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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Give Pepper Dennis A Chance

And Also: Some note that the newly appointed treasury secretary (have a nice life John, thanks for playing) is actually someone we can truly respect. On the job training sort of works that way -- after six or so years, you make some sound moves. Hey, let's re-elect the lot of them in November. Bush did lie a few days back when asked if the old guy was on his way out, but hey, it's not like he's a straight shooter or something. Honesty is so subjective, especially if you are not Clinton. This is also why there are not big stories about the marriages of other senators.

UPN and WB are combining their network products to from CW, which will be broadcast over the WB channels (at least that is the case here). UPN, which is a FOX subsidiary, for some reason will stay alive -- it now has a "My 9" theme, like "My 9 News," which just sounds stupid. "It's not your news, it's mine ... all mine!!!" Sounds like Daffy Duck, or something.

The point is, and I mentioned this in the past, is that Pepper Dennis (starring an X-Men babe Rebecca Romijn) is not scheduled to make the transfer to CW. This is questionable, since the show has an attractive lead (nice on the eyes, and actually has some personality as well) and some potential plot-wise. Given the paucity of talent even on the "real" networks, this seemed enough to fill an hour slot. In fact, it probably can fit one of the hours of the three major networks, or FOX -- which, as Conan O'Brien notes, sometimes beats one of the former big three in the ratings.

Given House was not on last night, I had a chance to watch an episode. The show is flawed, but I stick with my previous opinion, partly since being flawed is not exactly a rarity on television these days. For the uninitiated, Pepper Dennis (a professional name as we find out when her divorcing sister embarrasses her by using her real name) is sort of like a latter day Murphy Brown, a serious Chicago investigator TV. reporter dealing with personal issues and producers/higher ups who want to focus on entertainment and personality over hard news. Like Murphy, she also does not have a great personal life, though (more so here) she is a babe. Again, apparently, women reporters just have lousy sex lives.

This is one problem -- the show has a tendency to embarrass its lead. For instance, she has a one night stand, and later finds out it is the new anchor -- who one-ups her more than once. Last night, it was a gay football player who uses her as a beard -- the anchor finds out he is gay, but Pepper doesn't want to admit it at first. And, to boot, he investigates the story behind a pending tell all book better than she does. This overall is supposed to be amusing, but after awhile it seems a bit exploitative. PD says the "f" word on air (after that anchor, thanks to her sister, refers her by her real name). She goes undercover in some men's club (well, that's almost a gimmee with that bod). And, so forth. This does not really respect the lead character, and poisons the well.

This is unfortunate since I do think the character has potential, especially if we accept that she would not be a perfectly drawn one in various ways. Also, those around her -- the sister (the two actresses have a real resemblance) is an enjoyable character, attractive with a veneer of need/privileged suburban wife forced out of position who plays off PD very well. PD's best friend at work is her make-up artist, who looks like the author of The Washingtonienne, the infamous roman-a-clef of insider D.C. gossip. She'd be good in the movie version. The anchor/rival plays off PD well, if only she was given a bit more of an upper hand at times. And, there is some other attractive support staff, including a slutty weather girl and so forth.

One potential thing going for it, though you never know about the new series about the behind the scenes look of a SNL-like show (the other more light 1/2 hour version with Tina Fey also sounds good -- like her), is that there is a spot for a hour long light office comedy with serious aspects that does not have to do with law or medicine. It still might be saved, especially as a mid-season replacement deal (people thought Seventh Heaven was over, and Less Than Perfect is back), but it would be something of a shame if it was not given a chance.

No great loss, obviously, but it has potential to be a pleasing way to spend an hour sort of like Becker is (at least for now) turning out to be a nice thing to watch at the end of the day (it's on 1:35AM locally ... I also can watch it 11:30PM/my time on WGN). I never watched it when it was on Monday nights, but it has something -- who can begrudge a show that takes place in a clinic in the Bronx? As with many things, decency (as in decent) is something that we sneer at while looking back depressed that it isn't there any more. I have great respect for those who are steady sorts, not great by any means, but able to do their thing with consistency. Thus, your corner outfielder who consistently gives you effort, some key hits, and good fielder. Or, a worker who is there everyday, reliable, and does not really give you any trouble.

Anyway, last night's episode concerned Pepper Dennis liking a football player who turns out to be gay. Part of the humor of it all is that her co-worker simply loves the guy as a football player, so wants to help him when his sexuality causes problems. For instance, he goes to a resident gay at the office for advice ... a scene that works pretty well. He also finds the author of an upcoming tell all (who secretly dated the player, who eventually cut it off when it got too serious), passing by a duo who are excited that he works with PD -- she is just their favorite (think drag queen material), which also was an amusing bit. The anchor reminds the guy that it is a lot easier for a writer like himself to be out than a professional football player. And, he agrees not to release the book. Taking the easy way out, the show has the football player come out anyway* -- and having even most of his team (the dissenters, if any, not "outed") supporting him.

All of this, somewhat roughly, raises some interesting questions. For instance, the whole matter of "outing" people, which has been debated various places. Some argue that it is proper to invade one's privacy in this fashion if the person is overly hypocritical -- such as supporting anti-gay public policy. Outing "role models" like athletes is a different matter. This is generally deemed improper, privacy being more valuable than the potential good that might come from people realizing just how diverse the homosexual class truly is. A purely utilitarian approach might argue that outing some people might be a good thing, especially those like the player he who lied about it via flashy use of cover models and so forth. But, privacy is also a value, if not always clear in concrete terms.

I say to CW that having a show that -- however imperfectly -- gives us a chance to think about such issues with some nice eye candy and decent writing on the side is a good thing. This is so especially if it can find its groove after a few episodes, which often is the case in television. [Seinfeld took a good season or two to become so successful ... Friends hit its groove in the middle of its run.] An extra hour of model reality shows or the like really is not an improvement. If not, maybe FOX -- which surely has some slot to fill -- might take it on. If not, some of the talent here has potential elsewhere. As to Becker, Ted Danson is due to be on a new ensemble show, also playing a doctor. I might check it out ... now, or five or so years down the road if it makes syndication.


* PD and the anchor had just talked to him, so they are watching from behind the front door as he comes out in a major press conference. This upsets the news manager -- top two reporters in background as opposition release major story. PD reassure him that they have an exclusive ... he cries.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

America Is Not For Cowards

Baseball: Randy "so I had four or so bad games, what do you expect for 15M" Johnson finally had a good effort vs. the Tigers yesterday. Meanwhile, the Mets had another stressful game (blew a pair of leads of three and two runs), which personally is just a tad too stressful for this writer, even if they did win in the bottom of the 9th.

I was talking to someone who noted that she was blessed with a family/life to die for, but did note that it takes a lot of work. Surely -- anything important is rarely easy, especially having children, which I personally think requires equal amount of love and insanity. This reflects the matter of being a citizen of this nation -- it is not always a piece of cake. Such is why I find it ridiculous when some note that certain news stories might help the enemy, including the national security warrant taps series. You know, the ones where the fact the President broke the law was almost spoken in passing.

Some note overall the program might be counterproductive, especially as carried out right now (including the lack of the necessary warrants and oversight). All the same, it is not impossible to suggest that in some way talking about the program might in some fashion help people we wish not to help. You know, just like if we trust our spouses, it might tempt him/her to do something wrong. In other words, freedom requires a bit of risk. The risk, however, is supposedly worth it. We are not to be a nation of cowards. This theme was raised by some blogs and so forth, and it is a sound one. Freedom of the press, due process of law, equality, and all the rest is not easy. Surely not as much as being a coward, being scared to stand for our freedoms because the terrorists may win or something. Ironic.

The heroes who died in the Memorial Day* roadside bomb attack definitely knew the truth of that statement. The NYT had a piece noting that this conflict is uniquely dangerous to members of the press. A major reason is that this is not really like wars of the past, but is in effect an occupation. This leads to more danger of these surprise attacks. But, as they have at least from the days of the Civil War, the press continues to serve our nation by going to the war zone (technically "war" or not, it is appropriately called) in order to give us a flavor of what is going on. The surviving wives, children, and grandchildren of the slain points out how much risk is involved.

To shift gears a bit, this is sort of why people are quite right to be cynical -- if not just plain angry -- at how Congress (though there were some dissenting voices) responded to the search of Rep. Jefferson's office. Honestly, there was some there there ... it is suggested that the office of a member of Congress should be given the same respect as you and me. But, this is not quite true. Certain places -- lawyer offices, places of worship, bedrooms, news rooms, and so forth -- have rightly been deemed to have special constitutional flavor above and beyond "normal" areas. And, separation of powers and so forth does suggest members of Congress, especially in respect to their legislative papers (so talking about a murder weapon, etc., is misleading), deserve some special concern.

Some was given here, which makes the claim weaker, but due care is a good thing. And, more could have been supplied here, arguably at least. The problem is that the complaints are coming from people who have looked the other way in respect to much more serious threats to liberty and executive overreaching. For instance, lawless warrant taps and telephone record data mining of average Americans is more serious than searching the office of a member of Congress who refused to submit to a subpoena, for which the authorities have glaring cause on tape to suspect of bribery, and which was done via a warrant that included special care respecting legislative papers.

[There was a House panel today investigating the matter. One witness was Jonathan Turley, a professor who has shown consistency as to executive overreaching, including supporting the censure move. The clips on t.v. news that I saw, however, were misleading in that they did not note that there was care taken to weed out privileged material.]

Take that plank out of your eye before you worry about the splinter.** Things do tend to come back and bite ya, don't they? Anyway, the American public has more things to worry about. Like honoring the dead and injured of an attack oh so ironically taking place on Memorial Day.


* I watched a mandatory war movie last night, Hell is For Heroes with Steve McQueen and others. Putting aside a chance for Bob Newhart (a young actor at the time) having an opportunity to do one of his famous phone routines, one thing that stood out was a lesson for the tough guy McQueen character. He was an outspoken private, who was upset at some of the decisions made by his sergeant. In the end, he sees the tragic results of questionable (and reckless) command decisions. The importance of chain of command, even when it seems questionable, which it surely was over the years. James Coburn also had an interestingly cerebral character, which was somewhat atypical.

** I referenced that book of bible stories that was recently purchased. The cover art is annoying since it has a lily white Adam and Eve, which encourages people to forget the actual color of their skin. Just started it, but already a few telling stories have something to teach. Consider the Tower of Babel, which is the story of God discovering his people were trying to build a tower to the heavens in order to threaten his authority. He considered the dangers of the people speaking with one voice, deciding to split the world into various competing groups, all speaking a different language. Separation of powers / checks and balance metaphor?

Likewise, before the destruction of Sodom, Abraham pleaded with God to spare it. What if there were fifty righteous people there, would that be enough to spare it? God with all of his justice agreed. Eventually, Abraham whittled things down to ten ... yes, God agreed, if merely ten innocents were present, he would save Sodom. Turned out to be too high of a bar anyway (fleeing the destruction, his nephew Lot's wife looked back, and turned into a pillar of salt -- "sodium" comes to mind), but this sounds like the but one innocent among ten/hundred guilty theme, doesn't it?

Monday, May 29, 2006

In Memoriam

And Also: El Duque tossed a servicable fifth starter sort of effort yesterday in his first outing with his usual ton of pitches. In fact, Jeremy Gonzalez (traded for another bullpen arm) began to look like an acceptable sort too. Now, if the team can win for Pedro (0 for May, mostly no decisions, one hard luck loss) ... Interesting moment: Orlando taking a pitch all the way (stepping back) with two strikes (not at 3-2) and two outs. Also, another good outing for Heath Bell, who has a great name as well. Meanwhile, the Yanks hung on to win 6-5 vs. Kansas City, who was losing 5-0 in the 1st.

A couple embedded reporters were killed by a road side bomb today, one more in serious condition. The U.S. military has not reported any military deaths. This conflict has been unique in the lethal nature to the members of the press. Over the years, war reporting has been so essential because it allows the rest of us to understand what is going on, including getting a flavor of the veterans honored today. In that respect, the slain should be honored today as well. It is proper, I think, to honor all those who died in the service of our country during military conflict. These two reporters ... adding to the over sixty others ... gave their lives so our nation can truly live.

[Update: The NYT now adds: "Two others, an American soldier and an Iraqi interpreter, also died in the attack, the American military command said, adding that six other soldiers were wounded." Meanwhile, "At least 15 other people were killed in attacks elsewhere in the country, including 10 Iraqis who died when a roadside bomb hit their minivan near Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad." Well, underlines my overall point -- diverse groups hang their heads in memory today.]

Philip Carter blended roles of late ... he was a commentator on military justice matters and so forth, including over at Slate and his own blog. Likewise, Carter recently has been in active duty over in Iraq. Thus, it is notable that when he asked for remembrance today, Carter decided to focus on the values the military is ultimately supposed to be fighting for. From Semper Fi (always faithful) down, the military clearly has a values laden side. The bottom line clearly is to fight for our country ... the individual soldier is not there to make geopolitical decisions or anything. But, honor is at the core of the service, and that is partly why we honor those who died in service today. Thus, if it fitting and proper that today we also ensure that their losses were worth it. Shame is an ultimate injustice for our troops.

Carter has a special concern given his expertise and role in military justice, but his sentiments are in no way unique. I listened to a part of Jack Murtha's comments on the floor in respect to his resolution to re-employ (not "cut and run" ... ah, the bastards) yesterday. This is someone clearly passionate about the troops, especially the misuse of their resources.

This is not just defense policy here ... this is life and death for those men and women. Note also his public acknowledgment, the sneers of those pretend patriots, that a war crime was likely committed ... perhaps because he feared (like in the past) it would be covered up at least in part. Covered up by those who brought us in a corrupt war that should never have been started. But, I put that aside ... there were more tragic deaths in Afghanistan today. The war crime could have been committed there in an area where the conflict is much more legitimate.

We dishonor the troops by putting them in situations where such horrors become more possible, especially without the proper resources and competent/sound leadership. I look at this from a civilian point of view, though surely it seems this does not mean veterans necessarily have a different one in various respects. Luckily, I do not personally know any who were killed in military service. I know in various ways those who served in the military, including one who is due to go over to the war zone in due time. Millions do personally know people have died. Among the sales, ball games, and the rest, today will thus be particularly personal for them. Many will agree with me, I dare say, that the best way to remember them is to try to stop war in all its forms ... a good way to start is not to start optional ones.

I referenced public morality last time. This was also noted by some letters to The Nation,* which discussed what might be called secular morality -- things like honoring the equality and dignity of each individual without necessarily basing it in a belief of God. Or, rather, doing so by public policy without the state honoring a particular deity in the process.

Private morality is ideally left to the individual, even if sometimes we need to cabin it a bit given its effects on the public, but this still leaves public morals.** And, to circle back, we do that today as well. Honoring those who died in the service of this country is surely an essential matter of public morality. So is making that fight worth it. The foxhole allegedly has no atheists, but it also does not have too many who are overly naive, surely not for that long.

So, they know they are risking their lives not for perfection, but only for the nation who they quite often think is the closest to it that is possible. In their memory, let us try our best to do the job.


* The Nation has a promotion that supplies four introductory issues for free. I took them up on it, and after getting one (if that), receive the invoice. As instructed, I write "cancel" on it, and do not receive any more issues. Ok. I repeated the affair with a slightly different name (my initials), and will not send that darn invoice in until I receive two more issues! This also happened with the NY Review of Books. This time, the deal was two free -- received but one.

** Some suggest private morals simply are not something legitimately targeted by state police power. This is a sound approach up to a point, but few acts are totally private. Thus, you have to usually answer arguments that public policy (even for thngs like homosexual relationships) legitimately leads to restraint.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

True Importance of Brett Kavenaugh

Movie: Show Me Love is a nice teenage angst drama with a twist. Good find on cable or in the video store.

I referenced the confirmation of Brett Kavenaugh, one of the lesser targets of the much maligned filibuster affecting about ten of the over two hundred judicial confirmation battles in the Bush years. Why was the battle joined? Some argued it was purely ideological and/or sour grapes respecting losing the election. Putting aside the fact that ideology and politics play a legitimate role (as is often the case these days, this truism has to be repeated of late) given that the nomination process is political, this is not true.

Suffice to say, Dems do not like many of the picks ... why did they target the few they did? Ideology played a part -- thus, we have the "outside the mainstream" meme. Still, ultimately, it was a question of process and balance. Something is wrong when top conservative Republicans (see this whole congressional office search controversy) feel the President is not properly respecting legislative privileges. Add to the Republicans aiding him -- changing the rules for confirmations etc., and you have a big problem.

This is important because security of our liberties comes in many forms:
Separation of powers was designed to implement a fundamental insight: concentration of power in the hands of a single branch is a threat to liberty. The Federalist states the axiom in these explicit terms: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands … may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

I linked to a piece by Sen. Kerry* last time respecting the confirmation for a particular reason: he bluntly said that the bottom line is that the only way to change this state of affairs is to change who makes the decisions. We need new "deciders." This is true aside from the particular concerns with this specific nomination. The experience issue is open to debate. [Some are very happy about the confirmation -- some of the comments laid it on a tad too thick.] I am more concerned with his political connections, though admit that the issue seemed relevant.

[Without proper safeguards, questions of experience, having proper information to judge the nominees, and so forth unfortunately come up. The decision to no longer respect -- unless it helps -- ABA rankings adds to the whole affair. But, I would add that sometimes ideology is the compelling problem, but it is deemed in bad taste to talk about it. So, sometimes other reasons (makeweights to some extent) are raised instead. As usual, with Bush, you have various approaches to take.]

Anyway, as noted elsewhere, if BK is a bone for the base, nothing new there. Again, we need new people. It simply cannot be logically argued that it doesn't matter who is in control. The fact that no option is totally ideal is just a fact of life (consider a manager with options late in the game -- the fact no pitcher is perfect does not mean all are equal options in that spot). Likewise, sure, individual members of a party might be good or bad (some so bad, or counterproductive, party loyalty should only go so far -- see, Sen. Lieberman). But, right now a certain path must be taken to get real change.

And, yes, this involves a certain political party ... a result btw that can be seen partly in moral terms. Simply put, the current situation is bad for the country and promotes values that should be foreign to what we hold dear. In other words, Bushco is bad for public/political morality. So, this sort of complaint also doesn't convince.


* Two of the links in this piece is in connection to a Slate post of mine on the Kerry blog entry. I purposely left out the author, since there is an immature tendency of ignoring the substance of what some people say. Thus, the Al Gore documentary often is spoken about as much as a work of Gore as about global warning. In fact, even Frank Rich in today's NYT takes this approach.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Now They Are Concerned With Separation of Powers

And Also: My book on the subject is still on library hold, but I did catch Al Gore's doc, An Inconvenient Truth, a well put together jeremaid (working off a set presentation he gave hundreds of times, adding some personal clips) on global warning. He looks very down to earth here with some nice light touches and the right amount of true believer passion. The reminder of 2000 was especially depressing. I'd add that we can blame him some, but ultimately our system is based on a lot more than one person. Or five, for that matter.

[Update: One concern raised is that some of the materials obtained is protected by the Speech and Debate Clause. Fine. As noted various places, means were included in the warrant to sort out this material. Meanwhile, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as circuit judge. Sigh.]
And now, when the FBI catches redhanded a Congressman engaged in the most egregious act of corruption, *now* members of Congress are upset that the Executive is asserting too much authority. They have their nerve. ... Make no mistake: the real reason why Congress is so concerned about the raid on Jefferson's office is that many of them know that corruption within Congress is rampant. ...

Quite frankly, I find the bipartisan closing of ranks over this issue disgusting. If Congressmen are interested in Executive overreaching, they should start demanding that the President justify his NSA program; instead they doing everything they can to paper over its illegalities.

-- Jack Balkin

He is right. Now, for largely self-interested reasons, Republicans are sooo concerned about executive overreaching. Something is wrong when Talkleft is on the "pro-prosecution" side. We do hear that something like this was never done before (searching congressional offices), leading some to be suspicious. But ...

The particular provision (Art. I §6) some raise is not really determinative – exceptions are made for felonies, treason, and breach of the peace. I reckon bribery is a felony, right? Bribery also deals with the Speech and Debate Clause aspects of that section. Rep. Jefferson didn't answer a subpoena, the ideal way to go. Special concern was taken respecting the search.

All the same, especially given the majority and minority leaders of the House put out a joint statement [sigh] demanding the files be returned, the White House put a hold on things for forty-five days. It's the port deal all over again! Seriously, there are separation of powers concerns here, but it is rather self-serving for the majority only now to be so concerned. Likewise, if they actually self-regulated -- the guy is looked upon as bad news by the liberals too -- this might have been avoided.

That would be too complicated, I guess. Some efforts were [rightly] made to encourage him to temporary step down from his committee seat, but he referenced others "who have been indicted, tried and won their cases, and who were never asked to step aside from their committee assignments during those processes." As to voluntarily submitting the docs, he cited Fifth Amendment concerns. Fair enough, but current doctrine qua the Fourth Amendment doesn't warrant special concern here -- if the press don't have special dispensation, why a corrupt member of Congress who refuses a subpoena?

So, we are left with separation of powers concerns [and FBI overreaching], for which members on both sides were split. One is simply -- again given everything that went on -- not too concerned. The bottom line is that this is down there on the list of separation of powers problems of late. But, maybe there is a benefit here. Selfish or not, institutional concerns are being raised. A CYA move would be to actually be concerned about it in less seedy cases.

Such as this real attempt to use congressional oversight powers (the purse) re FISA.

Mets Again

Man Bite Dog Moment: Bush/Blair Acknowledge Iraq misjudgments: the "bring it on" and Bin Laden "dead or alive comments," Abu Ghraib abuses (but doesn't sound like he admitted structural problems that went to the top), and the de-Baathization leaving too many empty slots in governmental/structural positions(Blair). "Mr. Bush" also admitted the "a sense of consternation" among the public (NYT words) "driven by the steady drumbeat of American casualties." It's something. You know, other than "no duh" etc.

[Update: Actually, the D-Train is to pitch on Saturday, but how about this for those whining about Pedro not pitching vs. the Phillies on short rest: he left the game vs. the Marlins after seven, down 2-1. Mets lose after Marlins score even more. Who's surprised? Not I. As to Bush's mea culpa, I said it was "something." Obviously, that shouldn't be taken too mean TOO much.]

David Letterman's writers slipped up last night -- in the Top 10 list, the tickets to the Expos was listed as a perk to getting (like Paul Shafer did) on a Canadian walk of fame. Meanwhile, Jennifer Aniston looked hot -- love those legs. And, she is a fun guest while having some real talent, both comedy and drama. [Challenging Lisa Kudow in the movie front with Matthew Perry a distant, but respectable, third (due to return in a serious drama this fall, following up his good guest appearances on West Wing ... the other three get work, but clearly have less talent.] The only problem is that she is a bit too perfect (approaching "plastic" territory) ... the tan, hair, and so forth. Still, can't go wrong in that outfit. Legs are a great asset, while also being more polite to look at than some others.

Talking about baseball, a bit more on the Mets. First, ultimately, the Benson trade had four benefits: release of some salary, disposal of bad girl Anna Benson, obtaining potential future starter (one start and injury so far) John Maine, and potential useful starter/arm with added playoff cache El Duque (the other benefits were reliever Jorge Julio -- traded for Orlando Hernandez -- and bitch material, always useful for Mets fans). And, probably about in that order, though three and four might be (should? well, let's see) reversed. El Duque also supplies a pal for Soler, another Cuban émigré, who might be said to be "the new El Duque."

At least, he had a good start last night vs. the Phillies, a no decision brought upon with help of an error and run given up by the bullpen. No matter -- the Mets have a penchant of late to come from behind wins. The value of doing so against the Phillies (and Braves, as they did at least once) is especially useful, since they too have a habit of doing this. It is actually a major resource, helpful especially given the Phillies/Braves have more questionable pens than the Mets, who really did not lose too much with the disposal of Julio (a bit overly criticized really, but still a bit rough). The run total, admittedly still not totally consistent (as shown by a recent forgettable road trip), especially helps given the Mets questionable back-end rotation arms.

A problem hopefully less now with the two Cuban arms. Who knows -- Soler is new and the league has not truly seen him, while El Duque has been up and down the last few years. Still, the Mets need lightening in the bottle from someone for at least a chunk of the season, which was shown in late 1999 when Kenny Rogers (dare not speak his name in connection to playoffs) served such a purpose. Anyway, the two wins Monday/Tuesday should put to rest complaints that Pedro should have pitched today on short rest. Yes, Florida is coming up, but again today's game is basically gravy. It is hard to sweep. Finally, the Marlins have won three straight (9-3 vs. Maddux and the Cubs yesterday), and the D-train is pitching on Friday.

[Update: Apparently, D. is pitching Sat. Hold to my opinion.]

So, enough about that already. The Marlins have a potential to be like the Expos of the past -- a pesky team that has their moments, including in root canal games vs. the Mets. This is suggested by the number of runs they have in the few wins they actually have. A few of the losses are a result not of poor run support, but questionable bullpen. Thus, the Mets have potential to target them in that respect. Still, you never know. And, keeping Pedro fully rested is surely a useful enterprise. Now, if Jeremy Gonzalez had to pitch in that 16th inning marathon or the Mets lost one or two of the first games vs. the Phillies (five game back now, three at the start of the series), things would be different. Instead, the Mets won with questionable arms. Ends up the best of all worlds.*

Meanwhile, a nod to the Yanks. Normal Yanks/Red Sox affair -- hitting won the day, another poor outing by the Randy "heck we still won" Johnson -- surely, that is why the team spent around 16M. You know, so some ugly guy can give up around five runs a game and pitch an average of five innings. The fact that the Yanks still, with all their recent problems, managed to win two of three vs. the Red Sox bodes well for them. Clearly, the Red Sox are still all bat and attitude (2003 was a fluke -- last year suggested as much). Oh, and two good starters, great closer, and hittable relievers. Yawn. The Blue Jays, the real Canadian baseball team, meanwhile are two games back. They spent some money in the off season, but it remains to be seen if they are nothing more than their usual respectable third place selves.

Personally, being tired of the Sox, that would be a bit annoying. Anyway, how about those Tigers? Grrr.


* The Mets did lose, but the starter was fine -- the team didn't score after tying it early, and the Phillies scored two in the seventh, giving the guy a no decision.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The People Themselves

And Also: Jorge Julio has had some mixed success in the Mets' bullpen, but has been good (if a bit iffy) of late. His acquistion was questioned since the Mets lost a servicable starter in the deal, though it did dispose of Anna Benson. Julio was dealed to Arizona for El Duque, who had some grand success in the NYC in the past. But, who knows how much he has left in his tank. Still, worth a shot, especially with the back-end of the Mets rotation.

I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience - to reject all progress - all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we.

-- Abraham Lincoln at Cooper Union (1860)

I agree. One "opinion" that still holds true is that ultimately "sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records," nor do they supply a satisfactory defense against their violation. Ultimately, and the Federalist Papers reaffirms the sentiment repeatedly, this is left to the spirit of the people themselves. For "the republic for which [the flag] stands" ultimately relies on the people who reside in it.

There are certain basic liberties that even a majority vote cannot rightfully overwhelm (surely not the will of one man), but ultimately this is but verbiage if the people do not respect the principle. Glenn Greenwald, whose book on how a true patriot should act has received remarkable success via mainly online sales/promotion, becries the few dissenters to the nomination of Gen. Hayden, who though apparently quite competent, is not too gung ho on the rule of law, surely not as understood outside of self-checks by the executive department. GG laments:
Yet again, Senate Democrats show that they have no more concern for the rule of law and for the excesses of this administration than Senate Republicans do. Due to their really pitiful passivity, they are every bit as much to blame for the excesses and abuses of the administration as the compliant Republicans are.

But, put aside politicians. Let us look at the people themselves. We need not look at grand things here, since often somewhat minor matters are quite telling. This is not to say that grand things can be mentioned, or little things added up in great detail, but sometimes a smallish move can be quite symbolic on its own. I speak of the Dixie Chicks:
"Just so you know, we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas," lead singer Natalie Maines told a British audience on March 14, 2003, and those 16 words turned the Chicks' career pretty much upside down.

Their first three CDs sold some 25 million copies, more than any female group ever.

"Taking the Long Way" will be lucky to sell a million. Country radio has all but fed it to the hogs, and its solid country-rock sound isn't selling at pop radio these days, either.

Now it wouldn't have sold like the others anyhow, because the music has moved away from cruising anthems like "Wide Open Spaces" and great heartbreak dramas like "Travelin' Soldier" to more personal songs, like one about infertility.

Remember when Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys stopped writing about girls, cars and surfing and turned to vegetables?

But "Taking the Long Way" is also about something else: the Chicks' - including Martie Maguire and Emily Robison - decision to stand up.

After "the incident," they said they were sorry for disrespecting the office of the President. But that wasn't enough. Country stations made dropping Chicks records into a declaration of patriotism. Radio hosts made them poster girls for un-American conduct. Diane Sawyer hammered them like a school principal demanding an explanation.

Finally the Chicks said, "Screw this" ...

Or, to quote a new song, "I know you said / Can't you just get over it" but "I'm not ready to make nice / I'm not ready to back down." Anyway, the basic sentiment they had to face is foreign to my personal belief system. One I dare say fits into a basic ethos in a healthy society. Consider. Right before a war now deemed by many to be a horrible mistake, after an election many now deem corrupt, and a lot more under that bridge, a singer makes a personal sentiment known -- she is "ashamed" of the President.

One shared by many, even without the war issue, which was about to come to a boil. Americans are allowed to speak their minds. She did. In return, she and her group is vilified, boycotted, and so forth. I put aside their [legal] "right" to so reply. I want to address the mind-set: criticism of the President is deemed almost traitorous, especially if done outside the country. This is not just a matter of bad-mouthing a friend, a rather personal thing. Britain also is not really "enemy territory," especially on the subject of the upcoming war. But, she cannot say that. So simply wrong. So wrong that she and her group needs to pay.

This is America? It is not like a group that wrote songs about killing wife abusers shocked people by making a controversial comment. One so problematic that even an apology is not enough to redeem themselves. An apology they really should have had no reason to make. America ... land of the free ... land where being "ashamed" of your President must be kept under wraps. A small sign of what is wrong is that this is apparently not a crazy sentiment in many people's eyes.

We should not just be concerned with certain government officials or residers of executive office. The true promise is a certain mindset, a certain lack of basic principles, that allows too many to accept what should be deemed insane things. This includes those who might in some vague way be somewhat concerned, but willing to look away, since other things are deemed more important. Surely, not something to get real excited about to the degree some are about what is going on these days.

Until the people overall say "enough," true change will not come. New faces might temper things some, but watch out:
Neither do men put new wine into old wine-skins: else the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins perish: but they put new wine into fresh wine-skins, and both are preserved.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Book and TV

And Also: Yet another root canal game for the Mets. But, after a Phillies reliever went seven scoreless (9-15), he gave up a home run in the 16th. It was insane after awhile ... and you had to feel a bit sorry for the guy, whose ERA was over 6 at the start of the night. The Mets pen (2R in the seventh), after two spot starters are due up back to back, went eleven innings. 9-8 Mets, even more crazy the the last one (vs. the Yanks).

Book: Picked up a paperback version of "The Bible's Greatest Stories" [so no psalms, proverbs, prophetic literature, epistles], a Signet Classics compilation put together and translated into modern language by Paul Roche. Roche’s comments about the importance of keeping the flavor of the original in translations was a good point – it amazes me really how some manage to make translations of Latin, Greek, and so forth sound so poetic. After all, recall how one is supposed to read the Koran in its original language.

Overall, the Bible is great literature – it is basically a shame that so many twisted its meanings so much over the years. Roche adds some explanatory comments throughout, which also adds to the reading. If anything, and this includes those who believe the Bible is the Word of God, reading the book without such understanding is counterproductive.

TV: I finally (via C-SPAN, which complained about bootleg copies ... surely not a usual problem) watched the whole Stephen Colbert speech at the White House Correspondents' dinner. The blogosphere discussed the issue of the speech not getting proper respect, including Richard Cohen's whining about how it was mean and so forth. Let me just comment on the content. It was pretty funny, but went too long.

The last five or so minutes was a faux audition tape for press secretary ending with a dragged out bit of him being chased by the grand dame of the press corps, who challenged him on why Bush fought the war (a take-off on an actual question, which the decider bungled). My overall sentiment is that it takes guts to in effect do a "screw you" to the POTUS basically to his face. [The whole thing was done in his Bill O'Reilly-esque pro-Bush persona.]

Anyway, I find The Daily Show a bit pretentious, but I did catch a few bits of Colbert's own show. Tell you what -- it is hilarious, if perhaps something that might get old after awhile (like basketball, a few excerpts will do the trick). Going back to blogosphere talk (well the left side, at least), it does draw blood. One bit from the routine that he apparently uses on the show was the news is what one gets at press conferences.

A take-off on the "press as transcribers" criticism. At the dinner, he said investigative reporting was a waste of time, and mostly just promotes depressing stuff. The reporters should just listen to what is said at press conferences, write it down, and spend time writing about courageous reporters ... you know, fiction. That was the ultimate pleasure many had with Colbert -- he did not let the "official line" rule, which the White House Correspondent dinner tends to do. Everyone was there -- the Bushs, Scalia, the Plames, etc.

So, let's not rock the boat -- let's show nothing really bad has happened. You know, like Joe Torre and Willie Randolph doing a Subways commercial after the Subway Series. Let's have a cute impersonator of Bush on the stage with bits about how hot Laura is. (She killed someone as a teenager. Imagine if HC did that, hmm?) Let's honor how indie McCain is. The left's favorite Republican! (Doonesbury had a bit about this in '04.)

Let's not. Rohe did not. That is Jean Rohe, who showed up Sen. McCain's attempt to use a speech at her graduation for (at least in part) political reasons. Reasons that suggest why he was booed a bit, selective denunciation by the Right aside. Rohe and others clearly have drawn blood of late re "straight talk express" boy, even given some naysayers.

Stay on message.

Monday, May 22, 2006


And Also: Got a call today about someone using my credit card number for some Baltimore hotel. Last time I was in Maryland, it was to watch Vinny and company get beaten by the Ravens -- long time ago. I know someone who was a victim of identity theft -- those cute commercials where biker voices come out of the old ladies who ids they stolen hit a bit close to home. This highlights the importance of privacy, doesn't it? And, yes, those "fraud blockers" actually are not just talk. Just my personal PSA.

There are various complaints concerning the length of judicial opinions and law review articles. The reasons suggested for such verbosity are varied, including the reduction in the number of Supreme Court opinions (not quite the case for lower courts, though some are concerned with unpublished opinions -- not a new thing, thus we see various citations of 19th Century opinions with notations that they are unpublished, or perhaps only barely described) with the reverse trend of increase in number of law clerks. Law review articles are somewhat different animals, but modern technology and expansion of law schools overall can help explain things there as well.

Writing two hundred page law review articles is not quite revolutionary (I was just reading about a long in effect law review article on the Dred Scott Case by Sen. Douglas submitted to some popular magazine), but much hard in the long hand days of the past. Extended pamphlets (think the Federalist Papers) were a common resource as well. Likewise, there were some pretty long opinions when justices didn't even have law clerks (but, what else did they have to do in the 19th Century, anyway?) ... in fact, in comparison, some of those today are rather short. [CJ Rehnquist and now CJ Roberts made a concerted effort toward short opinions.] And, sure, law reviews and such had notes on the margins and so forth. Nonetheless, they are going crazy these days, aside from the likes of Justice Breyer (who worked on Justice Goldberg's concurrence in Griswold v. Connecticut ... a sort of in text note). Breyer is on record for trying to avoid footnotes at all.

A quite possible task. Footnotes have various functions. My opus (see side panel) has tons of them. Why? Partly, because I have a soft spot for them. I recall an elementary teacher who sometimes had a tendency to go on asides when giving spelling tests -- some word called to mind something else, etc. Loved that ... just too much fun information out there, huh? And, footnotes sometimes have this function -- they are sort of extended asides that are not quite on point, but still very interesting. Footnotes also provide a sort of bibliographical resource, citing and commenting on other sources, including case law in this area. But, string cites can be put in the text with a summary of the principle set forth.

On the other hand, footnotes provide a place to put in little gems, at times in place to dispute comments in other opinions (actually taking the dissent seriously is a good thing, often not done) or try to deal with troubling exceptions and/or complications to your reasoning. This might be necessary though it can be a way to hide complications or have petty disputes (often in petty terms) with other justices. Thus, they can be a bad thing too (well, in a sense ... this all is fun if looked at in the right frame of mind), as can the related situation (again not really new -- see the Taney Era) of a bunch of concurring opinions the confuse what exactly was decided. This is true even if some of them are rather fascinating.

Footnotes also can be anal. I referenced a law review article on Justice Stevens' role in terrorist cases. The article had a footnote pointing out the senior justice in the majority and dissent assigned the corresponding opinion. I reckon anyone reading the article would know this. We also have cases of the Supreme Court citing in footnotes the text and/or location of constitutional principles like free speech. The absurdity really is shown in a piece by Randy Barnett on Lawrence v. Texas that cites "the plain language of the Ninth Amendment" and footnotes it as "U.S. Const. amend. IX." I'd add that the sentence before spoke of the "Constitution," so we know this is not the Ninth Amendment to some real estate contract or something.

[The Cato Supreme Court Review article is pretty interesting. One thing it notes is that part of "due process" is judicial review ensuring that the law was rightly enacted, in other words, (as noted back in the 1850s) the legislature can unduly enact a law. Substantive due process is a confusing term, but it is far from ridiculous. The right (or limitation of power), however, is not just the Due Process Clause. The "liberty" often comes elsewhere, including the Ninth Amendment. Such is the case if the wrongful law is "silly"* or not.]

Justice Holmes apparently once said that he stood up while composing his opinions as a means to ensure that they would not be too long. Buck v. Bell (sterilization of "imbeciles" upheld -- unfortunately, she was mostly like not mentally retarded at all ... her daughter surely was not) is but one example of his opinions being a bit too thin. Some middle path can be taken. And, I'm not really too concerned -- except for the plurality of concurrences confusing the law -- about verbosity in the areas covered by this entry. Clarity of reasoning is quite useful all the same -- I usually enjoy the short statements of common sense put forth by one of my readers.

This can be done with footnotes ... just with some degree of due care shown.


* This word is sometimes misused. Justice Stewart in Griswold (contraceptives) and Thomas in Lawrence (consensual intimate relations -- let's not do what the majority itself warns against and call it a "sodomy" case) wrote in dissent that they found the particular law "silly." Silly had a flavor of the ridiculous.

It does not just mean irrational or a waste of time. The laws at issue in those two cases really were not "silly" in many senses of the term. They were clear expressions of public morality, and Justice Scalia (in an opinion Thomas somewhat inconsistently joined) said as much in his own Lawrence dissent. The true problem is that the particular expression is illegitimate as a matter of public policy. To cite Barnett, an expansion of the police power beyond legitimate bounds.

The couple in Lawrence was caught in the act, a rarity ... and unlucky insistence. All the same, the public expression against homosexual conduct overall is an important matter. It promotes certain mores as well as affects any number of other matters (for instance, inhibits civil rights protections since the couple technically are law breakers; also custody matters etc.) though by how much is open to debate. Not quite comparable, but think of a month in honor of black history. Surely, this is not just "silly," but sends a particular message and encourages certain actions. Likewise, the recent Senate resolution making English the national language is not "silly" ... right or wrong.

It's an abuse of the term. And, not just a silly one.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mets Win A Must Win

To begin, there were some strange hot teams -- the Reds, the Tigers, and yes, the Mets. The last was actually to be expected -- they started off their season vs. weak competition. And, they spent some money for a few key players ... even with some back-end rotation problems given injuries and the questionable moves respecting the slots in the last few years, the post season is actually something the fans should expect. Never count out the Braves (even without a good closer and a new pitching coach with even less to work with behind a few pitching stars) ... and who knows about the Phillies (up ... down). And, that NL West looks a bit better than one expected. We even saw the Brewers give the NL East fits. So, it won't be easy.

Surely not given the Mets continuing propensity to shoot themselves in the foot. They continue as well to do this in any number of ways. For instance, a recent game required the use of Jose Lima, who simply doesn't really have it any more. But, he gave the team 4.2 one run ball before starting to fall apart. For some reason, after the Mets had to bear a 4.5 rain shortened loss (four innings pitched, bullpen rested), the manager left the guy in just long enough for the game to get out of hand. [The Brewers paid the Mets back by sweeping the Phillies.] But, yesterday's game was almost unforgivable.

And, it shouldn't happened. The Mets had eight dominating innings (seven from Pedro, who had to work, but gave up nearly nothing) vs. the Yanks* and against their best pitcher (Mussina) had a nice 4-0 lead. The closer, one of those costly acquisitions, dominated the Yanks in a 9-8 mess of a game (spot starter vs. over the hill ace) on Friday. A great win, especially after it was 4-0 in the top of the first. It was not a save situation. Before then, the Mets only used one reliever. They had a four run lead. What do they do? Use the closer, who totally collapses. Walks and a hit batter, against the bottom of an injured racked line-up at that, did most of the damage.

The guy who shouldn't have been in there was left in too long. When he finally was taken out, there was one out and no margin of error (4-3, bases loaded). And, the Yanks tied it by the skin of their teeth (just missing a double play). The Mets lost it in the 11th, the game being a chance for the Yanks closer to get over the blown hold (the game was tied) the night before. The Mets -- with a fingernail chewing 9th -- won the next game 4-3. Wagner saved it. He and the team needed that.

But, a good team does not give games away. Yesterday was a shot in the heart, today was great given it was one of those "must win" games. Still, success -- especially when your ace is on the mound -- is brought by going for the jugular. This was sweep material (the Yanks are hurt, including their pitching), and the team let one away. This is the road to making the race closer than necessary, which has a tendency to bite you in the ass.

The team is made to win now. Let's act that way.


* The "Subway Series." I favor the Mets of late for various reasons. The Yanks had their moment. I like the television commentators better. Also, the fun and workmanlike players in their heyday (1996-2001) have aged, been replaced with overpriced talent with issues (steroids, etc.), or simply gotten suspect (including the bullpen). I really don't enjoy the Yanks anymore, though a few Yankees (like Bernie Williams) continue to be root worthy.

The Mets overall are more fun. They too have some pricey talent now, but only in a few positions, and partly because of overpaying people to get up to snuff after years of problems. Key role players and stars of the future are there. And, yes, Pedro. Some character. I didn't mind him on the Red Sox -- after all, his record vs. the Yanks was something like .500. Not too good for an ace (they stretched him too far, the Yanks ace [Cone/Mussina, usually] matched zeroes, loss/no-decision in eighth or so).

Anyway, with the fourth and fifth starters questionable, and so forth, it still is not easy for this bunch. Not quite Yanks in that regard either.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


And Also: Last entry deleted. Expletive deleted.

Interesting Daily Kos diary on "English Only" / English as official language efforts over our history. Contra to a stupid bit on Al Franken, these things also are not just pointless symbolic moves. As shown in the 2000 election with complaints about the lack of adequate translators at polling booths, the Senate provision can very well block translation of essential materials in various government related contexts. If it has no effect, and the proposed measure does reject translations when not otherwise required by law, the Kos diary still suggests why its a bad idea.

The editors at the Washington Post, at times bashed as being too soft on Bush, is on point respecting Gen. Hayden's refusal to say in open session if waterboarding was an acceptable interrogation technique.
The right one would have been simple: No. ... What's more, his administration has quietly taken the view that waterboarding could actually be consistent with a ban on cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment. Now Gen. Hayden refuses in public to forswear the use of such barbaric treatment. The damage done by such silence to America's global standing and long-term interests is incalculable.

The Washington Post also had an interesting article on "Military Prison's Closure Is Urged" by the U.N. It also referenced the recent rioting in Gitmo, raising an "A-Team" like moment and a new term for me, "sponge grenade." Also, an "earning my paycheck moment" by Tony Snow: "everything that is done in terms of questioning detainees is fully within the boundaries of American law."

On a lighter note, Thailand (no surprise) has a "Miss Tiffany" beauty contest starring transvestites. Not bad. It's hard to be a woman sometimes, especially for a man.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right

And Also: Mr. Ackerman over in The New Republic is on record opposing Gen. Hayden's confirmation. He is too accepting of lack of true oversight, insisting executive self-control (even when arguing they need not follow statutory law) will do the trick. This along with my concern with lack of public awareness of what is going on (closed session etc.) is addressed by Marty Lederman. Two interesting legal articles: law professors and Justice Stevens' role in terrorism cases.

Dahlia Lithwick has a piece concerning efforts of President Bush and company to "stack" or "pack" the federal courts. As shown at the base of the column, some argue all they are doing is filling slots, helped by their majority status. But, this is not quite true, is it? The judicial nominating process traditionally was not an all or nothing affair. There were ways, such as so-called "blue slip" holds and ABA rankings, which allowed minority party senators to have some assurance that the President would not just try to force nominees down their throats. Also, the habit of President Bush to aggrandize executive power across the board affects this area as well as does the overly partisan way he operates.

So, this is not just a case of the Democrats whining about not having power. Surely, that is part of it -- you need to have power to control things, even if it is just part of Congress, or even having swing Republican senators more willing to not slavishly toe the line. Partly, perhaps, because their constituents simply will not stand for it [Sen. Warner actually mentioned those individuals in remarks during the Hayden hearings.] But, I do not want power alone. In response to someone who suggested this is the way -- Democrats are out of power because they are not willing to do whatever it takes, I replied ....

Not really. First, it would breach the supposed role of Congress. Thus, for instance, if we had a Democratic President and Congress, sure ... they refuse to truly oversee the acts of the executive branch. This will lead to -- as is the case now -- harm to the public good.

Second, somewhat related to the first, it is unclear how long the public will accept the current state of affairs. Those darn real low popularity ratings on in place in part because the people don't trust the competency of and/or agree with the tactics of those in power. They don't like the heavy partisanship and one-sided gov't. In fact, chunks are not single minded individuals, but have diverse views and concerns. It takes a lot of effort, including lots of mudslinging and spinning, to make key voters actually think the alternative to what we have now is dangerous.

Finally, the Democrats lost control of Congress around ten years ago (and gained control of the Senate again for a short time in 2001 just because of the heavyhanded tactics of the President), after decades of control. They did not lose control because they weren't greedy enough with their power. They lost control because of skilled politicizing by the other side and a failure to truly update their message/structures to current concerns.

Being greedy bastards isn't really necessary to win. The cynicism of those in power notwithstanding. [Politics isn't all pretty, but this isn't just naivete either ... principled government is a path to success. Really, it has worked.]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Religious Marriage Ceremony Targeted

And Also: Looking at next season's proposed line-ups, my displeasure with network television continues -- now without West Wing, which btw ended on a somewhat lackluster note (like it was the last day of school, and everyone was just ready to go home for the summer). To beat a dead horse, Gilmore Girls ended badly too. Yes, I know, good to spend one's times elsewhere, but the time is bound to be used for braindead activity anyway.

Holm was legally married to Suzie Stubbs in 1986. Subsequent to this marriage, Holm, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the "FLDS Church"),1 participated in a religious marriage ceremony with Wendy Holm. Then, when Rodney Holm was thirty-two, he participated in another religious marriage ceremony with then-sixteen-year-old Ruth Stubbs, Suzie Stubbs's sister. After the ceremony, Ruth moved into Holm's house, where her sister Suzie Stubbs, Wendy Holm, and their children also resided. By the time Ruth turned eighteen, she had conceived two children with Holm, the second of which was born approximately three months after her eighteenth birthday.

As is all too often the case in such cases, the participancy of a minor complicates this case. But, the ruling upholding his conviction for "bigamy" raises some troubling issues. Perhaps, this is why there was a dissent respecting the aspects of the case not involving the minor. The dissent was in fact written by Chief Justice (of the Utah Supreme Court) Christine Durham.

Part of the ruling deals with statutory matters. The majority held that "marriage" as understood under the law here covered a "relationship existing between a man and a woman who agree to and do live together as spouses." The couples here did not "purport" to be married in a state sanctioned way. They "purported" to be married in a religious ceremony. This was enough ... "cohabitation alone would constitute bigamy pursuant to the statute's terms."

But, more of concern is the assume limits of a legitimate state interest: "The formation of relationships that are marital in nature is of great interest to this State, no matter what the participants in or the observers of that relationship venture to name the union. ... the public nature of polygamists' attempts to extralegally redefine the acceptable parameters of a fundamental social institution like marriage is plain."

What is the limit to this sentiment? Polygamy has a special history (and special concerns arise ... but this isn't late 19th Century, change or no statehood, any more*) in Utah, but the reasoning used was rather open-ended. Homosexuals "marry" in church sanctioned ceremonies all the time. They wish to "redefine" what is an acceptable relationship. They cannot be married by the state in all states but one. But, can a state ban them from considering themselves married in some sense? Consider the proposed federal anti-gay marriage amendment [28A]:
Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
One or more states have a law on the books comparable. They don't just want to refuse to legitimize state sanctioned same sex marriages, but bar same sex couples from even having the rights to anything like marriage -- even certain aspects. Utah opens the way here -- a religious ceremony plus living together is enough for bigamy.

As noted by the dissent, the state law involved here is not followed neutrally:
That the state perceives no need to prosecute nonreligiously motivated cohabitation, whether one of the parties to the cohabitation is married to someone else or not, demonstrates that, in the absence of any claim of legal marriage, neither participation in a religious ceremony nor cohabitation can plausibly be said to threaten marriage as a social or legal institution.

The mention of equal protection of the rights of homosexuals sometimes leads to scare stories. [Next up, marriage to Rover.] The facts of this case even more so. But ... First, the ex-police officer here (no liberal hippie, he) could be targeted for deliquency of a minor. Second, the relationship is not state sanctioned.

Third, the libertarian side has its own scare stories. A religious ceremony is enough for criminalization. Untraditional living arrangements that in some fashion threaten what the state thinks is proper "marriage" relationships can be targeted. The dissent is right that such private family and intimate relationship choices was left to the individual in Lawrence v. Texas. And, as Lawrence in part recognized, the unfavored classes tend to be targeted quite selectively.

Sort of like how all those condemnations by Jesus of divorce are passed by to use biblical opposition by Paul (assuming they are used appropriately) against homosexuality.


* The dissent in part argued on religious freedom grounds ... the Utah Constitution clearly protects religious acts, more so than current Supreme Court doctrine recognizes this in respect to state law. Recent federal legislation supplies more protection when federal statutes are at stake. She argues in part that opposition in the 19th Century was prejudicial, comparable to many whom deemed Catholics a menace. Again, this is different from requiring the state to legitimize the marriage:
Our state's network of laws may indeed presume a particular domestic structure--whether it be that a man will live with only one woman, that a couple living together will enter a legal union, or that each household will contain a single nuclear family. However, any interest the state has in maintaining this network of laws does not logically justify its imposition of criminal penalties on those who deviate from that domestic structure, particularly when they do so for religious reasons. In my view, such criminal penalties are simply unnecessary to further the state's interest in protecting marriage.

This might suggest a somewhat too restrictive regime (no state sanctioned same sex marriages) might be possible, but it underlines the step too far measures some propose.

Water Finds Some Outlet: Intel Oversight Edition

And Also: Underlining why these people are assholes, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out an anti-gay marriage amendment, leading Sen. Feingold to stomp out of the hearing. Conservatives are upset there is not more shame in public life these days. "Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman." Not only selective morality, but selective federalism. Lovely.

Thomas Oliphant and David Brooks were talking about the Hayden hearings today. Both agreed that there was a certain agreement of sorts respecting how intelligence matters and such are discussed by the Senate. Simply put, it is not done openly. Brooks noted that it is dubious if one can suggest true oversight is involved here. Oliphant noted that both parties agreed to closed hearings where more of the details of the controversial issues will be dealt with, leading to leaks as the only way for the public to know about such centrally important matters.*

The information is not really kept secret, for instance, see stories by the NYT, Washington Post, USA Today, and now the Baltimore Sun:
The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project -- not because it failed to work -- but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

The agency opted instead to adopt only one component of the program, which produced a far less capable and rigorous program. It remains the backbone of the NSA's warrantless surveillance efforts, tracking domestic and overseas communications from a vast databank of information, and monitoring selected calls.

Meanwhile, lots of backslapping (it was atypical that the gentlelady from Maryland actually refused to praise the non-dearly departed Porter Goss), but little real detail or blunt airing of the problems. We need new blood. Both agree Hayden is a serious choice that can do the job (that this is worthy of note is sad) but worry about the process overall. Oh, and about those who make the policy.


* A rather haphazard way of doing things, since we aren't sure of the details or the conduits are targeted as disgruntled traitorous sorts. See, e.g., Rep. Murtha. He has recently been in the news suggesting (and with his connections, you listen) that a Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." It is felt he did this so the authorities cannot just toss things under the rug.

Anyway, I'm with Joshua Holland:
But the real culprits won't be punished. There are two damn many of them.

It's not just Bush and Cheney and the rest of the madmen who conjured up this war, it's the Democratic hawks that enabled them. It's Kerry and Lieberman and all the rest and, yes, even Jack Murtha.

And it's the cowardly scumbags who spun their glorious war narrative and convinced a whole bunch of ordinary citizens to jump on board. It's the Tom Friedmans and the Peter Beinarts who only realized this war was a mistake when it proved to be as disastrous as every other "war of choice." We told them that war is bloody hell and they called us "cowards" and "appeasers."

Apparently, in 2006 or so, we can hope for adults like Hayden to do something of a respectable job, after precious time and capital was spent on hacks and incompetents. Too f-ing late.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Texas Tidbits: The Yanks were down 9-0, but came back for good with two outs in the ninth, winning 14-13. Texas needed Doug Flutie, but darn if he retired, to do a drop kick extra point. Talking about Texas, Prof. Colb does a good job covering various bases re the ongoing lethal injection cases. Meanwhile, don't see any thing to convince me Bush's illegal immigration speech Monday night wasn't just more b.s. Surely not this. Better use of your time: giving blood.


As to that immigration plan, a truly amusing bit was in the local paper that leads me to add to this stub. Our dear attorney general / Bush's personal lawyer admitted that he wasn't sure if his grandparents -- Mexican immigrants/migrant farmers -- came here legally. The whole matter reminds me of some remarks in an introduction (or rather, preface, comments by another on the work, not directly a part) to a volume of one of my favorite books, Around The World In Eight Days by Jules Verne (none of the movie versions really did it justice -- ironically they tended to be long affairs though the book was pretty short).

The preface (prologue) remarked that it was revealing how easily our heroes travelled around the world without much ado -- no passports issues and so forth. The start of such things was suggested by the ever traveling warrant for PF's arrest (it turns out to be all a mistake with time zones helping our heroes) as he went through various points of the British Empire of the late 19th Century. Same with immigrants. My paternal grandparents came to this country around when Phineas Fogg met his beloved, and I saw my maternal grandmother's papers from Italy. So, she was legal. My maternal grandparents came here further back from Ireland. It is unclear how far back -- some vague talk suggested it was after our independence. But, they wouldn't need "papers" to come here.

Times change, and the laissez faire days of the past really do not work any more. Still, per a recent editorial by conservative John Tierney in the NYT (hey, even Tom Friedman is right now and then), it is unclear how much we should be concerned -- with national guard troops being cheated out of their training time in the process -- with the illegals at issue here. As he notes, we damn them for coming here to do agricultural work, low rent service jobs our citizens aren't crying too much about, and so forth.

This is sort of why so many are here -- somewhat comparable to drugs, it is a demand matter more than a supply one. The supply matters too, of course, and recent free trade agreements can be shown to be but one reason why this is also something to look toward ... again criminalization of the immigrants themselves seems a questionable solution. This does not mean free movement, but yes, some leakage is acceptable.

[As with my recent talk about Overthrow, this sort of thing raises my leftist side ... a sound solution must look globally, including when we negotiate trade agreements and deal with other nations overall. But, this bunch is loathe to work with other nations in any global sense -- put aside bilateral agreements where we have the upper hand -- since it might restrain our flexibility in some fashion. Sort of not getting married to stay independent and being miserable in the process ... still you have your independence!]

It is interesting actually why suddenly it is deemed not to be now -- I guess every 10-15 years, some re-entrenchment is deemed necessary. [But see here.] This issue is especially interesting since it divides the Republican Party, which is concerned about election year races that promise to be tricky. When political concerns match up with issues that divide the public (though I do wonder how many are really THAT concerned about this matter), the best one can hope for actually is some middle path mixed with some political ass covering. This might actually turn out to be the case here.

It's amazing how things turn out when the system sort of works as it is intended to. An imperfect, but acceptable, ending to this whole affair might be possible.

Monday, May 15, 2006

History Lessons

And Also: Listening to an ump of children baseball games complain about the pettiness and such of some MLB umpires -- he is on point. Some of these people are newbies, so might have chips on their shoulders, but a few too many don't just make clearly bad calls (bias here pops up for a fan, obviously), they have major attitude problems too. They make themselves part of the game. This is bad for baseball.

In Sean Wilentz's volume on Andrew Jackson, one of a set of small books on the presidents, he references a famous controversy during Jackson's first term. Jackson's one close ally in his Cabinet married a woman of plebian roots that women of society generally thought uncouth or worse, snubbing her. Upset especially since it reminded him of libels against his wife (an improper divorce led to claims he was a bigamist), it led to a major upheaval of his administration. Not directly saying it, Wilentz (who actively opposed the impeachment) compared it to the Clinton years:
The scandal described a social divide that would reappear in Washington politics down to our own time, pitting sanctimonious social and moral arbiters against new arrivals and commoners whom they deemed vulgar and uppity. Jackson took the matter so personally that he invested in it more time and energy than he should have thereby distracting him from his reform agenda and causing him to fall prey ...

History is interesting to me for various reasons. It covers so much ground and topics. It boils down to stories. And, it reminds one that nothing is truly new under the sun. Though we should not read into the past too much of the present, or attempt to unite things too easily into a bow, themes do arise. I referenced Overthrow ... how can we understand Iran without considering the overthrow of a legitimate government by ours in the 1950s that in various ways led to revolution two decades later, and led us to where we are today. But, when do we hear it mentioned?!

The government surveillance program, now targeting the press, also is better examined with a healthy respect of history. I deal with some themes here, but the sudden well trod principles of Justice Jackson's Youngstown opinion respecting the proper sphere of presidential powers suggests as well the past can help us clarify the present. FISA itself is after all a result of history, the history of governmental overreaching. Again, and attempts to suggest the likes of FDR had comparable programs sort of underlines the principle, a bit too often this is not respected in the coverage.

Going back to the Jackson book -- and I'm only half way thru it -- Jackson was also concerned with moneyed capitalists. He targeted the Second Bank of the United States in part because he feared it favored special interests, supplying illegitimate privileges that violated basic rights of equality of the people at large. One might compare this to the ban on titles of nobility. Or, the current practice of giving special benefits to corporate interests.

Anyway, what was with that Rove story? He even went to his scheduled appearance.

Stick It

Mets: They are playing as if each game is like pulling teeth while the Phillies lost once in about two weeks (against the Mets). The Mets managed to eke out a win after being comfortably ahead late (even with the Brewers given a fake home run -- hit wall) on Saturday, but Pedro's mistake a game this time was a three run homer ... add in some other stuff, even with the Brewers' missing ending it in regulation by a hair ... and they lost. Lead down to 1. Cards/Yanks next. Charming.

Haley Graham: [in response to Vickerman's gold-medal promises to several parents] You've got a lot of girls going to the Olympics. I wonder what country they're competing for. The state of delusion?

Stick It concerns a female teen delinquent being sent to a gymnastics academy after a stunt she did with her two friends (lovable nincompoops) resulted in some major property damage. It seems our smart talking (these sorts, including somewhat low rent team leader Jeff Bridges, have 'tude) heroine made waves by dropping out of the Olympics at the last minute, hurting her team in the process. The sport, where have we heard this from teens before, is sooo arbitrary anyway ... she also has the usual teen angst issues (and loser parents, though they seem to have some money). But, it's a way for her to get retribution ... and darn if she begins to care again and even grow up some.

The movie has a bit of a music video feel to it, including the quick camera shots and such, and rapid pace. [There are some real gym stars here btw.] And, does it well -- fun movie, not just for the teen girl demo. Witty dialogue, characters that you care about and having some flavor, and a feel good story (and "wow" moves) adds to pleasant movie that seems to be a bit loss in the shuffle (including advertising and promotion). Characters that feel real -- including those two best buds of the heroine who have her back -- is not always an easy thing to find. Like the bitchy character on her team who deep down has another side.

Predictable and all, but it plays out well. [Lost a little steam near the end, but the message sent by the climax competition was on point ... just a bit forced.] And, serious drama and lit is predictable too. They just have different names for it ... like motifs etc. Nice little film, one of many sports movies out in early '06.

And Also: How many people are just sooo hoping Rove really will be indicted today? And, what is with this plan to use National Guard troops for border patrols? Yes, this is sorta a more appropriate use of them than oversea adventures, but can you say "symbolic move?" [Google News per Time: "the aura of a renewed White House about." Oh please.]

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Those Darn "Givens"

And Also: In honor of Mother's Day, I offer this old time favorite poem in honor of the lady of the hour.

At one point while discussing executive department involvement in coups of foreign government, Stephen Kinzer in Overthrow notes that they were done "in strict accordance with the laws of the United States." The meaning of this statement was that they were "not rogue operations" because the President authorized them, while the CIA had the power respecting "duties related to intelligence affecting the national security." This is insane. Intel does not mean promoting coups. And, part of "the laws" at stake here is the U.S. Constitution.

This document gives the power to wage war on other nations -- including overturning their lawfully obtained governments without congressional authorization, even if in some fashion they are deemed threats to our economic imperialist goals. Kinzer writes about the misguided nature of these fiascos, the often unintended consequences (the 1980s was a direct result of our overturning Iran leadership in the 1950s), and the path of ignorance (notwithstanding expert, repeatedly including on ground intel) that guided them.

But, you simply cannot ignore the fact that the whole affair of executive led coups is simply unconstitutional. It is not what the President has the authority to do on his own. Not understanding the point is scary -- if you start with one hand tied behind one's back, the end result of dropping the ball all too predictable. The theme sadly seems to be repeated all too often. To take a past example. Slavery is deemed a necessary evil. This starts one on a road to perdition, since those who want to end it -- and there were ways to go in that respect -- are deemed utopian. The best one could hope for was benign treatment and limiting the problem, but things were not so easily cabined.

And, the system is by design not benign. Sorta like now -- you entrust the President with too much power, and find it unfortunate when he abuses it. As a letter to the editor in yesterday's NYT noted, who in the heck is surprised at this? No need to be too predictable here, though -- accepting the unacceptable is shown in various cases in various contexts. Sometimes, however, fundamental lines must be drawn. Basic truths faced.

[Somewhat on point, at the supermarket today I saw an interesting paperback version of key Bible stories, written in prose and supplied with secular commentary. Puts things in a different light -- for instance, King Solomon was damned for having a harem of women for whom he had shrines built to serve their gods. This was heresy. But, looked at differently, it had a freedom of religion flavor that later benefited the Jews when the Persians and Romans allowed subjects to practice their own religions. The "given" was in hindsight not ideal.]

Three Things

First, let's summarize my sentiments from the last post. Under current judicial doctrine, warrantless collection of phone numbers is in some sense (this matter was not directly addressed) (wrongly) deemed constitutional. Statutory law -- though the experts are gnashing their teeth at the complexity of the matter (but since there is more than one potential problem, surely there is at least one breach, if not more) -- is another story. Finally, overall, politically we should be against this sort of thing. The "no quarter" position of the President underlines the point. Let's not get bogged down in legalisms -- such things always has wiggle room, though ultimately they will try to go with a broader argument. Such is their wont. Let's hoist them on their own petard.

Second, though it might not be over, the last six games of the Mets are cursed. After winning two vs the Braves in somewhat surprising fashion, fans expected a loss on Sunday from Lima. But, bad calls (balk/non-play near the plate) tainted things -- you felt cheated, even though the game was destined to be a loss anyway. Quirky events led to a loss vs. the Phillies (three or four plays had to go their way for them to ruin a late inning comeback). Blowout Mets win. [Phillies meanwhile was on a winning streak -- ultimately cutting the Mets lead to 2 ... for now.]

Then, a Phillies' outfield played martyr (broken nose) to rob the Mets of three runs, leading to the first five inning game (2-0, Phillies) the Mets had to deal with since 1993. And, then two close calls (ball/safe at third) prevented Lima from getting out of the Fifth up 3-1 ... he was left in at least one batter too long (4-3), and then three more runs were given up before the final out was made. Enough already -- once or twice, these are excuses. After awhile, it's at best pretty bad luck.

Finally, a heartwarming story led me to consider a philosophical question. A local political figure stepped down from a race to donate a kidney to his teen daughter -- the mom gave one years before, but it was bust a few years before the doctors hoped. The problem was present at birth -- in effect, the parents passed it to their daughter.

A case can be made that they are morally obligated to give her a kidney, even outside of the fact that she is their child. But, legally, surely not. Legally, even if they knew that they had a recessive gene that was likely to lead to the problem, bodily autonomy is supreme. The right to privacy, including with abortion connotations, clearly follows. The issue was obviously not raised in the local story (NY Daily News), but it implicitly underlines such principles.

By the way, I'm reading a good book by Stephen Kinzer concerning how the United States was responsible for the "Overthrow" of various governments -- with often tragic results -- over the last century. This includes the government of Hawaii -- involving a queen who felt her predecessor's transfer of the rights to Pearl Harbor was a "day of infamy." Kinzer leaves the irony to the reader. It is a depressing read, fourteen chapters of sadly quite "American" behavior that in various cases is still defended or (when unpleasant -- see the Philippines atrocities after 1898) conveniently forgotten. How will the current situation (addressed) be treated down the road?

I guess, if the sports related stress does not get me before my time, I will find out eventually. After all, I recall the "coup" of Gorbachev, the First Gulf War, and so forth, now deemed almost ancient history. Will current events, a decade or so later, be equally deemed so?