February 01, 2003

Interesting take on one ramification of the Estrada nomination, by labor lawyer Sam Heldman. Part of his larger point is that many of the protections we think workers receive from unions get shredded by the courts, which seem to bend over backwards to appease companies, even those in blatant violation of the law, at the expense of workers. I think it goes without saying that most of the practicing lawyers who get nominated to the federal courts tend to come from the management side of the equation.
Unbelievable. The Space Shuttle explodes over Texas, with no likely survivors. No explanations forthcoming as to why. My thoughts are with the astronauts and their families.

January 30, 2003

As expected, the Senate Judiciary Committe approved the nomination of Miguel Estrada this morning, 10-9, on a straight party-line vote. Since the President needs at least nine votes from the other side to impose cloture, this provides a possible sign that maybe the Democrats have started to fight back on judicial nominations. One of the more unfortunate aspects about being a liberal, however, is that our interests are too often represented by a party that contains a substantial accomodationist wing. Senators like John Breaux, Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, and Mary Landrieu pay lip service to defending civil rights, choice, etc., but are never willing to do what's necessary to uphold those beliefs (of course, Zell Miller is a Dixiecrat, and makes no effort to hide his Republican leanings). Failure to support a filibuster in this situation is tantamount to a Yes vote on the Bush nominees, and no amount of whining about Ralph Nader's last campaign will change our responsibility to fight the politicization of the judiciary by any means necessary.
One of the pet political causes of the Green Party is to mandate proportional representation in Congressional races, together with an "instant run-off", where your second pick for an office gets your vote once he's eliminated. We used the latter system at Berkeley for student elections, and it allowed people to vote the Boring Party slate before they got around to selecting the people they really wanted to see in office. Proportional representation, on the other hand, is an idea whose time has definitely not come, as one can see from this week's election in Israel. Although it might be good to have some reasonable threshold for enabling small parties a chance to elect candidates without having to seriously compromise its views, like, say, ten percent, the notion that a candidate or party supported by one out of twenty voters can gain office strikes me as absurd. Fifty percent is a mandate, thirty percent is a movement, five percent is a fringe. And unless Sharon can convince some Fifth Column within the Labor Party to join his government, he probably will have to call new elections. Again.

January 29, 2003

Hopefully, the President's view that "different threats require different strategies" will be followed in dealing with this newest member of the "axis of evil".
Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee has its first contentious vote of the session, on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Estrada, who has no judicial background, is a far-right lawyer favored by the Coulter wing of the GOP to be the first Latino to be picked for the Supreme Court. If you want to stop the next Clarence Thomas before he starts, and stick it to the Bush Administration by stalling his nominees to the federal court, contact the members of the Judiciary Committee before the vote. Better yet, focus on Arlen Specter; remind him that he once promised never to approve the nomination of a fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and has to run for reelection next year in a Blue State.
Since the Knicks and Hawks were in an all-important battle to determine their lottery positions for next year's draft, I missed most of the State of the Union last night. However, one of the sets in the corner at Yankee Doodles did have the speech on, and from my brief glimpses, I could have sworn that the President now has light brown hair. Since most of the recent photos taken of W indicated that his hair was, in fact, gray, I was stunned. Certainly, the man who brought integrity back to the White House would not be trying to pull a fast one on the American people, to pretend he's something that he's not, to do something that metaphorically indicates that he's not comfortable in his own skin.

Well, as it turns out, I wasn't having a buzz-induced hallucination. He not only is dying his hair, he's doing a really lame-o job of it, almost as if Carrot Top were now his fashion consultant. [Link via Eschaton]
With the Super Bowl fresh in everyone's mind (btw, I like how JJ Abrams and company incorporated that Victoria's Secret ad involving J-Garn into the show Sunday; you guys might eventually get an audience with stunts like that, but I still think you should bring back Anna Espinoza), one media website is hosting a debate about the racist nickname of the Washington NFL team. Scroll down for Prof. Stephen Carter's suggestion; it's the best of the lot.

January 27, 2003

One of the more inexplicable failures of the news media has been their collective failure to investigate the missing year in George Bush's Air National Guard duty in the early-70's (a convenient time-line can be found here). One would think that it would be an easy story: at a time when the President is threatening to send Americans into harm's way, thereby starting a war of dubious value to our national security, his own background deserves to be scrutinized. If, in fact, he did serve a full term in the National Guard, the media could help to discredit one of the favorite shiboleths of the left, that the President "went AWOL" for a year from his military service.

Likewise, if Bush can't account for himself during the year in question, then it goes not only to his credibility as a leader, but also to his lifelong ability to get ahead through family connections, the so-called "white affirmative action" that he has benefited from since he used a 560 verbal SAT to get into Yale. In any event, bogus conspiracy theories are not the sole province of any ideology: for every fabricated story about "Whitewater" and Vince Foster, there were similar tales about Reagan paying off the Iranians before the 1980 election, and those "scandals" weren't discredited until someone actually went out and did some reporting. If the media ignores this story, it isn't going to go away.
There is no joy in Oakland this morning, after yesterday's 48-21 debacle. Hopefully, this will be the last hurrah for Al Davis, uber-jerk and classless twit, who has to watch a second coach he's driven away win a Super Bowl.

The Raiders remain the most popular football team in LA, notwithstanding their return home in 1995, a fact which continues to baffle me. The team's last eight seasons in the city involved a series of threatened moves elsewhere, incessant whining about the stadium and level of fan support, and an increasingly violent collection of fans at the Coliseum, for which the predominantly Yuppified fans in the East Bay are a weak substitute. The team got a little better in the early-90's (for a while they seemed to own John Elway), but they were never all that exciting, and fan support vacillated. The team refused to market itself, other than putting its dumb slogan ("Commitment to Excellence") and logo on MTA buses, without a mention of the team, ticket info, etc. Since the colors and logo had come to be adopted by local street gangs, the only effect it had was to convince many locals that the Crips had developed some market savvy. Invariably, the team never put its tickets on sale until June, which meant that early season games were poorly attended; there were enough football fans in the region to assure that its games at the end of the season would be sold out. Davis would ignore the late games, and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get a stadium deal out of Oakland, or Sacramento, or Irwindale.

After the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the Coliseum sustained a little damage, but was otherwise good to go for the football season. While the rest of the region struggled to rebuild actual damage to our homes and businesses, including having to rebuild substantial sections of the 14 and 10 Freeways, Davis used the occasion to bitch about some small cracks to its foundation, and threatened a move out of town. After hearing his spiel for ten years, this area finally gave up. To this day, even the threat that the Raiders might return is enough to sink any stadium deal. Now he's Oakland's problem, and the good people of Alameda County have now experienced their share of complaints about the stadium, attendance, community support, etc.

When the Raiders left, the city was without a football team. Since pro football truly is the national pastime, the NFL was not going to disappear from the psyche of local sports fans, so we adapted. Many fans continued to root for the Raiders, and they remain surprisingly popular with Latino and African-American fans. The Cowboys, the Browns, the Packers, the Eagles and the 49'ers also have significant followings; oddly, although the Raiders remain popular, the Rams, the area's first major league sports franchise, are all but ignored, even when they were winning the Super Bowl several years ago.

Back around 1997, I decided I would adopt a team. Having lived in this area my whole life (so far), I didn't have any ancestral tie that I could use to root for, say, the Giants or Bears. The Rams and Raiders were out. I grew up hating the Broncos, Cowboys and Niners, and couldn't easily reverse those feelings. The Browns had a large local following for years, but at the time had abandoned Cleveland for Baltimore. So I looked around for a team that had no local following, a team that would be uniquely mine. And thus, I have been a Tampa Bay fan for the past five years.
In the past, I've questioned whether the CIA was allowed to gather intelligence on domestic entities, such as SD-6. It was my understanding that such activities were verboten. But last night's episode really begs credulity. I mean, the Company doesn't actually have a SWAT team that they can send into Downtown LA office buildings, shooting willy-nilly, making arrests, etc., does it?

January 26, 2003

As the streets of San Diego fill up with the I.T. providers and tech-support geeks playing dress-up that comprise RaiderNation, we will be treated to one of the least predictable Super Bowls in ages: the top offense, heretofore unstoppable, playing the best defense. That would be Tampa, a team that plays with the thuggery and nastiness of the classic Raider teams of the 70's and 80's. Looking back at past Super Bowls, it seems whenever a great defense has been matched against a great offense, the defense has prevailed: B-more two years ago, the Giants in XXV, the Bears over New England, the Steel Curtain over the Cowboys, etc. The only exception that comes to mind was the inexplicable loss by the Vikings in Super Bowl IV. With that in mind, go with the Raiders Buccaneers.
How the mighty have fallen. Check out Mr. Samgrass' response to a stinging letter sent by Studs Terkel, on the subject of his departure from the Nation magazine. Sometimes, it's just better to let something drop, or people will think you've become a bore.
Good timing, Smythe. The week I decide to rip the LA Weekly a new one is the week it publishes a valentine to my brother, the sort of story Howard Fineman might write about Bush if W ran a Downtown music club. Understand that my criticisms about the Weekly were limited to its coverage of the Valley, not its typically prescient music columns.