violence would be about 6,475, based on extrapolations of the military's figures.

The information as was the chart was deep inside. Still, it's a start.

Ohio 2004

I finally checked out What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election (actual report) ... I figured that the darn thing had to be on the web somewhere. Still do, but since I was unable to find it, the book was purchased ($10). It is not really worth that much -- this is the sort of thing that could be summed up on an extended .pdf file somewhere. The report over sets forth ... honestly without fully clear statistical analysis and without full transcripts of referenced affidavits and such (helped by time restraints -- the report came out January 2005) ... enough problems to suggest that something seriously wrong went on as well as the fact that the Secretary of State of Ohio was another partisan hack a la Katherine Harris (just with less make-up).

I still do not think it supplies clear and convincing evidence that Kerry won the state -- the margin of victory was too much and there was a lot of "some unclear amount of damage resulted" flavor to it all. Still, surely, there is enough there for people to be suspicious, especially those (to some degree, rightly) not willing to take the official line at face value. It did not help that such people faced up against Kenneth Blackwell (SSO), who had similar feelings about them -- thinly veiled contempt. There was enough suspicious looking stuff happening -- including ex parte altering of computer voting machinery by the voting companies involved (underlining the need for some independent safeguards) -- to leave a bad taste in one's mouth. This includes breach of various election laws and constitutional liberties.

Furthermore, there is the fact that (as with in 2000), a truly bipartisan/non-partisan approach was not taken to deal with the situation. Until Republicans in charge actually understand that sanctity of our institutions require such an approach, they deserve our contempt. When the likes of Christopher Hitchens, no Kerry lover, see something rotten in the state of Ohio, there is some "there" there. To connect the dots, this applies to the Plame skullduggery, and so forth. Some national election reform would be a good issue to run on in '06 and '08.

I say that to you Republican hopefuls too actually ... strange as it might be to believe, one can win without faulty elections. Heck, Bush could have as well ... you know once. As to the other campaign related crap, well that's another matter for another day.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Throwing Sand On The Umpire

Books: I added various new book links to the sidebar, including Though the Heaven's May Fall by Steven Wise, an account of the Somerset Case -- the case that in effect ended slavery on England soil. Slavery on the soil of English colonies, however, had to wait some years.

And Also: For readers of the NYT editorial page today, I suggest having a vomit pail nearby. There is David "Republican Shill" Brooks with a piece entitled "The Prosecutor's Diagnosis: No Cancer Found" (malpractice!). And, there is Nicholas "Democratic Republican Apologist" Kristoff shilling for the Bush Administration while continuing his "rational Democrat" act.

Kristoff, who Wilson helped out respecting a Niger trip column, is more disgusting (such is the emotion that comes to mind) given his "hey, I'm just being rational here" approach. He admits calling Fitzgerald "Inspector Javert" was wrong, and the column is a plea for Cheney to come clean. Now, it's not that he's clearly guilty. Nooo. There might be "an innocent explanation" though "they never raised the issue with [him]." But, you know, it all looks so bad, you know?

Anyway, they really shouldn't go after Rove, if they don't have the evidence. And, the Dems should cut short the "glee" since the indictment is humiliating to the country and all. [Brooks spins a tale of paranoia and specters] Cut the shit, Nick. I listened to Air America, filled with people who basically hate these guys. "Glee" is not exactly how I would describe it (some glee earlier in the week). More somewhat grim "I told you so," "they [you know, Kristoff and Brooks] are still trying to say it is all nothing much," and "maybe, just maybe, people will get what we have been crying out about for so long."

At any rate, should one not be somewhat happy some justice has been done? Seems like that should be worthy of some happiness, huh? Or, that people who quite well deserve it was weakened a bit more. But, so sorry, Nick ... how gauche of me. Frank Rich's column is opposite these shills. I wonder how he can stomach being in the same paper as them.


Guarded optimism about the indictments. The special prosecutor came off as a hard working and upright civil servant, down to earth and ethical in his dealings. Fitzgerald did a good job spelling out the indictments -- perjury and obstruction of justice, using a throwing dirt on an umpire that clouds his judgment metaphor that many liked. He also repeatedly (if gentlemanly) refused to answer things not in the "four corners of the indictment," staying loyal to secrecy rules. Many things are still unclear, including the identity of at least one mystery person, but many things are pretty crystal clear.

Fitzgerald recently rented offices in D.C. for two more years, so even if the investigation is "substantially" completed, hopefully his promise that he "will not end the investigation until I can look anyone in the eye and tell them that we have carried out our responsibility" is completely upheld. This is so because, honestly, this is not enough. Libby -- surely a prime catch as both the chief advisor of the Vice President and advisor to the President himself -- is not enough. This is not enough, since it has "designated scapegoat" written all over it. Personally, Karl Rove (even if he's still under investigation) free is galling.

And, the substantive crime -- outing of the agent and spreading the information around -- is not targeted. The matter is addressed though, and as a Washington Post review of the background events (not quite as damning as a recent Los Angeles Times account, but damning enough) suggests, enough is there to show just how wrong the administration has been:
Defending the war became the animating priority aboard Air Force Two that day. According to his indictment on Friday, Libby "discussed with other officials aboard the plane" how he should respond to "pending media inquiries" about the critic, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Apart from Libby, only press aide Catherine Martin is known to have accompanied Cheney on that flight. ...

One notable disclosure is that Libby and Cheney made separate inquiries to the CIA about Wilson's wife, and each confirmed independently that she worked there. It was Cheney, the indictment states, who supplied Libby the detail "that Wilson's wife worked . . . in the Counterproliferation Division" -- an unambiguous declaration that her position was among the case officers of the operations directorate. That conversation took place on June 12, 2003, a month before the Norfolk flight and nearly two weeks before Libby first told a reporter about Plame's CIA affiliation.

The article details various times Libby (and Rove*) talked about and spread the Wilson/Plame story. This tidbit suggests that Cheney was part of the conspiracy, especially since the two are joined at the hip. Rove and his lawyer ran around all last week trying to get out of being charged ... did he supply some information that would clarify such things? Anyway, an important piece of the puzzle was why Wilson was person non grata. He dared to (after trying to go through channels) publicly expose the false Niger uranium claims. Talking Points Memo (you can get the indictment etc. as well over there) is all over this. WP suggests the irony as well as the importance of the matter:
The uranium claims had never been significant to career analysts -- Iraq had plenty already and lacked the means to enrich it. But the allegations proved irresistible to the White House Iraq Group, which devised the war's communications strategy and included Libby among its members. Every layman understood the connection between uranium and the bomb, participants in the group said in interviews at the time, and it was the easiest way for the Bush administration to raise alarms. ...

By summer 2002, the White House Iraq Group assigned Communications Director James R. Wilkinson to prepare a white paper for public release, describing the "grave and gathering danger" of Iraq's allegedly "reconstituted" nuclear weapons program. Wilkinson gave prominent place to the claim that Iraq "sought uranium oxide, an essential ingredient in the enrichment process, from Africa." That claim, along with repeated use of the "mushroom cloud" image by top officials beginning in September, became the emotional heart of the case against Iraq.

As is usually the case, you cannot look at this thing as but a single act. It is quite literally an overall conspiracy, surely in actuality, even if one will have problems making a criminal case. One, as the article notes, some writers (including at The Nation) and even the likes of Sen. Charles E. Schumer knew was troubling JULY 2003. You know, two freakening years ago. But, as with top Republican inhouse critics of the war, there was a lonnngggg delay before something was done. And an election.

It is nice, given who is in power, that one of the many honorable people in government came out and showed us that something is being done to investigate and even go after these people. As with DeLay, the top procurement officer (well, until recently) at the White House, Frist, and those not targeted for criminal offenses, but just disposed of one way or the other (Brownie, Miers), something is being done here. Note also how the move to use Katrina to cut prevailing wage rules was also recently blocked. You can grasp on to the victories.

Not enough, surely, but it's something all the same.


* The article, in a basically unforgivable move, cites an "administration official" who spoke to one of the paper's reporters, and "veered off the precise matter [they] were discussing" to say that "Wilson's trip was a boondoggle." Who is this person? Sounds a lot like Rove, who did something quite similar when speaking to Matt Cooper ... shifting from I believe some welfare matter to talk about Wilson and his wife.

It's too late in the fucking game to be coy here. Two reporters were threatened with jail, one went to jail, to help the prosecutor make his case. And, they were important, since Libby used reporters as conduits and eventually (falsely) as cover. So, Pincus ... who is the freakening source? If it's not Rove ... is it this mysterious person in the indictment and/or the "nonpartisan" (if we can believe Novak) second source for the infamous article that outed Plame?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Harriet Mires

All that for a "to be continued" with a lot of cliffhangers remaining. Oh well.

As Charles Krauthammer suggested, Harriet Miers opted out of the Supreme Court option by relying on the "executive privilege" dodge -- in other words, she didn't want to force President Bush to fight over releasing allegedly privileged documents concerning their relationship during his presidency. Non-privileged documents, however, gave conservatives more concern to worry -- apparently, some were a bit too middle of the road for their tastes. And, since Miers did not stand out as an elite pick (however one wants to define that), she had no cover -- "but, hey, Sen. Reid (D) (pro-life) likes her" apparently did not work too well.*

President Bush blamed the state of the nomination process. As is usual with his complaints in this department, this is largely hot air. The point of the nomination process is to judge candidates, including those deemed not qualified enough or too close to the President. Likewise, if picks are not satisfactory to one's own base (and you could not handle their complaints), you do not blame the process -- this sort of thing is not new, you know. The "we want ours now" thing is not somehow a sign that the nomination process is in shambles. It might suggest your administration is in a weakened state and/or you did not choose wisely enough. But, don't blame the process for that.

Politics is also about cover stories, of course -- saving face is not just some Chinese concept, but an important part of the ars politica. So, Bush's cover story is not really upsetting -- it's b.s., of course, but nothing special in that department. The concern is what's next -- will the next choice be worse for the Dems? After all, Miers was largely attacked because it was felt she was not conservative enough. But, watch out -- admittedly not totally to my liking, the Dems have played nice so far. Some libs are also waiting for their moment in the sun -- throw out a name like Judge Edith "let's have a Roe do-over" Jones (she's an activist, but the sort conservatives like), and a filibuster might be in the cards. Ditto reprobates from the overly conservative "enemy combatant" Fourth Circuit like Judge Luttig. Anyway, I think it will be a woman and/or Hispanic, but time will tell who.

One final thing -- one would guess that with two Bush picks, even if they are not just Scalia clones, the Court will shift to the Right to some degree. So it goes -- the courts are indirectly political institutions, the selections affected by who is in power. The Court basically reflects the public: libertarian in many ways, suspicious of federal power, and more conservative on criminal justice matters. One might add that they also are somewhat friendlier to mixing religion with matters of the state, if in a somewhat restrained way. Again, reflective. On that note, I have for some time been guardedly satisfied with the Court, even their federalist decisions sometimes logical. There is a middle ground there, really there is, and maybe it will be reached in the next few years. The lesser standard used to uphold federal rules relating to gender and fundamental rights (e.g., disability rules applicable to criminal procedure) suggests just that.

These people are not totally to my liking, of course. I wish for consistently liberal and/or libertarian voice as well as one younger than Bush senior ... someone who finds kicking innocent grandmothers out of government housing because unknown to them their grandchild smoke pot off site to be perfectly shocking. And, they can vote with the conservatives sometimes -- after all, Justice Douglas dissented when Maryland had to pay state employees a federal minimum wage. But, the public keeps on voting for Republicans, along with a centrist Democrat who picked two safe nominees who do not always thrill -- sometimes, Breyer is downright annoying.** So it goes.


* One thing Al Franken's new book as well as his radio show told me was the story behind Gov. Casey (pro-life) not being allowed to speak at the 1992 Democratic Convention. I truly took on face value the claim that it was a move against someone who was pro-life, which would upset the Democratic base. Actually, Franken and others report that the true reason was that Casey did not support Clinton!

And, Franken is right that there are various pro-life Dems who have a front row center place ... just look at their Senate Minority Leader. Anyway, it is not like Republicans put pro-choice members of their party front and center at their Convention. And, why should they? Conventions are not really meant to be situations where members speak against party platforms, right? Still, Franken's explanation is a telling example of how misleading spin plagues politics these days.

** Consider his joining of the Hamdi plurality -- there were four votes for a broader right and his would have made five. Breyer's "active liberty" approach (to cite his new book) also leads him to support alleged overriding principles over what I think are the express terms of the constitutional words at stake. Thus, judges can decide facts, since it might lead to a more just end -- but, sorry, the Constitution generally gives that power to juries.

So, to a degree, Breyer is quite Clintonian. But, I am not a complete fan of that guy. As to Ginsburg, sometimes she is more liberal, sometimes not liberal enough. And, overall, she is not that expressive about it ... anyway, sometimes, I want someone more consistently libertarian. But, who asked me, right?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Al Franken Book Event

Al Franken, the Saturday Night Live writer and host of the Air America (liberal radio) show named after him (12-3 weekdays), is an interesting character. I myself was familiar with his work before he started the radio show last year, work which was somewhat diverse even then. Franken has a self-improvement character named "Stuart Smalley" that reflects his actual interest in self-actualization and such. For instance, he co-wrote the serious film When a Man Loves a Woman, the story of Meg Ryan's character fighting alcoholism.

So, he doesn't just do jokes though I still recall his quite good take off on Pat Robertson in a presidential debate (you know, before he started promoting killing foreign leaders and such) in which he tried to explain how darn he was qualified -- including his stint as a babysitter. He also had a short-lived show that was a take-off of Nightline like new shows. Think a truly behind the scenes look at FYI (Murphy Brown's show). So, signs of his interest in politics and news also popped up early.

But, it was interesting that he became the face of the Air America Network, and now is thinking of running as senator in Minnesota (2008*). Still, time has shown that Franken is a pretty good choice -- he has the wonk thing down. He's clearly intelligent -- Harvard and all -- and quite personable. Franken is too self-indulgent and too many of his comedy bits on the show are apparently just for his self-enjoyment (does a great Cheney and Rummy though). Still, he knows and clearly cares about the issues.

Franken is something of a stereotype of a midwestern Jewish liberal. He fits into the mold of the Jewish liberals who supported civil rights in the '60s (see, Going South, the book) because it followed the theme of their religion -- doing justice. He cares deeply about typical liberal values and thus is truly outraged about current events. And, he is very sentimental: when reading a touching story about his dad's death, he repeated broke down -- the chapter was an ill-advised pick to read at the event since Franken comes close to tears when bringing up the issue on the radio show, which he did various times.**

Franken, however, is one of those middle of the road sorts -- his outrage suggests how far gone life has gone -- those who felt Kerry was such a wonderful character and just KNEW he was going to win (yes, Al, "fears, smears, and queers" helped him to lose, but one can blame him as well -- it was close; imagine if a better candidate ran ... 2000 or 2004). This was shown by his trust in Powell, supporting the war early on until the WMD evidence was shown to be crap. But, Al, I could have told you that even when Powell gave "the speech" to the UN. In fact, I said so on the Slate fray. [I too respected Powell ... but not THAT much ... I knew crap when I heard it.] And, sometimes his analysis is a bit skin deep -- it's not just that we didn't send enough troops ... the troops we need simply was not really available!

Still, Franken does a fairly good job promoting the progressive point of view with the right amount of outrage at the administration and usual suspects. He helped emphasize -- a couple years too late actually -- a particularly outrageous move by Tom DeLay to block application of worker rules to Saipan -- the American protectorate, even though it later turned out that firms there did things like (ah the irony) forcing workers to have an abortion to keep their jobs. As noted in the book, DeLay blocked even conservative Republicans who wanted to reform the rules. His book on Rush Limbaugh and another on conservative talk show hosts generally was a bit too over the top (Franken has this ongoing feud going on with Bill O'Reilly, who unfortunately is loved by someone close to me -- probably because she finds his act on some level amusing). But, his most recent -- The Truth (with Jokes is more serious.

Good call. Franken was in the City (New York ... the Second City celebrated later) last night, so I decided to attend his book event at a Barnes and Nobles that I sometimes go to. The book covers topics he generally covered on his talk show and the appearance had a familiar ring. Franken looks like a nerd (though he did wrestle in high school) with old fashioned plastic glasses that my father used to wear, but one with a mission. Actually, it was a good thing that I went, since his beloved wife Franni (sic) was there ... darn if she looked like what his wife probably would look like (she's from Maine and a Protestant, but she had that Minnesota midwestern look). And, it was nice to see him do his impressions in person.

I got there a little early -- which was good, since it was so crowded that we were given wristbands -- so I had a chance to peruse the book. Seeing that it covered ground that his daily shows dwelt on, I decided not to buy the darn thing -- anyway, as the blog suggests, I have my reading supply covered lately anyway. As to questions, there were four ... pretty standard: (1) Why aren't you running for office in NY (2) How can you be against Bush when he saved Iraq from that awful dictator [brave man ... tedious question all the same, giving Franken time to supply the usual talking points] (3) Bill O'Reilly shot (4) How our side can promote our point of view, including to the other side, in a rational and moral way. This last question also gave him the chance to show how honestly passionate he is about all of this.

And, that is why -- even though he is a bit much a bit too many times -- you got to respect the man. Still, how else can one think given the times? On the way to the subway, I passed the wall in the Union Square station filled with tiles of the dead from 9/11. Recently, the 2000th death from the war that the event helped encourage occurred. One can go on. But, one need not. Troubling times for sentimental progressives ... might even justify one more self-indulgent unfunny comedy routine or shot at Bill O'Reilly. Whatever it takes, you know?


* Franken was very close to Paul Wellstone, who died in a tragic plane crash three years ago, helping Norm Coleman (Republican flunky disguised as centrist) to clinch the Republican re-capture of the Senate. I note the NYT has an article on how a ton of firms helped to game the UN Oil For Food program but only focuses on other countries. The U.S. countries involved are not even mentioned! What crap. Sen. Coleman, who is using the issue as a way to target the U.N., must have smiled.

In his last book, Franken passionately discusses the death as well as how various members of the Right cynically used his memorial service to smear his supporters. You see, a few booed some conservatives who attended, which appeared to suggest that the memorial service was some kind of partisan maneuver. As I said at the time when some idiot brought the matter up in a critical fashion, do we expect those mourners to be saints? Put aside the trivial nature of the "outburst" -- those who promoted everything a recently killed (no, conspiracy theorists, not by "them") beloved senator stood for -- have a trivial amount of compassion and understanding.

But, for some, this seems impossible. Unfortunately, they are now in power.

** The chapter also sentimentally mentions his two children. One comment is fitting for me as well. Franken noted that when his son (Joe) was complimented as a good person, Joe mentioned (this was when he was 8, mind you) that it probably had something to do with the grandfather that he was named after. Well, I was named after my maternal grandfather, but that's probably true for me too. Unfortunately, I never knew the man, but from what my mom says, I wish I had.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Inge: A Girl's Journey through Nazi Europe

Inge: A Girl's Journey through Nazi Europe by Inge Joseph Bleier and David E. Gumpert (nephew) is a true life adventure story with made for TV movie potential. It concerns a Jewish teen who was able to get out of Germany on the eve of WWII, but wound up in an eventually not safe Red Cross run children's home in France. On some level, she was more "lucky" than others -- her father was able to leave Germany even though he earlier was arrested on trumped up charges and spent a few years in jail, and her older (by a couple years) sister emigrated to the United States. Her mother was left behind in Germany.

Inge's short account was rejected by publishers in the late 1950s, The Diary of Anne Frank -- a quite different experience in many ways -- seemed to be enough for that market. After Inge's sad death in the early 1980s, her adopted daughter found the manuscript and passed it along to Inge's nephew. Gumpert, a business reporter, used his journalistic skills and did some research ... meeting up many of the people in his aunt's story.

The result is this book, told in Inge's voice (quite well, many of the details put in by her nephew), and well worth a read by both serious teens and adults (I found it in the adult section of the library). It has a bit of everything: a taste of the usual troubling years of young adulthoood, especially for a serious young woman who would have difficulties even in the best of time. How life could be "normal" even in war years ... adventure and tragedy ... and the troubled life of survivors who wondered why they survived over others.

Germany to Belgium to France to Switzerland to New York City to Chicago ... refugee teen to nurse/head of Weiss Memorial Hospital. It's good a publisher saw fit to let the rest of us have a chance to know about this story.

Baseball Again

Prisoner Abortion Case: Put aside the title's suggestion that the denial can tell us that much. This essay's discussion of the lower court's opinion ordering a state to transport a prisoner (who it turns out will pay for the actual procedure herself, an important factor) to get an abortion fills in some interesting details. Key factor: prison need to supply medical services, even if it costs money and raises some safety concerns, the latter being the test in reducing prisoner rights (unless inherent to punishment), not state morality concerns. The opinion itself is not linked, but the essay sounds like a good summary.

I see -- I won't say it lost them the game, but it is notable -- that before the key grand slam in Game Two, there was two outs and the person who loaded the bases got on via another blown call. He was not hit by the ball; replays suggested as much and he admitted it after the game. Unlike a move made in a recent game of woman's golf (Michele Wie's first professional game), no official could "sleep on it," and disqualify the person the next day (that was silly btw).

The Astros benefited from at least one questionable call in a key situation (Braves/Eighth inning), so let me make a more general point: given the importance of the games, there were just too many bad calls in key situations after Game 162. Also, an umpire with an attitude problem (Joe West) was put on World Series staff. Not good.

Anyway, the Astros are in a position akin to the Padres in 1998 -- being left with sentiment that they have to be happy to just have gotten to the World Series. After all, they have found a myriad of ways to lose. This time, the starter did not do bad because he was hurt, but the line was lackluster anyway. This time, for the second time, the Astros got to the White Sox's bullpen for naught. It just took longer -- until after 2AM my time, 1AM local time (Chicago and Houston are in the same time zone) -- but came it did.

The Astros bullpen was down to dross, but he had two outs. Pinch hit home run: the Sox has a theme going where key home runs are hit by unlikely heroes, though late inning homers off back enders is less strange. The Astros -- in part thanks to an error -- was one hit away from tying it in the bottom of the 14th. Though the Astros had to deal with the Game Two starter in for a one out save, a pretty good hitter was up to bat with men on first and third. The Astros had made some clutch hits ... for ties and such ... but they do not yet have a true clutch hit. Down 3-0, they don't have much time left. The camera loved to go to Backe, Astros cheerleader ... now he's their last hope starter.

Red Sox: 1918/2004 ... White Sox 1917/2005? As of this writing, not quite yet.

Update: Backe shines, the closer and hitters do not. Sox sweep again. Time for a competitive WS.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sports Action

In the last ten years, the World Series had a pretty even split as to excitement. Game Four of the 1996 World Series was on yesterday, part of the YES (Yankee) Network's move to make people forget about recent failures. This is the game where the Yankees were down by six and won 8-6 in ten innings. It also marked the time when the Braves suddenly went totally downhill in respect to Series games -- they came back in 1999, but lost six more straight games (all to the Yanks). Of course, the year before (1995), they won the World Series. So, 1996 might be said to be the start of their "to the playoffs, but that's it" tradition.

The Yanks didn't make it in 1997, but current Yank (for the time being), Al Leiter did pitch good enough in the Game Seven to allow the Marlins to win in extra (another current Yank, scheduled to pitch Game One of the never to be Championship Series, started for the Indians). The Yanks went to the WS 1998-2001, though admittedly only 2001 was much of a battle. 2002 and 2003 were interesting too, while 2004 and (perhaps) 2005 were lamer.

Andy Pettite did his job in Game Six in 2003, but the rest of the Yankees did not ... loss. Different personnel, same result -- this time the relief corps, not the hitting, being the problem. The Astros relief core did decent in Game One, and the B team at that. The A team, so to speak, gave up five runs -- including, after the hitters managed to come back from two down in the Ninth. Those who like competitive games, as well as having a soft spot for Andy Pettitte, should find this a bit troubling. We do not need another yawner World Series.

Anyway, some exciting football as well. The frolicking Vikings came back from 17 down and won on a 56yd field goal; the Packers won by three in their last three regular season match-ups. The Eagles won on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. And, most importantly, the Giants' defense held when it counted, a missed 49yd field goal attempt helped, and they won with: 05 left -- winning by one point, while being favored by two. Nifty. In fact, during the desperation laterals, they intercepted the ball on the last play.

Thus, Denver's multigame turnover-free record ended. One also should note that the last time Denver came to NJ, the Giants managed to end that teams 13 game win streak. Denver survived, beat the Jets in the Championship game (Jets up 10-0 at Half Time), and won the Super Bowl. Still, it was a highlight of a lackluster year. Giants have a chance for a better one ... it also made up for last week's lackluster performance. Jets up tonight -- mismatched (overmatched) on the road vs. Speedy Gonzales aka Michael Vick. Well, think Monday Night magic.

Or, miracle ... whatever. Btw, will the Houston Texans win this year? Hope NY doesn't play them. Update: They don't, but the Jets (2-5) have a pretty nasty schedule. Nasty is one way to describe tonight's game.

Griswold Book

John W. Johnson's did a pretty good job with Griswold v. Connecticut: Birth Control and the Constitutional Right of Privacy. The chapter on the development of the right of privacy before Griswold, especially in the 18th Century, was particularly interesting. Johnson did a less impressive job in his quick review of events after Griswold, including not even mentioning an important case involving abortion advertising. Also, again, Justice Douglas' earlier speeches on the right of privacy were not mentioned, nor his more extensive discussion on the overall concept in his concurrence in Doe v. Bolton (the companion to Roe v. Wade). The latter, the former perhaps a bit more obscure, is an oversight worth noting.

As I referenced in the past, Douglas gave three lectures -- available in book form -- on The Right of the People. One chapter is expressly on "The Right of Privacy," which contains an early reference of the "penumbra" concept all too many assume was somehow first referenced in Griswold (or at best in his dissent in Poe v. Ullman). The essay is excerpted in a collection of his writings that is more easily obtained, Nature's Justice. Douglas' Doe concurrence is also interesting, especially in comparison to his thin majority opinion in Griswold, and even (in connective tissue on the constitutional right to privacy) the fairly thin majority in Roe.

And, thus ends our privacy week -- as a final note, in a post I will not link, I responded a bit heatedly to someone who also passionately dissented to a discussion on the right "to choose." This area is known for its passion, obviously, but the useful thing to do is to try to stop some misunderstandings. If possible. The post was troubling to me because it seemed to miss the fact that many (I would say most) who choose abortion -- rightly or wrongly -- recognize an important moral decision (is this not "choice?") is being made. Disagree with their decision all you like -- but ignore this, and you cross another line.

Talking about crossing lines, in an oral argument in front of the Second Circuit of Appeals that was aired on C-SPAN, I think one of the judges did so. He clearly does not like the partial birth abortion (so it's called -- disagree with the label as you wish) law, which is fine -- one can dispute it on constitutional grounds. But, the judge seemed to make it personal when he basically disgustedly asked if the deputy defending the law was serious that if she was thinking about getting an abortion, she would not trust her doctor in the specific example. No need to get personal like that. Leave that to us non-professionals.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Harry Truman and Civil Rights

Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage And Political Risks by Michael R. Gardner is not the best written book out there; it also is repetitive and a bit too hagiographic. Nonetheless, it cites an important and often forgotten moment in civil rights history: the truly remarkable breadth of President Truman's efforts when political and even family forces would suggest he would hold back. This grandson of slave owners (his mother, who lived into his presidency, hated Lincoln because of actions during Civil War Missouri) in the fact of Dixiecrat opposition, started the ball rolling in grand fashion.

Someone who only was a high school graduate with a bit of law school under his belt had a lot to teach the country. He created a special Committee on Civil Rights* to investigate the problems of race in America and suggest solutions, including the end of poll taxes, segregation, and true federal civil rights protections. The breadth of Truman's liberal vision (for "all Americans") is suggested by a speech to the NAACP, him being the first President to make such a speech to that still controversial organization:
Every man should have the right to a decent home, the right to an education, the right to adequate medical care, the right to a worthwhile job, the right to an equal share in making the public decisions through the ballot, and the right to a fair trial in a fair court.

President Truman -- whose approval numbers were at times ones that would make Bush's look good -- took special initiatives a plenty. Not only creating the committee, but also desegregating the armed forces, targeting discrimination in federal employment and housing, and strongly supporting civil rights in the courts. As noted in an amicus brief against racial convenants:
... Constitutional rights guaranteed to every person cannot be denied by the judicial branch of government especially where the discriminations created by private contracts have grown to such proportions as to become detrimental to the public welfare and against public policy.

The book also challenges those who reject the strength of the Vinson Court, at times reduced to a bunch of cronies of the President. Gardner suggests Vinson was a good pick, in part because Truman was a good judge of character, and the Court as a whole attacked segregation in any number of ways. True enough, though this does not mean Brown was necessarily always going to be unanimous even if Vinson staid alive. Or, that on some other issues, the Court left a bit to be desired, at least Truman's picks.

Overall, though the book was a bit tedious, this is an important segment of history, one sadly largely forgotten. Consider the breadth of human rights that Truman felt necessary for the government to uphold, including health care and a good job. Damn liberal, huh?


* The ultimate report suggests to the importance of privacy rights as compared to those areas -- sometimes touching similar ground -- that the government can regulate more thoroughly: "in a democracy, each individual must have freedom to choose his friends and to control the pattern of his personal and family life. But we see nothing inconsistent between this freedom and a recognition of the trust that democracy also means that in going to school, working, participating in the political process, serving in the armed forces, enjoying government services in such fields as health and recreation ... distinctions of race, color, and creed have no place."

Thus, "personal and family life" is the realm of private choice, while actions in the public sphere -- seen in some eyes as private too (consider homosexuals in the military) -- are different. The importance of a "right to privacy" again is not too remarkable.

Following the Theme

And also: A few thoughts on judicial elections here. Interesting thread overall. Congrats Astros for your first trip to the big dance. Game One: Match-up of former Yankee starters.

I guess this is "abortion week" over here on Joe's Eclectic Thoughts. A few more thoughts on the topic. First, Andrew Sullivan (various interesting posts on subject) notes that he accepts legalized abortion (in part as a question of bodily integrity) but thinks it is clearly "wrong," in fact, this appears self-evident to him. The population generally probably agrees on some level -- some do feel early abortion (especially early first trimester -- I don't know how Sullivan feels about the morning after pill issue) are relatively trivial in the sense that the development of the embryo (in reference to recent comments, "baby" often does not pop up in their minds) is just too small to warrant too much concern.

But, overall, people are wary about abortions. They rather not have them ... both since it is not a problem-free procedure and because some sort of human life is at stake. Thus, we have the "legal, safe and rare" motto. But, many things in life are "wrong" in some respect, but we feel them necessary. For instance, many are wary about race based affirmative action -- it is in some fashion deemed a violation of usual equal protection rules. But, they still find it a necessary evil, since the alternative is worse. Ditto killing the overpopulation of pets or even hunting . One can go on -- "wrong" is a complex philosophical concept (is it a cost/benefit deal? moral imperative etc.), but the fact abortion is "wrong" does not end the question to any degree. It is but an opening question.

Second, Harriet Miers supported a strong pro-life law during her political career. This is surely not a surprise nor is it necessarily a reason not to support her confirmation. Justice Jackson criticized things he put forth as an advocate when he worked for FDR. You wear different hats as judge and legislator. I think other problems, including the clear distaste from both sides of the aisle on her submissions to the Judiciary Committee thus far, can be pointed out. An eloquent statement of what is at stake can be found here -- but, suffice to say, this is somewhat embarrassing. As with his dad (Souter/Thomas), I guess one out of two isn't bad.

Finally, Richard Cohen -- quickly becoming the Nicholas Kristoff (apologizing liberal) voice at the Washington Post -- has a poorly reasoned critique of Roe based apparently on his shallow thinking as a younger man.* Don't blame the rest of us for your simplistic moral vision, Richard, okay? If he actually read the decision, he would be less able to cheap shot it to death. Just one passing shot is telling:
For instance, if the right to an abortion is a matter of privacy then why, asked Princeton professor Robert P. George in the New York Times, is recreational drug use not? You may think you ought to have the right to get high any way you want, but it's hard to find that right in the Constitution. George asks the same question about prostitution. Legalize it, if you want -- two consenting adults, after all -- but keep Jefferson, Madison and the rest of the boys out of it.**

Okay, this is dumb. First, recreational drug use is partly a privacy matter, which is one reason why Prohibition did not go over that well. Two, we aren't talking absolutes here. The prostitution bit is really dumb -- why not criminalize sodomy, Richard? I assume you don't like gay rights. Third, you do know that control of fertility is for various reasons more fundamental than the right to get high or pay for sex (other than the dinner/movie deal), right? Do you get paid for this shit?

A more sensical editorial at WP can be found here. Sigh.


* Is it poorly argued anti-abortion week at the paper? Anyway, I know I am just inviting pro-life arguments by keeping up these abortion posts, but not to worry, I will go back to just railing against Bush etc. and all will be back to normal soon.

Anyway, the heading of the piece is "Support Choice, Not Roe," but the piece cheapens "choice" as much as it cheapens Roe. My local paper put a different heading, saying Roe is more than a privacy issue. This is a more appropriate one, I think given the stance of the piece, but again ... (1) sure and (2) what do you mean by "privacy?" The Supremes have noted it means both the right of seclusion as well as the right to make certain intimate decisions. Both necessarily involve many issues. And, nothing is purely private. But, simplify away.

** The NY Daily News reprint only has the first sentence. Interesting example of editing, huh?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Witness for the Defense

NY Daily News Again: Following up on the "insider who is squealing" piece, my local tabloid has another good little item putting the Joseph Wilson attack in perspective. It is always useful to do that: life is not just a series of one shot deals.

Some congratulations today from various quarters on the beginning of the Saddam Hussein trial. I think Hussein's lawyers should subpoena members of the Reagan Administration, including special envoy Donald Rumsfeld. Really, we this is a serious matter. We have a sort of amnesia about how things worked. For instance, early in the bloody Iran-Iraq War, Iraq was losing. But, helped by the United States, Saddam Hussein was able to stick it out ... allowing many more years of death until the war ended in a sort of draw. The U.S. gave Iraq aid, a couple countries were allowed to continue to sell them weapons, and the U.S. even supplied a bit of intel to help Iraq out.

Sure, we tried to play both sides a bit at some point (Iran Contra, etc.), but we clearly favored Iraq. This was done as a sort of balance of power move. We knew what sort of person we were dealing with, of course -- we were not that stupid. In fact, later in the decade, after a particular heinous human rights violation, we continued to assist Iraq. And, now, various sorts are patting themselves on the back, and noting how heinous Saddam is etc. Only New Republic sorts (the loser Democrat brigade) actually admit such things and see the invasion as in part a sort of penance. Good thing we lied to the country about the war!

Yes, let us go there as well. We still have people -- including Sen. Graham -- suggesting that we went to war to overturn Saddam Hussein's administration. Sorry ... see, I was there, so to speak. In other words, I can recall the reasons supplied. And, of course, they had something to do with WMDs. Saddam Hussein was a bad man for years -- helped by the United States for at least half the time -- but something more was needed to sell the war. His downfall -- surely not a painless enterprise, especially the deceitful and faulty way it was done -- is a good thing. As was, to use a favorite comparison, Hitler's. But, we didn't go to war with Germany because he was a bad man. Nor did Great Britain. We did because we were invaded ... GB for a sort of (to continue the comparison) Kuwait invasion thing, though in Hitler's case he actually did invade the proverbial Saudi Arabia (France etc.).

But, his trial continues to let our leaders lie to us. This is annoying, got to say. Anyway, the rumor -- do not hope for much, look what that got NY sports fans -- that Rice is going to replace Cheney for Vice President is a pretty amusing. Catch up on those Commander in Chief episodes, Condi -- that Donald Sutherland is dangerous!*


* An interesting bit of casting is the Speaker of the House's (whose connections to people in the President's administration reminds one of Hamilton interfering with the Cabinet members President Adams kept from the previous administration -- the last episode in fact referenced President Tyler's troubles, the show having a sense of history) top aide -- she is best known for various B-movie roles including as a man hungry alien in Species and the VIP-like t.v. show She Spies. Still, she was in the Whole Nine Yards.

A Bit More

And Also: Many people were upset at the (badly) staged Q&A between the President and service personnel last week. I did not see commentary on how tired the President seemed though -- hard work to be a bad president, huh?

The Washington Post has a new feature in which they supply blog hits to their online materials. This was done to me twice, the first time in reference to a link to the Judith Miller coverage (I wanted a non-NYT source). My significant -- for me -- number of hits today appeared to come secondhand though ... a good number is via an apparently pro-life/Catholic sort of blog, and well, appreciate it. Links to me are generally good, even if the piece basically disagrees with my arguments.

Many of the blogs that linked to the op ed did seem to like it -- though see here -- and I find that troubling. Now, perhaps, airing out the specious arguments is important, since many supported them. If so, you have to express them so that others can dispute the shoddy reasoning. But, like a firecracker in a crowd causes a reaction, there must be better ways to get the people's attention. The piece was kneejerk to the extreme.

I emailed the blog that appears to be the source of many of the hits and the blog mistress sent a nice reply. I don't really agree with it, but that's okay. A major sentiment is that abortion rights supporters fail to admit what they are asking for. In effect, they want to defend "killing," but do not want to say so. In particular, killing "human beings," but the first issue apparently particularly struck home.

As with one person in the comments (abortion will get you some, try it someday on a message board), this seemed to me to underestimate the public. The public, though I don't like their actions sometimes (but I'm a member of the public ... well, I don't like my actions sometimes too), is smarter than some give them credit for. They know what "abortion" means. They just do not fully agree that "abortion" is akin to "killing," a word that has certain connotations (as does "baby" by the way).

A strict definition would apply it to any number of cases (such as euthanasia, execution, self defense) in which we do not quite consider "killing." You know, in the "thou shall not kill" (though the translation some say is better put as "murder") sense. So, we use different terminology. Yes, in some cases ("beef" over "cow"), we do so to hide things. But, also we do so as a shorthand for complex nuances that we surely do understand, but often do not just come out and say.

Thus, the population as a whole -- not just the proverbial "reproductive rights" crowd -- says "abortion" and not "killing baby." As one can see, there are important issues here. Let us discuss them ... tossing in personal experiences. Just not in the crummy way of the original editorial.

I wonder if any of the visitors will come back, lol. I'll leave the light on for ya.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Personal Still Can Be The Specious

Sports: Making of a MNF upset, but interception/QB hurt, and the end result is as expected. Yawn. Astros were one out away ... now they are twenty-seven once more.

In ancient Greece, babies with disabilities were left out in the elements to die. We in America rely on prenatal genetic testing to make our selections in private, but the effect on society is the same.

Margaret's old pediatrician tells me that years ago he used to have a steady stream of patients with Down syndrome. Not anymore. Where did they go, I wonder. On the west side of L.A., they aren't being born anymore, he says. ...

That's the rational pitch; here's the emotional one. Margaret is a person and a member of our family. ... What I don't understand is how we as a society can tacitly write off a whole group of people as having no value.

-- Patricia E. Bauer

I find this sort of thing distasteful. I ask of you Ms Bauer, if there was a test that determined on Day Five of pregnancy that the embryo would grow into a Downs Syndrome child, it would be akin to leaving baby's out on the hill to die? Would we consider it a heartless disrespect of humanity? Well, what if we determined a way to tell if conceiving on Thursdays would cause Downs Syndrome? I assume, parents who do not have sex on that day to prevent this are basically practicing eugenics.

Basically, Ms Bauer must oppose abortion per se. You abort in cases of rape -- you dispose of many potential beautiful children and members of the family. One can go on, except perhaps if it seriously threatens a woman's life or health. But, should we kill a member of the family just on the 30% chance the mother will die? If we abort, we basically "tacitly write off a group of people as having no value." No, sorry, Ms. Bauer, the fact you love your daughter does not allow you to get away with emotionally tinged fallacious arguments.

Emotional appeals are powerful and sometimes they are proper -- we are human beings, emotional appeals are human. For instance, there are various reasons to support animal rights and/or welfare, including the basic fact that it feels bad. Our emotions sometimes fails us, but emotion is often an accurate judge of right and wrong. But, sometimes they are dangerous, since it is hard to compete against them. And, you basically might even feel bad ... even if you are completely right. I am not completely right about things -- I am not infallible -- but you know what I mean.

This is why though I'm emotional in various instances, I am wary about making things personal when I argue a point. For instance, we have various sorts using 9/11 in emotional ways to promote ends that I find distasteful, or at least simply misguided. You know "you are either for or against us." This sort of thing pisses me off. I spent my life in New York City. I saw the smoke that day -- I was miles away, but I still saw the smoke -- not on television. And, my "leaders" (and others, many not New Yorkers) use the matter in crummy ways. This pisses me off in various ways, including on a personal level. But, that only takes you so far, right? You need more to point out the problems there.

This is why I can think women in skirts are cute ("Abby" is also a cute name ... though surely some men wear skirts and a few probably have the name Abby ... and not only those who wear kilts) and still speak against anti-gay laws and practices. Are we not to attack Ms Bauer because of who her daughter is? I'm not sure -- is she suggesting ever one who has a child with some related disability must be on the same page as her and think "the effect" of killing newborns are akin to second trimester abortions? Except for the sad cases recently noted in the news, the polio vaccine generally kept children from being stricken, is this "in effect" akin to killing newborns with polio? The net effect -- no children with polio -- is the same, right?

Mind you, there is something there -- abortion is chosen for many reasons, and a "disability" per se is arguably not so much less "immoral" than certain other situations -- I think the selective habit of exempting only rape/disability is questionable. Sometimes, other abortions are as or perhaps even more defensible. But, this does not suggest those aborted have "no value" -- or, perhaps, if the unborn was carried to term, they would not. This is particularly notable: the potential is not that actual -- your lovely child is just not akin to a fetus. The comparison is specious.

Nor, is it somehow evil to not want to bring disabled children into this world. Medical developments over the years fight various ailments and try to reduce the number of disabilities. Many who have these disabilities are perfectly lovely souls, but we try to prevent them all the same -- I assume the fact your daughter has Downs Syndrome is not the reason you love her. You love her for her -- so again, why limit it to this class? We have a lot fewer pregnant teenage girls going "away" these days too, this leads to fewer beautiful children with their dad's eyes as well. btw testing for Downs Syndrome is not a 21st century thing -- this sort of thing was done for years. The editorial suggests otherwise.

Finally, a word on another class -- the disabled themselves. Some -- again only some, since the disabled are not some singleminded group that march in lockstep -- suggest those who support abortion rights or the right to choose when to die or whatever are anti-disabled. The old slippery slope -- they aren't dead yet, etc. Choose to cut off the life support of Terry Schiavo, and who knows who is next -- maybe, perfectly wonderful old auntie will be "put out of her misery" because she is disabled or a burden. etc.

But, I don't understand ... I don't have a disabled daughter etc. It is unclear how we manage to write laws in this country then ... if only those directly affected by them can make the decisions. Of course, this might go the other way -- it might cause one to be biased. Nah ....

Anyway, I find this sort of thing distasteful.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Parole Violation = Forced Pregnancy?

Sports: NY Giants played to lose all day, Dallas finally let them in OT. NY Jets were close enough until the Bills put in the final nail. The Astros grinded out another pitching gem (2-1), while the White Sox starter went all the way for the fourth straight game. And, Anaheim -- though losing -- actually finally had a call go their way (and not -- but the final nail was the right call).

Update: The full Court did not support the stay, so the inmate can now have her abortion -- the months delay, however, remains distressing.

An interesting column discusses Miers possible views on a key issue: "tort reform." The coverage is largely focused on her religion and cronyism (suitable Federalist paper cited ... we are all originalists now*), but her business law experience is notable as well. Given the administration's friendliness to big business, especially in respect to less regulation and so forth, tort reform is a telling indicator here.

Also, this is a trouble case. Missouri wishes to "discourage" abortions by forcing those in jail -- here for a parole violation -- to have their baby. After all, they are not free to leave, so are at the mercy of the state. The woman found out in July that she was pregnant, immediately requested an abortion, and now is in her second trimester. Even if the woman is given the abortion now, it is a horrible situation -- the abortion would be a late second trimester (she is about seventeen weeks), which is riskier and more troubling in other ways (many are more morally opposed in such cases as compared to earlier abortions). Is this what we want to do? Force felons to have babies against their will?

Missouri has a history of such things. Missouri was involved in the Webster decision, the pre-Casey decision that was the first real chance for the anti-Roe forces to hope to overrule the opinion. Justice O'Connor, to Scalia's disdain, refused to do so -- rightly noting that the relatively trivial regulations could be upheld under the Roe framework. It also was Justice Blackmun's first "I'm old and Roe is hanging by the thread of my vote" opinion. At around the same time, Missouri also went out of the way in the Cruzan case to not allow parents to remove treatment from their brain damaged daughter ... though even the woman's own representative agreed it was a proper decision (he appealed on duty grounds). In other words, the state has a history of supporting "life" over every other interest. It does have the death penalty though (I know -- that can, in a fashion, be seen as pro-life).

There is this assumption that pro-choice sorts are crying wolf -- if we overturn Roe/Casey, women would still have a chance to get an abortion -- that is, if states actually let them do so. Of course, this is a half-truth -- if Roe was so meaningless, the pro-life (and pro-state discretion) side would not be so passionate in their opposition. In actuality, there are various cases where women will have a hard time, another currently being military dependants. For instance, I spoke of a military wife that was refused the funds to get an abortion even though she had an anacephalic fetus that was unlikely even to survive the pregnancy. And, now this.

More here.


* The Nation has a piece in which it challenges the personhood of corporations for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment in part because some argue that it was not the original intent of its framers. But, this is unclear, since various antebellum courts -- including the Supreme Court -- treated corporations as "citizens" and "persons" in certain respects, including for the purpose of suing in federal court. And, though it may not be relevant, the famous Dartmouth College case involved a corporation as well.

As an aside, abortion rights folks should be careful when using history in their favor, though surely both sides play around with it whenever it seems useful. Some note that abortion was legal when the Constitution was ratified, but the more telling point is that it was largely illegal when the Fourteenth Amendment -- what is usually at stake in abortion cases -- was ratified. This doesn't end the game by any means, but honesty dictates the mention. Anyway, various anti-Roe justices have made the point repeatedly.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Brooks and Miller -- Shills

David Brooks was on C-SPAN over the weekend promoting one of his books. I caught a bit of his remarks and they reflected his shallow editorials. Apparently, both parties are on the decline -- the Republicans are surrendering small government principles to keep power, while the Democrats are just whining about how bad Bush is. This meme, which is sold pretty well, is childish. The thing is that nasty childish tactics do the trick these days. It is unclear why it is wrong for Democrats to state the truth -- the Republicans are not just power hungry (implicitly just more of the same, nothing worse or nothing better than usual), but particularly bad. They also are in power across the board. So, just as the Republicans did before they regained power, attack is an appropriate strategy.

The claim, one I shall repeat is specious, is apparently that Democrats are just pissed Bush has power. So, they whine about him ... the fact said "whining" is based mostly on fact is put aside. You know, if the facts aren't on your side, go with what you got ... And, Democrats in various cases -- respectively compared to the ideas (messed up war, "Social Security reform," Republican based entitlement expansions based on shady statistics, tax cuts without fiscal responsibility mixed in, etc.) on the other side, have "ideas" as well. One might suggest -- I know this is complicated -- that competent non-corrupt government is also an "idea" as well. It wasn't enough for Kerry -- the truly idiotic in my eyes view that strongly lousy leadership (sort of an oxymoron, I know) trumping blandness won out -- but so it goes.

Anyway, David Brooks -- as his presence on that PBS News Hour show with Tom "the nerd's nerd" Oliphant (I say that with respect, Tom, really) suggests -- is supposedly not just a Republican hack. So, he should recognize such things. Brooks should not just shill the Republican line. He does, so people rightly find him distasteful. But, they are just whiny Democrats, so they are not to be taken too seriously.

Btw ... it's time to get rid of Judith Miller. Spending millions of dollars to not print news "fit to print" -- not quite the Pentagon Papers Case -- and defending a rogue reporter who decides she prefers not to fully assist in the report that finally airs out the whole Miller mess, after lying (saying she was not among those involved in the leaks, saying she was willing to write a story when her editor says not so, etc.) and saying things (like that she cannot recall who leaked key information to her) that just cannot be taken seriously.

This fifth columnist in their midst is likely to hurt a real reporter's case in the future when they are jailed for protecting a source that actually helped that write a key story. Does the NYT not have any shame?

Notre Dame Chokes When It Counts

Judith "Lying Embarassment to Journalism" Miller Update: Seems Miller just found some notes concerning the Plame matter and her conversations with Cheney's chief of staff, but remains cloudy on how the name "Valerie Flame" wound up in her notes. Oh, and she was under the impression -- as if her impressions warrant any respect any more -- that Libby thought her testifying to the Grand Jury would be against his interests. Anyway, he did tell her Wilson's wife worked for a CIA firm, but not that she was a covert operative. Oh, and the NYT overall thinks she's a bitch but still allowed her to get out of control, their editorial standing and news quality notwithstanding. How depressing.

I am not a big college football fan, but yesterday's USC (first ranked) vs. Notre Dame (9th, new coach from the Patriots doing good) was a top match-up. It also had the makings of an upset until Notre Dame totally choked literally in the last minute (okay, ninety or so seconds). And, not just one time. This made a so-called "epic" or "great" game to use two adjectives downright boring. To me at least -- fantastic wins by people who you expect to win is not that wonderful in my eyes, especially when the other team's failure to finish the job plus a bit of lousy luck is mixed in.

Seriously -- remembering that my true passion is saved for bad ump calls and NY football, the end of the game was a total cheat in my eyes. All ready for an upset, I turned it back on when it was 4th and Nine deep in USC territory. One more block, and Notre Dame would win it. They were up 31-28, failing (did not see it) for some reason to get another field goal after being in range earlier in the Fourth Quarter. USC made the First Down ... in fact, they made in First and Goal! Still, no timeouts, and Notre Dame stop them and hope for OT. Short run. QB run ... stop ... no time left!!!

But, wait! The ball was fumbled out of bounds near the goal line! There is :05 left. Yes, a fumble helped them. It is this sort of thing that is annoying -- great team make their own breaks, but "great" games are not great efforts by the other team to keep the favorite in check until at the very end everything goes the winning team's way. This gave them time to spike and go for a chip field goal. Knowing that they beat fate enough already that day for a win to be in their grasp, USC did not take that route, though they played at preparing for it. They went for it -- and made it. An unsportmanslike celebration resulted in a penalty and they missed the extra point. :03 left, no miracle for Notre Dame (I thought they had special help), they win 34-31.

So, great ball control and so forth the whole game for Notre Dame, until the final ninety seconds. Then, they could not stop 4th and long, let them get a long run to set up the score, did not quite make that goal line stand, and had a bit of bad luck to boot. Epic game? Epic choke, I say. Meanwhile, the White Sox look to finally have a chance to return to the Series (can their crosstown rivals be next?), and the Astros are one step closer to getting their first trip. Well, Clemens' mom had a vision, right?*


* In a truly cheesy extended moment, the announcers spoke of Clemens' mom deathbed visions of the Astros winning 10-2 that night (of her death) and then of them apparently going to the World Series. Oh, come on. Also, since apparently every end of the year game since 2003 might be "Clemens last," maybe we can call a moratorium on that deal too, okay?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cassandra Alert

Baseball: Garcia pitched a six-hitter (with more umpire help), following up on Mark Buehrle's five-hitter and Jon Garland's four-hitter. Sox 3, Angels 1. And also: Interesting brief by former top military personnel on why the Supreme Court should take the Hamdan case. It helps when military explain why applying Geneva protections on "enemy combatants" is in our interests. Good cite of a situation involving a Somali warlord that makes the government look hypocritical here.

Paul Krugman had a column* yesterday raising the question of why it took so long for the press to realize the problems with entrusting the presidency with Dubya. He referenced remarks he himself made in November 2000 that only seemed remarkably prescient because others did not take proper attention. This is not only the case with easy to ridicule members of the "MSM" (another at least slightly annoying "in" acroymn usually used in a disparaging matter) by an means. People who one would think should know better -- including quite thoughtful members of the message board academy with totally proper ideological identies -- were at least somewhat shocked at how bad things turned out.

I find this somewhat annoying. Before the Election, I read Molly Ivins' take on the guy (Shrub). Ivins is a progressive voice with a long term experience watching Texas politics. I first read a collection of her essays before Bush was even governor. She views things through a progressive prism, but people across the board generally trust her perceptive and knowledge of Texas politics. And, her book -- as she somewhat peevishly (in her playful way) noted in her sequel -- is quite predictive of the style of governance Bush now favors. Now, I admit my general reason for not liking him in '00 was because I thought him a bit of an idiot. Still, all the other stuff didn't bode well either.

Surely, I am not in no way "shocked" at how things turned out. Maybe, I did not think he would go as far as he did in some ways -- but the general bad taste follows his past performance. The same really arises when dealing with Iraq. You actually have totally intelligent people quite surprised at how messy things are these days. You know, the EXACT SAME THING many opponents of the war feared, including entrusting things in these people's hands. Apropos of a recent PBS documentary on Helen of Troy (and Sparta), such fears are akin to Cassandra -- the Trojan prophet doomed to be right, but not to be believed.


* I read this column in the library -- another way is to find a loose paper, which often is quite possible in Manhattan. The days of actually just going online to read them is over with the new "Times Select" service in which they want you to pay $50 to have the privilege of reading editorials and other "prime" pieces as well as searching the archives.

Uh, I have access to an archive much wider than your paper's resources, and your editorials are not that precious. In fact, some blogs link to some of them anyhow. There is also a "14 day" trial deal, but no thanks. At least, Salon just forces you to view an advertisement for their "day pass." After the whole Miller mess, the NYT really does not need less readership.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Update: Jim Caple of ESPN had an amusing take, noting in part the remarkable number of catchers ultimately involved, here. Bottom line, he blamed the ump, if not 100%. Another column noted that the ump was wrong, but c'est la vie. Yeah, life does go on, but one has the right to be annoyed about it. And, regarding Caple, nothing is ever all one person's fault -- nearly not. But, blame can be placed somewhere all the same.


Errors, including by officials, are part of sports. Like moms, officials need not admit their error, even if the game turns on it. Thus, the manager of the Angels had to shrug off a particularly horrendous one last night, including because his players just wanted to go to bed.

This issue deserves a mention. One can point to various spots in the playoffs so far where questionable calls could have turned the game and series. The Braves was up 6-1 in Game Four (down 2-1 in the series) in the eighth inning on Sunday, the inning continuing (until the Astros made it 6-5) via two questionable calls, one non-out at first many felt was particularly egregious (seeing replays, maybe). The Yanks also was victim of a call -- that could have led to them loading the bases with clutch hitter Bernie Williams coming to bat -- in Game Five, when a rarely called "running out of the baseline"/inference with the first baseman (whatever it was) led to an out at first base and end of the inning.

Still, we are not talking potential last out of game here. The situation looks worse if we step back. The Angels, after a break on Saturday, played four straight days (East Coast-West Coast-Chicago-Chicago). They won Game One (pitcher on three days rest) vs. the White Sox and left Game Two in the hands of someone who was just off his sick bed. He played 4 2/3 with no earned runs, but an error on the first play of the game led to an unearned run. Still, it was 1-1 in the Ninth, the White Sox ace going the distance (the day before, another ace went into the Ninth).

After a somewhat touchy first inning of work, the spot fifth starter of the Angels (two starts, 31 relief appearances) was in his third inning of relief in the Ninth. And, he got the nine outs -- the White Sox's line-up going around in the process. They saw him; they was more familiar with his stuff. Likewise, the guy -- don't know if he is a rookie, but surely not one of the team's time worn veterans -- was also liable to give up a key hit soon enough. One doubts if he would have came out in the Tenth, but maybe. The back-up catcher was behind the plate.

The third strike ... to both the radio and television announcers as well as the Angels (and probably many of the White Sox) ... the third out call as well. The plate umpire did the fist thing. Anyway, the ball hit the mitt, not the dirt, and it was a strike and out (vs. just a strikeout). So, the catcher rolled the ball back to the mound. But wait! It's not an out! The guy is safe on first. Steal, clutch hit, and White Sox wins game. Series tied 1-1. Bullshit.

One doesn't want to be a crybaby about the whole thing, but please. This business of "well, he had to get the out, no matter if the call was blown" business is technically accurate. Sure. Pitchers lose games all the time because of errors that they cannot pitch around, but we have three outs for a reason. And, we are not talking Colon or K-Rod here ... we are talking about a stretched out back-end rotation/relief guy, who minutes before thought he was out of the inning. Give a team another out when facing someone in their third inning of work, and clutch hits will happen more than probability dictates. And, this was not just any point in the game -- it was potentially the last out of the game. It also was not just a "well, it was a close play, but ..." deal. It was just stupid.

A nailbiter falls to umpire error. A Championship series nailbiter. A rather stupid error. And, then the umpires after the game circle their wagons and say that in fact it was not an error. Talk about balls. Home field advantage, apparently (the other two errors cited above were in the home parks of the beneficiaries). Still, now Anaheim has to win the series or lose it big. A 4-2 or 4-3 deal will be a freakening cheat. Meanwhile, the Cards won Game One the usual way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Editing, Tedious; Constitution, Not

Baseball: Three nights, three time zones, three games ... two wins. Not bad, Angels. And also: A quick summary of constitutional law for Miers et. al.

I have found the Constitution a rather fascinating document for some time in large part since it covers so much ground. Therefore, any number of constitutional issues touches many issues of fundamental importance, such as the whole abortion deal. This issue is so interesting to me because again it raises so many questions -- moral, equality, historical, privacy, and so on. Abortion also touches upon free speech, criminal justice, federalism (the federal partial abortion ban is wrong on that ground alone), and more. And, one can come at it from many angles -- for instance, one might say that true family values is letting families themselves decide this question, using personal moral choices not dictated by the state. One might cite Sacred Choices, spelling out various pro-choice religions.

On some level, obviously, it is a rather distasteful and/or unpleasant subject. But, it is so comprehensive in scope that it simply is fascinating. And, so much of the ground is often elided over in the debates on the issue. Griswold itself shows this -- and I say this even before reading the new book (Griswold v. Connecticut) on the case, which sounds like a must read -- the fact that the opinion cites cases covering the right of "privacy and repose" but one matter. Blame does go on the rather thin opinion itself -- for what turned out to be a rather seminal case, the opinion is mostly a throwaway.* A concurrence by Justice Goldberg (joined by Warren and Brennan) fleshed it out somewhat, but not on the privacy issue per se -- it was more concerned with using the Ninth Amendment to beef up the overall concept of "substantive due process" itself.

The seven justices in the majority (though Harlan covered the ground in his Poe v. Ullman dissent [widely quoted in later years a la Brandeis' Olmstead dissent] a few years before) basically joined with White (who also had a concurrence) in assuming the right at issue was obvious. Maybe so, but it basically took to Casey (1992!) for the Supreme Court to directly supply an expansive defense to the right to privacy. Until then, it was in effect accepted, but the foundation was based on scattered cases. Roe itself did not help too much ... the opinion is not worth the disdain it receives, but it seems like the opinion lost a section at the printer. You know, the one that connects the dots a bit more with some descriptive glue.

But, having been working on a personal opus on the Constitution, I sort of give them a pass. First off, editing is hard. How I survived before the word processor is unclear. I have various stuff written in long hand and my main thought it that we do not pay schoolteachers enough. This is not said because I know one personally ... it is because they have to read a ton of stuff that is even halfway as sloppy as my handwriting. And, it is not just the inability to write legibly; it is the whole editing thing. I was reading over something I wrote for college ... college now. I just thank goodness the professor was somewhat in his dotage ... this is the only way I managed to get a B in the class given this thing was a big part of the grade. On the other hand, word processing software was less particular in those days.**

Still, since the subject fascinates me, the effort was enjoyable. I now know why Laurence Tribe decided to stop writing his constitutional opus -- he knows that there is just too much ground to cover, and providing a halfway decent summary or adequate coverage of the issues is not quite possible. Choices are made, things are left out. And, missteps are made in the process. All this business about constitutional law being in a state of flux is just an excuse. As to the fact he is an expert -- though expertise is apparently overrated these days -- well, that is why he gets the money and face time.

Who needs that, right?


* Some suggest Justice Douglas had an even less impressive draft opinion (this is somewhat hard to believe) but was counseled by Justice Brennan, who basically was a key contributor of the final reasoning of the opinion. But, in the 1950s, Douglas gave a trio of speeches on the "right of privacy," in part noting that various rights amount to "penumbras" of enumerated rights. A right to privacy -- included a note on how it is fundamental to liberty (some realm of private choice being a core component) -- is also a theme found in some of his opinions, including two dissents in particular.

I find it depressing that many accounts of Griswold failed to note such things, though a recent Daily Kos post does cite the "privacy cite" section of Griswold. Anyway, if Brennan did counsel Douglas to flesh out his opinion, Douglas did so by summarizing his own past writings.

** One person I got to know a bit online is particular with her editing. I noted to her that it is just pointless to re-read one's writing too many times, since it just makes you find errors. And, you never can find them all after you reach a certain point of verbiage. Still, I guess since she, uh has to follow ethical guidelines respecting a certain level of care, such perfection because second nature. This is why one will not find a "would of" for "would have" in her writings.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Schlesinger Report

And Also: Yanks sorta choked last night -- after starting off very weakly, they rebounded to again win the AL East, but really there is not the old fire any more. I simply cannot be excited by the team anymore as currently composed. It is becoming (choke) an AL Braves: division win obligatory, going home early, also apparently so (though the Yanks went to the WS twice since 2000). Note how an Astros/White Sox World Series would have four former Yankee starting pitchers on the roster. Cardinals/Sox might be more likely, but A/W works for me. After all, is it not time for the White Sox to get their curse out of the way?

I was skimming The Official Reports of the Independent Panel and the Pentagon on the abuse at Abu Ghraib (and elsewhere). Perhaps, the most important thing to remember is to note who wrote the "Schlesinger Report" -- the panel included two former secretaries of defense (Nixon/Ford and Carter), a retired air force general, and member of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee (R.I.P. -- Tillie Fowler). You know, not the ACLU. A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Colin Powell) opposed the non-application of the Geneva Conventions on the detainees, which helped further the abuse.

Various members of JAG core also opposed the rules eventually applied. And, other big names challenged them, including in respect to the rules put forth for military commissions. Some of these names can be found on amici briefs in various lawsuits involving such matters. Bottom line: key members of the military leadership did not like what went on. Putting aside the abuse on the detainees, what of the abuse of our military? This is perhaps the ultimate shame, even if people think abuse of detainees is a cost of war. On a separate issue, consider this discussion of the twisted moral depravity in respect to sexual matters of the current Defense Department.

The report was depressing reading -- it is the sort of thing that makes me want to rant. And, note the dates: this stuff came out in the open in early 2004, though insiders knew something wrong was going on earlier than that. But, again, bottom line -- it really was not too important. I say this for a couple reasons. (1) Congress did not lay down the gauntlet, clarifying rules of capture, as is their constitutional duty. (2) The public, after the issue was not really addressed in the campaign, re-elected the administration involved. Such things are like the poor -- unfortunate, but something we must handle. This is best done if we just do not think too much about it.
The events of October through December 2003 on the night shift of Tier 1 at Abu Ghraib prison were acts of brutality and purposeless sadism. We now know these abuses occurred at the hands of both military police and military intelligence personnel. ... They represent deviant behavior and a failure of military leadership and discipline.

Not my words -- the panel's. The final sentence is clarified in the text. The "deviant behavior" is not the result of a few deviant members of the military. It was furthered and in some way inevitable given the acts from above. As with the 9/11 Commission, the criticism of the administration shines through from people who in no way can be smeared as partisan whiners. The deviant part, and the report (reports actually -- the booklet I had included parts of the Fay Report) admits as much, is a bit generous. The system, rules, and leadership was clearly at blame in part here as well.

The administration misconstrued the likely aftermath of the war, leading to an underequipped effort that particularly included prison personnel. Unclear policy dictates as well as undertrained/overseen prison personnel furthered wrongful conduct. Rules applied to Guantanamo Bay (small prison population, much more ability to oversee, prisoners generally deemed "unlawful combatants" without Geneva Convention protections) flowed into Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter covered by Geneva and involving a prison overwhelmed by events (75:1 guard/prisoner ratios, prison continually under attack, leading to deaths of prisoners, etc.). And, abuses went on without proper response, blame that can go to the top.

But, this is not 2003 or even 2004. This is 2005, going on 2006. And, a bill that would simply require members of the military to follow military code of conduct (the reports did not deal with CIA involvement -- testimony in the Alberto Gonzales confirmation and so forth suggests "humane" rules did not apply to them) is still not passed -- even if the measure (which Bush -- who has yet to veto anything -- threatened to veto; bring it on asshole) passed in the Senate with less than ten votes against. War is hell, but hell on earth can be tempered some, I think. The military itself thought so, but soldier on as their leadership fails them.

We are better than this.


Sports: Vinny Testaverde is back and gave the team enough life to beat undefeated Tampa (14-12, one touchdown basically on defense). Though a bad call apparently helped, the Braves blew a 6-1 eighth inning lead, and lost in 18 to the Astros ... Clemens coming to uh pinch hit (it was either him or Oswalt, unless Pettite was available) and relieve for three innings. Clemens last relieved about the time the player who hit the winning run was born. Given the questionable hitting on both sides (though the Braves put up a threat in the 14th and made the closer work earlier), it is surprising they still aren't playing. Still, all is right when the Braves lose in the playoffs.

The creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (television series) also created a short-lived, if cult favorite, sci fi series entitled Firefly. He used the idea to make a small budget big screen film -- Serenity. It has also been a favorite, now for more people, including some on the blogosphere (Political Animal/Talking Points Memo) ... and one might add me to the list as well. As Kevin Drum (PA) notes, it is a good B-movie, not a masterpiece, but simply put, enjoyable entertainment.

I might add that the sci fi story of a rebel ship with a mysterious young passenger on board (a target for an assassin, played by someone I caught on a BBC lawyer series) also must be taken with a couple provisos. One, a couple plot points are of the "necessary for advancement of plot" variety, though since the movie does not take itself too series, this is not really a problem. And, second, for light entertainment, a part of the plot is pretty damn tragic. I am of the mind-set that certain tragic things need to be earned in films -- if the film is too lame, it does not warrant such downer plot developments. This film is well made (and acted -- with a light touch) enough to earn such things.

And, as with Buffy, there is an underlining seriousness to this film -- as with a vampire show, we are not to take it too seriously, sure, but it must be of some note. This adds to the enjoyment in the long run. [Buffy was a rather serious show, which is why it was a favorite a lot of smart nerd sorts along with others.]

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sat Morning Thoughts

Sports: One hears about the "Curse of the Bambino" -- well heard -- but the White Sox have had it worse. They had yet to win a postseason season since 1917 (and threw one two years later). Well, that has changed with a sweep of the Red Sox in Round One ... and they barely broke out a sweat doing so. The first game was a romp, the second was won in the mid-innings via an era, and the last by a Houdini job by former Yank (another winning Game One), El Duque, coming in with no one else and the bases loaded in the sixth ... White Sox up 4-3. No runs were scored and he pitched two more scoreless innings. Meanwhile, the Yanks are down 2-1, the Big Unit coming up small, and Aaron Small (10-0) finally losing a game as a Yankee.

Miers: The hysteria by some on the Right against this gal is amazing. Charles Krauthammer wondered how she is more qualified than any other of the million or so lawyers out there. You too can be a Supreme Court justice! In fact, since you technically do not have to be a lawyer (unlike the solicitor general who has to be "learned in the law"), why stop at lawyers Charles? Another thought it damning that she was a leader in her state ABA -- clearly a liberal bastion.

Dems are smiling with glee, but cut through the shit, the critics are right on the cronyism and somewhat dubious (for this level) experience. O'Connor was minority leader, state judge, and was said to have what it takes to be the governor of the state. And, Miers was involved in the administration's war policy -- this is a negative not only on the substance, but because she would have to recuse herself. But, darn if the conservatives are hysterical. As others say, "I feel your pain." This administration is painful to bear, is it not? It's your fault, of course, but keep on whining.

Air America: Katherine Lanphur is leaving Air America to write a book. She was the professional journalist/experienced radio host half of the Al Franken Show as well as being its ballast. This is unfortunate. In fact, since Franken had to leave early for a conference, she handled the show solo for an hour or so on her last day. Her low key, levelheaded style came out. Usually, she says in the background and lets Franken dominate.

He is an entertainer so can handle it and has the brains. But, he has a certain simpleminded centrist do-goer mentality that annoys after awhile. This was shown by his gung ho "we will win" support of Kerry. It is shown by his repeated opposition to so-called "cut and run." And, so forth. Meanwhile, other key hosts are a bit too kneejerk or at times a bit foaming at the mouth. Some, like Randy Rhodes and Sam Seder, are clearly on the ball ... but Katherine has a sort of levelheadness that appeals to me. A couple of the lesser known hosts that are not regulars (except on weekends) have promise and though she is a bit boring, Rachel Maddow is good.

But, honestly, the daily hosts aren't quite my style. Katherine sorta was, even if she was woefully underused. And, she will be missed. btw I added to the Wikipedia -- user generated encylopedia -- experience by adding a line about her departure to her entry. It was quickly edited into the piece though my addition is still present at the bottom of the essay. A bit of clean up please!