July 23, 2005

As a habit, I never read Nicholas Kristof columns, largely because his topics don't interest me, as well as the fact that his writing style is maybe the blandest possessed by any Times Columnist since Flora Lewis. But tomorrow's column, about the "shame" of liberals in ignoring North Korea's horrendous human rights record, certainly grabbed my attention. And here I was, thinking that my willful refusal to denounce Maximum Leader Kim jong-il would remain undetected...or could it simply be that progressives can do next to nothing for the North Koreans, insofar as we're not the ones in power at the moment. For an example of what a column should be, without the strawmen and desperate attempts to overcome writer's block, read Frank Rich's contribution tomorrow, on PlameGate.
Winston Churchill has been treated kindly by history, deservedly so, for his leadership of Great Britain during World War II (even if it essentially meant giving inspiring speeches to his countrymen while waiting for Hitler to do something really stupid, like attack the Soviet Union or declare war on us), but it also helpful to remember that even great men can have scummy qualities as well. Here's a passage by Churchill, in his own words, that is replete with the sort of racism that would make David Duke blush. No wonder post-colonial Africa is such a mess.
...but they grind exceedingly fine: According to the Guardian, the PlameGate investigation is now examining the issue of who forged the Niger Documents that were at the center of the controversy concerning Joe Wilson. This has been such a hot potato that the Senate committee charged with investigating the intelligence failures that led us into the debacle in Iraq refused to pursue the matter. Special prosecutor Fitzgerald's inquiry is currently focusing on whether elements within the U.S. Government collaborated with Iraqi exiles to spin the bogus documents, then presumably leaking Mrs. Wilson's identity to cover their tracks. [link via Digby]

July 22, 2005

Although I respect their passion on this issue, these bloggers are in danger of jumping the tracks over the use of what has become a rather banal piece of political jargon. Although the term "strict constructionist" has been warped in past use as code for judical conservatism, it actually refers to a judicial philosophy that is separate and distinct from "originalism". A contructionist looks to the "plain meaning" of the text, with the framer's intent becoming important only if the text is capable of several meanings; for the most part, the "clear meaning" will be the "framer's intent". An originalist is only concerned with the framer's intent; if the drafter(s) of the text meant something different than what the text appears to be saying, then you go with what the drafters wanted, and ignore the plain meaning of the statute today.

The example we were always given in law school concerned civil rights cases. An originalist ignored the literal meaning of the words in the 14th Amendment, for example, and attempted to assay what its drafters thought back in the late-1860's when they drafted those words, in order to give them meaning. Since many of the drafters were comfortable with Jim Crow laws in the North at the time the 14th Amendment was ratified, the "separate but equal" doctrine could survive constitutional muster when reconciling the clear language of the 14th Amendment with the actual beliefs of its drafters. A "strict constructionist", on the other hand, emphasized both the clear language of the amendment and the impact "separate but equal" laws would have on African-Americans, and saw a contradiction. The majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson was an originalist one, while Justice Harlan's dissent was based on a strict interpretation of the actual language of the 13th and 14th Amendments.

In all honesty, I'm a bit creeped out by any judicial candidate discussing (or being asked about) his "philosophy", unless that philosophy is essentially that he will be fair, unbiased and without prejudice. Although the example listed above is a clear case of a strict interpretation of the Constitution leading to a better, more humane result than an originalist reading, there are cases (such as the meaning of "freedom of speech") where the views of the Framers are more expansive than those who take the strict constructionist view, ie., that the right only extends to the barring of legislation infringing on vocal expressions. Depending on your ideology, one man's activist judge is another's strict constructionist. Possessing a "philosophy" should be a disqualifying demerit for any judicial nominee, and one of the few hopeful signs so far about Roberts is that he doesn't appear to be wed to any.
How is it possible to defame a child molestor?

July 21, 2005

'60's YD'er Makes Good: Perhaps the most effective Congressman in California history, Henry Waxman, has started a diary over at the Daily Kos site. My dad would be so proud....
There have been some bizarre analogies involving events in Europe sixty years ago with the events of today, but this has got to be the strangest: critics of the Iraqi Adventure are just like...Jews being marched to the ovens ?!?
Small Bombings in London; Not Any Dead. Sorry, I couldn't resist....

July 20, 2005

Ann Coulter, plagiarist? You make the call...apparently, according to resident ilsagrapher Scoobie Davis, this has been the recurring M.O. throughout her career. This incident several years ago is an even more egregious example, since the work she ripped off was turned into a bestselling book.
24,865: Those are the number of violence-related civilian casualties in Iraq in the twenty-four months after hostilities started in March, 2003, according to this study. [link via The Poor Man]
This blogger seems to think that Bush has not flip-flopped on the issue of whether he will cashier anyone who leaked the identity of our secret agents to reporters out of sheer spite, and, in fact, makes a compelling case that Bush has been an oily sleezebag on this issue from the start(although it's unclear whether the original promise to "take care of" anyone who violated the law really amounts to the same thing as "fire"). I sometimes wonder whether the hard right really knows they aren't doing the President any favors by defending the likes of Karl Rove.

July 19, 2005

Terrific NY Times piece, on the type of person who becomes a paparazzo:
He sits at nightfall in his home office in the San Fernando Valley, a dimly lighted room except for the glow emanating from his computer, his flat-screen television, and a half-dozen other state-of-the-art gadgets. He is showing off a little: not just his high-tech toys, but the quality of his information.

"That's the thing that's valuable," Mr. Griffin says, explaining how his cash payoffs to tipsters can come to $100,000 a year. "The best ones are the ones who do it for pure greed. Because nothing else colors their judgment."

He opens a drawer, pulls out a few stacks of paper. Here, he says, are this week's scheduled movements of every famous passenger of a major limousine company in Los Angeles. He has an employee of the limo company on retainer, with bonuses "if there's results."

Here, too, are what Mr. Griffin describes as the passenger manifests of every coast-to-coast flight on American Airlines, the biggest carrier at Los Angeles International Airport. "I get the full printout," he says. "If they fly any coastal flight, I know. I can also find anybody in the world within 24 hours, I guarantee it. If they don't mask the tail number on a private plane, I'll find it." He says he has law-enforcement officers on his payroll, too, and can have a license plate checked in an hour on weekdays, 20 minutes on weekends.


He pulls out a photocopy of what he says are the transcribed notes of a top film actress's examination by her doctor, and points to a reference to her breast implants.
What's really sad is that these people's lives revolve around getting a candid photo of...Alyssa Milano? Anyways, why can't the local paper get entertainment reporting like this?
The Supremes: Rumor has it that Edith "Joy" Clement will be nominated tonight to fill the O'Connor seat on the Supreme Court. Clement has been a federal judge for fourteen years, and an appellate judge for four; both times she was confirmed by 99-0 votes. People for the American Way has a page sampling some of her appellate decisions, but if this is the worst they have to offer, she shouldn't have any problems getting confirmed.

UPDATE: The timing of the nomination hasn't been lost on the media. According to Reuters:
Sources said the timing of an announcement had been moved up in part to deflect
attention away from a CIA leak controversy that has engulfed Bush's top
political adviser, Karl Rove. A Republican strategist with close to the White
House described Clement as the leading candidate. "She's pretty
," he said. "Plus, it helps take Rove off the front pages
for a week
Unless, of course, it isn't Clement after all; ABC is reporting that an "informed source" told them that Judge Clement was notified this afternoon that Bush had decided to go in "a different direction".

UPDATE [II]: CNN is now reporting that Bush has picked John Roberts for the spot. Good--another white boy. We can filibuster this guy and not lose any sleep...

UPDATE [III]: ...or maybe we should just sleep on it. Several progressive bloggers are actually quite sanguine about this nomination, with one posting that it indicates how far Bush's star has fallen in the last few weeks that he has to settle for Roberts. We don't have to even think about a filibuster until after the Judiciary Committee decides whether to forward his nomination to the floor, which probably won't be til late September anyway.

July 18, 2005

Remember Heath Shuler? A former high first round pick by Washington (as a Blue Stater, this site has a policy of not printing racist slurs unless it's really, really necessary, so the team's nickname will be omitted), Shuler's NFL career quickly fizzled. But just to show that he's no Ryan Leaf or Todd Marinovich, Mr. Shuler has decided to run for Congress next year in North Carolina, as a Democrat !! That's right; there is actually a real life, honest-to-goodness, highly-paid white pro athlete who is also a Democrat. I haven't been so shocked since discovering John Malcovich was a Bush supporter.
Has any writer so completely and utterly destroyed whatever remaining bit of personal integrity he had faster than Christopher Hitchens? Going from an inheritor of the Mantle of Orwell and a self-proclaimed "contrarian" just a few years ago to a Pegleresque crank has got to cause anyone whiplash...I blame it all on Rickey Ray. Here, the once-inventive provocateur parrots Mehlman's Talking Points on the Plame Affair, including a reference to the discredited accusation that Valerie Plame "authorized" her husband's mission to Niger, and he might be the last person who still believes in the authenticity of the documents in question.

It would be like shooting fish in a barrel to come up with counter-examples for how he reacted when Clinton was President. He's gone from a defender and protector of Salman Rushdie to a supporter of the Bush Administration leaking leaking bogus information to discredit political opponents. The man has no bottom.
What earthly difference should it make to Mr. Alterman (or anyone else, for that matter) that the "extremely capable" Democratic opponent of George Pataki one election was African-American? Would it have been o.k. if the NY Times had endorsed Pataki over an "extremely capable" white nominee? Does the Grey Lady have some sort of responsibility to rubber-stamp endorsements of African-American Democrats?

Anyways, if whoever was so "extremely capable", how come he was running as a Democrat in New York, but still couldn't win?

July 17, 2005

What I Learned This Weekend While Attending My Cousin Dean's Wedding:

1. Never, ever go to Las Vegas in July unless you really, really have to. Lord, it was a scorcher. On the outskirts of the city, where the wedding took place, the thermometer got as high as 118°, and even at night, it rarely dipped below 100. Man was not meant to live in such an environment. Of course, casinos are always air-conditioned....

2. Avoid video blackjack. The odds are even more decisively in favor of the house than they are at the tables, where you at least have more options to double down, and the speed at which you can play ensures that at some point, you will encounter the bane of any player, which is the prolonged losing streak. If you must play video blackjack, do not drink. Besides the fact that the casino is comping the drink precisely so that you stay longer, you will end up doing things without thinking that you would never do at the tables. There is nothing better at killing the human spirit and shredding any sense of dignity than accidently hitting on 20 (twice !!), unless it's hitting on 19, getting dealt an ace, but still losing to the dealer's 21.

3. If you like to gamble, avoid the Strip. Most of the high-rent hotels aim for higher rollers, so the table minimums can be prohibitive for a working-class stiff like myself (my family stayed at The Venetian, which is tres posh). Downtown is less pretentious, has lower table limits, and you can even find places where they play single-deck blackjack, if you happen to possess certain Rain Man-like talents. Hotels on the Strip may be more comfortable, but you are not honor-bound to patronize their facilities, and the Downtown casinos are only a cheap cab ride away.

4. Never go to Vegas on a weekend of a major event, such as a title fight or a poker championship, both of which converged on the city at the same time Saturday. It pretty much made the south end of the Strip unnegotiable, so going to the MGM Grand or Mandalay Bay (two favorite stops of mine) was out of the question.

5. (For L.A. residents only) Always assume that at some point on a weekend visit, you will hit a major traffic jam both coming and going. Although there is plenty of room to do so, the federal government has never seen its way to construct a third lane of traffic for the I-15, so any accident or mishap will effect cars hundreds of miles away. Just accept the things you have no control over.