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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Odds and Ends

Some have challenged the feds approach (would they do that for non-whites?) but the go it slow technique in Oregon might have been a good idea. A federal consent degree for Ferguson hopefully will be productive. Discussion on the importance of unions and commentary relating to Flint's water crisis. At some point, got to draw a line in the sand regarding sane government. And, an example (mental health) of the ongoing value of ACA.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Rumsfeld On "Late Show with Stephen Colbert"

[This is a form of a comment first provided here, see also, Shag's thoughts. As to the original subject matter covered there, the Ted Cruz as natural born citizen issue is again debate here, I again not finding Mark Field -- who on the whole is a great progressive type with a deep knowledge of history and law -- convincing. A tell is him being a guest host for a clear weak link on that blog.]

Stephen Colbert, I think, did a good job -- he has repeatedly have had serious guests on and used a combination of his niceness, sense of humor and serious questioning to make it worthwhile television. This includes scientists, politicians, someone from Black Lives Matters and others.  Don't know if this will be as popular as his competition, but hopefully enough will watch to allow him to continue.  Seems there should be niche for it.
In the end, the sit-down with Rumsfeld was yet another in-depth interview that he could never have pulled off as his old Colbert Report character. It took straightforward, genuine persistence, but the real Stephen Colbert got the job done.
Given the nature of his audience, who booed Ted Cruz when he was on, I wonder if they were put on notice beforehand to be nice. The fact Rumsfeld came on to promote an app -- if one that is being used to support military vets (no comment there), a cause Stephen Colbert has supported in the past -- just left me speechless on some level.  Anyway, some don't want Colbert to have guys like him or Trump on, to give them legitimacy, but asked serious questions and reached an audience that NPR or Charlie Rose etc. would not get.  A highlight is Rumsfeld's comment: “If it were a fact, it wouldn’t be called intelligence,” and Colbert clearly making an effort to be fair probably helped.

It seemed to cut into his next guest's time, some basketball star with his own brand of eyewear, but that is okay.  Also, I think Colbert's pre-interview segment was great last night too on Cruz etc. And, the inability of Carlson Palmer to do what QBs have to do -- throw balls to the right team. Well, I needed a laugh at least and he helped get it, mixed with some serious stuff by a nice, funny talented host. Good luck, SC.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Super Bowl Set

Denver defense win on a missed extra point? A lot of game left, but Carolina looks safe.

"Appeals Court: Kansas Constitution Protects Right to Abortion"

The article is a bit incomplete as seen by this discussion. This is an intermediate court and was a split vote. The opinions are still interesting, including the broad concurrence that comes off at as a personal advocacy case at times. The dissent is a bit slim, not doing much to substantively respond (the state provision is somewhat different ... okay) and basically resting on abortion being illegal back in the day, changing conditions etc. not addressed.

Svengoolie Time

This was one of the better outings of MeTV Saturday night horror films, the choices often not paced well etc. in my opinion. One charm is the involvement of "Acquanetta" also in two of the Jungle Women films. She is a tad stiff, but fun. The pros do good as well.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Rev. Joe -- Legal Quickies

Sometimes, there are comments from the left against religious exemptions that to me at times go too far, including ending tax exemptions to churches. I think a neutral non-profits law is okay there, but the minister housing exemption issue does look problematic. The "what is a church" issue also is tricky as (cited) John Oliver recently noted. Meanwhile, the "In God We Trust" lawsuit (complaint a bit drawn out but core true) has merit though it is a lost cause given precedent and non-absolutism on the issue. Passive or not, it's sectarian.

Mets -- Bastardo and Cespedes

Big news with two key and fairly expensive (the reduced money for Cespedes? $25 with an opt out or $75M for three years) acquisitions. Overall, though I'm depressed by Murphy, impressive off season with these two additions. Steady short term 2B, decent SS option for two, Colon for insurance, key leftie, better bench and Cuddyer retired. C. Torres DFA'd.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Roe Turns 43

Women like these deserve basic rights. Also, a good article on why measuring public opinion is so hard; my opinion is that most people will think their case special when it actually happens, even if they are "pro-life." Hypos not enough. Finally, listen to the orals again!

Update: Some concern POTUS statement doesn't use "abortion" -- I personally prefer general language to fit it into wider rights and who doesn't know what "Roe" he is talking about? OTOH, "abortion" as a taboo word is an issue.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Breyer and RBG Still Silent

A 8-1 ruling by Scalia upholding a death penalty procedure had but Sotomayor dissenting with the two who assumed the death penalty is likely unconstitutional yet again silently going along. Was not a brief reply given the dissent warranted? Rhetorical. I think so.

Update: Today, Sotomayor (joined by Ginsburg) briefly explained how a procedural problem led her to deny a stay. Breyer dissented, adding how the case shows why the death penalty should be reexamined. He was then executed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ted Cruz Still Is Surely Qualified (Technically) To Be President

As discussed in comments here, there seems to actually be something to the idea (precedent/agnostic as to bottom line) those born abroad are "naturalized" and thus not natural born/qualified as President. But, as I tried to show, the precedents are either somewhat unclear or clash with statutory law now and back in 1790. Bottom line, I still see the idea as stupid, but guess the novel situation requires some clarity to clear the air.

Update: The back/forth just got longer but it just seems like one side is credible. Not enough for me to deny citizenship. The law professor on t.v., e.g., suggests service abroad in the military is an exception. Why isn't mere citizenship enough of a connection? Is a civilian military contractor different? Citizenship at birth / natural born. In my book.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Colbert Celebrates MLK Day By Having Black Lives Matter Activist On

This was an impressive interview; it is this sort of diversity of guests (not a race thing; overall) that impresses. The wristband he wore (video provided; click 1st link for yesterday's show) also reflects the type of guy he is, which also is very appealing. Talented nice guy.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State

The author is better at showing how the subtitle was advanced than making some more fundamental argument (to the extent that was her goal) by the main title while providing a general overview of Prohibition but overall it's a worthwhile read. Now and then (such as a quick summary of the groups pushing for prohibition that doesn't show more nuisance regarding temperance v. total prohibition) editors should have fixed things up a bit.

Division Round: More Aggravation

Somewhat less than that Vikings fiasco, but pretty boy won, KC closing their season with "atrocious" (radio) clock management. Meanwhile, the Cardinals looked human, but then had gift after gift (including at least one by officials) to go ahead. Then, they gave the Packers one to give them more time to score, which took a miracle or two (hurt by another Cards gift from officials on a PI call). After a bit of coin comedy, one play quickly basically sealed deal. Aggravating way for Packs to lose and basically a Carolina fan now. If not very passionately.

Update: Carolina/Seattle took turns scoring each half but Seattle only got to 31-24 in their half of scoring. The Pittsburgh/Denver game was close but Denver's defense did just enough.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Order Day: Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley

SCOTUS order day yesterday had a few notable grants including deciding the McDonnell case (sympathetic but darn feel Don Siegelman got a raw deal), a non-decision on the immigration decision and the subject matter. It concerns the ability of a state to have a no funding of religion policy beyond required by the 1A. As noted by the article cited here, I'm inclined to support state option there if done evenhandedly, even if it was anti-Catholic back in the day.


This lesbian mafia comedy is best labeled "garbled" though the lead was promising and Annabella Sciorra has a small role as her mom. It was okay but likable.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle

The Puerto Rico double jeopardy case orals often dwelt in broad terms regarding sovereignty (the SCOTUS' power to take the case now was not addressed) but it might not be necessary. A middle ground might be that the grant of self-rule is interpreted to (without a clear statement otherwise) to assume enough sovereignty for double jeopardy to not arise. As noted at one point, federal criminal law can be crafted to get to the same point anyways.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Grantchester / Oscars

Good Masterpiece Mystery entry involving a vicar (with a lot of baggage) and police officer fighting crime in 1950s England. Some interesting Oscar nominations though all white actors? Seriously? And, the female nominees more interesting overall. A lot of "smaller" films.

Update: I checked the source material and think the t.v. show does things better.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

One last time ...

He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient

We were promised something different but sort of sounded the same though it was mostly copacetic. It is unfortunate he didn't cover criminal justice and some other stuff and the military stuff was restrained but still too violent. The Republican response from Nikki Haley sounded like a v.p. preview. It had some of the usual stuff but was actually restrained later.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Drinking in America: Our Secret History

Engaging look at U.S. history by Susan Cheever, who knows a thing or two about alcohol.

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Supreme Court Appears Ready To Deal A Serious Blow To Unions"

Such seems to be the theme going by first reactions. This is a major case, rushed to judgment (shades of Citizens United) without full factual hearings below that many feel threatens the lifeblood of public unions. And, do so while rejecting lines supported by Scalia and Kennedy in the past. There is also an underplayed religious angle. Welcome back to 2016!

Update: "Five myths from the Oral Argument" (conservative are off edition).

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Vikings Join The CHOKE Parade ... so pissed off

It's not just the underdogs I'm rooting for blowing it but WHO they helped. Pittsburgh? The team that choked against the Pats last year? Seattle got THREE gifts. Vomit big time.

Update: Thought Packers/Redskins game was supposed to be close.

Rev. Joe: "Wheaton College professor: Christians and Muslims worship the same God"

I'm a Unitarian as a matter of principle -- we are in this together -- but wonder: are critics saying there is more than one God? I read the article, so get that isn't quite it, but seems that would be a good reply. Her treatment is the sort of thing that believers find offensive.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Wild Card Weekend (I'm Not Bitter; Really Edition)

So, Mets had a discount bin off-season (sure they bought some stuff, but still discount bin), Giants stunk in a blatant fashion, Jets blew it and really don't care about other sports (fwiw Knicks are doing mediocre; not the possibly horrible expected; heard little of the Nets, who are doing bad). Oh. The beginning of the playoffs. That the Jets should have been in.

Update: Took until the second half to seal the deal, but Houston just totally overmatched. NYT sums up night game: "Steelers Twist Knife Handed to Them by Bengals." Thanks Jets.

Friday, January 08, 2016

"Who Decides If Ted Cruz is Eligible to Be President?"

Interesting discussion though the actual "is" point to me is not very interesting. He is -- it is overly simplistic to focus on him being born in Canada, Obama's natural born citizenship at birth not merely turning on place. McCain saying it's an open question (only is as far as any number of academic questions might be, less so than others) is something of a dick move.

Update: The fact some law professor, who apparently is nice and all, announced he wasn't might make others all tingly but it doesn't change anything really.

Oscar Ray Bolin Executed

And Also: Obama took part in a discussion on CNN last night where he was asked questions by Anderson Cooper while some audience involvement was included.  Impressive job.  Times like this make me proud this guy is my President.  

Twenty-eight people were executed last year, part of a continual drop since 2009 (52), the high point in recent decades being 1999 (98).  The "high" there -- won't check but that is a drop in the bucket given the murder convictions and the size of death row (2984).  Since the website cites his execution, this last data point might factor in Oscar Ray Bolin Jr.'s execution last night.  There were two generic orders rejected last minute appeals posted on the Supreme Court website last night.

There is some attention to executions, especially when there is some problem with them, but doesn't seem to be that much really.  Still, the attention is more than the usual everyday criminal sentencing and so forth of the normal type of criminal case.  As some such as the author of Sentencing Law and Policy Blog (supports the death penalty for very serious offenses; sees abolitionist as extremist) and others note, it is concerning that so much attention is given to a few cases. Taking of life should be given special attention, but it is a matter of degree.

The tiny number of cases (not so tiny in comparison to countries what have none) is for someone against the death penalty appreciated on some level and it does lead me to be somewhat tired of those so aggrieved about the penalty being blocked.  Of course, the efforts to block it feed into the small numbers, but even the death row number provided is telling.  For a country of over 300 million with more murders than we surely should have, even in death penalty belt states, only a small subset result in death sentences. And, overall, again court opinions do factor in some (but they are influenced by practice), only a subset are death eligible.  The people, including to the degree they are involved in appointing judges somehow, have a large role here.  It is not just something pushed on to them by the courts.

This can work against the abolitionist (a term that at times seems to be used to mean "extremist" -- the usage in the slave context is telling) given perhaps a reasonable person would see  only a small collection of the worst are executed.  To me, it makes me wonder what a few less people executed will hurt, plus makes me concerned about the what seems like an arbitrary selection of that few in the first place. Add all the other problems raised plus a general belief that the state should not be involved in killing like this.  Finally, this execution -- like something like a third last year (a couple, surely "volunteers," took less than five years) -- took over twenty years.  The guy was only in his early fifties here, but again, what is the point?  Retribution for killing three people here, some would say. Which is not inhumane or something, I'd admit.

I disagree with the justice of it as a system, but understand the desire to continue what amounts to a twisted sort of flawed lottery (in honor of the short story) of death. A few say executions are required to help obtain confessions, but how do they get them in places without one or where the crime is not death eligible?  An effect coerced confession (if not in the illegitimate sense) leaves a bit to be desired too. Various real extreme crimes or special cases like murders in prison can be cited, but again, places without the death penalty somehow deal with them. Plus, such cases can still involve the usual concerns that pop up in death penalty matters.

Well, bad policy or not, it's constitutional, right?  I seriously doubt it. The Constitution has a few provisions dealing with the proper procedure in taking of life, one involving grand juries that isn't even applicable to the states. But, this doesn't mean the current process is "due" or that the system doesn't violate some other constitutional provision, such as being unequal.  The conceit continues that the death penalty is clearly constitutional by the text of the Constitution though (see final footnote), the argument is easily refuted. Justices Breyer and Ginsburg are the latest who questioned the constitutionally though once going on record, seems to have stepped back and let multiple executions go without comment (Breyer briefly dissented once and might have without comment another time).

This rubs me the wrong way -- Breyer particularly is all about informing the public and even a brief discussion about how he didn't have the votes so would silently concur given how the process works would have been helpful.  What really annoyed me -- as I have noted in the past -- are that there were repeated times when multiple justices dissented from not staying an execution and they didn't SAY A WORD ON WHY. That's just offensive.  If you think someone is going to be executed wrongly and you are saying that on the record as a Supreme Court justice, there is to me an obligation to say why.  At times, justices pat themselves on the back for showing their work -- writing why they decided a certain way.  A mild annoyance last night when the execution was delayed for hours for some reason last night, just to have the Supreme Court reject final stays without comment.

Anyway, I'm not you know crushed this guy is dead, but as a whole, don't think the death penalty is worth it.  There are a lot of problems out there, including in the criminal justice system, to worry about.  But, "life" still is more important than "liberty," so a large amount of the concern is still warranted.  Unlike the proverbial dumb blonde, we can do two things at once.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Common Sense Works Sometimes

In grade school, Wyatt/Nicole of Becoming Nicole ran into difficulty when a boy (egged on by his grandfather) insisted on using the girls' room if she did. The whole debate to me was very gratutious -- a transgirl using a stall is a threat? Adult bathrooms might be complicated. Isn't even the matter of a transchild using a boys' room where there are urinals. The issue of showers is complicated (she changed in a stall). This was not. "Don't sneak" is good advice.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Congrats Mike Piazza

To me [John Harper too] the Hall of Fame is the highest honor in the game for a player, and considering that voters are instructed to consider character and integrity in making choices, I’m not going to confer that honor on a player [Bonds and Clemens] whose so blatantly cheated.

Becoming Nicole

The book sort of peters out a bit late, but this is overall an excellent account (article form) of a family that is quite ordinary (though the account of the parties is engaging on its own) except that one of the adopted twins is trans. The personal is mixed with background on the science nicely though I would have liked a bit more on the school's p.o.v. at times.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

President Obama Share the Steps He's Taking to Reduce Gun Violence

I believe in the Second Amendment. It's there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms,” Obama said. “No matter how many times people try to twist my words around, I taught constitutional law. I know a little about this. I get it. But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.”
I agree too Mr. President. The second link goes to the White House page and provides a summary of what he ordered to be done and includes various statistics on gun violence. Stricter and more efficient background checks under existing rules, better enforcement/including working with dealers such as "finalizing a rule to ensure that dealers who ship firearms notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit," working to improve mental health and gun safety.  More detail at site.

The background checks rule change might be the most immediate but the others can have some long term effects -- smart gun technology will for one thing help reduce gun accidents.  This is a small portion of  harm from guns, but even a few less children etc. shot matters.  Also, it isn't one thing or one administration -- it is a nation-wide matter that is both government and private in nature.  Again, I would like to read a good report that puts these things perspective and shows their value as much as we can do that.  But, I do think there is something positive here.

I continue to think that gun violence might be greatly a matter of having so many guns and a social system that accepts that. Gun regulation here might need to involve some of what was involved with making cigarette smoking a lot less cool or driving while drunk.  Law has something to do with that, but it also was a major social change.  We have a society that is more violent than others and that is a factor. Our drug policy worsens the situation, especially given how that advances all types of violence.  But, like money in politics has to be addressed within the limits of the system, there are ways (not done, but possible) to address this issue while realizing the limits in place.

I appreciate President Obama's efforts here. The exaggerated Republican response from the usual suspects is as tiresome as it is expected.  Getting to where Obama's comments here -- there is a constitutional right to guns but let's be sane about it -- is akin to saying sexism (moving past family leave etc.)  is wrong is a long time coming.  He warned us about that too.

Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle: The Obama Administration Abandons Longstanding U.S. Positions on Puerto Rico's Legal Status

I'm wary of the "dual sovereignty" principle as applied to double jeopardy but it has long been the rule and makes some degree of sense. And, applying it to Puerto Rico makes some sense too, but don't know about extending it. Not quite where I want to fight this self-rule battle personally. (Not alone.) Plus, the justice of self-rule is a given but as a matter of constitutional raw power? Not sure how they cannot do the "horrible things" cited here. Finally, the brief (see final pages) suggests the "abrupt change" argument is questionable.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

One Word ... Musical Gang ....

Two of three of the party (including me) liked this two character, one act, romantic comedy about a pair of quite different crossword players meeting late one night on a train. Nice additional song by the former "Annie" star after completion. Off Broadway theater was spacious if with dodgy bathrooms. Caught end of the Jets game. So not surprised.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Couple Things

"Authors challenge Google’s book copying project." Might be an issue around the edges, but overall is a sign of how obscenely broad copyright claims are, violating First Amendment principles. "Shouldn't Criminal Defense Lawyers Prepare Clients for Prison?" I'd say yes, but see comments that see this somehow a problem. smh. BTW, lots of unbalanced bowl results.

Friday, January 01, 2016

"Nine Lives of Christmas" (Movie v. Book)

The Hallmark movie was a pleasant holiday movie though it sort of ran out of steam at the two-thirds point. The source book, providing a bare bones parallel (the Gregory Harrison fire chief character a key absence; viewpoint of the cat also not in movie) was much weaker. Overall, the movie's plot developments etc. superior. Sometimes, movie is better.