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.