About Me

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

Friday, August 31, 2018

Zora Neale Hurston & Court Watch

First off, after seeing a reference to the "newly released manuscript of Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story Of The Last Black Cargo with a fantastic supplemental material from Alice Walker and Deborah G. Plant," reserved and now read it. Some time back, I read her most famous novel and later on read her take on the Moses biblical story. Both good though thought the Moses book could have been shorter. 

This first person account with various additional material (still a small volume) was fairly good though you are left somewhat wanting -- his capture, stay is captivity ("barracoon") and five years of slavery was all handled in a sliver of a volume that is less than one hundred pages without appendixes. Much of the account covers his life before and after, admittedly amounting to most of it.  But, those looking for an in depth "slave narrative" might be disappointed. The use of first person also means you have to deal with his dialect, which is a bit unwieldy too.


The whole thing being illegitimate aside, the opening of the Kavanaugh hearings to replace Justice Kennedy (expletives deleted) is scheduled to start next week. Time flies while an asshole is in power. Some things to keep in mind. It is the popular to sneer at hearings as merely being kabuki, but they actually do provide a means for the general public to get a look at the nominees and a mechanism to work around for those (press, advocacy groups, etc.)  in the know to focus upon.  And, the popular theater aspects are part of our system too, like it or not.

Meanwhile, a couple things are happening in the eight justice Court.  Claims that evenly applying non-discrimination laws is "vindictive" aside, the Supremes didn't intervene (three conservatives dissenting without opinion) in a foster care case involving religious groups who don't want to take part if they have to put children with gays. This is the sort of civil rights clash that a fifth vote might seriously effect, even if (as I think) it is hard to conclude Roberts thinks you can put same sex marriage back in the bottle after over three years.  More here.

Meanwhile, with Breyer perhaps serving as the liberal compromise vote this time around, the Supreme Court for now held up the release of food stamp data with the three women justices dissenting without opinion this time.  This followed-up a previous order earlier in the month.  The matter is not as controversial, but Breyer served as a sort of "courtesy fifth" to hold up things the last time around in the "GG" trans bathroom case.  That time, the clock in effect was run out, the Trump Administration changing the policy and the student involved graduating from high school.

As a sort of lead-up to the Kavanaugh hearings, a "deal" (though it is unclear what the Democrats received) was made to fast track some judicial nominees. Blame was put on Schumer personally though he is basically more the spokesperson of the caucus. At the very least, multiple people who pay attention to this thing wondered what exactly the Democrats got out of this. As to the first link, I don't know -- it is somewhat unclear to me what more Schumer could have done overall the last couple years. Plus, again, if you are mad at him, be mad at the Senate Democrats. It is true that a leader can move things somewhat differently -- these people aren't simply fungible -- but like "Harry Reid" being cited for ending the filibuster rule for nominees, responsibility should be spread generally speaking.

(I saw it noted that no one seemed to dissented from the deal, even the more liberal senators, but who is to know what happened behind the scenes?  If there was a general sentiment that this was the correct way to go, the dissenters could have went along for sake of comity. This suggests why it pissed me off when a few Democrats in effect blocked something in the Senate even when a simple majority of the Senate supported it. You don't block something by filibuster in that situation.) 

The need to explain oneself to people already inclined to be strict, even though the Democrats simply have a bad hand, especially when the "big deal" seems doomed at this point, seems to me the biggest issue here.  The "red state senators had to campaign" argument doesn't wash for me. As noted at the first link, they don't all need to be there to delay things, and even if Republicans as a bloc (50, McCain having died) "ram them down our throat," that alone -- in an election year -- can be used.  As to the presence of some decent judges in the pool, fine, but would that not occur basically in the end if this is slow walked?

I think, especially right before the Kavanaugh hearings, partially because no "deal" yet gives Democrats a tiny bit of leverage (with even conservative Democrats talking about delaying), holding firm made sense. If they lose here and later for illegitimate justice #2 (aka "Judge" Kavanaugh), it looks bad.  Finally, some figure Democratic voters don't really care. But, some do care (steal a seat once ...), and when a justice ("justice") is about to be confirmed, normal situations do not quite apply.  There is a strong anti-Trump spirit in the upcoming elections and the red state senators do not even have to go all in from my reading of the situation.  I personally think hardball tactics warranted.

Anyway, even if there is a certain logic to the deal, I'm wary about how they handled it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Alicia Witt at City Winery

After seeing her earlier this year, we brought a third to see Alicia Witt at City Winery in honor of the release of her new album (15000 Days, in honor of the days of her life). The food and wine prices the usual excessive amount but a beer was fairly average ($7) and good Arugula salad. Pen to sign bill exploded on my hand, but nice bathroom. Base price was around $20 (another venue was even cheaper; good deal). Good concert, lot of songs but could have done without the drummer. She's good and comes off as nice/goofball. For some reason the M42 didn't come on way back, but hanging out with drunks was fun. NYC experiences.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Truth & Mona Lisa

I added The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump to the side panel. Saw a couple reviews that criticize it as saying nothing "new" or being too brief, but many are not as familiar with all the material and it's helpful to find it in one compact volume. The movie (a somewhat old one: Krysten Ritter is but an extra!) Mona Lisa Smile is more concept (teacher brings new ideas to early 1950s women's college) vs. complete film, but it has its moments, looks nice and has a good cast (even the guys have some familiar faces).

Friday, August 24, 2018


Last time had more news from the Court itself with today's order reflecting things are more low key this time. Paul Manafort's convictions and Michael "Trump personal lawyer" under oath implicating Trump in a crime does strengthen the basic argument against Kavanaugh: "No president suspected of criminal conduct should be allowed to seat a Supreme Court justice." The other stuff can be added, such as how the Republicans are rushing things or abortion or executive power or, but the underlining taint is basic. If court packing is so horrible, as some say, how do you deal with 2/9 of the Court being illegitimate? Well, some deny that, so it's talking past each other time. For now, win in November.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Guns and Song

At first, was not aware when I saw this on Showtime what it actually is: it's a fun Mamma Mia! type musical using 1980s songs in a story about a woman finding out her sister is marrying the "guy that got away." On the book front, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair With Lethal Self-Defense is only about two hundred pages, so is not a complete story (e.g., the history of armed blacks starts basically in the post-WWII era), but it is overall worthwhile including the argument SYG is selectively applied in practice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

NY Election Update

Now, we have Ryan/McConnell and Trump. That picture is from this discussion of the demonization of Nancy Pelosi.  My basic take is that I generally agree with the analysis of how good of a job she is doing. Likewise, there is no compelling need to replace her, especially without a very good option (the wannabe challenge in the past is not that).  But, I'm for an evenhanded promotion of a younger generation as a whole.

The future leader of the party (the talk is a tad overheated) won my district, Joe Crowley listed as a possible replacement (don't quite see it) of Pelosi by some.  The upset has definitely made Cuomo and Jeff Klein (state senate) extra careful to promote themselves (keep on seeing Cuomo ads during Mets games and Jeff Klein yard signs -- we don't have many yard signs in general around here generally)  vs. to be honest long shot competition. In some other state, either of those guys will do (Cuomo more so), but we are New York. In the Trump years.  So, no f-ing way.

(Both have been office for a sizable amount of time -- Cuomo for eight years, Klein for fourteen. Klein especially seems to have been there too long at this point, his IDC power anctics telling in that respect. Cuomo still probably is aiming for 2020, though he would make a horrible choice in my book there, a safe pol type that people will find reasons to dislike.)  

Jeff Klein came off smarmy during a debate with Alessandra Biaggi (whose grandfather years back was convicted of corruption), good to say her name, since there are so few yard signs around of hers. I think that matters, if a bit less than the local city council race where the final result was a few hundred votes and I do really think the establishment candidate dominating the signs in business windows (I recall like one of the second place winner in the midst of a stream of his) very well likely mattered a lot.  Anyway, I don't think Biaggi came off THAT well, came off as a bit rough.

I personally am seriously ready to support the most left leaning, new, anti-business as usual/establishment type candidate all things being equal, so it's Biaggi and Cynthia Nixon for me. Andrew Cuomo actually did do some good things, but has that unsavory insider vibe that helps the business as usual deal that helps stop NY from going the route of #Resistance ala California.  The Independent Democratic Caucus thing hurts Klein too, especially since -- this wasn't made clear in the debate -- there was at least a small window where they did directly had power to Republicans. Klein in the debate early on tossed out three Dems who were later arrested to explain starting the IDC, but what about the Republican leader he supported in that respect? Or, the rest of the Democrats that was worthy of support?  My public school teacher source also is no fan of his record on teachers.

Anyway, I rather we move on from both of them, but admit it is a longshot (more so Cuomo; Biaggi might have a bit more of a shot if the voters are ready to kick the establishment guy with issues out).  I'm not sure where to go in the Attorney General race, but might just go with Zephyr Teachout, who has the support of the Justice Democrats (the left leaning upstart coalition this year, basically) and whose ideas I like.  Her past efforts to win office, even local office, didn't go over that well.  And, at least one of her competitors probably would be a great option too.  So, that's good.

[Update: NYT endorsed Teachout and on Twitter Emily Bazelon compared her to the former public defender "outsider" Philly DA.  So, sounds like a good choice!]

There was a brief mention of the so-called "road diet" (shortening the street and adding a bike lane) plan for Morris Park Avenue, which is near me. I admit to not knowing about this until I saw a tweet about it that was a potshot at Biaggi for not properly finding out what the neighborhood wanted.  Me personally, I never thought of Morris Park as that crowded traffic-wise. I guess the construction might be a pain, but support bike lanes. Bike rentals in some areas are a great idea but the Bronx specifically is only somewhat bike friendly.  So, you know, I'm with Biaggi there too as being at least warily supportive of the idea.

[Upon thinking of it, I would need to know how it will be done. If it results in one side not being open for parking, it would cause issues. But, one lane on one side, as long as cars could still pass, would probably work.]

Meanwhile, I'm glad Nicki Minaj thinks I'm "genuine." She was great.

Some More Films

I don't watch most of the "in" shows and movies, but the free platform Kanopy and a free month of Amazon Prime has helped me to see a few things. Past Life seems to be ready for a bigger reveal than it provides, but looking past stereotypical plot devices, it was a good film overall based partially on real events (e.g., there is such a diary). A Luv Tale looks like the first episode or half of a never completed t.v. project [ends with a cliffhanger], but it was a good find (on Amazon Prime) with black lesbian/career/etc. themes. Yes, that's the woman from The Closer. Pink Grapefruit is a nice short film about a fix-up. Interracial aspect taken in stride. Swing Away was cute. Nice to see Shannon Elizabeth get some decent work.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Sensitivity Training

A good find among the free Kanopy films, this involves a woman scientist with personality issues who gets a perky (lesbian) personal trainer to deal with things. [Both things add flavor to the film.] The lead plays someone uncomfortable dealing with humanity very well and it overall is a well done indie. It's amusing and satisfying overall. Glad to find it since also dealt with an annoying short story collection with too many annoying characters/situations.

Meanwhile: Pre-season football has begun as the Mets are doing okay (two series vs. Reds/Marlins won!) with the NYG losing to the Browns and the Jets looking good. Figure at this point around six wins for either team would not surprise much.

Friday, August 10, 2018


The eight person Supreme Court was a bit busy of late. First, a couple of whom I at times engage with on Twitter, there was new "hard pass" press list. Then, on 8/9, there were three orders. One announced a new special master for a water dispute, another stayed a long fought case (for the time being) involving a FOIA request for food stamp fund information and did not hold up Billy Ray Irick's execution. The rape/murder of a child occurred over thirty years ago, so Breyer could have used it to address one of his concerns (people on death row for decades), but Sotomayor handled it -- lethal injection issues being her thing.

Monday, August 06, 2018

The Naked Kiss

That would be a kiss that tells you the guy is trouble as a former prostitute trying to escape her past finds out in this good 1960s "B" movie. Meanwhile, about half-way thru the pretty good Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy book that is basically a regular mom's guide to pregnancy (mixture amazing and crazy).

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Secrets

I have made multiple false starts with books over the last week or so, but am glad to have more luck with video. Recent reports that a few women are becoming Orthodox rabbis is relevant to this Hebrew film about a young woman who goes to a special seminary to put off marriage and helps a French woman find peace for her past crimes before she dies. Has religious, feminist and lesbian themes. Overall, well done with good DVD extras though you can watch the film itself free at Kanopy; good for me since my DVD copy had a glitch.

ETA: The Finnish movie (focus on soccer aside, pretty universal) Open Up To Me involves a transsexual who is reckless while trying to find some happiness, and unlike some movies, doesn't get away with any of it. The one good result was regarding something she was wrongly accused of. A somewhat depressing affair for most involved but well acted.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018


There is a scheduled summer order list on Monday (not likely to be notable), but a few other developments. Kennedy is officially retired from active service so we again have a eight person bench. Thus, the order today to assign his circuit to Roberts. His last apparent action involved a 7/30 order was a decision not to intervene in an open-ended climate change case but warning it looks to be problematic. Roberts also announced an appointment to fill an administrative position. The Kavanaugh nomination process continues as expected.

ETA: Scheduled summer order handed down. A rare rehearing granted. Not sure the point of motion of petitioner to dispense printing of joint appendix and why that pops up in orders.