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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

George Docherty Dies: Pledge and More

Saw a blurb in the paper today that "Rev. who wanted God in Pledge dies." A pretty kewl moment was when the gadfly who didn't want his daughter* to take part in a teacher led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance that endorsed God was able (rather well, helped by Scalia recusing himself) to do the oral argument himself. As to the substance of the claim, one for which he had support from various who do believe in God (e.g., those who saw it as too close to a sort of "test oath"), Newdow had a point. As noted, even if you think God is the source of our rights and/or stands over us, the means used to honor the fact can be problematic.**

It is somewhat ironic, except to the point that special pleading is typical in this field thus the need for religious freedom and no religious tests in the first place, that one way to accept such official endorsements is to water down their significance. Justice O'Connor (with an assist from the likes of Justice Brennan, who suggested the point as a means to explain away a possibly troublesome matter) takes this approach in her concurrence. She cites his dissent in a holiday display case, one in which Justice Blackmun/Stevens added a brief dissent on how the theme dishonors the religious aspects of holidays opponents of a "War on Christmas" so fear.

If we truly honor Christ as our Lord, governmental displays might (rightly) bother some believers. This calls to mind an ad campaign referenced in one of my blogroll cites, FFRF, that led one group to proclaim:
"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."

Note also the link to someone who belies the "no atheists in foxholes" line. For those who do not find this so obvious, the Rev. George Docherty's efforts might be deemed suspect. But, hopefully his long life (died on Thanksgiving Day at 97) was a happy one all the same. Though some who seem inclined toward hyperbole might think differently, it does the man a disservice to remember him for this one act (atheists not ideal Americans). This includes support of racial equality, opposition to the Vietnam War, and support for congressional restraint on an out of control President.

For such things, he probably was deemed as going against the "American ideal of life." More power to you, George.


* Custody matters led the SC to punt ... Stevens, who was on C-SPAN last night with a judicial pal for a Q&A, also wanted to punt in another family case, so this wasn't just for convenience ... even if the the right thing might have been to let the state courts deal with the matter first. The opinion amounts to much about nothing. Why spend a whole section on a statute which you ultimately find besides the point for the case in question?

CJ Rehnquist does his own tap dancing to avoid troublesome questions. "We do not know what other Members of Congress thought about the purpose of the amendment." Sure. Not that the majority is free from dubious statements. "Nothing that either Banning or the School Board has done, however, impairs Newdow’s right to instruct his daughter in his religious views." If the school led her in prayer on a daily basis, would this also not "impair" the instruction of someone who spends much less consistent time with the girl involved?

** Note how we hear of "invasion of freedom and privacy" long before the Court, in the eyes of some, first declared a "right to privacy" for the first time in Griswold v. Connecticut.

Now that was stupid

Plaxico Burress Shoots Himself Accidentally. NYT et. al. mirrors Orwell. Australia (it's watchable, but simply ridiculous; the gay drama Antarctica is also out ... didn't see it). I also bought a bottle of wine from Australia at Trader Joe's. Will update! "Black Friday." Well, to me, it brings to mind a sort of different event.

Friday, November 28, 2008

May It Please The Court

And Also: Four Christmases has received a mix reception, but I enjoyed it overall. It has some laugh out loud moments, plus some characters you might be surprised to care as much about as you do. A great supporting cast, even in bits like Peter Billingsley (also executive producer). Almost becomes a bit too serious, but catches itself just a bit, and even Bad Santa was a bit touching (in a fashion) in its own fashion.

In short, the Supreme Court tapes are a wonderful idea that disappoints in the execution. For this, the court itself deserves some blame. In 1974, the distinguished constitutional lawyer Jack Greenberg (recently dean of Columbia University) asked the court’s cooperation in publishing a “balanced” and “accurate” series of edited oral arguments. The justices, quite brusquely, turned him down, thus leaving the endeavor to someone (like Irons) who would act without their permission. The listening public now suffers for the court’s shortsighted choice.

-- Edward Lazarus

Peter Irons is a good liberal, down to re-opening the Japanese Internment cases in the 1980s via a special legal proceeding. His ideological leanings are suggested by his conviction for draft evasion in 1963, one eventually overturned for prosecutorial misconduct. He also fought the good fight of judicial openness by making public audio files of Supreme Court orals, long before a select few were available on C-SPAN or transcripts were readily available online, pissing off a few justices in the process. They were open for educational purposes, but this was seen as limited to researchers, not the general public. CJ Rehnquist actually was thinking of taking "legal remedies" against Irons, before thinking better of it. Would this have led to a companion book to Irons' Brennan v. Rehnquist, Irons v. Rehnquist?

Iron's "May the Please the Court" series that provided audio excerpts (ala the process for casebooks, that tend to only include small segments of long opinions) of twenty-three orals ... along with introduction audio that involved two of the lawyers involved in Roe v. Wade and the "Poor Joshua!" DeShaney case ... along with a transcript and excerpts of the opinions was "a wonderful idea." I purchased the first collection some time ago, following up with the less nicely packaged [the first set came in a neat plastic case] sets concerning the First Amendment and arguments involving abortion. I liked them. Likewise, as noted, only providing excerpts is fine as is his decision to provide audio commentary (intro, bridges, conclusion).

[You can find unedited audio elsewhere, but as with all sorts of unedited firsthand materials, there is a certain thickness to it, including a lot of tedious material hard going for the average person. I myself find this hard going, even in fields of interest, though admittedly, one step removed leads you to lose something.]

I was not alone -- along with his various books (an ongoing theme was providing background to the people involved in the cases, his latest on religious battles doing a good job providing a personal flavor of both sides) -- you can find various top names (not only liberals) writing nice things about his efforts. All the same, even an amateur at this sort of thing like me found various slip-ups, putting aside his (to be honest) rather knee-jerk slant is clear even without noting the misleading edits discussed in Lazarus' reviews. A few were blatant, including labeling a justice saying such and such when said justice wasn't on the Court at the time; or, in one case, a personal comment on how to edit a segment being left on the tape! Forgivable, but it is an example of some of the sloppiness found here.

And, commentary such as "only the courts have the ultimate power of enforcement" really is troubling, especially for not only a political science professor, but a lawyer to boot. You might be able to work around a logical understanding of the phrase, one that seems to be counter to Hamilton's lesson about the Court lacking "force or will." Maybe, he meant judicial rulings are required to truly "enforce" the meaning of the Constitution, a sentiment Madison and Jefferson would agree with in various respects. But, it really does have a flavor of the courts having some sort of enforcement wing, which seems to be the assumption of some critics that fail to understand that its rulings are carried forth (imperfectly, for good or ill) by the elective branches, or administrative wings thereof (more or less). See also, the Lazarus articles.

Thus, as David Garrow (Liberty and Sexuality) warned (citing the articles) as to Roe v. Wade and such, Irons' work here should be taken with a grain of salt. This is unfortunate, since a slightly better job could easily have answered some of EL's concerns without altering the nature of the project much at all. The ideological slant of the author would also have to be a bit of a concern, surely if school children would primarily get a flavor of the orals from his tapes. These days, the audio of most important rulings can be downloaded from online via Oyez.com (though, I still don't know why Doe v. Bolton isn't included). And, said slant -- found in many forms elsewhere -- can be overstated. OTOH, EL has a point, and it's unfortunate.

I still would give a mixed recommendation to the series or to anyone else who would like to provide a comparable one, done a bit more carefully.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am down to one state quarter (1999-2008) ... maybe, that would be good for 1/20/09. Happy Thanksgiving ... my family isn't going this route, but after all that tiresome Palin/Bush turkey ****, you think some just might!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Warm Springs

And Also: A footnote in the privacy battles is a case involving a threesome that was photographed, Lovisi v. Slayton. This made it not "private" any more according to the majority, but the dissent (correctly) noted the activity was none of the government's business all the same. One dissent offered the term "personhood" or "those attributes of an individual which are irreducible in his selfhood." But, we say things are "private" all the time that aren't secret. Like who we marry. Still, I like the term. It hits to a core matter at hand.

Warm Springs was on HBO recently. I missed the beginning, but found the rest very good. It concerns FDR's struggles with polio (Wikipedia notes it might have been something else) and some of the behind the scenes activities in his life (including involving Eleanor) as he regained his composure at Warm Springs ... a mineral resort that was also the location of his death. Though the history should be taken with the proper degree of dramatic license salt, it overall is quite a fascinating snapshot, with interesting characters.

Louis McHenry Howe (played by the great character actor, David Paymer) is a newspaper man who hooks himself to Roosevelt and provides important support, even during the dark years of him struggling with the disease. Wikipedia tells me that he was known for his "ill health and diminutive appearance." He was also important in helping Eleanor Roosevelt* develop her own public persona, the movie suggesting at first as way to put the family name out there with FDR temporarily out of the picture. This was a core aspect of the film, as one review notes, the film shows the man behind the legend with "flaws, doubts and vulnerabilities"

Warm Springs (Georgia) was run by Tom Loyless, an outspoken newspaperman, who got in some trouble for speaking out against the Klan. It was owned by George Foster Peabody, the philanthropist who founded the Peabody Awards in broadcasting. Loyless dies of cancer fairly early on, but FDR eventually buys the property. The Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation is still active at that site. Another interesting character (played by Kathy Bates) is Helena Mahoney, who comes in as a physical therapist, and eventually helps FDR "walk" (leaning on others) with the help of his sons. As noted, this was not a solution, except "politically."

The film does not just have good acting but also a good sense of place, including poor rural America in the 1920s, and a nifty early example of adaption to handicaps (what is the best word?) -- a hand operated car. It was a oyster in the dull clams of movies on cable. A charm, I guess, of the enterprise.


* Though she might not look the part, Cynthia Nixon (the true actress among the Sex in the City gals) does an excellent job, while Jane Alexander plays FDR's mom ... years back, she played Eleanor herself. The whole movie gave me flashbacks to Voyagers!, a silly time travel show, that once had an episode on helping FDR get back into public life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Hamdi Treatment (Out With A Whimper)

Once considered a dangerous terrorist by the Bush administration, Mr. Hamdan was convicted only on lesser charges in August and given what amounted to a four-month sentence by a military jury. ... [Hamdan] will be held in a prison in Sana, the Yemeni capital, until Dec. 27 and then released to his wife and children under supervision, Mr. al Basha said.

-- Bin Laden’s Driver to Be Returned to Yemen

TV Quickies

The Steven Colbert Christmas special was no must see, but had some cute moments, including Feist's (as an angel) "your prayer is important to us, please stand by" song. Letterman seemed a bit discombobulated yesterday during his Kidman interview; Kidman (via a high school friend) is the godparent of another guest, Simon Baker, another (ala Dr. House) foreigner playing an American. Dish Network is annoying during storms -- satellite feed sometimes blinks in and out. Regular t.v. needs a show as fun as iCarly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Girls On The Stand

And Also: Last night's game underlines why the Chargers suck this year. They had some bad luck and end of the game mishaps, but they did manage to score ten points late against the Colts. But, helped by a penalty, they gave the colts just enough time to get just enough yardage for the winning TD. OTOH, though losing, the Cards did show a bit of moxie. They hit a long three on first down to give themselves a (long)shot at tying it at the very end.

A bit more on Girls On the Stand: How Courts Fail Pregnant Minors, Helena Silverstein's book on how parental bypass policies in the abortion arena work in the real world.

Most abortion cases tend to be class actions and/or facial challenges. Some are brought before the laws ever went into effect or criminal/civil burdens inflicted. See, e.g., the declaratory judgment nature of Poe v. Ullman, an early contraceptives case. The nature of the controversy and the people involved make it hard if not impossible for full appellate review to deal with cases of individual litigants in this context, Griswold v. Connecticut (contraceptives) showing the acceptance of using things like third parties (e.g., doctors) as surrogates of sorts. Roe v. Wade itself was a class action. When the representative of the state noted he did not think it might not be possible for a litigant to bring such a case, one justice quipped he figured there was at least one member of the class that could serve that function.

All the same, the Roberts Court is no fan of facial challenges, especially since few laws are trouble in every possible application. Thus, we had a voter id case (plurality by Stevens) that held -- for now -- an id law that clearly would be discriminatory as a general matter was legitimate. In limited areas, especially those involving free speech (but also things such as executing minors), a substantial threat of unconstitutional consequences will lead to the whole law being struck down. In practice, the risk is just too great, rights held in abeyance until a successful lawsuit is held. There are pluses and minuses to this policy, but if the interest is great enough, I'm with those who be wary of overbroad laws that sweep too many rights away.

After Casey, with some exceptions, this all the same is often the result of facial challenges of abortion laws. Most recently, the second 'partial birth' abortion case, which with all the noise, still left open some room for an "as applied" challenge. Another technique, which arguably has its own problems, is for the courts to hold that parts of the law are unconstitutional, and shave those parts off. Since laws are passed as balls of provisions, with various political reasons for doing so, this can be troubling in various ways. If "x" is not in a law, perhaps some might not have voted for it. It also allows legislators a free pass; for instance, some said not to worry about a problematic part of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance law, the courts will handle things. They did not hold it unconstitutional; it would be troubling even if they did.

Justice O'Connor's last opinion, the rarity of an unanimous abortion ruling (I know of one without dissents, but even there, three only concurred in judgment), covered just such ground. It held that a NH parental notification law need not be totally overturned if the only problem was a lack of a medical emergency exception. For our immediate purposes, its only substantive footnote is rather telling:
It is the sad reality, however, that young women sometimes lack a loving and supportive parent capable of aiding them “to exercise their rights wisely.” Hodgson, 497 U.S., at 444; see id., at 450—451 and n. 36 (holding unconstitutional a statute requiring notification of both parents, and observing that “the most common reason” young women did not notify a second parent was that the second parent “was a child- or spouse-batterer, and notification would have provoked further abuse” (citation omitted)). See also Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Child Maltreatment 2003, p. 63 (2005) (parents were the perpetrators in 79.7% of cases of reported abuse or neglect).

Hodgson is a case where the Court did have the benefit of how the two parent notification/bypass law worked in practice. For instance:
During the period between August 1, 1981, and March 1, 1986, 3,573 judicial bypass petitions were filed in Minnesota courts. All but 15 were granted. [n.28] The judges who adjudicated over 90 of these petitions testified; none of them identified any positive effects of the law. [n.29] The court experience produced fear, tension, anxiety, and shame among minors, causing some who were mature, and some whose best interests would have been served by an abortion, to "forgo the bypass option and either notify their parents or carry to term." Finding 44, 648 F. Supp., at 763. Among parents who supported their daughters in the bypass proceedings, the court experience evoked similar reactions.

The footnotes provide more detail. See also, Justice Marshall's partial dissent. Silverstein notes that there are various arguments in support of parental involvement, especially in the more prevalent one parent consent or notification context. In fact, if a teenage girl has an abortion without telling her parent, in a few cases her very life might be in danger, since negative consequences without parental knowledge can lead to tragedy. All the same, not only does this only suggest the need of some sort of support, there are negatives all the same. Sometimes, it can be downright dangerous to force parental involvement. Many are nearly adults already. Thus, the Supremes set up the judicial bypass option, though (currently) it is not totally clear if it is constitutionally required in the case of one parent notification.

Silverstein's book provides a snapshot at the problems of the bypass option in practice. The quote suggests an anomaly in itself: judicial bypass might be seen as an end around of the parent, but this does not mean the judge would necessarily always agree to supply the okay. The rule is if the minor is mature/informed and/or it is in her best interests. The numbers suggest, even in rather conservative states or in front of various clearly pro-life judges, most petitions are granted. Still, you might say there is a point here, since the teen is provided with some guidance, one might assume by a party more neutral than abortion providers. And, many states have policies setting up child welfare officials to provide guidance to the teen as well.

And, some guidance is probably a good idea. A unique example that might be the best policy is Maine's law that (quoting Marshall's opinion) "requires that a minor obtain the consent of a parent, guardian, or adult family member; undergo a judicial bypass; or receive counseling from the physician or a counselor according to specified criteria." He also notes Wisconsin sets up a possibility of abortion providers determining the teen should notify "another family member, close family friend, school counselor, social worker or other appropriate person." Silverstein unfortunately does not cover this ground, but problems with current bypass laws does leave open some procedure to provide some (mandatory) assistance for teens outside of biased (if still bound by ethical and legal rules) abortion providers.

Silverstein covers the "myth of rights" and the "gap" between what is ideally the law, as in what is in the statute book or constitutions, and the practice on the ground. This includes ignorance, inefficiencies/negligence, bias, and blatantly illegitimate (if, under Casey, at times "constitutional") practices. This includes forcing teens to go to sectarian pro-life counselors (trouble on First Amendment grounds, as informed consent laws in general sometimes are, including those that require doctors to speak of unborn "children" and the like), use of fetal advocates that often browbeat the teens involved, and judges who refuse to take part in carrying out the law on moral grounds. Time often is an enemy here -- weeks of delays can push the abortion to late in the second trimester, especially given teens for various reasons wait longer any way.

The dangers of trusting laws you know are likely to be trouble in practice (see Justice Stevens' concurrence) is shown in Justice Blackmun's dissent of a Ohio law, outside the main scope of the book (which focuses on Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Alabama in particular). The excited tone of such opinions might trouble some, but Silverstein's book suggests is earned.* In summary:
The pleading requirements, the so-called and fragile guarantee of anonymity, the insufficiency of the expedited procedures, the constructive-authorization provision, and the "clear and convincing evidence" requirement singly and collectively cross the limit of constitutional acceptance.

The majority, though O'Connor and Stevens didn't join this part, declared that it would "deny all dignity to the family" to overturn a law that would "give a lonely or even terrified minor advice that is both compassionate and mature," especially one with a legitimate bypass option. The real world can be a bit more messy. A lesson touched upon in the abortion context here, but one with wider lessons in the policy and legal arena as well. A suitable shot at CJ Roberts' comment on his role as an "umpire" is included ... that is as faulty as these laws in practice.


* Justice Marshall truly was harsh here, as a biographer noted, reflecting his anguish of where the country was going. In one dissent, he (probably illegitimately) not only said Roe was obviously good law, but obviously good policy. Here is a taste of his anger back in 1977, involving a funding ban [cites removed]:
The enactments challenged here brutally coerce poor women to bear children whom society will scorn for every day of their lives. Many thousands of unwanted minority and mixed-race children now spend blighted lives in foster homes, orphanages, and "reform" schools. Many children of the poor, sadly, will attend second-rate segregated schools. And opposition remains strong against increasing Aid to Families With Dependent Children benefits for impoverished mothers and children, so that there is little chance for the children to grow up in a decent environment. I am appalled at the ethical bankruptcy of those who preach a "right to life" that means, under present social policies, a bare existence in utter misery for so many poor women and their children.

Likewise, he noted there seemed no reason, except for opposition to abortion, to deny a bypass for teenagers. Surely, there are a few cases where teens are in effect coerced (including by their parents) or truly did not fully contemplate the situation. We can be talking about twelve or thirteen year olds in some cases, though here the "best interests" prong seems to kick in. All the same, even taking into consideration this subset, the current regime is a poor way to handle them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Let's Win Some Football!

Good day for NY/NJ football, knocking down the undefeated Titans (led by the second from last Super Bowl bound Giants QB) and Cards (undefeated at home, now a sort of second home for the Giants), while in the "every dog has its day" department, Oakland beat the Broncos. A few lopsided scores today, including (if less blatantly), the 34-13 Jets score. Two games left, and then three on Thursday. Detroit plays the Titans next. 0-12 bound!

Holiday Movies

And Also: Cecil Adams, the answer man, for some reason decided to wade into the abortion waters. The first entry pretty good (up to a point; see, e.g., talk of "inconveniences the mother" etc.), but the follow-up (he rarely does that) ill advised. The "no pang" bit was really annoying.

I got HBO and Starz channels now ... my local listings does not let me know what is on most of them, and overall, don't generally find much of interest. Whine whine. Big Love, the polygamy show, was on last night -- Amanda Seyfried plays a minor character. I expected her to break out in song at some point. I watched the show in the past -- didn't quite find it too interesting, if worth a look; yesterday's episode (or the one shown) was a bit dull. Chloƫ Sevigny, whose character generally is somewhat unpleasant, is particularly bitchy here.

Watched the new Hallmark movie, An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (Sunday night, Colbert's Christmas special). The plot is fairly routine, but it is carried out with particular skill here. Jacqueline Bisset plays the rich grandmother who is called in against the mom's wishes by the strong-willed older daughter (and writer in training) one troubled autumn on a farm sometime after the Civil War. This daughter imho makes the movie. Though the IMDB puts Tatiana Maslany (sans photo) low on the list for some reason, her character is not only the voice of the film, but she plays it was verve and feeling. Her sister and mother here, also Canadian talents, provide superior support. JB is good too. But, Tatiana is the star.

A bit more routine, but still charming (Carla Gugino and Laura Dern this time are the ones who add more bite than you might expect in Hallmark fare; CG also is someone who deserves more quality work) film was re-broadcast last night as well -- A Season of Miracles. This was of the Christmas variety, even if Thanksgiving is not quite upon us. I can be a sucker for the cute holiday movie ... Hallmark (I have its movie channel too) and Lifetime (with a movie channel too) both will supply more than enough, most not worth watching I'm sure, by New Years.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In The News This Week

And Also: I could not get into the first book in the series that inspired the HBO series True Blood, in part because too many people close to the heroine are killed in the first hundred pages. Sheesh. Better luck with Girls On The Stand: How Courts Fail Pregnant Minors by Helena Silverstein, looking at the real life experience of bypass laws. The ignorance showed during calls of the key people involved in carrying out the laws alone was informative. Not comprehensive in scope surely, but a well written and researched look at public policy in the real world.

I have watched Keith and Rachel (MSNBC) over the last few weeks and find them worthy of a check, but somewhat tedious after awhile. Keith is surely too bombastic, even if his (especially pre-Rachel) take on the Bush Administration provided some appreciated balance in the dark times. He is too focused on Bill O'Reilly (guy is a boob, no need to overdo the point) and various "oh how stupid the Right is" moments. There is some low brow fun to have here, including Gov. Palin "pardoning" (West Wing underlined the ridiculousness of the practice) a turkey at a slaughterhouse, but sometimes it just is not that exciting. Still, that was a bit dumb.*

There is also the limiting features that make them tiredly predictable, including some annoying lack of follow-up questions (Rachel can be more level-headed than some, but has her blindspots too), leading to me screaming at the screen. Hey, it's almost like sports! This works all over the place, of course, such as this (former HC supporter, so maybe some bias) blog discussing people being upset that Obama has not tossed progressives a "bone" thus far. Some noise aside, I am not surprised Obama is yes a moderate (though just calling him a promoter of "cold-eyed pragmatism" seems unfair), but he is a "uniter" from the (center) left.

This justifies some limits and some involvement with progressive sorts. Take the Lieberman. The guy was Obama's bloody mentor in the Senate, so it was not surprising Obama supported him in the race against Lamont. So, you didn't really expect him to support stripping the guy of his Homeland Security chair, even if he was lousy at it (and so forth). But, Obama didn't just do that. He didn't just say "that's the Senate's call, not mine" ... he sent a signal that it didn't really matter to him. He sent a signal, without saying it directly (leading to the wilfully naive to claim he was not to blame at all), to keep him. This adds insult to injury. Ditto the telecom immunity bill; a not that good but better alternative that was possible. Unpleasant but perhaps necessary. He took the worst route.

And, supporting a Bushie torture supporter would in spades underline the point. I don't want to hear this b.s. that "we shouldn't be surprised" he kills small children since he is a pragmatist that is willing to make compromises to put us in the direction he believes is best for the country. This nihilist attitude is for simpletons and is beneath us. In the real world, people we respect, people who will do us and others much good will do bad things. Sometimes, there is little choice in the matter and/or we have to deal with the situation. After all, no one (writ small) is free from such things in their own life. But, lines can be drawn, things should be expected. Thus, his A.G. pick is imperfect, but overall looks pretty good.

The "screw you" moment on Lieberman need not, should not, be accepted as a necessary evil each and every time. There are usually various levels of good and bad, as the intentional walk and defensive timeout suggests. Torture is a line to be drawn in the sand. [See Update II] This "baby hit me one more time" shit doesn't suddenly become fine given new blood in office. One reason why Obama had to be elected was that he gave us a chance. Chance is a fitting word, since it requires a lot for it to lead to an (imperfect) successful conclusion.

Consider Sen. Biden et. al. (I was perusing his campaign bio recently and his discussion of the Bork nomination is an important read) efforts that led to the confirmation of Justice Kennedy. An imperfect sort, some on the center and left really don't like him, but essential votes on various issues, including giving people like these a chance to get out of a hell-hole. Note how the Bosnian government wanted to release them. No wonder so many don't trust foreign law, so much even references to it is taken as verboten!

Talking about foreign policy, or imperfect bridges, the talk is that Hillary Clinton as the next Secretary of State is starting to look like a gimmee. I have voiced my opposition to HC in the past and do not know how totally fair it is. Still, truth be told, rather not have her there. This might sound a bit ironic, but what experience does she really have? Seems a domestic policy role is a better fit. As senator, she did some good there, for sure. [A taste.] And, a career in the Senate, maybe taking the Ted Kennedy role at some point, seems pretty fine, even over a term or two in the Cabinet. This isn't 1808; SOS is not really the road to the presidency these days.

But, she seems respected overseas, and actually many Republicans (this is not totally a good thing) often agree, push comes to shove. She is smart and talented. And, the Clinton name doesn't hurt, even if it brings some baggage. So, though Bill Richardson might be more my style, or some other name, I'm willing to wait and see. Money is not my thing (in more ways than one), but his treasury pick also seems a good fit.**


* Here's a better way to help animals at Thanksgiving. This also fits into the pragmatic idealism promoted here. The "Trap-Neuter-Return" technique realizes the limits of dealing with the stray cat problem, but doesn't just say "nothing we can do." It takes a pragmatic path that still seems to be a fairly productive path. Compare this with a simple "catch and kill" technique, akin to the drug war perhaps, that doesn't deal with the replacement issue and other concerns.

** In a sequel to The Mouse That Roared, a somewhat clueless politician realized things were bad when he had to pay to play darts at the local pub. My signal that times are tough is that prices all over the place are rising. This includes my Daily News, which is now .75 for Saturday, 1.25 for Sunday. On this front, the fact only I had to pay about $10 more for my glasses than last year, is almost a rebate. Plus, I got that free bag from the Samsung Experience store via my coffee sleeve.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smoking Stuff

Today is National Smoke Out Day (some contrariness from moi) and Miss America (with crown) was downtown handing out samples of her anti-smoking product. I passed someone smoking on the way and on the way back someone was getting ready to smoke. Here's a bit related to money from tobacco litigation. A matter also in front of the Supremes this term.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No, We Can't

Hire people without violating their privacy, not keeping some good people out in the process. Care about country enough not to reward incompetent backstabbers or tell the truth about it. [But, hey, don't blame Obama. He had NOTHING to do with it.] Respect your base. Go after criminals, except when "those people" are involved. We are worrying about the important stuff, though!

Monday, November 17, 2008


First 11-10 NFL game (safety involved) was a mistake (pet peeve: officials who admit error after the game -- sooo helpful to SD last time, huh?), apparently, though that did not relieve the minds of various bettors. The Bengals now have 1.5 wins. Will Detroit (last LOSER, Tampa, up) actually win a game this season? Miami got one last year when the Ravens went for the tie on 4th and Goal at the 1 at the end of regulation. Their season already in the toilet after a good start, that clinched the deal.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


And Also: This year's Cato Supreme Court Review was disappointing.

Abortion News: "Uruguay Congress takes steps to legalize abortion; President likely to veto" reminds those who want to consider what would happen if there was no constitutional right to choose do not necessarily have to think too hard since basically all of Latin America -- to bad effect for maternal health etc. -- already provides you an answer. Likewise, looks like abortion is a major source of contraception ["Forty percent of all pregnancies in Uruguay end in abortion."] there too. Where it is illegal. Again, why would criminalization be the answer?

Books: Book TV this weekend brought us the Miami Book Fair, including Dave Barry (for some reason, joined with Frank McCourt). If this was a somewhat weird pairing, how about Roy Blount, when he should have known C-SPAN was filming and in front a pretty mainstream looking audience, ended his introduction with a joke about a farmer screwing pigs.

Even Dave Barry (who had a piece on the election though my paper just ran their standard "classic" column) seemed a bit taken aback. Anyway, retirement is doing him well -- guy is 60, and still looks boyish. The Election Day piece had to be written before the election was over, thus he spoke in the alternative, in part, about how some fear that:
Barack Obama is our next president, which is very bad because he is a naive untested wealth-spreading terrorist-befriending ultraliberal socialist communist who will suddenly reveal his secret Muslim identity by riding to his inauguration on a camel shouting ''Death to Israel!''

Barry does have a serious side -- deep down, he is a libertarian, who ridicules various government programs and spending for (in part) the simple reason he finds it ridiculous. Still, hint -- the reason why Kennedy/Nixon voters were not as divided might have been because deep down JFK was rather conservative. His stance on civil rights, the alleged "missile gap" and concern for fiscal responsibility all suggest he was no bloody socialist. This also hints why the election was so close.

McCain v. Obama was no Obama v. Clinton, difference of flavor deal. The guy did win a Pulitzer for his commentary, so you cannot just dismiss him as a boob; still, he has more of an excuse than any number of "serious" commentator whose analysis is as lame. How about John "We need to impeach George Bush" Nichols latest? See the "strawman" comment.

And the "C": The movie was a bit thin, but yesterday's "pie" episode of iCarly was rather funny. It also is amusing the nice character here is played by someone who played such a brat on her last show. Ricky Gervais' new HBO special was funny too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jets Win

Made it excruciating, but the end result does the trick. And, with TDs at the end of both halfs, the Pats lost because of a penalty and losing a coin flip. I can get used to NY beating the Pats. Including after the Pats score late. Oh, and BF doing the trick when it counted.

Bayh: JL Might Resign! The Horror!

Firedoglake underlines why people think Lieberman should not be let off the hook, and it is not some infantile "revenge" thing. As with those who want to let criminals and human rights violators off the hook, this sort of thing is nauseating and invites more of the f-ing same. Worse are those who want us to let him blackmail the caucus! This is as asinine as the feds going after hemp. Seriously, can we have a saner drug policy? Across the board!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Supremes: Victim Impacts (Human and Animal)

And Also: Republicans are falling all over themselves to both welcome Obama in and assure us the Republican (conservative) brand is okay ... it just hasn't been truly honored. Sure. I do wonder when they were (consistently) for "smaller government and individual liberty." Or, how Ron Paul thinks his list of principles reflects his party in action. Um ever. The governor of SC speaking about the "unthinkable wrong of segregation" as some neutral matter also is a bit amusing. Maybe, they just are wrong?

In a cheery bit of morning listening, there was news that the mother of a young girl brutally raped and murdered was planning to speak to the parole board to ensure that the person responsible would stay in prison. A clip of the girl's voice was also played as it would be to the authorities involved. The mom said that the guy did not show any remorse or offer any apologizes. Let's be honest here. It is quite true that we have various rituals (a fitting word, I think) to provide a chance for the accused to admit error (e.g., allocution) and perhaps remorse.

But, often they are largely for show (pleas tend to be cost/benefit affairs, even the innocent at times not willing to risk it, admitting "guilt" not quite the point), and/or involve some degenerate sorts. Overall, the sort of person who can rape and kill young children is missing something, including the sort of conscience that could honestly supply remorse. Or, the felt need to supply it for show. So, I understand (as far as I can) the mother's need (or anger) on the point, but there is a certain fantasy element to it -- how important is it really? Remorse can truly come, including after some truly heinous crimes, but in some cases, it just might never come.
Until today our capital punishment jurisprudence has required that any decision to impose the death penalty be based solely on evidence that tends to inform the jury about the character of the offense and the character of the defendant. Evidence that serves no purpose other than to appeal to the sympathies or emotions of the jurors has never been considered admissible. Thus, if a defendant, who had murdered a convenience store clerk in cold blood in the course of an armed robbery, offered evidence unknown to him at the time of the crime about the immoral character of his victim, all would recognize immediately that the evidence was irrelevant and inadmissible. Evenhanded justice requires that the same constraint be imposed on the advocate of the death penalty. ...

The fact that each of us is unique is a proposition so obvious that it surely requires no evidentiary support. What is not obvious, however, is the way in which the character or reputation in one case may differ from that of other possible victims.

-- Justice Stevens (Payne v. Tennessee, dissenting opinion)

This also goes back to my reference yesterday to a victim impact statement case that the Supremes did not accept for review. The Court upheld the use of VIS in death penalty cases in 1991, but provided little guidance on regulation of their use. Justice Souter, who joined Stevens and Breyer in dissenting from denial of cert., was a key vote in Payne. But, Souter (and other justices) suggested there were limits to their use, and Justice Breyer in his dissent here focused on the question of standards. The development of VIS to include extended mini-documentaries with music and pictures akin to Ken Burns documentaries underlines the need for such standards.

Meanwhile, the Supremes decided a case involving environmental limits on the use of naval sonar that affects marine mammals. Chief Justice Roberts reversed the lower court's injunction, bluntly stating "The Court of Appeals was wrong." The opinion uses quotes from George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt as bookends to highlight the importance of discretion in the area of military preparation. Justice Breyer (joined in part by Stevens) concurred in part.* Ginsburg (with Souter) dissented, agreeing with the lower courts and wary about the navy/executive acting on its own without attempting legislative relief. The majority in part refers to an exception that provides for such discretion, but the dissent argues that this only covers part of the matter at hand:
President determines that the activity is in the paramount interest of the United States. No such exemption shall be granted on the basis of a lack of appropriations unless the President has specifically requested such appropriations as part of the budgetary process, and the Congress has failed to make available the requested appropriations.

The last part, not at issue here, seems off. If they did not "make available" the money, wouldn't it often be for policy reasons that the exception would override on the President's say-so? Anyway, military discretion and factual issues were of importance, but the dissent's concern for executive overreaching is appreciated. The opinion also again shows a bit of the CJ's writing flair.


* [Update] I'd add that one account at least spoke of the opinion being "5-4," when only two justices fully dissented, and Stevens only joined the part of Justice Breyer's opinion that "would thus vacate the preliminary injunction imposed by the District Court to the extent it has been challenged by the Navy."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Memoriam

One of his diary entries exemplifies an extraordinary patriotism among soldiers, even as they were being marched to their deaths. "Bad news for us. President Roosevelt's death. We all felt bad about it. We held a prayer service for the repose of his soul," Acevedo wrote on April 13, 1945.

It adds, "Burdeski died today."

To this day, Acevedo still remembers that soldier. He wanted to perform a tracheotomy using his diary pen to save Burdeski, a 41-year-old father of six children. A German commander struck Acevedo in the jaw with a rifle when he asked.

"I'll never forget," he says

-- "WW II vet held in Nazi slave camp breaks silence"

Veteran's Day is 11/11 because it is the day that brought WWI, the war to end all wars (the trick is not to call them "wars"), to an end. Let us truly honor them by not only remembering, but doing our best to keep them from harm's way.

Lieberman Watch

And Also: Interesting tidbit in an article about a sad internet bullying (leading to a teen committing suicide) case is the fact that -- even if the defendant wants it -- jury trials cannot be waived if the prosecution does not agree. In some cases, I think a jury trial is important as a way for the public at large to take part. Meanwhile, interesting victim impact case not accepted by the Supremes, though video was supplied with the dissents.

The MNF game btw had a ridiculous number of penalties, even with the multiple flags picked up by the officials.

Talking about ridiculous, why is Obama's name coming up in the Lieberman mess? I know he is now the titular head of the party, due to select the replacement of DNC head Howard Dean (good job), but it is not really his bailiwick. [Bill Clinton is said to be talking up JL as well, but denied it. Obama officially is not saying much either.] OTOH, Obama was a supporter (much to my annoyance) during his primary campaign versus Ned Lamont (remember him?), Lieberman basically Obama's Senate mentor. Luckily, his more asshole qualities didn't rub off, including his lack of respect for the party. This is an issue -- we are talking about his membership in the Democratic caucus.

If we are not going to be concerned about his support of its head etc., why have a party caucus in the first place? Anyway, as TPM and others have noted, unlike Rep. Waxman, Lieberman has been a total loser in the oversight department. There is no chance in hell he should have such a chairmanship. And, the idea Lieberman supported the Dems most of the time, "except" for national security issues is a nauseating line. It is moronic to consider this as some sort of aside, like he doesn't agree with the party on cattle futures or something. It was the prime issue for most of the last eight years. Of course, the guy also supported McCain, and badmouthed Obama along the way. Lieberman was a walking "legitimize Bush" machine, including on Fox News.

And, are we to think that his votes on federal judges are "national security" related too?

Let's Play Some Football!

And Also: I am most of the way through Cherie Blair's autobiography, Speaking For Myself: My Life From Liverpool To Downing Street, and it is an enjoyable read. She does not have a co-author listed (notable) and sprinkles it with enough English expressions ("keen" etc.) for her accent to shine through. Mostly an independent voice, though not on Iraq.

Every dog has his day (Detroit is still waiting) in the NFL, but there is a general consistency this season all the same. This includes the norm that bad teams repeatedly show why they lose, even if now and again they have a good day.

The Giants were beat by the generally bad Browns, who are one of those mediocre teams that show up around once a month, and the Jets showed that even the lowly Raiders can take advantage of bad play (though not versus the Panthers). The Giants seemed almost happy to have that one loss, getting it out of the way, though the Titans don't seem to be too stressed by their surprisingly consistent play. And, some teams can surprise -- see Falcons -- by such consistent play, part of that much talked about "parity" that is not a bad thing.

Bad or flawed teams lose, even when they see ready to win. Consider the SNF game, Giants/Eagles, Vice President Elect Joe Biden watching in the wings. The Giants in effect gave the Eagles a chance to win, including by an ill-advised (stupid) attempt to jump over a player to get extra yardage. But, when the Eagles was driving near the end of the game, down by 5 (their defense held the Giants back to keep it close), they could not get a necessary yard. One team was able to go for two near the end of regulation to beat a bad team; two bad teams could not get that two in order to win or tie.

And, in a pretty good MNF game, down to the final last minute drive, another bad team (the NFC West is horrible) could not score from the 1.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Army Wives

I finally caught the season finale (really) of Army Wives, which had multiple cliffhangers, including the introduction of a rather unpleasant looking commander duo now that our friendly (but tough) commander and his wife (ditto) are on the road to Brussels. The (former) deputy commander is on her way to Iraq, even though she recently had her first baby. Maybe, this is why she thought about having an abortion early on? Maybe, it wasn't such a horrible decision? Anyway, lots of unpleasantness afoot. Wonder when they are due back.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Road Trip (Not That It Was Filmed There)

The story, involving a trip to Japan by the iCarly.com crew to compete for a best-online-comedy prize, also serves as a showcase for the series’s best asset: Jennette McCurdy, a fearless 16-year-old actress who, as Ms. Cosgrove’s sidekick, seems to be channeling a tough-talking 1940s dame from a Preston Sturges comedy.

- iCarly Goes To Japan (Not For Real) .. amusing

Lieberman and CA Animals

Good chance that the Dems will come a vote or two short from 60, and it probably is not a horrible prospect. We cannot simply rely, especially if it required continual bowing down to the likes of Lieberman, on narrow majorities any more. Also, cheers to California in respect to a measure protecting the right of farm animals to be able to move around. Sad this is notable.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama Tidbits

Footnote alert: Obama seems to have won an electoral vote in Nebraska, the first time the Nebraska/Maine winner don't take all delegations were split. Being a bit of a mutt myself, though my niece does me one better, the "mutt" comment by Obama was appreciated. Nice to hear Obama at his first "presser," but I wasn't quite so excited as another person who listen it near me ... not quite FDR yet.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, We Can (With Some Buzzkill)

Update: Among other commentary on the issue, LGM sees some merit on calling Obama for his lack of leadership on Prop. 8. Add to him being on record (with little justification imho) on being against same sex marriage (not just pragmatically), you have something there. I also, as I noted in a comment thread, second GG ... the benefits prong of DOMA has to go. Surely, since O/B is on record as supporting such a move! He will need pushing, as we saw.

How momentous is the election of the first African-American President of the United States? Never mind what it says about how far we have come since slave traders brought millions of unfortunate souls across the Atlantic, or since the Constitution brokered what William Lloyd Garrison called a "covenant with death" and an "agreement with hell." Consider this: When Barack Obama was born in 1961, twenty-one American states still banned interracial marriage.

-- Michael Dorf

Today, Barack Obama is hope for a better tomorrow for all Americans. He stands on the shoulders of all those people who have incessantly prayed for a day when "justice will run down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24).

-- Peggy Wallace Kennedy [daughter of segregationist, George Wallace]

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

-- Amendment XV, Section 1.

I have lived long enough, if not too long relatively speaking, to know that life brings us new things that eventually seem par for the course. Not THAT long ago, I went on-line by going to a library downtown, or signing on to a campus bulletin board. Now, I can do so within minutes a few feet from my bed. The fact there is a big pit in lower Manhattan where our biggest building use to be is also regular business as is having a criminal President voted in with less than a majority of the vote, if you do not count the Supreme Court. And, now we will have a black President, one who is not only younger than any one since the 1960s, but with a name like "Barack Hussein Obama."

[I know someone with my basic politics, if not as into obsessing about it as much as I am, who basically had no hope that a black guy would be President. McCain in his concession speech noted that he realized how proud African Americans were yesterday. Don't be so limiting, Mr. McCain. The election yesterday made us all raise our heads a bit higher, our ideals a little more real, a little less pie in the sky.]

It will at some point not be so shocking; in fact, we got used to it somewhat already, since -- let's be honest (my sports section gave him 1-12 odds yesterday, 1-8 in mid-October) -- few thought Obama was going to lose by the end. This surely became clear after he won Ohio and Florida (as with a ball game where the team had to win, I did not check the results early), it not likely the West Coast was going to be lost. Still, this is rather amazing. OTOH, it is like winning the lottery after your house burns down -- you had to win to even had a shot to get to the status quo ante. Thus, sadly, there is a somber side of things too. "Yes, we can." But, will we?

A few things led things to be difficult even on Election Night,* even if you were not the host of the Colbert Report. It is true that anti-abortion ballot measures were unsuccessful, marijuana friendly ones successful and New York now has a Democratic State Senate (though the balance of power seems to be a quartet of independents). Washington passed a "Death with Dignity" law akin to Oregon, while another state (less ideally, perhaps) passed an affirmative action ban. But, with help of blacks in California (who was more homophobic than whites and Hispanics), it was not a good day for all:
Gay rights activists had a rough day Tuesday. Ban-gay-marriage amendments were approved in Arizona and Florida, and gay rights forces suffered a loss in Arkansas, where voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents. Supporters made clear that gays and lesbians were their main target.

Though Lawrence v. Texas was sure underline that the case did "not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter," it promoted a regime of equal security of privacy rights. The homosexual "relationship" was honored. The opinion cited the Casey abortion ruling in support of this end, even if yesterday's election only went half way:
These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.

This includes allowing same sex couples to adopt, raise children together and marry. Courts in various states, including those that only secured the rights and benefits of marriage, was right to see these words apply here as well ... "sex" or "gender" easily replacing "racial" as need be:
Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.

Loving v. Virginia, cites removed. A state, or the people therein, cannot pass discriminatory laws “born of animosity toward the class of persons affected,” including in the area of same sex or bisexual relationships. Romer v. Evans. But, they continue to do so, this still deemed a legitimate area of bigotry. The fact that the necessary 60% in Florida and California (particularly cruel) did so taints yesterday's success. I also wish things went different in the Senate races in Minnesota and Alaska, though they still might be too close to call. Still, Al Franken clearly dislikes Sen. Coleman, and it would be really hard for him to concede, especially with such a narrow defeat. And, the guy is a convicted felon, Alaska! Oh well.

As a comic strip recently noted, only a wizard could get us all we wish for on Election Day. None running, we got enough to give us a hope that we will prevail. Such is the best we probably deserve, or at least, can honestly expect. Such forced humility is reflected by the absence of a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. President Obama cannot rely on that ... and since his message includes reaching out to the other side, this is only fitting. If a lot harder.

As it is for those who still don't enjoy equal rights. There was one victory on that front, the majority of voters in Connecticut telling the nation that it does "not want to use the state constitution to take away people's rights."


* When I went to the polls, I for the first time realized there was some technical ballot question involving editing the rules for disabled veteran benefits. More evidence why local papers should supply a copy of what will be on the "ballot" (here a lever machine) to inform the voters. This would be perfectly simple as well as a useful educational device.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Religious Issues (and 2000 Flashback)

And Also: The West has not brought many very good football teams this season thus far and Oakland fits the norm, even if the Jets fell to them a couple weeks back. An upset win versus the Bills helped to overcome that sad excuse for a game, Oakland sputtering along afterwards. Their kicker, who beat the Jets in OT, is one of their few bright spots. He needs five points to beat a scoring record ... it might take awhile, given the team's recent play.

There was some controversy when Justice Breyer,* as was the case in the past for judges who support abortion rights, received the "Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize," apparently given the Catholic tradition of that university. There is strong debate among Catholics over the proper path in this area as shown by the split among the Catholics on the Supreme Court as well as those supporting Obama or McCain.

This debate also was expressed on the pages of Newsweek, providing a useful and fascinating expression of the various sides. Respecting individual moral choice as well as pragmatic concerns as to who would benefit the cause best in the end, suggests a pro-life Catholic very well can conscientiously vote for the pro-choice candidate. Such as Obama/Biden.

Another religious controversy that is less hotly contested these days involved what to do with the children of many families in a controversial Texan religious sect. The case, after the appellate court held the state overstepped their bonds, is an important one. Local officials will from time to time, for good or ill, feel compelled to interfere with the parenting decisions of dissident sorts. The people in this case to some seem dangerous and unpleasant to boot, but familial privacy includes parental decisions you might find unpleasant. Likewise, some decisions you might support will be found as unpleasant to others. All the same, there was some reason for concern:
Jeffs, the sect's prophet, was convicted in Utah last year as an accomplice to rape for arranging the marriage of an underage girl to her older cousin. He faces trial on similar charges in Arizona before Texas prosecutors can pursue their case against him. [See also here, with the proviso the author is at times a bit over the top on such issues.]

This does not mean the officials took the due care required in this case, especially given the breadth of their actions. The 1980s day care scares underlines that the well being of children cannot lead us to support reckless action; it very well can be quite counterproductive as shown in the Waco fiasco. I will leave it at that, not knowing the exact details of the individual cases at hand ... all the same, a general lesson can still be expressed, caution in making a too sweeping conclusion probably a wise decision in cases of this nature (surely at this distance) overall.

This is also one of those flash in the pan controversies that merit occasional updates, but are generally seen and understood by most by often incomplete and/or misleading snapshots.


* I am about finished reading Charles L. Zelden's account of Bush v. Gore, an overall evenly keeled account of the events. He leaves a few things out, including the family members of Scalia/Thomas who worked on the Bush campaign, and bent over backwards (too much) to provide a fully credible reason for the ruling. I share its sentiment that it is more than the act of partisan hacks, but um, if "ego" factored in, why did the libs want to step aside? Also, emphasis should be added on such things as the fact certain counties (Republican rhetoric aside) never recounted the votes even once, leading to many votes not being counted.

Anyway, including its discussion of remaining problems in the electoral system, the book is overall a good read. A glaring problem: it ignores that Justice Breyer concurred (in full) with Stevens dissent, even going as far as saying that Breyer stuck with his equal protection concerns (of the "7") after the majority rejected his choice of remedy. Breyer addressed the issue, sure, but specifically chose not to decide on the matter. In fact, one should note that even Souter did not say he dissented "in part." So, how exactly did "7" justices decide on ANYTHING?

I'd toss one more thing. Many, including many members of Congress of both parties themselves, wanted no part of deciding this election. As with slavery in the territories, a fact often ignored by critics, many wanted the courts to decide. The book notes that if it went to Congress, there could have been a lot of bad blood. Still is, just among people who apparently do not matter too much, and in the process the Congress started on the road of punting on its responsibilities to the benefit W.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

LGBTQ (Qwerty?)

I am familiar with the acroymn "LGBT," which stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual," but not "LGBTQ," which is starting to be more popular. I myself first saw it recently in subway PSA against violence. "Q" stands for the catchall "Queer." Hard to be inclusive -- I notarized a form recently where someone had to identify the person who he served. The only options were "M" or "F."

Mamma Mia!

I saw Mamma Mia! in the movies, and enjoyed it overall, finding the first half music particularly lively. I just saw the play and was somewhat disappointed, though overall it was decent. The acoustics was a problem early on and the cast seemed also to have a certain lack of energy. Later on, starting particularly on the night before the wedding, the energy came. Still, though one or two changes in plot detail made some sense (especially regarding the cookbook author), the film was better. IMHO. The reprise of 1776 more favorably matched the movie. Then again, here you had alcohol.