December 30, 2005

O-Ver-A-Ted: Jonathan Chait, one of the new op-ed columnists for the local paper of record, has a fine piece on the 2005 USC Trojans. Considering that there is nothing to indicate that the PAC-10 was a particularly deep conference this season, or that the Big-12 was particularly weak, I don't see why Texas should be such a significant underdog next week. USC has a spectacular offense, led by the winners of the last two Heisman Trophies, but their defense (Pete Carroll's strong suit, after all) is not that impressive. Besides the now-legendary game with Notre Dame, they almost lost to Fresno State and Arizona State, teams with four and five losses, respectively, and were a bad call away from being 17 points down to Oregon.

Texas is a hungrier team, had only two close calls (both against schools named "O.S.U."), and actually know how to play good defense. They would be hard to beat even if they were playing an opponent that wasn't undeservedly being included among the greatest teams of all time. As the author alludes to, the last time we had a match-up like this, Ohio State knocked off Miami, the defending national champion, in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

December 29, 2005

One of the drawbacks about being a single, 40-ish guy is that I always stay home on New Years Eve. That, and the infrequent sex, the assumption by some that because I haven't gotten married, I must be gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), the fact that most of my friends are functioning alcoholics, the realization that my life is never going to get any better...yeah, I admit: I'm drowning in a torrent of clinical depression right now, one that massive quantities of Prozac won't cure. Life sucks.

Loneliness is a terrible burden, and there's no amount of rationalization that's going to sweep it away. December 31 always brings this issue to the forefront. It's the one occasion that people, no matter what creed, race or socioeconomic class, find the time to just have a blast. No presents to buy, no fake ethnic tie-in, like March 17 or May 5, just an evening to stay up all night and party. And I never get invited.

Going on a year-end cruise has been one way out of the thicket. I don't get to be with friends, either, and the other party-goers are either blue hairs or teenagers, but at least there's festivity everywhere. I don't have to drive home, and the cruiseline is usually generous with the champagne. For me, it's as good as it will get, and I'm only out a month's income.

This year, that isn't an option. So while everyone else is having a blast, I'll be at home, watching cable reruns and trying to figure how my life took such a wrong turn.

December 27, 2005

A liberal blogger discovers, to her chagrin, that conservative bloggers take care of themselves. Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with banging a tin cup and asking other people to beg for money on your behalf.

It should come as no shock that for a blog to be both popular and good, it requires a great deal of time and effort on the part of the host. When I first started this site, back in April, 2002, it seemed that most of the people doing this sort of thing were either freelance journalists, professors, college students, or lawyers with their own practice. That is to say, bloggers were people who already wrote for a living, and who had the time to post frequently and write deliberatively. To them, blogging was a hobby that could supplement their normal routine.

Once blogging became "hip", it drew in a lot of people who had writing talent, and were not in any of those professions. Those bloggers included a tremrndous amount of undiscovered talent, but only a few who will ever be hired to write for a living. As a result, once the high of writing something for a public audience wore off, making money off this gig became paramount for the neophyte. Unfortunately, bloggers don't have anything to sell but their work product, so unless you can find a sugardaddy willing to support you, or happen to be independently wealthy, you better be writing about something that can turn a profit for somebody else.

With almost no exceptions, political blogs can't turn the trick. Moreover, perhaps inevitably considering the string of recent defeats Democrats had in the aftermath of the 2000 election, liberal blogging has become dominated by a style of rhetoric that ensured that such blogs would never make mucho dinero: an in-your-face, abrasive, attack-oriented style that focused most of its wrath primarily on the media, and secondarily on the Bushies and neocons. People who were comfortable with the status quo weren't going to turn to this newfangled medium anyway, but for the significant number of people who weren't, those blogs were a godsend. The more extreme the invective, the more rhetorically violent the site, the greater the page visits. While it was cathartic to finally have someone take the fight to the other side, it does tend to be even less successful in generating a cash stream than it has been in winning elections.

And alternatively, bloggers who hoped to use their access to this public forum to formulate policy alternatives got the short end. Ironically, it was the bloggers who actually had something, in the form of ideas and policy prescriptions, that might be of value to the marketplace, that lacked the volume of traffic necessary to make the sale, while the ones who did have the traffic only sold snark and invective, products that nobody's buying.
Why television may be on the verge of making motion pictures as passe a form of entertainment as radio drama....
November totals for the Central District of California are out...and they show that the number of bankruptcy filings fell by more than 90% from the totals of one year ago. The large drop in Chapter 13 filings after October 17 (remember, that's the provision favored by the new law) is perhaps the strongest indication that it's not so much the new law scaring people away as it was the end of the old law drawing a high number of people out of the woodwork, who then filed before YBK.
Last night's much-hyped final episode of ABC's Monday Night Football (won, incidentally, by the Patriots, 31-21, over the Jets, the same score the Jets lost the first MNF game thirty-five years ago) included the airing of several clips featuring one of the most important figures in the development and popularity of that show in its early years. I am, of course, referring to John Lennon, the ex-sidekick of Paul McCartney with the Beatles, who allegedly made at least one appearance in the booth in the early-70's, where the most-overrated figure in rock history suffered the indignity of being interviewed by the most-overrated figure in TV sports history.

I say "allegedly", because after an hour or so of googling, I can't pinpoint an exact game, date, or season that the "Smart Beatle" actually appeared on the broadcast. I have seen references to him showing up at the '71 game at Candlestick Park (famous for being the site of the last Beatles' concert) between KC and Frisco, a '73 game at the LA Coliseum between the Rams and New York (where he supposedly said, according to one account, that while he still gives peace a chance, he couldn't say the same thing for the Giants, who lost 40-6), and a game in '74, between the Rams and Washington. The latter game would appear to be the best bet, since he had famously separated from Yoko Ono around that time, and was living in the City of Angels.

Also, he apparently befriended the then-governor of California, Ronald Reagan, that night; according to Frank Gifford, the Great Communicator also visited the booth, and during a lull before they were to be interviewed, explained the rules of what we Yanks call "football" to the Walrus (Lennon, not Craig Stadler). Nevertheless, the actual details of what happened don't appear to have been studied by any Beatles historian with any depth, no transcript of the Cosell-Lennon interview seems to have survived, and so we are left with what appears to be an "authentic" videotape of the artist known for such treacly classics as "Imagine" and "In My Life" comparing that night's crowd to a rock concert.

More detailed information does exist about the other famous MNF link to John Lennon: the announcement of his death in 1980, late in a game between Miami and New England. Like many other Beatles fans, I still remember Cosell, with his very unique delivery, intoning the words, "dead on arrival" to punctuate his scoop. I doubt that it was actually the first notice by which many of us received the horrible news; in Los Angeles, ABC's local sports anchor, Ted Dawson, had announced the bulletin several minutes earlier, and in all likelihood other local stations broke the news the same way. But Cosell being Cosell, we were bound to remember his announcement more.

December 26, 2005

We must be do something right...: Matt Welch, wintering in Paris, has some interesting thoughts on the world's two oldest democracies, and why they stay that way.

December 25, 2005

Festivus Reading: A sanguine analysis of the topic of impeachment, by Michelle Goldberg of Salon, and a brief rundown by Josh Marshall of an op-ed piece by former Bush advisor John Yoo, now a Boalt Law Professor.

The prevalent view among his apologists seems to be that President Bush must have absolute power during "wartime", and that any Congressional or judicial oversight is unnecessary. Regardless of the merits of the claim that permitting the executive branch to review any telephone call, e-mail, or personal communication without a search warrant is an effective way to stop a terrorist attack, the notion that fighting a war necessitates giving a single man absolute power is, quite frankly, a noxious one. It is not only un-American to expect that the Constitution be suspended every time a President decides to start a war, it is counterproductive to the goal of actually winning that war, once our troops are so committed, when the Commander-in-Chief who has been vested with those powers is so completely incompetent.

Moreover, Yoo's argument, that the Constitutional mandate limiting the power to declare war to Congress alone has no substantive meaning, and can therefore be ignored by Presidents, is one of the most frightening claims ever made by a sitting law professor. A declaration of war isn't some legalistic archaism left over from eighteenth century political theory; it's a principal that requires that any war we fight be subject to the approval of the people, by way of the one branch of government that is directly chosen by the people. It's not a condition for committing troops, but you better damn well have a declaration in hand if you want to act as a "war President".

In the military actions taken since 9/11, there was no exigent circumstance requiring the President to bypass Congress, no immediate necessity that forced us to take up arms against Iraq, or even the Taliban. Ignoring the Constitution was Bush's way of saying "screw you" to coequal branches of our government, making them as relevant in the checks and balances within our government as the British monarch is in that country. If the Republican Congress does not wish to put the brakes on Bush's folly, then the Democrats must press the issue of impeachment, or we'll losing something more important than our lives.

December 24, 2005

Mr. Kos grows tired of the Bay Area real estate market, and a conservative attempts to gloat:

Attention Markos Moulitsas Zúniga: did it ever occur to many in Blue state America that Houston (that doesn't have zoning) is a lot more affordable than let's say Berkeley, California. Also, Houston residents don't have a state income tax that they are paying. It appears Kos can't afford the very values he promotes, which is regulation of markets which leads to artifically high real estate prices.
Or, to put it another way, the "values he promotes" enable ordinary people to attain wealth through home ownership, while living in a diverse community that values the environment, stable growth, a low crime rate, etc.

Although it is unfortunate that Kos missed the boat by a few years when it comes to buying a house in the Bay Area, the policies that enabled the value of homes to soar also make it a very desirable place to live, work, and raise a family. The Berkeley Hills are dotted with the homes of people who never made a huge income, but through happenstance, hard work, and good fortune, have become wealthy, all because they bought homes in a city that followed progressive policies that made the community desirable for people who had money to live in. And in the fullness of time, once this blogging thing starts to become big, someone as ambitious and entrepreneurial as Kos will also be able to buy a share of the Blue State dream as well.

Of course, Houston is a lot more "affordable" than Berkeley, California. So is the Aceh Peninsula, the Sunni Triangle, and the Gulf Coast. That's the great thing about the Third World: housing bargains are always available for people with a few dollars to spend, as long as you don't care about that whole "quality of life" thing. [link via Instapundit]

December 23, 2005

A thought on last night's Blue State v. Red State showdown (an appetizer to hold us until the Big One on January 4), inspired by the words of a Pulitzer Prize-winning professor:

The University of California during my student and faculty years has been denounced for godlessness, debauchery, freethinking, subversion, coddling communists and radicals, and exposing students to radical and unconventional ideas.

Whenever I hear those charges made, I shout, "Go Bears!"

--Prof. Leon Litwack

December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas, Building & Loan !!! Among the presents Congress was able to sneak under our collective Festivus Pole yesterday is a long overdue hike in the tax filing fee for individual bankruptcies. I say overdue, since it's been less than nine weeks since the last hike went into effect. Fortunately, Congress refused to touch the filing fee for corporate bankruptcies, which will remain at the same level.
A provocative (and potentially defamatory) profile of Marcos Moulitsas, the self-admitted "asshole" proprietor of the Daily Kos blog. The comparison of Kos with Bill James is an apt one, although I think the Old Guard he's challenging isn't the punditocracy (that battle is being fought by the likes of Atrios, Kevin Drum, Steve Gilliard, et al.) , but the politocrats within the Democratic Party, as well as the adherents to the increasingly obsolete "grassroots" model used by progressives since the 1960's. Kos treats political advocacy as something more than a hobby to be pursued every election night, and the country owes him a debt of gratitude for the unexpected partisan feistiness of the Democratic Party, only a year after one of its most devastating losses.

December 21, 2005

Of all the apologias for the rather innovative approach the Bush Administration has apparently taken to the constitution, the one that rankles me the most is the claim that we have to condone the policy, since we haven't been hit by a terrorist attack in five years. It was made by the Vice President yesterday, and has been seconded by certain bloggers and pundits.

It rankles, because it both cheapens the events of September 11, 2001, and is almost certainly wrong. As I pointed out in February, it says nothing that we have not been hit by an attack in x-number of years. Prior to 9/11, we had not been hit by a major (or for that matter, a minor) terrorist attack in six years, and that wasn't even an Islamoterrorist attack; for that, you have to back eight years before 9/11. Since many of the people with the skill, background, motivation and patience to plan such a spectacular attack were, in fact, killed on 9/11, and since Al Qaeda's M.O. has favored spectacular, cataclysmic attacks overseas, as opposed to the suicide bomber-in-the-shopping mall favored by other thugs in the Middle East, it shouldn't surprise anyone that we haven't seen a repeat since then.

But what especially bothers me is the viewpoint that because we haven't had an attack, that somehow means we should view the last five years as an unqualified success in battling terrorism. For one thing, two of our allies, Spain and Great Britain, have been hit since 2001 by the minions of Osama, not to mention the many victims of the Intifada in Israel. For those who give allegiance to OBL, blowing up the Tube is just as good as hitting a subway car in New York City. All Westerners look alike.

Presuming it to be that our national objective is to crush the use of terror as a political tool used by our adversaries, no matter where it sticks its head (and considering the billions we're spending on adventures in the Middle East, I think that presumption is shared by the Neocons as well), this isn't supposed to be a war we can claim to be winning just because the Lower 48 hasn't been hit recently. What Cheney is admitting when he makes this argument is that the "War on Terror" is little more than a rhetorical gimmick for domestic consumption. It is akin to FDR claiming WWII as a success in May, 1944, just because Pearl Harbor hadn't been repeated.

December 20, 2005

KOBE: The greatest basketball player in the world scored 62 points 29 minutes !!!

December 18, 2005

Seeing as how there's nothing more pathetic than a blogger campaigning for an award, I think it's fair to ask some obvious questions:

1. Why name the award for best "lefty" blogger after someone who could only fairly be described as the third or fourth greatest southpaw pitcher in history? Wouldn't the "Grove" be more apt? The "Spahn"? The "Big Unit"? Tying their award to a famous L.A. athlete might have been done to draw from the prestige of this region in the blogosphere, in much the same way that a DVD rental store in Flyover Country might use a picture of Tom Cruise or John Wayne in the store window. But still, couldn't they find a better local athlete?

2. While pondering the above, do the people who run the awards have the permission of Sandy Koufax to use his name and likeness? Frankly, not receiving clearance to run photos of a public figure is pretty common in the blogosphere (I don't, for example), but this seems to be a few degrees beyond that. Is there any reason to believe that Koufax is a progressive in real life? If I had to guess, he probably isn't...most athletes hew as far to the right as Hollywood actors do to the left, and are as equally out of touch. But he's also famous (if that's the right word) for being very private. His sexual preference has always been the most-whispered about in all of sports, and his only recent venture into the headlines came when he took on the Murdoch publishing empire over some slimy allegations concerning same in the New York Post two years ago. Although I could be wrong, I would be surprised if he had given his permission.

3. Shouldn't there be some quality control? These particular awards, like most blogging awards, are popularity contests. Blogs that draw a lot of traffic are more likely to win. To that end, the Koufax Awards have more in common with the People's Choice Awards then, lets say, the NY Film Critics Association. And although there are some blogs that attract tons of eyeballs that coincidentally happen to be good (Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum, of course, and especially Kos), most are still living whatever rep they developed three or four years ago, and win these awards now not because they are good, but because it would be too impolite to suggest otherwise.

Another problem such awards have to deal with is the truism that extremism and rhetorical excess seem to be an accurate barometer of popularity in the blogosphere, no matter the ideology. Since that threatens to poison the well for those bloggers who, for example, don't believe that leaking the name of a CIA agent necessarily makes one a traitor, or that Rudolph Giuliani isn't the American version of Reynard Heydrich, it would help to have some way of wheat from the chaff, the assholes from the uber-pricks, as it were.

Historically, progressivism has always been a minority ideology, so any chance of electoral success depends on forming tactical alliances with factions that do not support many of our core principles. Anything that violates our version of the Eleventh Commandment, such as a high-profile blogger resorting to personal attacks against those he disagrees with, is counterproductive to the end of achieving power to enact those ends. If we're ultimately going to start winning elections (that is, actually getting more votes than the other guys, and not simply whining that Karl Rove and Diebold foiled us again), our blogs need to develop an indoor voice.

Anyways, go vote for Crooks and Liars and The Left Coaster for any and all relevant categories.

December 17, 2005

Tip of the Iceberg? That's what investigative journalist Murray Waas concludes about the latest story that several conservative pundits were on the take from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. There are, of course, entire blogs and websites that do little more than regurgitate K-Street propaganda (there's even a term for it: "astroturfing"), and outlets like FoxNews and the Heritage Foundation pretty much exist for the purpose of providing a veneer of legitimacy for a specific point-of-view. Until I see evidence to the contrary, the presumption should always be that any Beltway pundit is on the take.

December 16, 2005

Mortgage companies (and their allies, foreclosure trustees) tend to among the biggest employers in bankruptcy law, so I had a lot of experience with their seemingly limitless patience in dealing with delinquent accounts. The mantra I used to hear from my firm's biggest client at the time, Freddie Mac, was that "we just want the money, not the house," so my job (I represented instiutional lenders at the time) was twofold.

If the homeowner filed a Chapter 7, I was to get the home out of the bankruptcy completely, so my client could proceed to do what it needed to do under state law (ie., foreclose). However, if the debtor was repaying the outstanding arrearage in a Chapter 13, but fell behind on the plan, my task was to convince the homeowner to buy into an "adequate protection" order. The debtor agreed to pay off the new debt over a six-month period, the creditor continued to receive payments, at least for a time, that reduced the payoff balance, and no one had to take the onerous steps necessary to foreclose on the residence. It's been a few years, but it's interesting to see that they still haven't made foreclosing an efficient process.
Domestic spying? What's next, "enemies lists"? "Plumbers"?
It's not just a bunch of lefty historians who believes George Bush is the bottom of the Presidential barrel. According to this poll, so does the American people.

December 15, 2005

Love, it would seem, is not the only thing you can't hurry....
Of the 27 victims murdered by the twelve people executed by the State of California (incl. the late Mr. Williams), not a single one was African-American. That, and not the fact that Tookie Williams lent his name to a series of childrens' books, is why the death penalty must end.
Even paranoids have real enemies: Just because most of the blogging that mentions "Diebold" is little more than the left-liberal version of "Intelligent Design" doesn't mean there isn't some reason for concern.

December 14, 2005

On even the littlest things, we are governed by jackasses. Plans for the World Baseball Championship hit a snag when the U.S. Treasury Dept. announced that Cuba would not be allowed to send a baseball team, due to the longstanding embargo. Years of detachment from the rest of the human race has atrophied the Cuban baseball program, to the extent that they now have a hard time winning the Olympics against amateurs from Canada and Australia (and losing to a U.S. minor league team in 2000), and they would likely get rolled in this tournament, but even that isn't enough for the Bushies.

December 13, 2005

Well, as long as we secular humanists have declared war on Christmas, there's no one better to have in the trenches than Stephen Reinhardt.
Now that Tookie Williams is dead, the Loony Left can now preoccupy itself with some other embarassing cause, like how we were cheated in Ohio last time (screw Diebold, Smythe...what about Mumia ?!?). Opponents of the death penalty spend years slowly building a consensus, against an overwhelming initial tide of public opinion, against the barbarity, calling into question our ability to guard against the execution of the innocent, its disproportionate application against minorities and the poor, the correlation between quality of legal representation and the imposition of the death penalty, and thereby gradually creating a remarkeable shift in public attitudes against capital punishment. And then Tookie comes along, and the efforts of so many are dashed, perhaps for a generation.

The clemency decision wasn't a hard call for the Governator. Whether the kiddie books were a p.r. stunt to avoid the needle (like his apparently bogus claim that he was a "co-founder" of the Crips), or a sincere effort to warn others about the gang lifestyle, it has nothing to do with whether he should have received clemency. The people who were loudest in calling for clemency were never going to vote for Ziffel anyway. The fact that the late Mr. Williams may have mellowed during his sixth decade on this planet wasn't going to change any minds among the rest of the public, who don't forget the fate of his victims quite as easily.

Williams needed to atone for the murders he committed, and he needed to show remorse for his life as a mob boss by breaking the code of omerta. He didn't, and up to 'til his final breath continued to raise "guilty man" defenses to his own crimes, such as jury composition and jailhouse snitches. Those are important defenses, mind you, and any self-respecting progressive must continue to demand that any accused be accorded due process, a fair trial, a non-prejudiced jury, and all the other accoutrements of a modern justice system. And whether the white jury was biased in favor of executing a black multiple murderer should be considered a relevant issue on appeal, even if we assume the defendant was guilty. But very few people are going to the barricades on the issue of whether an African-American mobster should receive clemency because he got convicted for the wrong murders.

What was important, at the very end, was not whether his trial was perfect, or the witnesses against him of sterling character, but whether he killed four people. He refused, in the face of overwhelming evidence, to acknowledge that guilt, so the question of whether his recent acts were real or P.R. was never reached. So, in the end, he died, like the tens of thousands of others whose lives have been graced by their association with the Crips.

December 12, 2005

One of the most dispiriting, soulcrushing aspects of blogging is to make some brilliant observation about a trend, only to have a Big Foot or two make the same observation a month or so later and soak up all the credit, without notice or attribution to my labors. I guess it comes from having a site no one reads...DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL.
Tookie Williams Update: Clemency denied !!!
If, as Senate Majority Leader Frist warns, the Democrats attempt to prevent the ascension of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court by using the filibuster, he will invoke the Nuclear Option. For all intents and purposes, that will establish a precedent that will mean the end of the filibuster as a tactic in Senate debates, not just for judicial nominations. If he's successful, that will be very, very good for liberals over the long term; after all, most of our wish list, from universal health care to effective gun control laws, is all but impossible to pass under the status quo. In the short term, it will force Republicans to either sustain the right of the minority to filibuster, or cast a vote that will be used in future elections as a sign of lapdoggery, both of which will be good for Democrats.

And of course, if he's unsuccessful, the nomination of one of the most frighteningly reactionary jurists ever picked for the Supreme Court will be defeated, and Senate Democrats will have put the White House on notice that future nominees be closer to the mainstream.

So can anyone find me a good reason not to filibuster this guy?

December 11, 2005

Nothing forces wingnuts to intellectual (if that's the right word) contortions more than the issue of birthright citizenship. The concept is based on the opening sentence of the 14th Amendment, which holds that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." In other words, if you're born here, you're a citizen. Obviously, an "originalist" would be correct in claiming that the drafters of the provision were not seeking to allow someone to illegally cross the border in the middle of the night for the purpose of giving birth, since the 14th Amendment was drafted to protect the rights of freed slaves, and in particular to overturn the Dred Scott decision. Immigration laws, such as they were, didn't exist in the late-1860's.

But that language is so damned unambiguous, and since any self-respecting "strict constructionist" who believes that legal interpretation should consist of little more than understanding that words mean what they say is obligated to follow the clear language of the law, the only way to end the practice would have to be to alter the 14th Amendment. Not to worry, though: a number of lawmakers from Texas and other points west of the Mississippi, led by the odious Tom Tancredo, have decided to introduce a bill that will simply ignore the 14th Amendment, using a technicality that would have been the envy of any law clerk from the Warren Court. Their hitch is that the provision, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof", somehow excludes illegal immigrants, which flies in the face of logic and any sound method of semantic interpretation (for example, if someone violates the law to enter the country, aren't we acknowledging that they are "subject to the jurisdiction" of the law just by the fact that we're making a stink about it?)

So that technicality isn't going to fly, although after these born-again judicial activists are finished, I'm sure we're eventually going to hear about how stripping infants of their citizenship is somehow a penumbral Constitutional requirement. A better idea would be to simply deport the corrupt scumbags of the Texas Republican Party, en masse.

December 10, 2005

One of the things that most amazes my clients is that after they file bankruptcy, they start receiving applications for new credit cards almost immediately. Since they are publicly signalling their inability to repay their current debts, particularly credit card arrearages, it seems counterintuitive that the same credit card companies would be so eager to reestablish their relationship with the same party that they had just been treating like a deadbeat. And yet, it happens, for reasons that are quite practical from the standpoint of the credit card companies.
A cogent argument as to why even a scumbag like Tookie Williams should receive clemency, by Marc Cooper. Advocates for the soon-to-be-late former crime lord are forced to make absurd pleas for mercy, based on such things as the racial composition of his jury (which failed to move that bastion of reaction, the 9th Circuit, when it considered the issue), his "nomination" for various Nobel Prizes (a distinction which the Crips Don shares with Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler, among others), and his authoring a series of anti-gang books for children, while ignoring such things as his refusal to "violate" omerta by cooperating with authorities in the investigation of other crimes (including, presumably, the four murders that have put him in this predicament). Cooper just cuts to the chase: that the death penalty is a hold-over barbarism from a different time and place, one which is inconsistent with a great nation, and which is imposed arbitrarily based on factors, such as race and poverty, that we as a people should be overcoming.

To me, the best way to look at the debate over whether he should die is the observation that both Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan are also guests of the California penal system, and neither will ever have to seek clemency to avoid the needle.

December 09, 2005

It says something when the U.S. has advanced far enough along as an international soccer power that it can be drawn into the "Group of Death" in the 2006 World Cup.
Normalcy: After a brief lull, bankruptcy filings are beginning to pick up again, in spite of the new law that was supposed to make it more difficult. One sign that the credit industry may not get what its retainers in D.C. promised:
Demand for pre-bankruptcy counseling, which is now required before consumers can file, has been unexpectedly strong at the 71 agencies affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling that have been approved by the Department of Justice to provide such services, said foundation President Susan Keating.

"The volume is significantly higher than their original projections," Keating said. "We originally expected our client volume of 1 million to double in 2006 (because of the new requirement). Now we're thinking we may be looking at even more."

Bankruptcy attorneys and many consumer advocates worry the counseling requirement will allow agencies to divert potential filers into debt repayment plans that the debtors can ill afford. But Keating said her agencies, which currently represent 80% of the counselors approved by the Justice Department, aren't seeing many clients who have the ability to repay their debts.

"The conversion rate of customers who are eligible to go into an alternative, a debt-management plan, has been very, very low," Keating said. "These customers are really in serious financial trouble and have no alternative other than filing for bankruptcy."
Duh. It is no comfort that the same people who enacted this law are also entrusted to lead the war against terrorism.

December 08, 2005

Identify the practice, and the interrogator:
When the rack did not produce the desired result, the (interrogators) turned to the water torture. In this hideous remedy, the prisoner was tied to a ladder that was sloped downward, so that the head was lower than the feet. The head was held fast in position by a metal band, twigs were placed in the nostrils, and ropes winched tightly around his appendages. The mouth was forced open with a metal piece and a cloth placed over the mouth. Then a pitcher of water was brought, and water poured over the cloth. With each swallow, the cloth was drawn deeper into the throat, until in gagging and choking the victim nearly asphyxiated. The terror of suffocation was extreme, and the process was repeatedly endlessly, bloating the body grotesquely until the victim was ready to confess ... From the inquisitor's standpoint — for he was there to record every detail — the treatment was easy to administer and left no telltale signs.
Give up? Answer here....
YBK [The Bloody Aftermath]: Thanks to the diligent efforts of Joe Biden, Steny Hoyer, and the rest of the Democratic K-Street Caucus, bankruptcy attorneys in Los Angeles and its suburbs were given an early Christmas Holiday present this year. There were over 28,000 filings in the month of October, almost all of them in the first two weeks of the month (a typical month, like February of this year, before the new law was passed, might see only 4,500 filings). That was a 525% increase from the same month a year ago, or almost half the total from last year, in a two week time span.

December 07, 2005

Man U. may need to do to Sir Alec what Penn St. did to Jo Pa a couple of years ago: find someone who still possesses all his faculties to do the real coaching, and let the Legend play the legend, pacing the sidelines and occasionally scowling at a bad call, but not getting anywhere near the heavy lifting. Today's disaster gives Glazer the luxury (yea, even the necessity) of pruning costs even further, giving the club a long-overdue rebuilding without further alienating the folks in Lancashire still pissed at the fact that a man with a name like, er, Glazer, runs their beloved team.

December 06, 2005

The special election to fill the Congressional seat formerly held by SEC chairman Christopher Cox was held tonight, with Republican John Campbell pulling out to a commanding early lead. Interestingly, Campbell received a strong challenge from a well-financed third-party candidate, Jim Gilchrist, who pretty much ran a one-issue campaign on the topic of immigration, so the national GOP poured mucho dinero into the district to prevent an upset. The Democratic challenger, Steve Young (not related to either the quarterback or the local radio host) didn't receive anywhere near the love from the blogosphere that propelled the campaign of Paul Hackett (no relation to the ex-SC coach), and was never a factor in this race.

Things to look at after the ballots are counted: will Campbell break 50% of the total? and will Young hold on to second? Not getting half the votes cast in a conservative Orange County district should be seen as a sign of anger at the President from his core constituents, in one of the few districts in the state that gave him a comfortable margin over John Kerry last year. My guess (not possessing exit poll numbers) is that many of the people backing Gilchrist include voters who do not normally show up for special elections in December, but are people who were motivated to send a message about the "illegals", and Bush's perceived coddling of Latinos. Since Campbell's position on immigration was no less xenophobic than Gilchrist, who was a founder of the Minutemen militia, there's no reason to believe that those voters will necessarily return to the Republican Party in 2006 and beyond. And, of course, the failure by Young to finish ahead of Gilchrist, in a district in which Barbara Boxer narrowly trailed in her Senate race last year, will be a sign that simply being the "opponent" will not be enough for the Democrats to make serious gains on the GOP next year.

UPDATE: Final vote tabulation gives Campbell the victory, but with less than 45% of the vote. Young finished second with 28%, and Gilchrist third with 25%. Campbell's vote declined from his total in October, when he barely missed out on receiving 50%, and he faced a strong challenger from within his own party. Considering Cox typically got 70% in the same district, this is not an impressive win for the GOP. It will be interesting to see what happens in the special election to replace Duke Cunningham next year, who represented a nearby district that is far less Republican.
Normally I don't respond to e-mailing trolls, concerning topics I haven't written about, but I thought I'd make an exception to a missive I received today from Matthew-san:

I have to take issue with a recent episode of ESPN Classic's "Who's #1-Greatest Game Winners."

20. Luis Gonzales' Game 7 RBI Single To Win The 2001 World Series In The Bottom Of The Ninth. The fact that, arguably the best closer MLB has ever seen, Mariano Rivera, came in to close that Series out with a one run lead and Arizona still got it done is enough to rank this higher. And why is Bill Buckner so vilified and Rivera not after his throwing error to second base made the whole collapse possible? Oh, that's right, New York.

19. Kirby Pucket's Game 6 Winning Home Run Against The Braves. Good choice but could maybe be higher.

18. Sid Bream Scores From Second To Beat The Pirates In Game 7 Of The 1992 NLCS. Good choice but Atlanta went on to lose the World Series so this definitely shouldn't be higher.

17. Christian Laettner Last Second Shot Beats UConn To Get To The 1990 final Four. The NCAA Basketball Tourney has been filled with last second shots over the years and Duke went on to get murdered by UNLV in the final so I don't get this selection.

16. Buster Douglas KO's Mike Tyson. No problem with this one but does anyone remember the count controversy when Douglas got knocked down earlier? Don King tried to rob us of one of the great upsets of all time.

15. Bobby Orr's OT Game Winner In Game 4 Against The Blues In The 1970 Stanley Cup Final. Easily one of the most overrated moments in sports history. Boston swept the Blues but because some photographer captured the image of Orr flying through the air after the goal this moment was immortalized. A joke of a selection.

14. Kordell Stewart's Hail Mary Beats Michigan In 1994. There have been numerous successful Hail Mary's over the years. Why this one is considered such a big deal is beyond me. Could it be that Limbaugh was right a few years later?

13. Michael Jordan Beats Cleveland At Buzzer In Deciding Game 5 First Round 1989 Playoffs. Let me get this straight. Chicago wins nothing that year and this comes in at number 13. Jordan beats Utah on a last second shot to win his sixth championship in 1998 and this doesn't even make the list. Very curious.

12. Patriots Upset Rams On Last Second Field Goal In Super Bowl XXXVI. Excellent choice but the endings in Super Bowls V, XXV, XXXII, XXXIV, and XXXVIII could also be included.

11. Brett Boone HR Beats Boston In Game 7 2003 ALCS. Give me a break. Yanks went on to lose the World Series. This one shouldn't be this high. Oh, I forgot, New York.

10. Yaz's Game 6 Homer Forces Game 7 Against Reds. Again, Red Sox go on to lose World Series. Should mean nothing.

9. USA Wins 1999 Women's World Cup Of Soccer In Shootout. Not to take anything away from the broads but it's soccer and it was a shootout. I'm the only person I know who actually watched the thing. This choice is pure crap.

8. Joe Carter Wins 1993 World Series With HR In Game Six Against The Phils. Another excellent choice. The way that Series went Game 7 would have been up for grabs.

7. Bill Mazeroski HR Wins 1960 World Series Game 7 In The Bottom Of The Ninth. How this isn't considered the top moment in the history of American sports, let alone Major League Baseball confounds me...Oh, that's right, New York lost.

6. Kirk Gibson HR Wins Game 1 Of 1988 World Series. I concede it was dramatic but it was only Game 1 and the Dodgers won the Series in 5. Another of the most overrated moments in sports.

5. Cal Versus Stanford And Stanford Band In The Big Game 1982. This could easily be number 1.

4. Lorenzo Charles' Dunk Upsets Houston In 1982 NCAA Basketball Final. It was shocking and it was great. No problem here.

3. Doug Flutie Hail Mary Beats Miami 1994. See number 14. If that fortunate play was what actually made voters pick Flutie for the Heisman then the award is even a bigger joke than I thought (although I will take a third in four years for my Trojans).

2. Christian Laettner Last Second Shot Beats Kentucky In OT To Send Duke To 1992 Final Four. No problem with this one since Duke went on to win the national championship.

1. Bobby Thompson 1951. The single most overrated moment in sports history. "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants go on to lose the World Series! The Giants go on to lose the World Series!" Oh, that's right, New York.

At the end of this episode two resident "geniuses", Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, throw in their two cents worth. They both agree that Bobby Thompson deserves to be number one but then Greenberg goes on to say that Lorenzo Charles should be higher than Laettner because N.C. State won the championship on that shot. I have no problem with that logic as long as he applies it consistently which he doesn't do when it comes to Bobby Thompson. Golic claims that the 1999 Chicks Soccer win was significant and deserves to be on the list. Significant? When I have solid stool the moment is more significant. Why does this crap have to get rammed down our throats? How can Bart Starr's QB sneak in the Ice Bowl not get mention? Down to the Cowboys 17-14, the Packers gambled on 3rd down on a play that only Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi knew was going to be a sneak and if it didn't work there would have been no time to set up for a game tying field goal since the Packers had no timeouts. And by the way, Green Bay went on to win Super Bowl II. A serious omission from the list. Input anyone?
Thanks, BoozBuddy, for your reflections, but I should point out that it was Fisk, not Yaz, who homered to beat the Reds (#10), and Charles' dunk against Phi Slama Jama was in 1983, not '82 (#4).

I strongly disagree with your take on what you call "1999 Chicks Soccer"; it was the first soccer game, and maybe the first team sporting event involving women, that millions of American sports fans not only watched but actually took a rooting interest in, to a degree comparable to a Rose Bowl or NBA Finals game. Brandi Chastain's reaction to her winning shot is one of the most iconic moments in sports history, so it's placement is not only justified, it's probably too low. If China had won the shootout, however, I wonder if ESPN would have ranked the moment as high.

I also beg to differ on the two Hail Mary's listed: the Flutie-Phelan pass was at the tail-end of one of the most thrilling back-and-forth shoot-outs in football history, and the Wee One is, after all, one of the legends of Canadien football; the Stewart pass against the Maize and Blue was the clumination of one of the greatest last twenty-second drives ever, and as far as what Rush may have said once, I'm sure that was just the drug's talking.

Easily the worst pick on the list is Orr's shot (or is it Picard's trip?). Not only did the Bruins sweep, but that was the third straight final sweep against the Blues. Who cares if the final game was close? The Laettner buzzer beater against UConn is also a space-occupier; why not pick Tate George's shot for the Huskies to beat Clemson the game before (a much more unbelievable play, since it resulted from a full court pass with one second left), if you're going to go with the also-rans from the 1990 NCAA's? And Douglas' K.O. of Tyson, while a memorable upset, was certainly not one of the great knock-outs in the history of that sport. By your standards, since Douglas lost the belt in the next fight, and thereafter ventured back into the realm of mediocrity, that fight shouldn't have even been listed. If they had to go with a boxing moment, why not Hagler-Hearns?

You picked the Ice Bowl, but to me the glaring omission was Miami's stop of the two-point conversion in the final minute of the 1984 Orange Bowl against undefeated Nebraska. The Lorenzo Charles dunk from only months earlier is listed, but I've always thought that was overrated, since that play only broke a tie, and Houston was too spent from its semifinal against the Doctors of Dunk to offer anything more than token resistance had that game gone to overtime. But the 'Canes either needed to come up with the big play, or lose the Mythical National Title, and they came through. Upon further review, it appears that ESPN was talking about plays that ended games, thereby excluding plays, like Starr's sneak, the Immaculate Reception, MJ's shot against Georgetown, and Miami's big stop in the 1983 Orange Bowl, that were merely late in the game.
The terrorism that terrorism created:
We should kill all the savages' friends and family. They give aid and succor to these freaks who murder little Christian girls, blow up school buses of children, and massacre kids at schools, cut peoples heads off and plan the bombings of houses of worship. Indeed, their entire families and associates should fear for their lives.
--Tammy Bruce [link via James Wolcott, emphasis mine] The murder of "little Christian girls" is a nice Streicherian touch. Truthfully, if you read the rest of her website, it's clear that she's someone who gets turned on by the thought of another dead wog, so I don't think you can blame this wackjobbery on OBL.
Unlike the hapless primary opponent for Hillary, a Lowell Weicker challenge to Senator Lieberman could actually bounce the incumbent. I would assume that should The Bear pull off the upset, he would vote with the Democratic caucus, even if he runs as an independent.

Run, Lowell, run !!!!

December 05, 2005

"UCLA types": It seems that the Bruins not only can't stop the run, but they're anti-Christmas as well. Odd that it's Jackie Mason using what has been anti-Semitic code in Los Angeles for decades.

December 04, 2005

Wanker? Marc Cooper is taking it on the chin from the peanut gallery, apparently for having had the audacity to tweak his editors at the Nation for employing Alexander Cockburn, etc. Having been purged from his site's blogroll recently (rat bastard !!), I suppose I should avail myself of the opportunity to pile on, or even lend my support to this burgeoning drive to blacklist the writer for denouncing Ramsey Clark, Kim jong-il and other miscreants, but I think some respect should be given to anyone who barely escaped Pinochet's reign of terror with his life. Unlike Hitchens, he hasn't joined the Amen Corner on the Iraqi debacle, and he's an honest-to-goodness journalist/activist/blackjack player, not some college professor shilling for the Democratic Party between classes.

Of course, Cooper will often go after liberals and leftists with an animus that seems disproportionate to their misdeeds, particularly the Clintons, and he has a clear bias towards ineffectual and outdated progressive institutions (especially labor unions) and leaders (ie., Ralph Nader), and against those on the left, such as "Kos", Barbara Boxer and Michael Moore, who can actually draw blood against the opposition. He's also not a fan of the Democratic Party, or any other institution that attempts to be a broadbased, mass political movement; his ideal political party is one that would represent the likeminded 20% of the electorate, letting the other 80% run things in D.C. while his allies remain virgin pure in permanent opposition.

In short, if you're looking for an ally in an electoral context, he ain't it. However, if you still believe that the death penalty is an abomination, that workers deserve more than having their interests "defended" by a political party that demands their money and their votes but does nothing to fight for their rights, that there should be zero tolerance for Democrats who vote to support the judicial ideology of Scalia, Thomas and Alito, and that, in the long run, there are more important things in the world than the outing of Valerie Plame, the internal politics of Air America Radio, or the sinister machinations of Diebold, then Cooper is well worth the read.

UPDATE: For a bit of comic relief, this young man was clearly off his meds when he posted on the same topic. "Assclown", indeed....

December 03, 2005

Hate to harsh anyone's holiday buzz, but I haven't raised much (or anything, for that matter) in the way of funds for this site lately. I haven't made any final decisions yet about the future of this site, and probably won't until the new year, but if anyone can drop me a few dollars by clicking the Paypal button on the top right, it would help keep the IdSav going. I know there are people out there who actually visit to read my learned missives, rather than merely to view last year's photos of Alexandra Kerry (ie., this site's leading search engine reference). So if what I write is worthwhile to you, it would be appreciated if you could let me know in some material way. Thanks.

December 02, 2005

Worse than James Buchanan: That is, according to a poll done for the History News Network, which reveals that the historians surveyed rate the current incumbent below the fifteenth President, remembered mainly for being the only President never to marry. Buchanan also sided with the Southern wing of the Democratic Party in the years leading up to the Civil War (and against Stephen Douglas), backed the Dred Scott decision, and did nothing when the traitorous states began seceding after the election of his successor, one Abraham Lincoln. And today's scholars regard Mr. Bush as being worse than that.

Well, it's early; we still have three years to go before all the bodies are counted before it's fair to conclude that Bush is the Worst President Ever. But in terms of actual accomplishments, it's hard to argue with that judgment. There's little tangible to be counted in terms of successes, a fact that puts him behind such men as Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, U.S. Grant and Warren Harding, and his failures have been monumental. Buchanan's mistakes were those of a leader of a rather insignificant backwater compared with the great nations of Europe, and ironically his appeasement of the Southern states hastened the Civil War, which ended slavery a heck of a lot faster than the political process would have done by itself. Bush, on the other hand, began his term leading a peaceful and prosperous nation, the world's sole superpower, and within five years made us a supplicant nation economically and a loathsome bully internationally.

Comparing Buchanan to Bush is like comparing some third-rate Roman consul during the early stages of the First Punic War with the Emporer Commodus. Of course Bush is worse; he led a greater nation, and his impact proved more devastating. [link via AmericaBlog]
The last remaining domino to fall...Cuba will take part in next year's World Cup of Baseball. The Cubans are muy overrated, of course, but Major League teams can always pluck a few good No. 3 or 4 starting pitchers from the carcass.
Another scandal brewing at the CIA?

December 01, 2005

I'm not sure if I was technically a member of CISPES when I attended the hallowed halls of CAL in the mid-80's, but I certainly made no effort to hide my feelings about US policy in Central America back in the day. In any event, my membership would probably have not seen its way to any resume I would have submitted in the quest for a job in the Clinton Administration ten years later. The whole point of a c.v. is to get you the job you're applying for, not to scare off the interviewer. So it probably says something about the politics of both Samuel Alito and the Reaganites that ten years after he graduated from Princeton, he was quite emphatic in stressing his involvement with a racist, sexist alumni organization when he applied to be an assistant to Edwin Meese.

But what does it say of the nominee that he now claims to have no memory of his participation in the group?
Sparks fly, when LA's least truthful lefty-historian comes to the defense of LA's most boring left-wing columnist !! What's most disappointing is that the Times has now apparently sunk to the level of being rejected by the likes of Mr. Davis, when a more appropriate question is why are retreads like Davis and Scheer (who recently wrote a column defending gerrymandering, on the grounds that politicians who never have to worry about close elections are less likely to be corrupted by the money of lobbyists; tell that to the Dukester !!!) still the fallbacks in a town with as deep a bench as ours. [link via LA Observed]

November 30, 2005

Another failed nominee? The Washington Post is reporting that in 1985, Samuel Alito, as an Assistant-A.G. in the Reagan Administration, "...urged his boss to use a case before the court to "make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled." The Post reports:
In the memo, Alito suggested that the government challenge Roe in an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief in an abortion case that itself did not challenge the 1973 decision legalizing abortion. This approach, he wrote, is better than a "frontal assault."

"It has most of the advantages of a brief devoted to the overruling of" Roe, he wrote. "It makes our position clear, does not even tacitly concede Roe's legitimacy, and signals that we regard the question as live and open."

He added that the approach was "free of many of the disadvantages that would accompany a major effort to overturn Roe. When the court hands down its decision and Roe is not overruled," he reasoned, the decision "will not be portrayed as a stinging rebuke" to the administration.

In a previously released document, Alito had expressed pride in contributing to the Reagan administration's policies, including its view that there was no right to abortion embodied in the Constitution.
Besides the fact that the memo (complete text here, courtesy of Daily Kos) removes much of the drama out of whether he will vote to overturn abortion rights should he be comfirmed, the political language in the memo is most unbecoming of what we envision out of a Supreme Court justice.
Why is a rider on the storm like " actor out on loan?"

November 29, 2005

This past weekend, the Nation's Paper of Record noted that more than half (12 out of 22) of the nation's Democratic governors serve in states carried by President Bush in the last election. In four of those states (Kansas, Wyoming, Virginia and Oklahoma), no Democratic Presidential nominee has won since 1964, yet within the statehouse mansion resides now a Democrat. Interesting? A ray of hope for the future for progressives?

Nope. It has never been unusual for states of the crimson hue to elect Democrats to governerships, just as residents of California, New York and Massachusetts know that the opposite is also true. One glaring example of this phenomenum would be Wyoming, one of the most overwhelmingly Republican states in the country, both in terms of voter registration and their turnout for GOP Presidential candidates every four years. Yet the same state that quadrennially gives Republicans forty-point margins in Presidential races has also had Democratic governors for 22 of the past 30 years. Colorado has an even better track record of coming down on our side in state elections; even though only one Democratic Presidential nominee has won the state since '64, the state has had a Democrat serve as governor in 24 of the last 30 years (although the incumbent governor is a Republican).

Other western states also have a pretty consistent track record of defying the GOP's partisan edge to elect Democrats to the state's highest office. Idaho, one of the few states in which George Bush still has a positive approval rating, had Democratic governors non-stop from 1970 to 1994. Arizona has seen the parties split control since the 1950's, with Democrats seeing Bruce Babbitt elected to two terms in the 1980's and Janet Napolitano winning the last time out. And that doesn't even include Montana, who's governor may be the most hyped native son of that state since Ryan Leaf (ed.-two items of interest about Montana: it's voters have elected only two Republicans to the U.S. Senate in the state's history, and Michael Dukakis almost won the state in 1988). And each of those states has consistently voted Republican in national elections since the end of World War II.

So how to explain the success of the Brian Schweitzers and Mitt Romneys of America? I suppose it helps if you have a lot of money to throw down when you're campaigning, but I also think that the voters prefer to have a division of the spoils when it comes to government. A Democrat running in Kansas, or a Republican running in Rhode Island, can claim a certain amount of independence from politics-as-usual, and make a plausible case that they can clean up the mess in Capitol City. Lessons can be learned about the universality of good government and what the people really want, but it would be foolish to believe that it portends any Grand Political Strategy for reforming the party.
Is there some earthly reason that Joe Lieberman does not have a primary opponent in 2006? Or even better, is there anyone in the state of Connecticut who has anti-torture leanings that wants to run as an independent?

November 28, 2005

Some perspective, on the Meaning of It All: is a delusion to believe that the blogosphere is representative of anything but the hundreds of thousands of scribblers that join in this marvelous medium and the few millions of good folks who read it. The Moose is always struck by how few people actually read a blog or even are familiar with their existence - even those who are politically active. Of course, it is also true that a diminishing number of people by the day read mainstream newspapers and journals - not necessarily a healthy phenomena for a functionary democracy.

So, alas, it is generally a good thing that the blogosphere provides an opportunity for more and more Americans who want to get engaged and sound off. However, we should keep it in perspective. The blogosphere is generally an ideological hothouse that does not reflect the everyday thoughts of Americans. In that way, it is much like talk radio.

Blogs appear far more influential in the Democratic than the Republican party. With the waning influence of the labor movement - the blogs and the trial lawyers are picking up the slack as influential institutions. However, politicians should not make more of the blogs than what they are - highly ideological and only representative of the very left faction of the base.

--Marshall "Bull Moose" Wittman

Not being a centrist, and as a skeptic of calls for a "Third Way" in American politics (oh, if it were true that we even had a "Second Way"), I view the emergence of the blogosphere as a welcome development. But the combination of years having been spent in the political wilderness with the unmediated forum that is blogging has created a poisonous strain in the rhetoric of my cohorts on the left, one that is more atuned to letting us vent spleen and less towards actually persuading fence-sitters and accomplishing something as mundane as, well, winning elections that matter. As with talk radio, the more violent and extreme the rhetoric, the more popular the sight, and with this phenomenum afflicting both sides of the debate, the blogosphere is becoming an increasingly ugly arena.

Not having an editor permits many of us to reveal Our Inner Asshole, in all its resplendent glory, on a daily basis, and it's not a pretty sight by any means. It may warm our cockles to pretend that outing a CIA spook is the same thing as treason, or that the 2004 election was lost because of some nefarious scheme cooked up at Diebold's headquarters, or that photoshopping the face of a blackfaced minstrel is a witty jibe at an African-American Republican, but we shouldn't pretend that it's a ticket to the White House.
Duke Cunningham cops a plea, resigns from Congress. The issue of Republican corruption is one that doesn't require a Democratic "alternative" to resonate with the public. There is nothing about bribe-taking that is particularly conservative or liberal; give the Democrats (or Greens, or Perotistas) a period of unchallenged rule, safe seats and access to all the perks and privileges that come from possessing unfettered political power, and, as anyone who has witnessed the antics of the California state legislature over the years will attest, they will behave the exact same way. The difference between Jack Abramoff and the Keating Five is only one of degree.

Of more interest is the fact that Cunningham's seat suddenly becomes open a full year before the next election. Assuming that there will be a special election early next year to fill it, this is definitely worth a challenge by the Democrats; although there is a Republican majority in the district, it is a district that was only narrowly lost by Boxer in the 2004 Senate election. Although it is not saying much in the context of California politics, this is one of the most "competitive" seats in the state.

(My previous posts on the "Dukester" here, here, here, here, here and here.)

November 26, 2005

"I bet he's close to Bush...." You imagine the fun we're going to have if this guy ends up succeeding? Heh, heh, heh....

November 25, 2005

If there is to be any good to come out of the current reign of the GOP, it is the mainstreaming of the opinion that no distinction can be drawn between the solicitation of a campaign contribution and bribery. For that and that alone, we may thank the duo of Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay.
Food for thought: Do upper-income Americans lose more from the decline of social services and public investment than they gain in tax cuts? Apparently, on a strictly material level, they do. As we saw from the new bankruptcy law, where the credit industry ended up losing more as a result of the last-second filing panic then it could ever hope to profit from the new law, the long-term effect of the Bush Presidency may be to create a public demand for the sort of liberal politics beyond the dreams of even the most fervent progressives. Call it the Law of Unintended Consequences.
"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

--George Best (1946-2005)

November 24, 2005

I wonder if this sort of heavyhandedness will ultimately lead to the establishment of an American Catholic Church. All it will take is for a high-profile bishop or cardinal to have a damascene flash of awareness about the contradiction in church teachings, between the lip service that is paid to serving the poor and needy versus the submission demanded to the authoritarian reactionary bigots in Rome. American Catholics (including myself, who was confirmed in the Church twenty years ago) deserve a religion that adheres to the ministry of Christ, not to the whims of Papal oligarchs and other neo-castrati that make up the Vatican hierarchy. [link via AmericaBlog]

Oh, and lest I forget, a Happy Thanksgiving to all !!!
ABC has finally pulled the plug on Alias. Perhaps the least-watched show ever to last five seasons on the air, with its ratings about to go further into the toilet during a long hiatus, thanks to the sins of its main star, the show will conclude next May. I haven't written about the show as much since the second season, but at its peak it was one of the most original programs ever aired on network TV: a weekly James Bond movie, except played completely straight. There had been rumors that J-Garn was set to leave at season's end, and the show really seemed to have been written to last only four seasons, as the abrupt cliffhanger in last season's finale seemed to indicate. After May, fans will have to settle for syndicated reruns, video games, and the inevitable movie a few years down the line, and J.J. Abrams can concentrate on the infinitely more successful Lost.
Prof. Althouse, on the Scalia whineathon this week about the cruel inconvenience a former Presidential candidate imposed on the Supreme Court:

Once the case had been set in motion, the Supreme Court had to take it, he said: "The issue was whether Florida's Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court [would decide the election.] What did you expect us to do? Turn the case down because it wasn't important enough?"

I wonder if Scalia approves of the bracketed language! I should think he'd want something more like "The issue was whether Florida's Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court [would resolve the legal questions raised by Gore's challenge]." He's right, isn't he? Once the Florida courts started interpreting their way toward upsetting the result, the Supreme Court couldn't sit by passively.

WTF?!? Why exactly couldn't the Supremes have "(sat) by passively"? Wasn't it the whole freaking point that the Scalians decided to intervene in a matter traditionally handled by state courts (that is, the tabulation of votes in a statewide election), and then did so in a way that would most intrusively prevent the completion of the vote count in Florida?

The federal courts refuse to intervene in matters traditionally left to the states all the time; in fact, it's pretty much their constitutional obligation under the doctrine of federalism. If Scalia doesn't believe that state courts should be involved in resolving election disputes, then why not say so. Why make their judicial handiwork such a blatant, authoritarian display of rank partisanship?

Scalia's complaint, that it was the Gore campaign that originally brought the dispute to the judiciary, so the Supreme Court just had to get in its ten cents, is not surprisingly disingenuous (as well as technically incorrect; it was the Bush campaign that first sought judicial intervention, only days after the election). Bush v. Gore wound its way to the Supreme Court because the Bush campaign, having been defeated on the merits in state court, and fearful of the possibility that after all the votes were finally counted, they would lose the state, twice appealed to the federal judiciary. It was the Bush campaign, not Gore's, that brought the issue to the Supreme Court. That Scalia even sat on the court during oral arguments is another sign of what a sleazy, corrupt whore he is; any judge with even a modiocum of ethical standards would have recused himself, since his son was a partner in the law firm that represented the Bush campaign. Recusal standards for federal judges are a joke, anyway, but I've always wondered what was so pressing about the Supreme Court having to intervene when they did.

Prof. Krugman (and most of the liberal blogosphere and punditocracy) aside, there is a decent chance that Bush would have won the recount anyway if only undervotes had been counted, and even if he hadn't won after the recount, in all likelihood the Florida state legislature, with its GOP-majority, would have overturned the result and sat the Bush electoral slate. Thereafter, Democrats would have had to focus their bile on the legislature, a democratically-accountable branch of government, and the voters of Florida could have made their voices heard in 2002 and 2004 about whether they approved that decision. The integrity and respect accorded the Supreme Court would have been preserved.

Instead, the Supreme Court, a non-democratic, unelected branch, made the decision. The election of 2000 will forever be known as the one in which the franchise of the American People was made less important in determining who shall be President than five Supreme Court justices. If anyone has any doubts as to how a Justice Alito would rule if Allen v. Clinton were to come before the high court in 2008, they should keep that in mind during his confirmation hearings.
T.J. Simers, LA Times sports columnist, on Our Thing:
From what I know about blogs, it doesn't appear you need much more than someone who likes to hear themselves talk, who knows how to type and who also owns a computer. It's not as if you have to interview anyone, or even attend a game, so long as you sound as if you know what you're talking about — you know, kind of like sports talk radio.
Well, he's got me pegged. I would point out for the record, though, that a) Mr. Simers is also a sports talk radio host; and b) that about half of what is on sports talk radio consists of the same type of puff-piece interviews that are so prevalent in sports sections across the country, including the one for which Mr. Simers writes.

Unlike Matt Welch, I'm a TJ fan. His toadying, ass-kissing columns, disguised most frequently as misanthropic rants, are always worth a chuckle, and I would love to see the Times op-ed section hire a regular columnist who was as readable as TJ. I doubt there isn't a Times reader who hasn't gotten a cheap laugh out of his "friendship" with USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett, who went from being the butt of his jokes to his "best friend", as a result of a widely denounced hiring decision he made five years ago.

Of course, the notion that you have to either attend games or interview jocks to "know what you're talking about", is telling. All too often, the sports pages embrace the cult of "character guys", to use Bill Plaschke's cringe-inducing phrase: if success at your job is defined by the interviews you obtain and the games you get to attend, of course you want the people you work with every day to be nice, polite, and speak the English language with some degree of comfort. An athlete, coach, or G.M. who doesn't give you the time of day can be a bloody pain to work with, so who can blame the scribe for wanting to see the "clubhouse snake" traded, while keeping the less-productive players who always make time to give you an interview, who always thank you for your time. It may not help the team when something other than merit is used to determine who gets to start, but the mentality of wanting to see the nice guy advance is one that is universal to all callings. Even if it does hurt the bottom line.

November 22, 2005

YBK [The Sequel]: One inevitable result of the pre-YBK panic was that new filings after October 17 would all but disappear. The Washington Post confirms that in the first month since the new law went into effect, the number of new cases went from nearly three-quarters of a million in the two weeks preceding YBK, including just under a half-million in the final week, to about 3,000 cases a week since then. Prior to the signing of the bankruptcy "reform" act, a typical week saw about 30,000 cases. After the run on the courts in October, it is a welcome break for those of us who make our living in this area; we are having a hard time just filing the amendments, attending the hearings, and, in the case of Trustees, adminstering the assets that are required under the old law, without having to think about what we should be doing with new clients.

The scuttlebutt around the local courts is that the new cases are being disproportionately filed in pro per (that is, without benefit of legal counsel), using forms that are out-of-date and without adherence to any of the new requirements, such as mandatory credit counseling, mandated by the new law. Therefore, many of the cases included in the total are going to get dismissed. That will lower the new total even further, but many of those debtors are still going to have a need to discard their debts, so I expect to see some of these people in my office next month. The end of the old law cleared the decks, as it were, but the problems with the economy remain.

Indeed, even now the numbers of new filings are beginning to go back up again. YBK motivated a lot of people who had been procrastinating to file at the last minute, most of whom never would even considering the need to file. The new law creates a few more hoops to jump through, and increases the paperwork to successfully file a new case, but it doesn't eliminate the problems of out-of-control revolving credit, or of delinquent mortgage or car payments. In a matter unrelated to YBK, monthly credit card payments are going to increase significantly in January, and the housing bubble has already begun to burst in certain areas of the country. Bankruptcy attorneys have had years to prepare for this lull, and the explosion in business last month has bought us time. And a fair number of people who didn't file in October now have the bug planted in their ears.

Prediction: anticpate a sizeable increase after the holidays, and a restoration of the old weekly norms by the end of 2006.
After less than a week, the decision to rename Pajamas Media has been reversed. Why they wanted to ditch the original name has always baffled me. The siliness of naming a web business after clothing associated with childhood was inspired, and it's amazing no one in the company realized that. If people are laughing at you, that means they're also paying you a great deal of attention, which is absolutely essential for it to have any hopes of succeeding.

And of course, in the wake of last year's election, "pajamas" has enormous symbolic weight in the blogosphere; regardless of what you thought of the jujitsu that enabled the Bushies to change the debate from his avoidance of military service in 1972 to the typing font on otherwise-minor documents, it was a very clear sign that major media outlets were as lax with their due diligence as the typical blogger. One only needs to hear the pathetic producer of the 60 Minutes II segment, Marla Mapes, as she criss-crosses the country trying to sell her book to understand that. Here was someone who was ostensibly a journalist, who was presented with hearsay copy of a series of documents by a third party with a very public grudge, and she wasn't smart enough to ask the most elemental questions about the documents' authenticity before going to air. And of course, some very partisan bloggers, whose motivation wasn't in trying to "find the truth" (after all, these were the same bloggers who propagated a fraud of their own, the SBV's, the month before) but solely in trying to exonerate the President, amazingly, did find the truth.
Two and a half months after Hurricane Katrina, between six and seven thousand people are still missing and unaccounted for. The casualty totals right now are pretty much going to be limited to the bodies they've physically found, so it is harder to include in any counts people who may have washed out to sea on the Gulf Coast.

November 21, 2005

There's a meme, or a thread, or something going around the b'o'sphere suggesting that we list the 10 films that piss us off the most. I have a feeling that in about five years, it will be like compiling a list in 1950 of the 10 worst radio dramas. I just watched a twelve-part drama on HBO, featuring British actors I had never heard of three months ago, and there are three or four other series each week that I watch religiously.

And it's almost free, more or less. Why would I spend twenty bucks on a movie ticket and snacks to watch the Gay Cowboy Film, or a flick featuring a talking lion and a ten-foot albino witch? If those films are any good, I can always rent the DVD next year, or wait til they're shown on cable, and never leave my couch.

I do make exceptions, of course. A visual spectaculor, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy or any of the Star Wars films, has to be seen on the big screen. If I'm on a date, I'll spend the money to see whatever's playing. Documentaries, of course, because their topicality necessitates it. And, of course, comedies: nowhere is the communal aspect of seeing something with a group of strangers more evident.

So yesterday, I blew off the chance to witness the Peyton-and-Carson show, and went down to Encino to watch Jesus Is Magic. Sarah Silverman is certainly the most-talked about comedienne today, and she doesn't disappoint. Contrary to this blogger, the fact that most of the critics included some of her punchlines in their reviews isn't a problem, since what makes her panoply of politically incorrect humor work is her delivery. Without that, her humor would be nothing more than crude racial slurs and "jokes" about the Holocaust, something you notice when you try repeating her one-liners to others. She definitely has a future as an actress when the stand-up thing gets tedious.

Funny or not, though, I can't recommend the film. For one thing, it's barely an hour long. Intersperced with her one-liners are a set of some of the most excruciatingly bad songs and "skits", a reminder that she used to write for a TV show that featured Jimmy Fallon, Maya Rudolph and Adam Sandler. Without the filler, it's a forty-five minute set.

Secondly, and most importantly, it's still something that is being shown in a theatre. The ticket for a mid-afternoon weekend show was $9.50, and together with popcorn and a soda, that means you get to spend close to $20, all for the experience of being able to laugh, with others, at less than an hour's worth of jokes about "chinks" and the lack of Jewish porn stars. She ain't worth it.
Murtha for President: Mickey Kaus links to a remarkeably prescient interview given by Representative Jack Murtha in October, 2002, several months before hostilities commenced in Iraq. Murtha was clearly moving down the path from strident Cold War Scoop Jackson Democrat to skeptic of Pax Americana, long before the casualties began coming home from this war; reading this interview puts the anguish and dismay so evident in last week's now-historic press conference into a much more interesting context than the initial media reaction, which only served to paint him as a fair weather dove. If John Kerry had been able to make as cogent an argument back then against the rush to arms without due diligence, the 2004 election would have had a different result.

November 20, 2005

Episode 12: I guess the contract negotiations to bring back Ciaran Hinds for Season Two fell through....
You are, Number 6: Finally, a remake that's worth doing. [link via Democratic Daily]
Kudos to the Leland J. Stanford Jr. University, for becoming the first-ever college to lose to three different UC schools in the same football season. The school, located south of San Francisco in Palo Alto's bucolic suburbs, opened their season with a loss to Division II UC Davis, blew a three-touchdown lead with seven minutes to play to fall to UCLA, and capped their conference slate yesterday with a blow-out loss to CAL, 27-3, who was led by a quarterback starting his first game, Steve Levy. All three losses were at home; perhaps in response, the school fathers will demolish Stanford Stadium after their final game next week, against Notre Dame. No word yet if the diploma mill will try to break its record next season by scheduling Riverside, Santa Clara, or Santa Barbara State. Unbelievably, if the Cardinal win next week, they will become bowl-eligible.

November 19, 2005

It was bad enough they called Jack Murtha a coward, but now they have to dowdify him. The usually-sensible John Cole, in trying to justify that debacle yesterday in the House, writes:

Murtha stated he wants immediate withdrawal of the troops. His bill asked for deployment to be ‘hereby terminated.’ The GOP bill removes all the bullshit, and states that a vote of ‘aye’ means that you favbor exactly what Murtha said yesterday and proposed in his bill.


So shut up, quit your damned whining, reach down between your legs and grab a pair of grapes, and vote on the resolution. It is as simple as it gets. Do you favor immediate withdrawal of the troops from Iraq? Yes or no.

Even an unnuanced simpleton like me can figure this one out.

Okay, I'll bite: since when is it up to the GOP to "remove all the bullshit" from the resolutions of Congressmen from the other party? It would be unacceptable if their editing didn't change the meaning of the proposal, but in this instance, they clearly did. Murtha's resolution called for the immediate commencement of the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, an event that would clearly take place over a period of time, and according to the resolution, only "at the earliest practicable date". The GOP resolution purports to simply order the troops home, yesterday.

Language is important, a fact reinforced by the circumstances by which the Bush Administration conned into this quagmire in the first place. Justifying the revision of a sitting Representative's resolution in an effort to embarass the other side is not only demogogic, it's wrong. One can just as easily argue that the President is correct when he says, “we don’t do torture”. Clearly, all the President, the Attorney General, the Defense Secretary and the rest of his thugs have done is taken the Geneva Conventions, as well as basic standards of human decency, and “removed all the bullshit” about the appropriate way to treat enemy combatants, etc. It's the same damn thing, and the lucky fact that Jean Schmidt dropped a turd in the punch bowl during yesterday's debate only shows that the Supreme Deity has a wicked sense of humor when it comes to striking back at those who have lost the Mandate of Heaven.