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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Will She Be Satisfied or Poison the Well Some More?

I basically support the TPM line on the decision that had to be made today by the Democratic rules committee on seating the Florida and Michigan delegations. This includes the fact that Clinton wants to ignore the will of the voters of those states, to quote her, that figured the elections didn't matter. For instance, by staying home or voting for a candidate on the ballot. The compromise here gave her more than she deserved, if a lot less than she fantasized, but a compromise is more legitimate (and pragmatic) here than in other places. BTW, Justice Alito is giving a speech on C-SPAN ... guy looks like the atheist guy, Michael Newdow.

One Note Alternative Press

Interesting Case: A student government official cannot run again after posting a vulgar ("douchbag" and "pissed-off") and misleading blog post (as with a previous mass email, which a school official notified her was inappropriate, it misleadingly suggested a school concert would not occur ... it did, mostly successfully) targeted to fellow students. No other discipline was enforced; the court upheld. Given her position, the fact it was targeted to students, and no other discipline, this sounds right. A one-off might as policy merit giving her a second chance (she won a write-in, but couldn't take the job). Still, her position is probably the deciding factor.

I referenced Democracy Now! last time, and it brings to mind that the show is an imperfect vessel -- it is utterly predictable. Recent events, see Media Matters, Glenn Greenwald and others, suggest this is not too much of a problem on some level. IOW, when the MSM is complicit in enabling a wrong-minded war among other things, a predictable alternative voice is downright essential. We take this for granted at our peril. All the same, an alternative voice need not be relatively one note.

Consider Christopher Hitchens. His pro-Iraq War musings has received much criticism (to be gentle), including on the Slate fray, is infamous in some quarters. But, in my free copy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation newspaper, Hitchens was a feature attraction, read by many surely against the war (a war supporting atheist is quite possible, of course, since "Bush's Brain" is said to be an agnostic).* He is an atheist, wrote a book in support of said views, and is known to have had negative (to put it nicely) feelings about Mother Theresa.

Point being, you can have someone strongly in one camp, but is not a johnny one note. I noted the same thing when discussing various recent Bill Moyers interviews. For instance, he told Jon Stewart that time ran out, so he couldn't ask Obama's former pastor certain questions on his controversial views/statements. Please. It would have take a minute or two and would have been very important -- he would have had a friendly forum to respond to criticism that received a lot of play. Ditto some questions left out in an interview of a couple with competing political alliances (Clinton/her vs. Obama/him).

BTW, Clinton promotes herself as some sort of white working class voter beacon. Putting aside the annoyance of tracking how Obama might do this fall before he even campaigns for it -- a largely fictional reflection of the actual match-up when the two go head to head -- please. If Obama wasn't the alternative, would conservative leaning white Dems really support Hillary Clinton? Sorry ma'am, you too are a member of the "elite." One who attacked the right wing attack machine also just might qualify for the "liberal" elite. If Edwards had more experience, he would have been their candidate. Betcha.

And, maybe it would have required a bit of tough questioning of someone for whom on the whole Moyers' audience is sympathetic. This is an essential part of a well balanced alternative media -- covering all the ground with a different voice does not mean you sometimes do not criticize people in effect "on your side." I listened, for example, to recent interviews on Democracy Now! focusing on Palestinians. It is fully appropriate for an alternative news source to focus on their point of view, especially -- as Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly noted -- Israel tends to have more openness for a fuller discourse on such subjects than our political/media culture. But, again, one note.

Compare this with some back and forth on various blogs. Said blogs can be one note too, but some of the ones I frequent repeatedly do criticize fellow travellers, especially when they do something stupid/wrong. GG fits the bill, though at times I find him violating the policy suggested in this post. For instance, his tit for tat stance on the congressional resolution against MoveOn.com. Being human, this happens occasionally, even to the best of us. Contrariness can go too far -- the Slate "our side is wrong but for a different reason" sort is annoying -- but on some level, it's a good thing. The "reality community" should realize this, especially given science's "always open to being wrong" dictate.

Anyway, I do not watch it regularly, but have seen and listened to the show repeatedly over the last year or so. So, I think I have a feel of the norm. It just does seem to do the even gentle criticism of our friends thing. Amy Goodman comes off as a leftist prophet, sure of what is just, and venting the usual themes. Let us not mean to imply that I think said themes are overall wrong or anything. It just is that they aren't as pure as it comes off all too often. And, sorry, a tad bit holier than thou. As to Palestine, hey, the other side is not going over the top out of spite or mere irrationality or anything. How about those suicide bombers and those who use violence overall, which demeans their often rightful cause?

I think the guests and such can handle some tough questions. Perhaps, try a bit more to get some opposition voices on at times -- even the likes of Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert manage that. It is not easy -- I found the voices on Air America did a fairly poor job overall in providing a complete nuanced conversation, even if some guests had some interesting things to say. And, unlike myself, these are mostly skilled professionals, who have been doing this for awhile. Again, it calls to mind the useful allowance by various courts (e.g., civil court in New Jersey) for jurors to ask questions.

And, like free speech overall, a more complete approach would strengthen the movement as a whole.


* A nod to Grace's Gone, a good little film about a Midwestern father (John Cusack) of two girls who finds out his wife died serving over in Iraq, and takes his girls on a trip while trying to get the nerve to tell them what happened. In an interview on the DVD, Cusack said it was an "anti-war" film, but the clearly liberal character is not really sympathetic. Cusack's own character is somewhat hard to like as well, but I think most would give him something of a pass given his basic decency and all the pressures he is under.

But, he has a point. The film is in effect a reflection of those unsure of the justice of the war, while finding it hard to admit to themselves that so much was lost for a mistake. This was reflected in the older (still only twelve) daughter, who is having trouble sleeping, and keeps on watching news reports that trouble her for the questions (oh so late) they raise. The dad says at one point that we have to believe that we are doing the right thing; if not "we are lost." Who wants that?

As with his debate with his liberal brother, the film is not focused on such questions, however. It is ultimately a family film about an average dad and his two young daughters. As such, it has a lot of force, and works totally about from its particular time. Good music by Clint Eastwood and his son.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sex (Gender) In The City

And Also: As the primary season winds down, perhaps it wasn't toooo bad that it lasted this long? It gave more states relevance, Obama some experience and toughening, and helped deal with the concerns of some that quick primary seasons lead to hand-fed nominees. BTW, as noted by a guest on Democracy Now! this morning, the Clinton years really weren't a nirvana. One more reason I don't want a repeat. No, this is not just because my candidate won! Heck, basically second choice.

One of the later additions to the blog Lawyers Drugs and Money is "bean," who it turns out -- color this occasional visitor clueless -- a woman. Of course, a check of her profile would have done the trick, but honestly, it isn't the first time a fairly asexual online nickname kept me in the dark. Stereotypes aside, it is not always (often? perhaps, but it is hard to tell, since many names or people are clearly one sex or the other) clear the sex of the people who write online, though there does tend to be more men in various locales. This leads to more men as assholes, but let's not give them too much credit.

As to the less serious aspect of the post, as a male, that is a charm of summer in the city -- we do have a nice eclectic selection of easy on the eyes women. How about no crude comments, but a quick look or two? [No staring -- as with catcalls, this really ruins it for the rest of us. Do you want them to dress more conservatively?!] One nice touch, btw, is the well placed tattoo. The lower back -- women are more likely to have shirts that rise to show back -- is a good spot.

Likewise, a nice little one on the ankle or leg. I still don't know how women manage to walk on those things without killing themselves.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quickies: NY News

The governor, following a lower court ruling, held that out of state same sex marriages must be recognized since -- even though we don't recognize them ourselves -- no law is in place to block such recognition. A healthy full faith and credit policy being in place. Meanwhile, both the Cubs (WGN) and Mets (SNY) had rallies, leading to flipping back and forth as both won in extras. Let's hope the Dodgers don't suddenly start to win vs. the Mets.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quickies: Webb and Mets

Maybe Sen. Webb isn't a good pick for V.P.? Bobby Valentine survived an early team swoon more than once (even in '01, they almost came from the dead), though lost some staff along the way. So, maybe WR can as well -- he raised the team to the precipice, but now they fell a ways down again. Whither Reyes? Key hitters? etc. Maybe, at least in spirit, the return of Pedro will do the trick. Meanwhile, Joe Torre and his struggling Dodgers are coming to town. Cubs got him twice so far.

Monday, May 26, 2008


We honor those who gave their life to their country today, including those who did so (all to often) in promotion of ill advised and/or badly carried out ends. This is not meant to disrespect the dead, though suggesting they are all saints doesn't work either, but those who "led" them. I also caught, on You Tube, Marisa Tomei (powerfully) performing a speech of Cindy Sheehan. As CS said -- even when you speak to the choir (majority against current policy), you need for it to sing. If enough do loudly enough, we might truly have a chance to truly memorialize our dead.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indy and War, Inc.

And Also: I was browsing through some writings of Thomas Paine via a Barnes and Nobles compilation. Like those introduction essays in such works. Paine himself is a mix of fun barbs, some good argument, joyful spirit and some makeweight arguments. Neat trick how he uses biblical allusions in Common Sense etc. and later on dismisses most of it as delusional cruelty.

Three is often a good number for movies -- sequels tend to be lame reflections of originals, but the trequel often is more fun and generally of superior quality. The characters and everyone has settled in, there is a sense of comfort and probably lower expectations so they don't have to try so hard, and all of this tends to lead to better films. Consider such diverse series as Die Hard, Back to the Future, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Indiana Jones. Other examples probably can be listed as well. Like Jurassic Park, though I didn't see the second one.

Fourth movies? Often less successful, though the Chucky films got back on track there by taking a new route, focusing more on the dolls. Die Hard was okay the fourth time around, but a bit thin, and overall just simply not to be believed. Indy IV [Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull] also took the back after a long while path. This one takes place in the 1950s and is a bit too derivative -- Russians for Nazis and other "been there, seen that" moments. The whole alien thing, a bit tedious. His early escape ... ended on an unbelievable note. A few too many of those moments.* [mild spoiler]

I had some fun, but less enthused than some reviewers. It basically rests on nostalgia (after all, Marion is back), but after all, it is the fourth film. That brings even lesser expectations. Still, I think some might be a bit disappointed. Less so perhaps with War, Inc., for the simple fact perhaps that many will expect it to be somewhat scattershot -- satire often brings that to the table. Though, to use a turn of phrase, the whole might not be the sum of its parts, there are enough parts there to make it worth watching.

Amy Goodman had John Cusack on Democracy Now!, who is behind this something of a twist on his earlier hit man piece, Grosse Pointe Blank, and was annoyed at the criticism of the movie. As if it was because they didn't buy the politics. No, many thought it was a bit of a mess. In fact, the NYT suggested it got a little soft at the end. I do think many of the reviews are too critical. I appreciate him even trying to make a spectacle/satire of how war is being fought these days. The result is not totally successful, sure, but it's worth seeing.

The dancing prosthetics bit reminds me of a (not that good) revival of a 1930s satire that had a bit about a trade show for weapons, displayed like the latest fashions. Other fun stuff for those in the know -- it is amusing that Naomi Klein, the Nation journalist who wrote The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism complimented the movie. [Cusack interviewed her once.] Marisa Tomei plays a liberal Nation journalist ... you know, the Naomi Klein role. As another muckraking fan suggested, Hilary Duff also does a nice turn as a slutty (at least branded that way) singer, Central Asia's answer to Britney. And, it's always nice to see Marisa Tomei getting good roles.

"In times such as these, the role of filmmakers, musicians, poets, playwrights is vital." True enough, especially when done with some skill.


* Another annoying bit, though we only see a glimpse of it, is the massacre of some local tribesmen (maybe some women) by the Russians ... Indy and company kept them away with the mystical skull. The Russians just mowed them down. Such toss away slaughter is an unpleasant and unnecessary edition to this sort of film.

BTW, the top chase scene sorta felt like the tank chase in an earlier film with the added problem that Indy on horseback was more fun.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clinton Puts Foot In Mouth, Again

RFK Jr., a Clinton supporter, defends Clinton from criticism arising from her latest -- reference to the assassination of RFK in June to justify her continuing. Bad comparison anyway (he had a realistic chance), but sounds bad too. I thought, unlike that amateur Obama (see TalkLeft, ad nauseam), she knew how to play the game? Anyway, I actually take RFK's point ... it is not like comparing not seating Florida with a corrupt African dictator. But, it still is in bad form. BTW, on the VP front, people do know for the sake of balancing the ticket etc. she is a bad choice, right? "Stupid" might be more like it.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Called Into Question

And Also: You too Billy? After completing a total losing sweep in Atlanta, the Mets looked like they might hang on to a 5-4 lead (the Rockies not taking the many gifts, aka walks etc., given by another struggling start by Perez). Nope. Wagner blew the save and they lost in 13. Strange that I didn't watch. Only really true fans can deal with this exercise in futility.

In a suit brought against the Air Force challenging the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy after plaintiff was suspended from duty as an Air Force reservist nurse on account of her sexual relationship with a civilian woman,* dismissal of the suit for failure to state a claim is reversed in part where: 1) the DADT, after Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), must satisfy an intermediate level of scrutiny under substantive due process; and 2) such inquiry requires facts not present on the record before the circuit court.

-- Witt v. Dep't of the Air Force [Findlaw summary]

A Ninth Circuit panel, in a case involving an Air Force reservist nurse, held that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy must meet intermediate scrutiny under substantive due process. The panel held that Lawrence v. Texas albeit "ambiguous," clearly spoke in terms that merited some degree of heightened scrutiny. An important liberty interest was declared, not just failure to offer any rational reasoning for anti-sodomy laws. Likewise, other rulings as a whole suggest the importance of carefully treating the needs of individual service members.** OTOH, Lawrence avoided relying on equal protection, so previous circuit holdings rejecting that basis are still good law.

The concurrence argued that Lawrence -- if we take the main opinion's stance of "considering what the [Supreme] Court actually did" -- really spoke in fundamental right language, meriting strict scrutiny. "[T]he interest be merely 'served' by the challenged legislation; the legislation must be necessary to that purpose, and must sweep no more broadly than is essential to serve the governmental purpose." Also, the Court did note equal protection was a "tenable" reason, one furthered by the result, and relying on due process actually furthered the interests of homosexuals (it feared an opening for laws that disallowed sodomy across the board). Anyway, circuit precedent was wrong not to provide heightened scrutiny to homosexuals.

True enough. The main opinion's reasoning is a prudent path all the same, particularly because the military has generally been given much more discretion to infringe upon our rights. This includes free speech, free exercise of religion and so forth. The military was not singled out in Lawrence, but its listing of various situations (e.g., marriage) that was not at issue suggests intention to not set up an across the board rule. An honest reading of Lawrence clearly provides a sense that it was expressing a fundamental right of some sort. The language found therein underlines the point.

[And, it is misleading to say it "declined to address equal protection ," when it in fact did, though decided things on other grounds. The Court's comments were dicta, so the panel was largely correct in suggesting it alone was not grounds to overrule circuit precedent on an equal protection rationale. The word "address," however is ill chosen.]

Still, the panel was right to "hesitate to apply strict scrutiny when the Supreme Court did not discuss narrow tailoring or a compelling state interest in Lawrence." It's decision "not address the issue here" also in notable contrast [see my comments] with the California Supreme Court not just avoiding the gender issue, but dismissing it in shoddy fashion. It is not surprising they wanted to avoid it, but that path had problems. The panel does not totally avoid this minefield, but its dismissive passing the equality question by at least avoids a comparable extended makeweight argument as provided by its state brethren.

Heightened review suggests an important interest is at stake, even if it could be burdened in "special circumstances" to deal with contrasting important state interests, though the burden must be done in a careful way and as a result of the absence of adequate alternatives. The importance of let's say the rights of homosexuals (though a due process ground could also secure the rights of the unmarried etc.) should not be violated, even if a certain policy might be useful in various ways. An artificial application of this standard cannot ignore why this extra work is necessary in the first place. Strict scrutiny requires even more work. Cf. sex based statutory rape laws with those not allowed for race.

The breadth of the problems of the laws struck down in Romer and Lawrence has allowed certain courts to avoid the true breadth of the principles found therein, particularly the latter. A ruling that cites numerous fundamental rights / strict scrutiny rulings and then says Bowers wrongly didn't join the party clearly was not just a matter of rational review. It is time for the federal courts to consistently so recognize, and apply heightened scrutiny to troublesome laws that might require more heavy lifting (if not always too much -- see the inability of one one circuit to target laws against sex toys).

It's an extended process -- in this very case, the matter was remanded for further review, but so it goes. The policy also has free speech problems (as at least one court in the past recognized), but again, speech is in various respect given less security in military contexts, and the due process argument was (rightly) deemed more likely to be successful. The footnote below does suggest free speech might complicate the works in more ways than one all the same.


* From the NYT article:

The case was brought by Maj. Margaret Witt, a flight nurse who served in the Air Force for two decades, received several medals and was featured in the service’s promotional materials.

Major Witt also shared a life with a woman not affiliated with the military for six years in Spokane, Wash., about 250 miles from the base to which she was assigned. The women kept their relationship private, and the decision did not say how the Air Force found out about it.

One of Major Witt’s lawyers described what happened. “Some citizen in Spokane,” the lawyer, James E. Lobsenz, said, “called up and said there are these lesbian women living in a house here and one of them is in the Air Force and you should know that.”

** The ruling noted the principle that it was "bound by the theory or reasoning underlying a Supreme Court case, not just by its holding" and took its intermediate scrutiny path from a ruling involving forced medication of those in governmental custody. This underlines the holistic nature of the law, a set of interlocking principles that should not be selectively applied given the situation.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Three General Thoughts On CA Ruling

And Also: Even the blind cannot ignore the excesses of Clinton's desperation. This includes comparing herself to events of the upcoming HBO film Recount. It underlines, apologists aside, that she is simply not a second best -- but still quite good candidate -- but an embarrassment. VP?!!! Maybe, she can stick in the Senate and try to be in the same league as Ted Kennedy? BTW, since primaries mattered even in late April, Fl and MI could have easily mattered without breaking the rules at all!

The California marriage ruling raises many issues, but three are worth of underlining. They also were covered in some form in Glenn Greenwald's columns, including on Thursday, and different columns this week at Findlaw.

First, the differences of state constitutions from each other and the federal constitution. The emphasis, including in these quarters, on the federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court, should not let us forget about the states. Surely not when things like free speech, searches and seizures, gun control and privacy rights are often quite different in those quarters. Not only does the California constitution have an express "privacy"* component, but it is much easier to amend. Thus, unlike the federal constitution in particular, "judicial fiat" is much less set in stone, no less concrete.

The 1940s interracial marriage ruling held that marriage was a federally protected civil right, but a later amendment to the state constitution cemented this by adding "privacy" to the protected liberties. A word that past court precedent, still controversial in some circles, held covered questions related to marriage, childbirth and the like. States like Florida also have such a provision. OTOH, Hawaii amended its constitution to clarify barriers to same sex marriage were not violations of gender equality etc. per its own constitutional requirements, after a state court implied the old one did.

Second, to the degree the courts do override immediate popular will, it underlines that we live in a republic, just like the Pledge of Allegiance says. In a "republic," certain institutions secure rights and so forth beyond the simple process of a majority of the people at large doing the trick. This might be junior high grade civics (h/t GG), but like saying prayers and other things often said by rote, it is quite true that many still do not quite take seriously what they allegedly repeatedly pledge. The system is imperfect and leads to troubling results, but ignoring that it was set up in this fashion for a reason is troublesome as well.

Finally, this does not necessarily mean criticism is wrong. First, state court action does have force -- even in California, it is hard to override court action, though it does occur from time to time (e.g., a few judges loss their jobs via recall after handling down some liberal leaning death penalty decisions). Such times can be raised up as possibilities, and they are, but they are somewhat far and between. Cf. The complications involved in overriding statutory interpretation rulings by federal courts. They also have influence -- look at what 'x' court did and the sky didn't fall. Or, look at what 'x' court did, why shouldn't we too? Finally, the ability to overrule popular will, the obligation in various cases even, does not mean we should take it lightly. Cheap shots when it occurs, notwithstanding.

Such things should all be kept in mind -- as with the fact rejecting an application (same sex marriage) is not the same thing as rejecting everything that goes with it (some degree of special scrutiny of limits on rights of same sex couples) -- even if the people of California decide to amend their constitution to overturn the result of the opinion. And, set forth principles that apply in much less controversial (and/or liberal friendly) cases.


* Talking about privacy rights ... A character in aforementioned The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard had an abortion. The pregnancy was a result of a relationship with a much younger man, she was in her forties, and had a top position in the British government. She was formerly a Tory, so also might have had socially conservative views on the issue, though had a fiscal role in the administration.

Right after finding out she was pregnant (she apparently didn't really consider she was until her assistant suggested the idea), the same day, she rushed to have an abortion. She was eight weeks along. Cf. the teen in Degrassi, who contemplated the issue, including letting her liberal leaning, if anti-abortion friend, in on her plans. Or, the usual woman. Afterwards, she was emotional -- no shock, given all she was keeping bottled up, including her true feelings for the father (who wasn't told beforehand).

I appreciate that the subject was raised, but yet again, one must say not very well. If better than usually the case -- she actually had one after all -- than in TV/film in the states.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And Also

Nice library find: The Brit show The Amazing Mrs Pritchard (regular sort becomes PM) was pretty good. Amusing the lead played a goofball on Absolutely Fabulous, here in a pretty serious role. Good performances, good viewing (she is big on citizen involvement in politics) this election cycle. Mets win two vs. Yanks, then get swept in a doubleheader (first game: Glavine v. Maine). Fans had a day to enjoy themselves and then, the Mets screwed them again.

Didn't You Miss Something?

Too often I read something, especially the news or some issue debated, and some obvious question seems to be ignored. This underlines the value, within bounds, of letting jurors ask questions. Consider Bill Moyers interviewing a power couple with contrasting support for a Democratic nominee. Iraq was not raised once! The divisive nature of HC was only briefly mentioned. And, the "did that" deal was not at all. AKA three core reasons I oppose her.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Tyrannicide Brief

The British human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has written several books, but I have only read his account of the trial of King Charles I, The Tyrannicide Brief. This focuses on the (mostly forgotten) prosecutor in that case, a radical Puritan (his religious views, as with others, strongly affected his actions), who supported many legal reforms that would not occur for centuries. The book is well written, down to earth, and provides useful historical context as well. Useful on various levels, it is well recommended.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

More On the Details

And Also: Persepolis was an excellent graphic novel account of growing up in Iran. The author also wrote/drew two other shorter autobiographical novels, one about sex and romance in Iran (Embroideries), the other about a relative choosing to die (Chicken and Plums). Very good too. It is a creative technique that should be tried more often and/or I should look into others who have done so. Oh, the Mets won 6-4. The Yanks cannot score off Tampa (four runs in three games), but got four off Santana.

I have now read the whole opinion [see Glenn Greenwald or Balkinization links for a .pdf file hook-up], including the concurrence and dissents, so will add a few remarks.

The majority focuses on the use of "marriage" over "domestic partnership," the terms having difference symbolic effect, which can lead to negative concrete effects. IOW, one is given more respect than the other, with the added problem that mostly (the exception being various senior citizens, for some reason) only same sex couples have the right to have the latter. This in effect outs them when they wish to obtain the rights supplied. The similarity of the two institutions was also referenced by the more sympathetic dissent* -- I'm for it as policy, but sorry, the California Constitution does not demand it and we should not say it does over popular will (e.g., the anti-same sex initiative) -- but it is a bit of a stretch. Not the symbolic effect should be ignored.

Putting aside federal benefits -- which is denied via the Orwellian "Defense of Marriage Act" -- that California cannot do much about, there are around eight differences. Some of them are fairly technical, some minor. But, you need to live together in domestic partnerships, which can very well be troublesome for two career professionals sorts, especially in California ... which much have many couples who live apart much of the time. Not for "marriage." You have to be eighteen to get a domestic partnership. Not so for "marriage." There is a way to keep a marriage license private in some cases. Not so here. You have to get a court order to dissolve a marriage; not so for a domestic partnership. These are real differences, especially the last one, which truly affects the strength of the institution, if negatively.

Domestic partnerships did have a nearly all of the myriad of benefits of marriage, so the majority had a point. And, it might have wrote that for effect -- underlining that even if all the benefits were involved, nomenclature alone can be an issue. Ok. But, they dismissed the claim of gender discrimination rather cavalierly. First, it noted that the law banning interracial marriages in Loving selectively burdened blacks -- races could marry as a whole, just not with a different race that is white. But, the law would have been illegitimate even if the burden was more equitable. Also, the law clearly was racist in intent. Better point there, but even if it was only racist in effect (which the Court seems to be saying in this case), which admittedly is tricky to imagine, it also would have be illegitimate. Right?

Also, the majority in effect noted that gender and sexual orientation was traditionally treated differently, including in state civil rights laws. A case that does a great deal to override tradition suddenly finds it a bit useful. And, there was not intent to discriminate here, including by stereotypical gender roles like stay at home moms. But, the institution of marriage in California clearly had stereotypical gender/sex roles in mind. Marriage was deemed something that only a man and a woman could partake in, from the days of Adam uniting with Eve. Setting forth certain sex and gender roles that clearly affects anti-homosexual animus. And, intent clearly is involved. The fact the argument takes a bit more effort or that it is done as if it is perfectly "natural" and not discriminatory at all (marriage is just naturally man/woman) really does not change this fact.

Not that, some noises aside, no one thinks same sex couples cannot "marry" ... many private and/or religious ceremonies defines it just that way. And, a few cases could be suggested that the idea has been around for some time, including some transgender unions in Native American cultures. Likewise, the institution changed greatly over time, including such things as the roles of each spouse, what institution performs the ceremony, who can marry and so forth. To belabor the point, these are great changes, overall more complete than changing the sex of the participants.**

One last thing. The dissents, even the more sympathetic one, rejected applying strict scrutiny to same sex couples. I am not sure why the latter -- who up-front supported same sex marriage as policy -- did not offer even intermediate review. Anyway, the explanations were a bit lame. The federal courts did not. Well, California recognizes many rights, including strict scrutiny for gender, even though the feds do not. Homosexuals have political power ... when race was first deemed suspect, racial minorities did not have comparable power. But, if the characteristic is immutable, particularly personal, not a legitimate classification (cf. vision), traditionally was discriminated against (and still is -- see federal policy), this should not really matter. As to it being novel, so was applying racial equality to marriage in the 1940s. It has to start somewhere.

Admittedly, when the Massachusetts marriage case was pending, I thought domestic partnerships was a valid middle ground. But, that state did not have them yet, unlike California (or New York as a whole, one might add). The legislature and governor supports same sex marriage. And, easy for me to say that half-way is good for now. Still, given it was not necessary for the decision, it might have been useful to not skip to strict scrutiny. OTOH, marriage seems the last bastion (Florida might disallow adoptions across the board, but it is an outlier) of anti-homosexual bias for some. So, perhaps -- Massachusetts aside -- a bit of heavy lifting was necessary. Still, some middle ground just might get another vote, even if not for marriage in particular.

Anyway, the opinion was good reading. And, if even a fairly Catholic country like Spain can support same sex marriage legislatively, perhaps we can handle it. But, then, we are much more Puritan in some ways then Europeans, huh?


* The dissents thought it troublesome that the majority allegedly made the legislature's allowance of domestic partnerships come back to bite them by using it to imply same sex couples was accepted by society overall. The majority denied they were really doing this -- even without domestic partnerships, the majority would have decided the same way. OTOH, I think it surely helped their case in some respects.

** The more harsh dissent -- bowing to the need of the courts to override popular will when necessary but whining (we disagree, so we will vent -- I don't know why this is considered proper judicial technique) about "judicial fiat" now -- also raised the incest and polygamy card, though saying it obviously was not comparing the two on the same level. But, what is "incest?" In biblical days, there was various non-blood relation incest taboos, which carry on to the present in various states as to step-siblings. Many states allow even first cousins to marry.

No matter ... the reason the courts will not suddenly allow brother/sister type incest is because society as a whole does not legitimize it on the same level as same sex conduct. This is not to say various imaginative scenarios are impossible -- what if an influx of members of a polygamous culture comes in, perhaps as refugees or whatever? Or, if we really want to go out there, some sort of incestuous alien culture or something? There also must be some cultures that recognize first cousin unions that might come in too.

An old case after all is around involving a religious uncle/niece marriage that a state recognized.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

California Marriage Ruling

I wrote about the California marriage ruling here. Glenn Greenwald had an important point on Thursday about focusing on the specific state situation -- the state's domestic partnership law plus its legislature/governor supporting same sex marriage, for instance, makes it different from let's say New York (no state-wide domestic partnership law). One result of small steps like Lawrence v. Texas, Scalia aside, is that even if in the long term same sex marriage will be the rule, it will be the result of an extended process.

[The ruling underlined the various aspects of it, as with Loving v. Virginia, viewing it both as a right to marry case and a matter of equality, holding sexual orientation should be supplied strict scrutiny. The developments in marriage alone underlines the nature of the process here.]

I think we are talking about the rights of all Americans here, but there is a value in such a process. The road ahead is suggested, again h/t GG, by a column responding to my original choice for President endorsing Obama beginning thusly:
Well, at least they didn't kiss.

I was bracing myself for the lip lock Wednesday when John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama."

Yeah. This underlines that those who argue that this is largely about gender/sex stereotypes (the court relied on sexual orientation and spoke of the "opposite" sex) have a point. Surely, sexual orientation is a central aspect of one's person, and can and should be treated separately in various respects than gender and/or sex. But, proper sex and gender roles definitely play a role here. Ditto biblical prohibitions against same sex relations overall. And, the point holds even if wish to arbitrarily draw certain lines. There are degrees of bad, e.g., allowing same sex intimacy and not marriage.

I wrote some over at Balkanization as well on this issue, including in response to an argument that heterosexuals (it bears noting that some man/woman marriages have at least one homosexual/bisexual person involved, so the term is inexact here) should think about not marrying in states that ban same sex marriage. Was this idea used in the days when states banned interracial marriages? Anyway, I think a better path might be to refuse to "marry" in a civil ceremony,* but to partake in the domestic partnership / civil union alternatives available in many states.

This might suggest the true arbitrary line drawing going on here and supply some state benefits too. Anyway, the above mentioned link and comments here and here provide further input by me on this matter. Enough for now. Oh, and the recent Vito shenanigans underlines those concerned about threats to marriage really need to get their priorities in order.


* Dan Savage, who adopted a child with his partner, and wrote a book about the experience noted after courts of his own state and my own rejected challenges to different sex only marriage laws:
A perverse cruelty characterizes both decisions. The courts ruled, essentially, that making my child’s life less secure somehow makes the life of a child with straight parents more secure. Both courts found that making heterosexual couples stable requires keeping homosexual couples vulnerable. And the courts seemed to agree that heterosexuals can hardly be bothered to have children at all — or once they’ve had them, can hardly be bothered to care for them — unless marriage rights are reserved exclusively for heterosexuals. And the religious right accuses gays and lesbians of seeking “special rights.” ...

So I’m confident that one day my son will live in a country that allows his parents to marry. His parents are already married, as far as he’s concerned, as my boyfriend and I tied the knot in Canada more than a year and a half ago. We recognize, even if the courts do not, that it’s in his best interest for us to be married.

One might add many also are married in private ceremonies, including religious ones. They are "married" in ways "as far as" many are concerned.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

NY Baseball: Mediocre Squared

And Also: I get loads of address labels from causes that want me to donate. Others tell me I'd get a stuffed animal or shirts if I do. I also got calendars, stickers, pads and even an Olympics iron-on. It gets tacky after awhile, but a cancer charity sending me a $2.50 check and trying to guilt me to return it plus donate $10 or more just was a bit too much. I donated to cancer charities before -- it is a favorite of my mom. But, this time, I cashed the check. It will pay for the ATM fee I was charged yesterday plus $1 for principle. Sheesh.

The betting line actually had the Rays as the favorite yesterday v. the Yanks, even though the latter team already lost two in a row, and had its pretty consistent at the moment crossword loving Stanford grad -- Mike Mussina -- on the mound. Oh, and TB as a whole pays the team about as the Yanks' team bar bill. It wasn't too far off ... the Yanks won 2-1. [After losing by that score in extras, after tying it 1-1 in the 9th.] And, Tampa is in first place ... just like the Marlins. And, the Yanks are not that far out of first, surely they have an easier time of it than last year's phoenix-like rise.

Not that being in last place bodes THAT well, huh? An optimistic soul might note that the Mets are closer to first (i.e third) and due to get going too, you know after also losing say three of four against a supposedly weak team (not in first place) before the crosstown rival match-up this weekend, but then we would recall they never did get to the playoffs. The Yanks didn't look like they would ... the Mets had a slow water torture downfall that ended the last day of the season. One hoped for 5-2 vs. the Reds and Nats, got 3-4, three very good (ending with a 1-0 contest, Pelfrey giving up the ghost in the eight) outings by the back-end of the rotation going to waste.

[Update: The NY Daily News provided added details on how the players did various things to go scoreless against a last place team and three times (two columns, one wrap-up story) noted the outspoken closer wondered why the reporters was asking him questions when he didn't even play. Oh right, the two guys who ended the game in pathetic fashion left early, "---"ing surprising. Wonder why the reporters sought out Wagner, who referenced the son of the crosstown owner in his remarks? And, the deleted word does not start with "f," does it? Nah.

Anyway, it was noted that even though they are higher up in the standings, the Mets actually are worse off -- the Yanks actually got to the playoffs and beyond in the last twenty or so years. The Mets managed a couple times, most recently choking at the key moment. Thus, less patience for their lame play.]

Well, at least the Mets weren't knocked off thusly in September, like last year. Should be a good pitching series this weekend ... let's see if either team hits. I'll say something about the same sex marriage ruling from out West then as well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vito Fossella: Negative Trifecta, But What's More Important?

And Also: Jimmy Fallon will replace Conan O'Brien when the latter replaces Leno not too long from now ... eh. No one really worthwhile replaced Tom Synder (RIP) to follow Dave, who was well replaced overall by Conan. Fallon -- though I really don't watch him -- seems a bit boring. I hope, unlike Jay, O'Brien survives the trip without ruining his flavor. Anyway, Tempus fugit.

The sole Republican left in the NYC delegation in the House of Representatives was stopped for a DWI, which -- if he cops to it or is prosecuted -- has a mandatory five day prison term for his first time (caught) offense. He apologized, though did not admit anything criminal apparently, but it was later determined that Vito Fossella [a previous Republican from Staten Island was Susan Molinari -- they even sound the part] was on the way to see his secret love child. The adultery seems also to have went on when the pair was on a Republican field trip of sorts. And, there might be a trifecta -- talk of possible fiscal shenanigans.

Oh, btw, he has a lesbian sister he shuns while promoting anti-homosexual legislation. As with my former mayor getting in trouble taking communion as much for his abortion views as divorcing and not going to mass regularly, there seems to be a disconnect here. Driving while intoxicated after making an ass of yourself at a bar should be disqualifying enough, though he just might have won in November (many do drink and drive after all ... it's okay when you aren't a drunk, you know) given his safe seat. But, it is his adultery, the fiscal stuff an assist, that seems to seal the deal. VF comes off as an asshole plus a hypocrite. Fairly regular for politicians, but he took it took it to a new level.

And, upon thought, I see a point here. It might be bad in various cases, but often people vote for image, especially when given similar substantive options in primaries. And, his constituents thought they was getting a social conservative family man. It is sort of like if liberals found out their representative was actually a bigot who belonged to a racist private club. They could forgive him/her for acting bad in some neutral way, especially if it was something -- driving after some celebration having too much to drink (it helps if we don't know exactly how drunk he was) -- which they themselves could imagine doing. But, they have limits, especially if the person stacks things one on top of the other.

And, this is partially because if you do not believe in the integrity of government officials, you will not support them. You will not want to deal with them, give them money and support, and will be annoyed that they gave the party a black eye. Politics is often largely about symbols ... and when they hit upon the soft under side of the party (they all have them), well it is that much worse. A word that fits the Republican Party these days. Lots of riches there, so to speak.

So, there is a point there, if one that is open to question.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Two Films

And Also: Eighteen kids by 41? Twins were part of it, but how about using nursing to space things out? All the names start with "J," leading to "Jinger." Well, home schooling does cut back on education costs, and their Discovery Channel series help too. Not to stereotype, but shocker they are a fundamentalist family from Arkansas!

I received Hollywood Movie Money tickets that apparently are accepted by "almost everyone." Not an independent movie theater. And, not the AMC chain. Still, another chain did take them, so I watched two somewhat iffy movies free of charge. Both were worthwhile in their own fashion.

The first was just simple fun, which these days is not as easy as it should be to find in the theaters. The photo provided as well as the title itself, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, suggests what has in store, as well as the fact it is from the Troma people ... known for low budget gems like The Toxic Avenger. The movie is about a poor schmuck who tries to impress his girl while dealing with some members of the chicken undead. Toss in lots of lesbians, bad taste and musical numbers, well, you get the idea. For a certain taste, but I loved it.

The value of the movie in part was that yeah it was trash, but it was well put together trash -- this is not always what trash offers. The actors were quite good actually and the musical numbers creative and sung with some talent. Talent also was shown in The Babysitters, including Katherine Waterston (the daughter of Sam), John Leguizamo and (a somewhat wasted) Cynthia Nixon (of Sex and the City, but good in many other roles too) and a fairly good supporting cast.

I wanted to see Noise, a Tim Robbins vehicle about a lawyer who goes a bit nuts dealing with sound pollution, but darn if AMC would not take my ticket. So, I saw this film, which I was a bit iffy about given the plot -- teen babysitter has an affair with married guy and starts a teen prostitution service for others who like the idea. The plot is definitely a bit scummy. Given there is nudity (and kissing), it is often good to realize these are twentysomethings (at the very least, over 18) in real life. Still, the Troma film had the usual exploitation stuff of the genre; films like this are exploitative with more claim of "serious" intentions.

The saving grace of an imperfect script is that you actually care about the characters, who overall (even underused Nixon as a once wild girl now concerned about her husband falling back to using drugs ... clearly she had a bad experience with it and wants to put it behind her) are not just caricatures. The quiet college bound teen with a crush on the father of the kid she is babysitting, the dad with a mid-life crisis and problems with his marriage/career who (against his better instincts) is drawn to her, the two friends with their own issues etc. Some reviews think the KW character transforms too fast ... but we find out this is not really true at all.

I think the first movie keeps its goofy fun up throughout the movie down to the credits (akin to Naked Gun movies, they are fun in themselves, including the explanatory cameo credits). The second has a bit more trouble though it does a decent job, including the predictable trouble that results from the whole thing -- it is no Risky Business fun ride. It also is not for all tastes, but an imperfect worth watching for what it does offer.

Surely if you can watch for free!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Farm Sanctuary and the Ultimate Ethic

And Also: An early happy Mother's Day. I bought a couple cards "from" animals. Cute, but in some fashion fitting -- our relationship with companion animals often have that flavor, as shown by more than one person saying "did you miss mommy" etc. to their cat or dog. Not only children are very hurt when something happens to such family members. The fact we must not be so selective in our care does not change the fact this is not a bad thing per se.

Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food by Gene Baur discusses his efforts to provide sanctuary for farm animals, part autobiographical, part discussion of the harms of factory farming. Life is not much better since the days of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. In discussing lethal injection, a column noted how we treat pets as a special class of animals, ignoring the misuse of various others because, well, we like to eat them. The fact that your segmented worm is not as much of an individual as a cow or pig ... and we can admit as such ... does not really change this.

My road to vegetarianism was based on the basic principle that people should be treated as individuals. This is in part a matter of their self-worth and the importance of fair dealing. Animals too are wondrous creatures. You next look at the real difference between many animals and human animals, including the fact that we (and not just out of mere emotion) realize that a pet can be an "individual" too. For instance, their ability to feel pain and experience life in various ways.

And, you wonder, well ... to save lives, maybe it is okay in various cases to hurt certain animals. [There are various alternatives, often leading to better results, and doing so to sell another brand of cosmetics is not the same thing.] But, to eat, when there are plenty of other good stuff out there? Particularly given current food production involves truly inhumane conditions? Conditions harsh both for the animals and humans. See, e.g., Fast Food Nation, which is much recommended (did not see the movie). To get fur? A trophy? Don't think so.

I also don't think some sort of soul divides the two. Besides, various religious arguments are in place providing our obligations to animals. In fact, the book quotes the current pope on the point. This includes some that are vegan or vegetarian. The vegan path (which actually means "the ultimate ethic" of non-violence) is best. But, given the breadth of the problem, damning those who are not there (and Al Gore underlines that care of nature* overall is not really a bad thing either) yet is silly. Any number of people can do more for their causes, which includes this writer in spades, but this is no way to damn those who do quite a lot.

[Also: The book highlights the value of doing what you can, even if your own efforts are but a drop in the bucket. A direct value of vegetarianism for me is akin to those who act in a certain way even if everyone else does not -- they themselves at least do not join in the wrongdoing. Individual acts also do add up, as shown by the number of small donations to Obama's campaign.]

Victoria Moran wrote a book some time ago, a conveniently small paperback version is available, entitled Compassion: The Ultimate Ethic, which underlines that veganism is not just a matter of not eating animal products or avoiding things like leather and wool. It is a way of living. Those who do not go all the way still often do quite a lot in the right direction. The breadth of the effort is underlined by a famous dissent by Justice Douglas, who argued that natural resources should have standing for their own sake. His writings overall underline Douglas saw utilitarian benefit to this, believing nature is essential for human happiness, and thriving in nature himself. [Though lesser in scope, Justice Blackmun also had a touching dissent, an early recognition of his human approach to judging.]

From his dissent:
Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality, a fiction found useful for maritime purposes. The corporation sole - a creature of ecclesiastical law - is an acceptable adversary and large fortunes ride on its cases. The ordinary corporation is a "person" for purposes of the adjudicatory processes, whether it represents proprietary, spiritual, aesthetic, or charitable causes.

So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes - fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or who enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it. Those people who have a meaningful relation to that body of water - whether it be a fisherman, a canoeist, a zoologist, or a logger - must be able to speak for the values which the river represents and which are threatened with destruction.

Also, consider an interesting blog post linking to this:
The Federal Constitution requires "account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms". The ECNH’s key tasks include putting this concept into concrete terms.

That is, the Swiss Constitution. Gene Baur would surely be supportive, realizing that protecting animals, including you and me, includes respecting the world we live in. It is all connected and disrespect of one has a habit of affecting the rest. The harm factory farming does to the environment underlines the point. Anyway, the book tells a straightforward story, one even certain fast food places are starting to respect to the degree they are requiring limited better treatment of the animals that go in their products. It also supplies snapshots of some of the animals saved.

I at times wanted a bit more bite (it seems a bit predictable) and a bit more on mental abilities and experiences of animals thru a scientific lens. It is not a unique sort of book, basically, in the literature. But, it is a good reminder of the individual lives of the food on our plates. And, the concern voiced even by some of those who raise animals for food underlines the breadth of its audience.


* Robert Kennedy Jr. also provided a blurb for this book.

Voting Id: What If They Were Serious About Fraud?

And Also: To repeat something I referenced in my quickie earlier, don't buy into the idea that Clinton's remarks on her ability to win over working class whites might be "stupid" but hey, it's not "racist" or anything. Hey, the Clintons are big friends of the blacks. Them racist? Nooo! Wrong is promoted in many ways, and often the most insidious is when it isn't pure evil. Racial divisiveness comes in many forms and enabling it because you are tired or want to make cheap political moves promotes racism. It is in some core way "racist."

As to voter id, consider how hard it is to commit in-person fraud simply requiring inputting a matching signature in a voter roll book. You can't just make up a name (one can also require an address or even a code you are given beforehand). You have to forge a signature you probably never saw before. [The most likely scenario is that you vote for a friend etc. who can't be there -- which is bad, but not really the perceived problem.] Hope that person doesn't vote that day. That the name you choose isn't someone the poll worker knows. And, you have to do this in person, in a few moments.

There is probably more problems, and for something that isn't very productive anyway. Besides, why in-person photo ids? It has been noted that to the degree there is a voter fraud problem (and things like phone jamming and politically timed prosecutions suggests voter disenfranchisement is a more serious issue) that absentee voting would open up more problems. But, voter photo id laws do not help here. This is not say you have to be in person to show id. The number of photos on let's say Facebook websites underlines the point. In fact, I was able to send my photo to obtain a state id in one instance.

As with motor voter laws, various sites can be set up to allow the scanning etc. required to send the photos to the proper authorities. Likewise, for home bound sorts, the people probably have in person service providers that can take their picture (and information) to process the ids. And, it is noted that it can be hard to get the proper papers. So, the government has to do some heavy lifting in a few cases, but if there is this real serious voter fraud problem, the solution is not to arbitrarily deprive the basis of republican government. And/or you can set up booths at polling places to take the pictures on Election Day, though the paperwork rules still can be harsh in some cases.

Of course, you cannot take this law at face value.* The Supremes were ridiculous to do so, something they surely would not do with a burden on the freedom of speech. Voting is if anything more fundamental, especially as compared to some aspects of freedom of speech. BTW, having finally watched it ... wicked appearance of the Supremes on Boston Legal. I saw them on his other show Picket Fences a while back, but who would have thought James Spader's character would be more goofy than that guy (think a very Jewish William Shatner, or rather, his character on BL).

Lol. I never watch this show, but maybe I should!


* I responded to a claim that it's soooo easy to get id and there is some real problem, assumptions that those old things called facts disposes of, and eventually the person made a form of ad hominem attack and changed the subject. This is sorta of the point of using non-elective branches to help defend fundamental rights and disadvantaged groups against ill advised / unconstitutional actions of elective officials. Carolene Products case and all that.

Anyway, it is akin to a depressing discussion I had with someone about Sean Bell, consisting of (1) I hate Al Sharpton and (2) Bell kinda asked for it and is a bad character. As if reckless use of firearms only hurt people who ask for it that are likely to get Sharpton's support. Basically, said person had a prejudice and the basic humanity of the individuals disappeared. Said person knows people who could very well be in dangerous locales. Questionable characters. Said person was open to department sanction. Why, if they really did nothing wrong?

Reason only goes so far here, but you try to use it as best you can, especially when its utility leads the other side to try to use it too. Consider, e.g., Intelligent Design using "science" to defend itself. And, sometimes, it fights our biases.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Quickies -- Enablers etc.

Why is it "surprising" that McCain is promoting a lazy Republican talking point on "activist" judges? The enabler of a lawless administration (h/t Glenn Greenwald) shows time and again his cynicism. Ditto his pal Hillary, who even has her apologists shaking their heads sadly, given the depths her desperation has taken her. Enabling wrong is bad too, including by being "surprised" at what is far from surprising. Meanwhile, DWI, eh ... an affair? Well, time to get rid of the guy.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Complete Perespolis

The movie version (there is also an English dubbed version but I bet it is better in the original French) of the graphic autobiographical novel of Marjane Satrapi growing up in Iran should have won an Academy Award. The book (I read The Complete Perespolis, two parts in one volume) was very good too. Her comment that Iran making everyone so concerned about appearance kept their mind off more basic deprivation of human rights (I share Satrapi's emphasis on "human") has applications in this country too. Just one of many gems,including the art, diverse characters and so on. More proof it's useful to learn a bit about other cultures, if possible in the voice of their members.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Catholic Hypocrites

Rudy is not only "twice-divorced, pro-abortion" but the "former Mayor was given the Eucharist by a priest standing next to the Pope" even though he rarely goes to mass. One priest thinks it was his call, but it seems like the pope doesn't think so. American Catholics are wannabe Protestants sometimes. Anyway, though his hypocrisy was broad enough that his presidential hopes went down in flames, other selective morality (Catholic edition) goes on more under the radar. Meanwhile, the old guy stole home ... no need to actually win the game, right?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Quickies: Reid/Loserman & Loving's Death

I caught Sen. Reid on The Daily Show say that Lieberman supports Dems on everything but the war. Greenwald is right ... though I also think this is somewhat the case of defining "war" somewhat broadly (which only underlines GG's point). On Mildred Loving's death, see here. Damn I hope Obama does good enough today.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Quickies: Film and Law of Land

XXY is a good foreign movie, well acted and a superior portrayal of the struggles of being a teenager (and not just for the lead), including the importance of having understanding parents (the dad discovers the need to trust to allow his child make a choice, but provide protection until it can be made). Its special subject matter is a hook, but it's good overall.

I'm not sure how hard it is to "think" that it is "a constitutional obligation of the President" to faithfully execute laws that are in one way or the other the "law of the land," treaty or otherwise. Too many appear to find it hard, even some for whom you expect it not to be, which sadly explains somewhat the enabling going on.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

NYC Gun Suit Blocked

A federal appeals court blocked a NYC lawsuit claiming gun dealers recklessly sell guns in such a way that they are used for illegal purposes and threaten the safety of the general public. Though the city claimed the litigation brings in criminal nuisance law, the court held such a general regulation is not enough to be an exception to a recent federal law that blocks such litigation. This is very well might be a good statutory interpretation, though there was a dissent (and the district court held otherwise), but is a questionable use of federal policy to block state laboratories dealing with such litigation, which surely has not been shown to be such a threat to the gun industry (or an unreasonable one) to warrant blocking even pending litigation.

My Life as a Traitor

My Life as a Traitor by Zarah Ghahramani is a striking account of a dissident Iranian's short stint as a political prisoner in turn of the century Iran. That is, a few years back. Sensory deprivation as much as physical mistreatment (including cutting off of her long hair) is her biggest enemy. Marjanne Doree performed the audio book -- and it was some performance, akin to a one woman show. Powerful, especially the ending. Much recommended.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

"Contrary to Public Policy"

And Also: Various comments over at Balkinization deal with an often ignored aspect of the torture memoranda scandals etc. -- how they were used (secretly) to alleviate serious concern in the FBI and military of the legality of its interrogation and treatment of "enemy combatants" and such. The smoking gun is hard to find by design, but the New Yorker and others have done some heavy lifting, and it suggests a mens rea that underlines why those involved are war criminals. It is not "simply" the case of stretching the law and hiding behind executive privilege and such when a few try to investigate.

The previews alone suggested Made to Honor was a loser, but Patrick Dempsey was a surprise hit on David Letterman last night. Looking quite the "McDreamy," and providing an actually clever quick clip of the film, the two immediately bonded over his participation auto racing (Dave is a partial owner of a team and also is a fan of the Kentucky Derby). The rest of the interview was fun as well, including a couple parody magazine covers, one involving PD as a Civil War re-enactor. I still don't want to see the movie, but since I respect Dave while finding a bit too many of his shows somewhat underwhelming, a fun interview is good on various levels.

The often weak Friday show (generally taped early in the week) also had a nice undercard interview with Isabella Rossellini, who not only referenced her involvement in a guide dog charity, but also as the narrator of what amounts to nature porn (Green Porno, which examines the sex lives of various insects and such). If you are going to make a Firefly or Spider sound sexy, she would be the one. I'm sure she can do a neat twist on Charlotte. By chance, I also saw her briefly soon afterwards in an interesting looking preview on a DVD ... the DVD btw is Saving Face, a well made love story that underlines the value of functionally sound movie-making with added twists added in.

There are not many new ideas, but when they are carried out in nice ways, ways in which a scene or even glance is memorable, the films remain well worth watching. And, there are tons of good stuff to see in the U.S. and Canada alone (Manhattan supplies a chance to see but a handful of those available from the rest of the world), much of it independently produced and not given a wide release. Overall, this underlines the importance of having funding sources, including public funds. Jane Alexander wrote an interesting book on this point, Command Performance: an Actress in the Theater of Politics, in light of her appointment as head of the NEA.

Canada has a policy that such funds only should go to films sufficiently "Canadian," which meant the American director Kevin Smith could only guest, not direct/write for the show Degrassi. The NYT had one those interesting articles reminding us that we aren't the only game in town concerning a controversy that arose after the country added an additional requirement requiring an elected official "also certify that the public funding of the production would not be contrary to public policy." This led to some big names in the arts community to be concerned about censorship, the "about ten to twelve percent" production budget at issue quite important to those without big pockets.

The article notes "Curiously, the proposed change would not apply to similar tax credits that Canada offers to lure foreign (which effectively means American) producers." It also referenced a supporter of using the provision to regulate the morality of subsidised works. One advocate repeatedly cites a film that "begins with 'Young People [Fucking]' and concludes with an obscene gerund." The brackets are mine, the NYT having a policy of not saying bad words in such discussions -- including while dealing with regulation of U.S. television. This reminds of the lawyer involved in the "Fuck the Draft" case being sure to say the word at least once in his oral argument to underline it is not soooo bad that it could never be spoken in polite company.

BTW, the reference to "Young People" in the online copy kicked in the link generator, linking it to a Shirley Temple film of that name. There is a certain amusing irony there. It might also provide a lesson in grammar, the circumlocution reminding me of a selectively edited Doonsbury cartoon spoofing the potty mouth of Frank Sinatra. As to the policy, the devil is in the details and who carries them out. Thus, the concern for what amounts to be a loaded gun. And, the importance of keeping an eye on obscure details of mammoth legislation.

That can be [obscene gerund] difficult.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

NY Daily News: Iraq, Wright et. al.

And Also: The "facial" challenge issue and strategic reasons might justify -- in part -- Justice Stevens' vote in the id case. All the same, even ignoring the partisan angle (btw Stevens has supported challenges on political gerrymander grounds), it remains quite troubling. A fairly trivial poll tax actually is easier than the id law here, and in fact arguably less discriminatory. Again, as the dissents note, other id laws are less harsh. BTW, the "appearance of impropriety" issue works both ways. Bad call.

The NY Daily News, its tabloidish second day in the row cover addressing Roger Clemens' extramarital behavior aside, was well worth the price today. This includes entertainment coverage (Madonna is promoting her new CD, there is a new one man play on Thurgood Marshall), sports*, coverage on congressional Republicans trying to deprive the city of $2B in 9/11 funds and a local story of a college student who threatened others with a gun. And, as usual, good overall sports coverage and comics. But, there were two things in particular that struck me, one article, one opinion piece. The people involved impressed in the past as well.

Errol Louis starts off on the wrong foot by suggesting there upfront that Wright has "maimed" Obama's campaign, "perhaps fatally," on the same day the paper noted that a few more superdelegates went his way. In fact, an even split (with a plus in North Carolina and polls suggesting a tie or better in Indiana, this is fair, even conservative) would lead him to need only about fifty delegates. But, anyway, Louis' overall point that the Wright controversy corrodes the message of Obama's campaign is on point. This includes anger at those who gleefully watch on:
"I would reserve a special circle in Hell for those who are gloating and smirking over Obama's pastor's self-immolation," essayist Jim Sleeper wrote this week, urging current and potential supporters of Obama not to lose hope.

"I'd like to think that since countless blacks stood up to dogs and mobs, we who support Obama can find in ourselves the faith to withstand his cankered, middling detractors," he wrote.

Sleeper's right. It benefits no one - not Hillary Clinton, not John McCain - to sacrifice a chance for improved race relations on the altar of a White House win. If nothing else, the Wright flap has made clear how badly we need to get beyond the pain and prejudice of the past.

See also, here, including how others in Wright's church are surprised at some of his remarks. And, "It's important to acknowledge that these faith-based movements have made America better, freer and fairer." Meanwhile, let us not forget that this is the fifth year anniversary of "mission accomplished." The article was a bit too deep in the paper, but the NY Daily News helped us not to:
On May 1, 2003, Bush flew on a Navy jet to the carrier Lincoln, where he announced "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" and the U.S. had "prevailed."

Today, that same ship is sailing back to the Persian Gulf and 4,370 coalition troops and thousands more Iraqis are dead.

The U.S. is no closer to Bush's pledge that "we will leave."

The article is entitled: "Wars go on & on, 5 years after Bush's 'mission accomplished' speech." I am not sure what "thousands more Iraqis" mean** -- hundreds of thousands are dead actually; even if it means "combat" related deaths, it surely is a misleading turn of phrase (didn't Bush himself speak of thirty thousand Iraqis some time ago?). All the same, the smallish article covers several bases, including the problems still in Afghanistan. This is a particularly telling quote:
"When there were no cowboys in Indian country, there was no fighting going on," NATO Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco told the Daily News. "When you introduce a lot of new cowboys into the area, you get a lot more fighting."



* The Yanks and the Mets ended April badly. The Yanks are injured, have a hard time hitting and their two rookie pitchers are doing badly. The Mets are inconsistent; aside from Ryan Church and the fill-in for a hurt Pedro, they too are not playing well as a whole; and the mess that was yesterday's game (two Mets hits vs. the lowly Pirates and nine unearned runs) highlighted the fact (and Perez's problems).

Ditto, their win on Tuesday -- a two run lead blown, partially on an unearned run, lots of men left on base, Santana going under six and Reyes getting caught stealing. It's only May 1, but both teams need to wake up. Meanwhile, what about those Rays? And, last weekend at least three pitchers pitched complete games, one or two others pitching eight innings. Yes, it's possible!

** [Update] In reply to a request for clarification, the co-writer of the piece said: "Since the number - as you point out - is in dispute and space was limited, I phrased it in the most appropriate way I could. Would you have preferred I made no mention of Iraqi deaths?"

I replied that a misleading mention ("thousands more" implies to me single digit thousands, not tens or hundreds) was not really the best path or probably necessary (a few words could have done it, or even "many more"). A bit sarcastic there.