Thursday, June 29, 2006

More on the Supreme Court

Signs of a not-quite unified Court in today's Hamdan decision:

Stevens, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I through IV, VI through VI-D-iii, VI-D-v, and VII, in which Kennedy,Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts V and VI-D-iv, in which Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Kennedy, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined as to Parts I and II. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia, J., joined, and in which Alito, J., joined as to all but Parts I, II-C-1, and III-B-2. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia and Thomas, JJ., joined as to Parts I through III. Roberts, C. J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Also, read more here about the ruling requires the Administration to comply with its Geneva Code obligations. If Marty Lederman's take is correct, the Court may have put an end to torture as U.S. foreign policy (assuming, of course, Bush feels the need to comply with the Court's order -- cue maniacal laughter now).

Supreme Court cojones

The Supreme Court just struck down the Gitmo kangaroo courts. The NY Times article:

In typical recent fashion, the opinion appears to be a hodge podge of concurrences, partial joinders, and dissent (Clarence Thomas read his dissent from the bench, a first in his 15 years on the Court, just to affirm how much he buys into the Administration's bullshit on the WAR ON TERROR.) And Justice Roberts had to recuse himself, since he had backed the Administration in the lower courts.

Still, it's a huge victory for human rights, and huge rebuke to President Bush. Is our long national nightmare coming to an end? Probably not, but savor the justice done today.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What Superhero are you?

The results from my answers to the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz at
You are Iron Man
Inventor. Businessman. Genius.
Iron Man
The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman

Very pleasing that I am only 30% Robin. But only 40% Batman? I am way more Batman.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Remembering the Q-Dog

Last week, Q, our family dog for 15 years, died quietly in the night. He was a wonderful little border collie, who loved nothing more than to spend time with my Dad -- except, possibly, eating string cheese. We love you Q, and we miss you.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Democrats and Iraq

Go over to Talking Points Memo and read Josh Marshall's open letter to the Democrats regarding the Iraq War. Do it now. Here's the link:

I think he's absolutely right. If the Democrats try to campaign on a platform of "Date certain for withdrawal," they will squander the biggest opportunity for electoral gain since Emancipation. If the Democrats instead campaign on the platform of, "The President Has No Plan (and Never Did)," the Democrats win.

[Question left begging: What's the Democrats' plan? Answer: Doesn't matter! The reality is the Democrats in Congress cannot control the ground operations in Iraq anyway. What they can do is hold the President and the Administration accountable to Congress, and by cliched extension, The People. This will force the Administration to acknowledge the stark reality in Iraq.]

[Double bonus parenthetical comment: What about advocating more -- yes, more! -- troops in Iraq, to "secure the borders Bush never secured." How would that play? Anyone? Bueller?]

Being a lawyer

I read this today on, which itself was quoting another blog by a female attorney named "Megan," who has this to say:

They [meaning male lawyers] went to law school because they weren't sure who they were, stayed because it is all-engrossing, and became lawyers because it is ****ing hard not to after law school. But I don't think many of them like it, and I don't think most ever made an affirmative choice to find what they love and do it.

Boy does that have the echo of truth (though in my case, I never planned to be a lawyer, but sort of fell back on it after leaving Wall Street). I know many attorneys who took jobs at large law firms because, well, that's who was hiring, and offering huge sums of money. And then you get stuck -- with rent, mortgage, children, etc. -- and then 10-20-30 years go by, and that's your life.

Stay tuned for further ruminations on this topic.

Picture of the Year II

From Ben Riley, some dirty pigeons eating vomit outside my office.

Picture of the year I

From the Associated Press, a picture of the wildfire raging in Sedona, Arizona.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Watching World Cup with the Brits

There are few things more entertaining than watching Brits make fun of ESPN's coverage of the World Cup. Some things I have learned:

1. It's called a "penalty," not a "PK," nor a "penalty kick" (because there is no such thing as a "penalty throw in.")

2. Statistics such as "The US has never come back from being a goal down in World Cup play!" and "The US is 0-437-0 when trailing in the 77th minute" and "The US has never scored a goal when Bruce Arena is picking his nose instead of substituting a player with fresh legs!" don't help build enthusiasm for the team.

3. When you have to explain basic rules of the sport -- "if the defense fouls the offense within the penalty box, the offense is awarded a 'PK'" -- you pretty much are conceding that the US is clueless.

4. The reason so many officiating calls go against? President Bush's foreign policy.

5. Might be helpful to tell the viewers how much extra time's been awarded before the extra time is halfway expired. Just a suggestion.

Referees 1, Ben's back hair 0

Naught but two days ago, I wrote:

4. 2006 is the year sports referees took 15 years off my life. After the debacle that was the 2006 Super Bowl, I thought I'd seen the worse in bad officiating. But watching the referee of the US-Italy game yank red cards out of his pocket with giddy abandon made me age another 10 years on Saturday. My back hair has turned gray.

Well, I just gained another 20 years and my back hair has fallen out (thank god). Moments after the US equalized with Ghana in the first half, breathing new life into the American team, the referee decided to award a penalty because a US defender decided to, er, defend the ball. Kasey "Janky" Keller failed to stop the penalty, we went into the half down 2-1, and for all intents and purposes, it was over.

I love sports. But I am getting tired of investing so much emotional energy into events, only to have the outcome dictated by some dipshit overeager to interfere with the playing of the game. And now, please, will soccer agree it's time for instant replay?

Monday, June 19, 2006

World Cup: six observations

We are almost into the final round of games at the World Cup group state. Ratings this year are through the roof -- in fact, the USA-Italy game was even the lead story on ESPN, the ultimate arbiter of sports-worthiness. I've been getting up most every morning at 6 am to watch the first game of the day, then skipping out of work at lunch to see the final game. And after 50+ hours of Cup coverage, I have five observations:

1. High-definition television will finally create a permanent soccer culture in the U.S. Everyone keeps wondering when soccer is going to escape its tennis-like status in the American sports hierarchy. The answer is HD broadcasting. Watching the widescreen, super-sharp picture, you see the entire game unfold -- long passes that look like mindless kicks on regular TV are infused with potential.

2. Marcelo Balboa, the color commentator for ABC and ESPN, sure likes stressing every second word of his pointless observations. "You haaaaave to score a goal to win. You neeeeeed to get the three points in the group. You caaaaaaan't let the other team score more than you. I liiiiiiiike what I see from the US right now."

3. The fanaticism of the South Korean fans -- yes, South Korean -- is hard to fathom. Yesterday, South Korea played France in . For 90 minutes, the Korean fans banged drums, sang songs, and generally screamed their heads off in support of their team. France, of course, shared a border with Germany, whereas Korea shares a border with the Pacific Ocean. An impressive display that will make Korea a surprisingly hard team to beat going forward.

4. 2006 is the year sports referees took 15 years off my life. After the debacle that was the 2006 Super Bowl, I thought I'd seen the worse in bad officiating. But watching the referee of the US-Italy game yank red cards out of his pocket with giddy abandon made me age another 10 years on Saturday. My back hair has turned gray.

5. "Jose" from the Adidas advertisement doesn't know shit about picking a soccer team. Do you know those Adidas ads with the two street kids from some unidentified Latin American country who pick teams? Jose, the less fat kid, has the first pick and he picks freakin' Djibril Cisse, an erratic French forward more famous for his hair than his actual ability (Cisse isn't even starting for France). The fat kid immediately takes Beckham -- smart move, Gordito! -- and you have to wonder: what the f*** was Jose thinking?

6. If you aren't watching US-Ghana on Thursday, I don't know what's wrong with you. Quite simply, the biggest World Cup game in our nation's history. "You haaaaaaave to support them. They neeeeeeed to win to advance. It wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiill be a huge game." USA! USA! USA!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Guestblogging: Yoda

Another Star Wars missive, from the same source:

Terrific role model for girls, Jada Pinkett-Smith is. Accomplished in her professional and personal life, she is. Another testimony to her great attitude for girls to follow, her book is. Commendable, any book that aims to help girls feel better about themselves and to stand up for themselves is.

Guest blog: Jar Jar and the Avia Flu

My friend Michael writes in again to report on Jar Jar Binks' take on the Avian flu:

Does the current seasonal influenza vaccine protect mee-sa from avian influenza?

Gungans have grand army. That's why you no liking us meesa thinks.No. Influenza vaccine for the 2005-06 season does not provide protection against avian influenza.If mee-sa be returnin, the Bosses will do terrible things to me! Tewwwwible things!

Should Mee-sa wear surgical mask to prevent exposure to avian influenza?

Currently, wear'in mask no recommenda for routine use (e.g., in public) for prevent'in influenza exposure.

In the Cloud City, disposable surgical an' procedure masks widely used in health-care sett'ins to prevent exposure to respiratory infections, but the masks have not been used commonly in community sett'ins, such as schools, businesses, an' public gath-a'ins.

There risk for becom'in infecta with avian influenza by eat'in poultry?

There no evidence that properly cooka poultry or eggs can be source of infection for avian influenza viruses. For more information about avian influenza an' munchin safety issues, visit the World Health Organization website .The Cloud City government carefully controls domestic an' importa munchin products, an' in 2004 issua ban on importation of poultry from countries affecta by avian influenza viruses, includ'in the H5N1 strain. This ban still in place. For more information, see Embargo of Mynoks, .

Die wanna wanga?Wee-sa have small flock of chickens. it safe to keep them?

How rude.

Yes. In the Cloud City there no need at present to remove flock of chickens because of concerns regard'in avian influenza. The Cloud City Department of Agriculture monitors potential infection of poultry an' poultry products by avian influenza viruses an' oth-a infectious disease agents.

Quick cartoon quiz

OK, pop quiz. The above picture was taken from:

(a) Fox's new Saturday morning cartoon show, "The Animal Gang"

(b) PBS's public interest campaign promoting endangered species protection, "Endanger Rangers"

(c) The National Security Agency's website "CryptoKids!" devoted to recruiting small children into the most secretive intelligence agency of the US government

Suprise! It's (c)! Read more at to find out how your six year old can pursue an exciting career in warrantless wiretapping and illegal eavesdropping! For a particularly creepy take, read the bio of Seargant Sam of the Central Security Service!

McCain and Hillary

Interesting post by Daniel Drezner comparing recent economic pronouncements by Senators McCain and Clinton.

If Hillary focused more on issues like this -- and less on, say, sex in video games -- I'd find her more appealing on paper. In person, she's still a wooden stiff who gives me hives.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

More Orwell from our government

Speaking about our internment camp in Guantanamo Bay, our military says this:

"It's the most transparent detention facility in the history of warfare," insisted Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, echoing comments by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

This on the same day the government announces that journalists are barred from the facility as the Pentagon "investigates" the recent suicides.

Oceania is at war with Eurasia...

With remarkable speed, we've invented a new bogeyman to hunt down and kill in Iraq. His name is Abu Al-Masri.

According to one of our leading generals, this signals that "the leadership of al Qaeda is in disarray." Of course, Al Qaeda has never had a "leadership" in any meaningful sense of the word -- bin Laden's camps consisted of a constallation of random jihadists who relied on Osama's financial backing.

What it actually signals is the deep paranoia that has infected our goverment and our populace. Yesterday, Zarqawi was the most fearsome terrorist in Iraq. Today, it's Al-Masri. Yesterday, we were at war with Eastasia. Today, Eurasia...

World Cup tiebreakers: a legal view

I thought I’d look up the rule on tiebreakers in the World Cup at the group stage. Here’s the official rule from FIFA (Section XVIII, Article 31, #5):

The ranking of each team in each group will be determined as

a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;

b) goal difference in all group matches;

c) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.

If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria,
their rankings will be determined as follows:

d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between
the teams concerned;

e) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the
teams concerned;

f) greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the
teams concerned;

g) drawing of lots by the Organising Committee for the FIFA World

Here’s what this tells us. The first tie breaker is goal difference, NOT head to head. The second tie breaker is total goals scored – also not head to head.

(d) through (g) is where it gets interesting. If two teams (assume one team is eliminated, a la Paraguay) are tied after invoking (a) through (c), then you look to greatest number of points attained in matches between the teams concerned – i.e., head to head. But if there was a draw, you go to (e) – goal difference scored in the head to head matched. But by definition, you can only get to (e) if there was a draw between the teams concerned -- so there could be no goal difference to speak of! So you proceed straight to (f), greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned. But guess what? Once again, by definition, you can only get to (f) if you tied in the head-to-head game, thus, there can be no “greater number of goals.” So you end up at (g), the completely random “drawing of lots.”

Again, if there is a three-way tie, then d-f may be of some use. Otherwise, to the lots! Note: the phrasing in (f) is slightly changed and read goals scored in “all group matches” rather than “the group matches” in d and e. The logical explanation is that (f) is referring to all group matches, but then it adds the clause “between the teams concerned.” Very confusing, and open to multiple interpretations.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bush Eye

June 16, 2001:

"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy….I was able to get a sense of his soul." —George W. Bush, after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin

From Human Rights Watch:

Russian Government Targeting Rights Activists Working on Chechnya

(New York, January 22, 2005)—Alleged pro-Russian forces in Chechnya have abducted a Chechen human rights defender, Makhmut Magomadov, Human Rights Watch said today. The abduction follows raids in recent weeks by Russian law enforcement on two human rights groups that work on Chechnya.

* * *

President Bush in Iraq, June 13, 2006:

"Today I have come to not only thank you but to look Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes, to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are," Mr. Bush said to the troops, many of whom held up cameras to take a picture of him. "And I believe he is."

Abuse Cited In 2nd Jail Operated by Iraqi MinistryOfficial Says 12 Prisoners Subjected to 'Severe Torture'
By Ellen KnickmeyerWashington Post Foreign ServiceMonday, December 12, 2005; A01
BAGHDAD, Dec. 11 -- An Iraqi government search of a detention center in Baghdad operated by Interior Ministry special commandos found 13 prisoners who had suffered abuse serious enough to require medical treatment, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday night.
An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said that at least 12 of the 13 prisoners had been subjected to "severe torture," including sessions of electric shock and episodes that left them with broken bones.

Guest Blogger: The Volcano! Enthusiast

A close friend recently spent a Sunday night curled up with a National Geographic special on volcanoes. I thought I'd pass along his minute-by-minute account.

June 11th
8:59- First hint of impending two hour long special appears as an advertisement on Discovery Channel
9:01pm- Initial plumes of volcanic ash spew forth from the slumbering giant as two hour special begins
9:05pm- Completion of bread and cheese snack slows volcano! enthusiast viewer in 1540 Waller significantly. Signs of catastrophic sleep during Krakatoa special first appear.
9:10pm- As volcano enthusiast eyes hit 82% closure the mountain in the special erupts. More than 20 cubic kilometres of tephra and pyroclastic flow (hot volcanic gases mixed with solid particles) were rained down on the surrounding area. The pyroclastic flow was so hot, it scorched and killed more than 2,000 people in Southern Sumatra which was more than 40 kilometres away.
9:12pm- Old world theatrical production style (reminiscent of 'Shakespeare in Love') that Krakatoa producers have chosen ensures complete collapse of volcano! enthusiast. There will be very feeble attempts at resurrection intermittently over the next couple of hours but each momentary stirring is met by the brutal force of the theatrical style which sends the viewer punishingly back into an overwhelming and near permanent state of sleep.
9:17pm- The much hyped statistic that, "The explosion of the Krakatoa was the loudest recorded sound in history" is first announced.
11:58pm- Volcano! enthusiast is violently awakened by the realization that he has eaten 60% of the front couch during the Krakatoa special and that contact eye wear has not been properly removed. Attempts at contact eye wear removal fail miserably as volcano! enthusiast slides face first between two cushions and drops unsparingly into another deep sleep chasm. The volcano! enthusiast will not stir for another five hours.
4:49am- Volcano! enthusiast finally takes self to a proper bed for the final stage of the evenings/morning's events. During the transition the volcano! enthusiast reminiscences about the previous series of events and concludes that the tsunami special prior to Krakatoa was far more interesting and effectively produced.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Parallax: World Cup

I've watched far too much World Cup already. I'm bleary, but maybe that's because the US just got -- what's the word -- crushed/shellacked/raped by the Czechs.

Rating the teams thus far:

1. Czech Republic -- Is the US just that bad, or are the Czechs that good? I think it's the latter -- the defense was incredible, and they have playmakers on offense.
2. Holland -- Robben was all over the field, Van der Sar might be the best keeper in the world. Still, why is Van Nistlerooy always being shown the bench?
3. Argentina -- They might be higher, except I fell asleep when they scored.
4. Mexico -- Ok, it was only Iran, but some beautiful goals and good defending. Gooooooooooal.
5. Germany -- Klose is amazing, and now they have Ballack too. But the defense is Suspect with a capital S, ja.
6. England -- They won, and they have talent, and yet: "You only scored own goal, you only scored own goal, you on-ly scooooored own goal...OWN GOAL!"
7. Italy -- Ghana gave them a run, but the offense looked potent.
8. Australia -- Ok, I missed this game, but they were clutch in the final minutes. I just wish I hadn't dropped Tim Cahill from my Premiership fantasy team.
9. Ecuador -- Ecuador isn't this good, Poland is just this bad.
10. Portugal -- Should have done more against Angola. Still, they got 3 points and should improve.
11. Ivory Coast -- Played a spirited second half; Drogba needs to get more involved if they want to survive the "Group of Death."
12. Trinidad & Tobago -- Held Sweden with 10 men for 45 minutes. Nice.
13. Paraguay -- Held England to no goals for 90 minutes. Also nice.
14. Japan -- Ok, I didn't see this one either, but their late collapse spells certain doom. They have brought shame upon themselves and their families.
15. Serbia and the now-independent Montenegro -- Montenegro just broke off from Serbia, forming their own country. They have two players on the Serbian team. You can rest assured this will be the last time we ever see anyone from Montenegro play in a World Cup.
16. Ghana -- Looked surprisingly frisky on offense, but shaky on defense.
17. Iran -- Do you root for the Iranians (because they are playing under tremendous pressure) or against them ("Axis of Evil" charter member and viciously anti-Semitic President)? You have two more games to decide.
18. Sweden -- Obviously better than 17th but c'mon -- against 3 Ts (ten men on Trinidad and Tobago) they couldn't even get a goal?
18. Costa Rica -- They didn't play horribly, but some one has to be 18th.
19. Angola -- Whatever.
20. Poland -- Snore.
21. United States -- Wow, we are an international laughingstock all over again.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dave Eggers on Soccer on Slate

Hilarious column from Dave Eggers on soccer in America (admittedly, an overdone topic.) I think he nails soccer's fundamental problem:

The second and greatest, by far, obstacle to the popularity of the World Cup, and of professional soccer in general, is the element of flopping. Americans may generally be arrogant, but there is one stance I … stand behind, and that is the intense loathing of penalty-fakers. There are few examples of American sports where flopping is part of the game, much less accepted as such. Things are too complicated and dangerous in football to do much faking. Baseball? It's not possible, really—you can't fake getting hit by a baseball, and it's impossible to fake catching one. The only one of the big three sports that has a flop factor is basketball, where players can and do occasionally exaggerate a foul against them, but get this: The biggest flopper in the NBA is not an American at all. He's Argentinian! (Manu Ginobili, a phony to end all phonies, but otherwise a very good player.)

But flopping in soccer is a problem. Flopping is essentially a combination of acting, lying, begging, and cheating, and these four behaviors make for an unappealing mix. The sheer theatricality of flopping is distasteful, as is the slow-motion way the chicanery unfolds. First there will be some incidental contact, and then there will be a long moment—enough to allow you to go and wash the car and return—after the contact and before the flopper decides to flop. When you've returned from washing the car and around the time you're making yourself a mini-bagel grilled cheese, the flopper will be leaping forward, his mouth Munch-wide and oval, bracing himself for contact with the earth beneath him. But this is just the beginning. Go and do the grocery shopping and perhaps open a new money-market account at the bank, and when you return, our flopper will still be on the ground, holding his shin, his head thrown back in mock-agony. It's disgusting, all of it, particularly because, just as all of this fakery takes a good deal of time and melodrama to put over, the next step is so fast that special cameras are needed to capture it. Once the referees have decided either to issue a penalty or not to our Fakey McChumpland, he will jump up, suddenly and spectacularly uninjured—excelsior!—and will kick the ball over to his teammate and move on.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Al-Zarqawi is dead

The leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq is dead. The newspapers rejoice. Short of finding Bin Laden, this is the best news President Bush has had in a long time.


Zarqawi was not really a member of Al Qaeda. For that matter, it's unclear to me if the concept of "Al Qaeda" has any meaning anymore, or indeed, if it ever did. (Did you know Bin Laden never used the term until after Sept. 11? I didn't, until I watched "The Power of Nightmares," the incredible 3-hour BBC documentary on the scarily similar rise of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and . . . neoconservatism.)

Or as Prof. Cole says:

"There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don't expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon."

My predictions:

1. Bush's popularity will surge 5-10% points, similar to when we found Saddam.

2. There will be a temporary lull in killings in Iraq. Not a cessation, just a lull, mostly as a result of the newfound authority the Iraqi president will be able to wield.

3. In two weeks, the murder-suicide rate will be close to what it was yesterday, i.e., very bad.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Libertarian Democrat

Apparently, Kos from Daily Kos is stealing my thunder, and declaring that he too is a "Libertarian Democrat." What does that mean?

A Libertarian Dem rejects government efforts to intrude in our bedrooms and churches. A Libertarian Dem rejects government "Big Brother" efforts, such as the NSA spying of tens of millions of Americans. A Libertarian Dem rejects efforts to strip away rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights -- from the First Amendment to the 10th. And yes, that includes the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.

So far, this isn't much different than what a traditional libertarian believes. Here is where it begins to differ (and it shouldn't).

A Libertarian Dem believes that true liberty requires freedom of movement -- we need roads and public transportation to give people freedom to travel wherever they might want. A Libertarian Dem believes that we should have the freedom to enjoy the outdoor without getting poisoned; that corporate polluters infringe on our rights and should be checked. A Libertarian Dem believes that people should have the freedom to make a living without being unduly exploited by employers. A Libertarian Dem understands that no one enjoys true liberty if they constantly fear for their lives, so strong crime and poverty prevention programs can create a safe environment for the pursuit of happiness. A Libertarian Dem gets that no one is truly free if they fear for their health, so social net programs are important to allow individuals to continue to live happily into their old age. Same with health care. And so on.

This is a bit ridiculous. If "social net programs" such as universal health care are defined as "libertarian," then the word has lost all meaning as a political identifier. Moreover, Kos's examples of "libertarianism" would be an anethma to many if not most self-identifying libertarians. Accepting his premise that "liberty" includes freedom of movement, most libertarians (even left-leaning ones) would introduce market-based reforms and privatization to mass transportation, to encourage innovation and lower costs (e.g., more private toll roads). Same with "strong crime prevention" -- almost universally, libertarians favor radical decriminalization of drugs and deescalation of the drug war.

Still, the underlying premise is sound: there is an opportunity for Democrats to become the party of individual freedom, a party that opposes big corporations and big government alike. I'll have more to say about this soon.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Five big questions for the Seahawks

Sure, it's June, but the Hawks season starts in a mere four months. Here are five critical questions for this year:

1. Will our secondary step up to stop the pass on third down? This was our fatal flaw last year. We signed Julian Peterson to make plays, and we drafted Kelly Jennings to step in at CB, but if those guys can't stop the pass plays on third and long, we're going to lose some games we should win.

2. Will Shaun Alexander continue his production? Alexander turns 29 in August. He's played four straight seasons without missing a game -- unbelievable for a RB -- carrying the ball 295, 326, 353, and 370 times. He's lost all-world tackle Steve Hutchinson. And he's on the cover of Madden. And our backup is Maurice Morris.

3. Is Nate Burleson the answer in the passing game? The Hawks were pissed that the Vikings poached Hutchinson, so we went out and got their best wide receiver. But Burleson took a huge step back last year, and I predict we're going to miss the sure hands of Joe Jurevicius.

4. If Matt Hasselbeck goes down, then what? First, the obvious: There is no position more vulnerable than quarterback. Second, the almost equally obvious: Seneca Wallace, for all his athleticism, is not an NFL starting quarterback. Will we sign a competent free agent before the season begins (see, e.g., Jamie Martin, formerly of the St. Louis Rams).

5. Will we shake off the Super Bowl hangover? No whining about bad calls. No dropped passes by our TE on the 1-yard line. No shitty clock management by the coach we just reupped.

While you are pondering these questions, read this blog. Daily.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Parallax: All Hollywood edition

From Variety, this weekend's box-office:

Weekend Estimate: June 2 - June 4, 2006
in millions
1 The Break-Up
$38.1 million
2 X-Men: The Last Stand
$34.4 million
3 Over the Hedge
$20.6 million
4 The Da Vinci Code
$19.3 million
5 Mission: Impossible III
$4.7 million
6 Poseidon
$3.4 million
7 RV
$3.3 million
8 See No Evil
$2.0 million
9 An Inconvenient Truth
$1.3 million
10 Just My Luck
$0.8 million

Wow, is it just me, or do all of those movies sound like complete shit? I like a good summer blockbuster as much as the next guy -- see, e.g., Batman Begins last year -- but these are garbage.

The future of the greatest show on television

Deadwood will end after four seasons, with two two-hour final episodes. Hopefully, this will prevent a Sopranos-like meltdown in quality. By the way, last night's Sopranos episode, in a word, sucked.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The best part of the S.F. Chronicle

It's absolutely absurd that a city as intellectual as San Francisco has the shittiest Metro newspaper I've ever read: The SF Chronicle. But it does have Don Rasmussen's "Bad Reporter," which manages to be extremely political and extremely hilarious.

Read the full-size version here.

Ok, the new site looks better...

But I couldn't post all morning due to technical difficulties. How can Myspace be easier and more reliable than google?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Brits on music -- insane or just dumb?

From Yahoo! News today:

Oasis beats Beatles in best album poll
Thu Jun 1, 6:52 AM ET

The debut album by Oasis, the band that best spread the Britpop craze of the 1990s, has been voted the greatest album of all time in a major music poll published.

"Definitely Maybe," which featured chart-topping hits such as "Live Forever" and "Supersonic," beat "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by the much-loved Beatles into second place in the survey of more than 40,000 music fans.

This is absurd, of course. But read on:

Another Beatles album, "Revolver," came third, followed by Radiohead's "OK Computer" and a second Oasis title, "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?."

Wait, so Oasis had both the first and fifth best album of all time? Does anyone suspect that an Oasis fan board maybe got wind of this poll? But the best is yet to come:

Only two bands from the United States had an album in the best 20. Nirvana came sixth with "Nevermind" and The Strokes were 20th with "Is This It."

Haditha: Dad's thoughts

My Dad writes in response to my post on CNN's coverage of Haditha:

I don't know if you have access to "On Demand" but A&E did a special, "Combat Diary, the Marines of Lima Company" that is well worth watching, especially in the context of Haditha. Lima Company was (a) the unit that was replaced by the unit that (allegedly, but we know from the leaking going on what the findings are going to be) killed the people; (b) Lima Company suffered the highest rate of casualties per capita of any unit in Iraq. Seeing the region and what day-to-day was like helps with understanding. I feel for both those who died and for those young men who will have to live with their nightmares.

As I wrote in reply, I have no understanding of what it's really like to go through combat. I do have a friend who fought in Iraq, and is about to go back, and he seems slightly unstable for it. War is a horrible thing.

Respect, finally, for the Hawks

FOX ranks the Seahawks as the #1 team heading into 2007. Of course, last year they picked the Eagles, so everyone should stay calm.

Chiluly: NY Times Unintentional Comedy rating of 9.6

The NY Times ran an absolutely hysterical article about Dave Chihuly today, the Seattle based artist responsible for those hideous glass sculptures that you see in office lobbies everywhere. It's so good, I feel the need to comment at length:

Glass Artists Face Off in Court

SEATTLE, May 31 — As an ever-moving maestro in the world where fine art and commerce converge, Dale Chihuly is perhaps the world's most successful glass artist.

What does "ever-moving maestro" mean? That Chihuly is, um, alive and breathing?

His clients include Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, and his elaborate installations of sea gardens and flower clusters show that mere sand transformed by fire can elevate a casino ceiling to the level of gallery spectacle.

Anyone surprised to find out Gates and Clinton have no taste? Anyone? (By the way, the casino ceiling referred to is the Bellagio. If you've ever stayed at the Bellagio under the illusion it's classy, my sincere apologies. The place is a monument to bad taste.)

But now Mr. Chihuly is in the midst of a hard-edged legal fight in federal court here over the distinctiveness of his creations and, more fundamentally, who owns artistic expression in the glass art world.

Nice. Legal battle -- we're on my turf.

Mr. Chihuly has sued two glass blowers, including a longtime collaborator, for copyright infringement, accusing them of imitating his signature lopsided creations, and other designs inspired by the sea.

"Designs inspired by the sea"? "Signature lopsided creations"? Hmm, sounds like a surefire loser. But maybe there's more to the story.

"About 99 percent of the ocean would be wide open," Mr. Chihuly said in an interview. "Look, all I'm trying to do is to prevent somebody from copying me directly."

Hmm, so Chiluly claims rights to 1% of the ocean. Let's see:

World's ocean volume : 1340 million km³(from wikipedia)
One percent of world's ocen volume = 13.4 million km³ (from simple math)

That's more than the total area of the United States. The ego on this guy.

The glass blowers say that Mr. Chihuly is trying to control entire forms, shapes and colors and that his brand does not extend to ancient and evolving techniques derived from the natural world.

Ancient techniques existed for creating hideous eyesores for the Bellagio?

"Just because he was inspired by the sea does not mean that no one else can use the sea to make glass art," said Bryan Rubino, the former acolyte named in the suit who worked for Mr. Chihuly as a contractor or employee for 14 years. "If anything, Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly."

Nice. This comment makes no sense at all, but I like the idea of Mother Nature impleading into the action as the real-party-in-interest.

The suit, rare in art circles, offers a sometimes unflattering glimpse at how high-powered commercial artists like Mr. Chihuly work. The two glass blowers say that he has very little to do with much of the art, and that he sometimes buys objects and puts the Chihuly name on them, a contention that Mr. Chihuly strongly denies.

He acknowledges that he has not blown glass for 27 years, dating from a surfing accident that cost him the full range of shoulder motion, an injury that struck three years after he had lost sight in his left eye in a traffic accident.

Jesus Christ, how big of a klutz is Dave Chihuly?

Still, Mr. Chihuly said, he works with sketches, faxes and through exhortation. Nothing with his name on it ever came from anyone but himself, he said.

Wait, what? He works with faxes? Through exhortation? What the hell does that mean? Surely, the NY Times isn't going to buy this garbage, is it?

Andrew Page, editor of Glass: The Urban Glass Art Quarterly, which is published in New York, said that Mr. Chihuly deserved a high place in the pantheon of glass artists, but that the suit could hurt his reputation by igniting countercharges and opening a window into how a celebrity artist works on a mass scale.

There is a quarterly magazine devoted to Urban Glass Art. We will pause now while I go shove a potato peeler into my eye.

"I think Dale Chihuly is a pure original," Mr. Page said. "He has a tremendous sense of color and composition. And he has done a tremendous amount for the field. But this lawsuit may have been the worst thing he could have done."

A tremendous amount for the field? Did the field even exist before Chihuly? For that matter, can it even be described as a "field" along side, I don't know, impressionism or pottery? URBAN GLASS BLOWING???

A butcher's son from hardscrabble Tacoma, Mr. Chihuly, 64, operates out of a cavernous boathouse on Lake Union with a split-tree table inside that seats 200 and a lap pool with a riotous sprouting of glass objects beneath a clear floor.

"Hardscrabble" Tacoma? What does that mean? Is that even a word? I mean, a word that people actually use?

The artist has 93 employees, part of a veritable fine art factory called Chihuly Inc. When celebrities like Robin Williams or Colin L. Powell visit Seattle, the boathouse is often the sole stop they want to make.

Robin, Colin, please join Bill and Bill on the list of "Celebrities the NY Times just outed as having white-trash taste."

Mr. Chihuly said he had no choice but to use the courts to try to eliminate "knockoffs" by people trying to profit from his empire.

"This lawsuit is not about money," he said, puttering around the boathouse in paint-splattered shoes with a lawyer and publicity agent in tow. "It's about what is fair. There are a million forms you can make that don't look like mine."

A couple of observations on this passage:

-- Chihuly works with glass, not paint, though even then only through "faxes" and "exhortation" due to his mishaps with a surfboard and traffic
-- No grown man should be described as "puttering."

In a 2003 copyright case involving glass art, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled against an artist who said another artist had used his design of jellyfish encased in glass. The two designs looked similar, but the court said no one could copyright nature.

The case the NY Times refers to is Savata v. Lowry. The Ninth Circuit held that artist Savata, who apparently was really into making glass jellyfish sculptures, could not prevent another artist from making glass jellyfish sculptures:

Satava may not prevent others from depicting jellyfish with tendril-like tentacles or rounded bells, because many jellyfish possess those body parts. He may not prevent others from depicting jellyfish in bright colors, because many jellyfish are brightly colored. He may not prevent others from depicting jellyfish swimming vertically, because jellyfish swim vertically in nature and often are depicted swimming vertically.

Brilliant legal minds at work here.

There's more, but I think you get the gist.

Politics in California

Last year, Gov. Girlymen sponsored a citizen's referendum (Prop. 77) that would have created an independent non-partisan (or at least bipartisan) panel to redistrict California's state legislative districts. At the time, Schwarzegger's popularity was at 40%, and the measure went down in flames, largely because Democrats such as Curly Fries Pelosi decided to run ads against it (and the Governor).

Which was too bad, because the idea is a great one. Essentially, both parties have made elections and electoral politics completely polarized and/or uninteresting, by creating "safe" districts where Republicans and Democrats are guaranteed reelection. This leads to voter apathy and extremist politicians -- a volatile and unfortunate combination.

What a difference a year makes. Recently, the Commonwealth Club of California announced its bipartisan "Voices of Reform" coaliting project, supporting -- wait for it -- redistricting reform. the coalition includes:

Former Congressman Leon Panetta; Former State Senate Republican Leader James Brulte; Former State Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg; League of Women Voters President Jackie Jacobberger; Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher; Former State Treasurer Matt Fong; Former State Attorney General John Van de Kamp; California Common Cause Executive Director Kathay Feng; former Chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce George Kieffer; and People’s Advocate CEO Ted Costa. Leading the coalition are Democrat Fred Keeley, former Speaker pro Tem of the State Assembly, and Republican Dan Schnur, former Communications Director for Governor Wilson.

Bipartisan! Distinguished! And completely silent when Prop. 77 was on the ballot and the Governator's ratings sucked! That's impressive political courage, no?