Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Iranian kidnapping incident


Why has Iran kidnapped 15 British soldiers, forcing an international incident that is becoming increasingly perilous and dangerous -- not just for the poor soldiers, but for the entire world?

Some theories:

1. The British soldiers really were in Iranian waters. If this were true, then Iran's actions make some sense -- Iran, like any other country, does have the right to protect the territorial integrity of its water. The problem with this explanation is that seems unlikely to be true; the Iranian government initially provided coordinates that demonstrated the soldiers were in Iraqi waters.

2. Iran is an irrational state with no coherent strategy. Just as Robert Mugabe is driving Zimbabwe into ruin, and just as Kim Jong-Il is happy to see his own citizens starve, the mullahs of Iran increasingly look as if they are eager to join the "insane world leaders" club. I think this is unlikely too, because no country has benefitted more from the Iraqi invasion than Iran, and the mullahs are more savvy than crazy.

3. The mullahs are trying to shore up domestic support. Internal Iranian politics remain somewhat of a black box, and Iran's President Assholejabadieni may not be sitting well with Iran's young, educated populace. If that's so, the mullahs might be trying to get into a "Wag the Dog" situation and bolstering their popularity. This would explain the televised confession of the female soldier, but apart from that, I have no evidence to support this theory.

4. Iran is trying to probe the boundaries and international constraints on its behavior. Assume Iran is a "rational actor" state, i.e., Iran acts in rational pursuit of its self-interest. Assume as well that Iran is poised to exert increasing military and political influence ove the entire Middle East, and may soon be engaged in a Middle Eastern Cold War with Sunni states such as Syria and Saudi Arabia. Assume finally that Iran is pursuing an active nuclear weapons program that may be operational within 5-10 years.

If these assumptions are true, then it makes sense that Iran needs to find out what constraints the international community will put on its behavior. Unlike the Cold War, where the US and the USSR essentially did whatever they wanted to, Iran knows it is about to enter a dangerous (but exciting!) new realm. Already Iran is facing new pressure as a result of the weapons being funneled to Iraqi insurgents, the concern over its nuclear program, and the anti-Semitic ramblings of its President. Iran wants to know just how much pressure it can put on large states allied with the US, such as, say, Britain.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Paul Robinson Goal

A breakthrough at TPV -- YouTube videos of English Premiership soccer!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dissecting the foreign policy of Sparta in "300" (WARNING: MINOR SPOILER ALERT)

So I watched "300" on IMAX last night. Longtime TPV readers, all six of you, may remember that I was hyping this movie back in September.

Overall verdict? Visually stunning, and the plot moves along quickly enough that you can ignore the egregiously stupid dialogue without too much effort. Worth seeing in the theater, and definitely worth seeing on IMAX, if that option's available.

As has been noted elsewhere, the movie is hopelessly racist, homophobic, and -- most glaringly -viciously discriminatory against people with disabilities. Indeed, the heroes of the movie, the Spartans, practice an extreme form of eugenic infanticide, whereby any nonperfect baby is murdered at birth. Remember, these are the good guys!

But what I found most egregiously offensive was the Spartan foreign policy. Consider this: the movie begins with the Persian army massing in the Aegan Sea, preparing to invade Greece. The King of Persia, Xerxes -- protrayed in the movie as a seven foot tall gay guy who lives in an opium den populated with disfigured lesbians -- has sent an emissary to meet with the Spartan King, Leonidas. Bear in mind that Xerxes controlled all of Persia, the middle East, northern Africa, and India and Afghanistan, and had the world's biggest army. Xerxes offer to the Spartans was simple: if the Spartans would offer a handful of dirt as token tribute, he'd turn his army around and leave Greece in peace, sastified that they had been subjugated.

At this point, every rational human adult should be thinking: "Take the deal." Since the Spartans have prepared for war anyway, even if Xerxes isn't exactly trustworth, there's no harm in accepting the offer and seeing what happens. If Xerxes breaks his promise, the Spartan Army is no worse off than before, and indeed, may even be inspired to fight harder. Alternatively, if Xerxes isn't lying, you've just saved yourself the 3000 B.C. equivalent of World War Three, at the cost of . . . a pile of dirt. Not a bad days work, diplomatically.

But what does Leonidas do? He doesn't just reject Xerxes offer, he murders the Persian messenger! You might have seen this in the preview, when the first of many black men to be killed exclaims "This is madness!" before Leonidas sputters and spits out "THIS IS SPARTA!" Ok, so once again, I'm supposed to be rooting for a nation that not only reject diplomacy, it actually endorses murdering diplomats for trying to negotiate out of war?

I should add that this exact same scenario plays out toward the end of the movie in exactly the same way. After three furious days of fighting, the Spartan "300" is on the verge of collapse. King Xerxes, perhaps a tad high on the opium fumes, has another of his black henchmen approah Leonidas with an offer: bow down to Xerxes in token tribute, and Sparta will be spared destruction. Not only that, Leonidas will be made emperor of all of Greece, and Sparta will become the richest province in the Persian Empire.

"Take the deal! Take the deal!" And for a minute, it looks as if Leonidas has gained an once of common sense as he drops to his knees. The war is over! Sparta is saved! Victory!

Or, maybe some guy is going to jump off Leonidas' back and spear the black henchmen in the eye. Oh well.

One final political comment. It's impossible not to watch this movie without thinking of our current "Damn the diplomats, I say Bring 'em On" President and the Iraq War. Yet, oddly, I think Bush ultimately has more in common with Xerxes than Leonidas. True, Bush is neither black nor gay nor seven feet tall, but think about this: Xerxes, with the world's most formidable military force at his disposal, invades a far off foreign land for reasons that aren't quite clear. Once he arrives, a small band of dedicated fighters manages to frustrate and irritate his army by trapping them into a war they aren't really prepared to fight (i.e., in the narrow chasms of Thermopylae, instead of open plains as his army had been trained). Does that sound familiar at all? Is it possible that the lesson of "300" is to avoid overextanding the empire?

Well, no. There are no lessons from "300" because it's a stupid movie. But it's nice to look at and the battle sequences are awesome, so whatever.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Seahawks preliminary draft analysis

Rob Rang Combine Analysis for Seahawks
(from audio interviews with Mike Sando of Tacoma News Tribune and the indispensible "Seahawks Insider" blog)
Updated 2/26/07

Last Name
First Name
Year in school
Projected round

Potential Hawks picks

Late 2d
Played CB in school; played FS in Senior Bowl

"Mr. Everything," played WR, RB, returned kicks
High character guy

1st -- top 15?
Good athelete, Bubba Franks-like, not as good as Miller at blocking

Arizona St.
40-50th pick
"Lumberer," over the middle
May slide due to bad combine

Late 3rd/early 4th
Blocking "Hannam-like" TE
Good combine

Played WR, had good Senior Bowl
4.8-40 at combine

Transferred from Duke to Delaware, good Shrine game

"Fast and athletic"

"Very late rounds"
Blocking TE, not fast (5.03-40 at combine)

Projected top 10 pick

19 years old, will be youngest NFL player ever drafted

Run stuffer; high-character guy; tore biceps, missed senior year

Ohio St.

Strong Senior Bowl performance

Late 2d/early 3rd
Walk-on, gained 70lbs in college, tore pecs during Hula Bowl

Miss. St.

Shorter arms, run blocker

Did not work out at combine

Boy, the Houston Texans suck

Is there a worse run franchise in football than the Houston Texans?

Consider this: one year ago, the Texans had the #1 overall pick in the draft, and a crappy quarterback they refused to cut (David Carr). Instead of drafting the most exciting RB to come out of college since Barry Sander -- perhaps you've heard of Reggie Bush -- or drafting one of the two marquee QBs -- Vince Young (who won Rookie of the Year), or Matt Leinart, who also had a great rookie season -- the Texans drafted Mario Williams, a decent defensive end.

Another year, another crappy season, so the Texans decide to clean house. Great! The problem is, trading your second round picks for the next two years for Atlanta's backup QB is possibly the worst way to build a franchise. Is Matt Schaub going to be a great QB? Maybe -- but he's only played two games in the NFL (and lost both, though it wasn't his fault). But why mortgage your future on an unknown?

To make matters worse, the other offseason signing was RB Ahman Green, who turns 68 this May. The guy has maybe one decent season -- and by decent I mean just over 1000 yards, and no more than seven TDs. This is how you build a winner? No, this is how you waste money and create cap problems and f*** yourself for the future.

What a joke of a front office. Yeehaw.

Presidential Privilege

Long-time commenter and official TPV father "Big Daddy" poses the following question:

The coming legal battle over “executive privilege” should be interesting. I read some of the ruling by the Supreme Court against Nixon and, while acknowledging some sort of privilege, it’s clearly not absolute.

I wonder if Tony Snow didn’t hurt Bush yesterday when he said, “the President has no recollection” of ever discussing this matter with anyone. Obviously that can be interpreted in several ways but if taken at face value, that would seem to weaken any claim to executive privilege if the President claims he had no knowledge or participation. Lawyerly thoughts?

It's an interesting question, Big Daddy. Without having read any of the caselaw -- my usual approach in lawyering, by the way -- I'd be surprised if the Presidential Privilege applied exclusively to the President himself. Seems to me the rationale behind the rule -- that the President should get unvarnished advice from his aides without fear of legal prosecution -- should extend to those in the President's inner circle too (e.g., the President's Chief of Staff should get the same unvarnished advice). That said, I think you are right that if "no recollection" means "the White House was not actively involved," then it's tough to see why the privilege should apply. It's a clever argument.

By the way, Orin Kerr on has a good post on the scandal today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The failing Presidency

The fired U.S. Attorneys scandal -- still no catchy name for it yet -- is exposing the political failings of the Bush Administration far more than I expected. Here are some quotes from Bush's speech yesterday, with my comments/translations below:

[After volunteering to have Rove speak to Congress, behind closed doors and not under oath]
The initial response by Democrats, unfortunately, shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available. I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don't choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.

What a weird argument. Bush is claiming the Democrats are being "partisan" when the reason the U.S. attorneys were fired was because they weren't "loyal Bushies," in the words of Alberto Gonzales's chief of staff. Moreover, it makes no sense for Bush to commit to a showdown on principal: he's got 35% approval, and the Dems just got swept into power. Why would you want to force a Constitutional "crisis" when you are weakest? The Dems, rightly smelling blood, have already issued subpoenas.

Second, it is common for me, members of my staff, and the Justice Department to receive complaints from members of Congress in both parties, and from other citizens. And we did hear complaints and concerns about U.S. attorneys. Some complained about the lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases, while others had concerns about immigration cases not being prosecuted. These concerns are often shared between the White House and the Justice Department, and that is completely appropriate.

Boy, is this suspicious. It sure sounds to me like President Bush was actively involved in firing these attorneys, perhaps because they weren't "loyal Bushies." And despite his protestations to the contrary, most Americans won't think it "completely appropriate" for the President and his staff to conduct political witchhunts to purge the Department of Justice of Democrats. Again, this a political loser.

Q: Mr. President, are you still completely convinced that the administration did not exert any political pressure in the firing of these attorneys?
THE PRESIDENT: Deb, there is no indication that anybody did anything improper. And I'm sure Congress has that question. That's why I've put forth a reasonable proposal for people to be comfortable with the decisions and how they were made. Al Gonzales and his team will be testifying. We have made available people on my staff to be interviewed. And we've made an unprecedented number of documents available.
Q: Sir, are you convinced, personally?
THE PRESIDENT: There's no indication whatsoever, after reviews by the White House staff, that anybody did anything improper.

Wow. I mean, it's hard to make question dodging more obvious than this response. The question was not whether, in Bush's opinion, anyone did anything "improper." The question was whether there was political pressure in the firing of attorneys. At various times, the Administration's position has been that they serve "at the whim of the President" and therefore political pressure was a justifiable reason for terminating them. Having caught political hell for this, Bush is now stuck mouthing vague non sequitur. This is what it feels like to have your political balls cut off.

Q: And then you'll go to the mat, you'll take this to court —
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. I hope the Democrats choose not to do that. If they truly are interested in information — in other words, if they want to find out what went on between the White House and the Justice Department, they need to read all the emails we released. If they're truly interested in finding out what took place, I have proposed a way for them to find out what took place. My concern is, they would rather be involved with partisanship. They view this as an opportunity to score political points.

Once again, what an odd defense, when the charge against you is excessive partisanship. Whoever came up with this strategy should be out of a job.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Iraq: The Reckoning of Christopher Hitchens

Four years after invading Iraq, most "neoliberal" or moderate hawks who supported the invasion of Iraq have changed their tune, myself included. But one fist stands shaking in defiance -- that of Christopher Hitchens, the eloquent drunken war supporter who recently posed a series of questions to himself in an attempt to avoid the obvious. So let's take Hitch's questions one by one:

Was the president right or wrong to go to the United Nations in September 2002 and to say that body could no longer tolerate Saddam Hussein's open flouting of its every significant resolution, from weaponry to human rights to terrorism?

Mostly wrong. The problem with going to the U.N. is that the US and Bush already had the preexisting intention of invading. In the abstract, there's nothing wrong with the UN passing resolutions -- Iran got tagged last week -- but the question becomes, how do you intend to enforce those resolutions. Remember Bush's line, "we don't need a permission slip to go to war?" The line resonated with me at the time. Now? I realize the folly of spurning a genuine international coalition and shouldering the heavy burden of war alone (well, with the Brits too).

Was it then correct to send military forces to the Gulf, in case Saddam continued his long policy of defiance, concealment, and expulsion or obstruction of U.N. inspectors?

No. The logic remains the same: the troop buildup left us with no exit strategy short of war. We we're never going to trust Saddam (and we shouldn't have). Therefore, there was no "in case of continued defiance" option -- the continued defiance was an assumed inevitability. Hitch should know this; virtually every American I spoke to did at the time. We knew war was coming, no matter what Saddam did or did not do.

Should it not have been known by Western intelligence that Iraq had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction?

Probably not. But the more accurate and important question -- one that was ignored by Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz -- is this one: "Should it not have been known by Western Intelligence that we had hardly any 'actionable intelligence' on WMDs, and therefore we could not use WMDs as the causa belli for war?" Not surprisingly, Hitch never asks himself this question.

Could Iraq have been believably "inspected" while the Baath Party remained in power?

Depends on what "believably" means. According to Hitch, "To call for serious and unimpeachable inspections was to call, in effect, for a change of regime in Iraq. Thus, we can now say that Iraq is in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty." He apparently reads this to mean that we needed to invade to make sure the weapons weren't there. If this sounds like "we needed to destroy the village in order to save it" style logic, that's because it is. There are alternatives far short of 100% believability that we deal with all the time: witness Iran and North Korea today. Should we invade those countries too, just to make sure we know what WMDs they may not possess? No, Vice President Cheney, that was not a serious proposal.

Wasn't Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations a bit of a disgrace?

Hitch admits that it was -- even a stopped clock is right once during a war -- but seems utterly uninterested in probing why it was a disgrace. Apart from ruining the career of one of our more distinguished soldier-statesmen, the performance has destroyed all credibility in the future -- even when we face real threats, and have real intelligence evidencing those threats. By shooting our wad on Iraq, we've severely limited our options in the future. This same argument was made by my father in the winter of 2002, before the invasion. Dad was right. I was wrong. Hitch was wrong too.

Was the terror connection not exaggerated?

You won't fucking believe this one. Here's the entirety of Hitch's response:

"Not by much. The Bush administration never claimed that Iraq had any hand in the events of Sept. 11, 2001. But it did point out, at different times, that Saddam had acted as a host and patron to every other terrorist gang in the region, most recently including the most militant Islamist ones. And this has never been contested by anybody. The action was undertaken not to punish the last attack—that had been done in Afghanistan—but to forestall the next one."

NOT BY MUCH? That's like me saying Hitchens is an alcoholic "not by much." Even today, at every conceivable opportunity, the Bush Administration equates the invasion to the "War on Terror." Cheney repeatedly stressed a 9/11 connection and a nonexistent Prague meeting between Iraqis and 9/11 hijacker Atta. Saddam never hosted al Qadea and it's ludicrous to suggest he did.

The entire argument collapses at this point, if it hasn't already. If Hitch can't recognize the Bush Administration's blatantly misleading propoganda even today, it's clear he's drinking from the neoconservative kool aid (spiked with vodka).

Was a civil war not predictable?

In "The Gathering Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq," Kenneth Pollack argued -- all too persuasively -- that the U.S. should remove Saddam from power. But he also argued convincingly that the invasion should be done under UN auspices only, because the US was and is uniquely incomptentent in the role of nationbuilder. The fact is, we will never know if civil would have resulted after Saddam's fall from power -- what we do know is we have one now, and U.S. soldiers are dying in it.

So, you seriously mean to say that we would not be living in a better or safer world if the coalition forces had turned around and sailed or flown home in the spring of 2003?

Hitch: "That's exactly what I mean to say."

TPV: "That kool-aid must taste terrific!"

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bong Hits for Jesus

Hey, remember Kenneth Starr, the man who was on his way to becoming a Supreme Court justice before he became obsessed with President Clinton's sex life? He was back before the Supreme's today, arguing that an Alaskan high school principal didn't violate the First Amendment by prohibiting a student from wearing a t-shirt that read "Bong Hits for Jesus." So he's still pretty evil. In fact, here's a picture of Starr on the court steps (from the NY Times):

Wow, way to rock the evil Nazi cowboy thing, Starr! That was a hot look among Nazi archaeologists in 1939:

Hey, guess who picked Texas to beat Wisconsin in his NCAA bracket?

I hate college basketball.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ok, maybe Sen. Clinton does get gays

Well I've heard from a number of my friends and I've certainly clarified with them any misunderstanding that anyone had, because I disagree with General Pace completely. I do not think homosexuality is immoral. But the point I was trying to make is that this policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not working. I have been against it for many years because I think it does a grave injustice to patriotic Americans who want to serve their country. And so I have called for its repeal and I'd like to follow the lead of our allies like, Great Britain and Israel and let people who wish to serve their country be able to join and do so. And then let the uniform code of military justice determine if conduct is inappropriate or unbecoming. That's fine. That's what we do with everybody. But let's not be eliminating people because of who they are or who they love.
-- Sen. Clinton, today

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Democrats who don't get gays

Sen. Hillary Clinton, when asked recently if homosexuality is "immoral":

Well I'm going to leave that to others to conclude. I'm very proud of the gays and lesbians I know who perform work that is essential to our country, who want to serve their country and I want to make sure they can.

Hey Hillary, what's wrong with this answer?


How about Garrison Keiller, left-leaning NPR radio guy from Michigan? Here's his modern take on gay marriage:

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men—sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That’s for the kids. It’s their show.

Is he trying to be funny here? Is his view of gay men crafted entirely from watching reruns of Will & Grace? Keep in mind this guy is supposed to be a Democrat -- and a sweet guy to boot.

Wait, now I remember reading the NY Times' opinion page...

So as of yesterday, the NY Times is available free -- that's right, free! -- to anyone with an ".edu" email address. I just used the permanent address bestowed upon me by my law school to pierce the veil of ignorance and read Krugman, Kristof and Kinsley for the first time in a year.

If you've got an "edu" address lying around somewhere, go sign up.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ridiculous things said by Vice President Cheney in his speech today

"Today Ariel Sharon's voice is silent, and our thoughts are with him as he battles for his life. It's a comfort to know that his deeds will live on, and in our memory the man himself will stand like a rock. We honor him as one of the great statesmen of our time, and a man of peace."

(06/23/01) -- A criminal investigation into Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's role in the massacre of civilians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla should be launched, Human Rights Watch urged today. The Israeli leader will meet on Tuesday at the White House with President Bush. (From Human Rights Watch website)

"Over the last several decades, Americans have seen how the terrorists pursue their objectives. Simply stated, they would hit us, but we would not hit back hard enough. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 Americans, and afterward U.S. forces withdrew from Beirut. In 1993 we had the killing of American soldiers in Mogadishu, and the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. . . . With each attack, the terrorists grew more confident in believing they could strike America without paying a price --- and indeed, believing that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy."

The 1993 acts did not involve "terrorists" in any conventional sense of the word. Under United Nations' mandate, the U.S. military conducted a raid to capture top aides to Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. During the raid, soldiers loyal to Aidid (as well as frustrated armed Somali citizens) attacked the U.S. forces, killing 19 total. This had nothing to do with terrorism. More ironically, it was the Republicans in Congress who uniformly called for a pull-out from Somalia and roundly criticized Pres. Clinton for nation building.

"Second, we are determined to deny safe haven to the terrorists. Since the day our country was attacked, we have applied the Bush Doctrine: Any person or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to
account. "

This is complete horseshit. We've negotiated with North Korea, done nothing to stop Iran (because we can't), bargained with Pakistan (even though it isn't pursing the reconstituted Al Qaeda), and generally ignored the Bush doctrine completely. This is false bravado masquerading as policy, and it's embarassing.

"Progress in Iraq has not come easily, but it has been steady."

The ramblings of a delusional madman: does Cheney think that if keeps spouting this nonsense, it will become true?

"It is not hard to see why the terrorists oppose and rage against the rise of democracy in Iraq. They know that as liberty advances, as men and women are given a say in the affairs of their country, they turn their creative gifts to the pursuits of peace. People who live in freedom are able to choose their own destiny, and this gives them real hope for material progress in their own lives, and a better future for their children. As democracy advances, ideologies that stir anger and hostility lose their appeal, and terrorists lose recruits, safe havens, and sources of funding."

But what about the sectarian clensing among Iraqis themselves? Again, the broad misnomer of "terrorist" creates complete idealogical confusion. And that's for a specific reason: to confuse and conflate the battle against Al Qaeda with the War in Iraq.

Note also the pie-in-the-sky optimism about the Islamic embrace of democracy.

"As Americans, we have faith in democracy, but no illusions."


"Ladies and gentlemen, one of the basic truths of the world we live in today is that George W. Bush is a man of his word."

Do I need to say anything here? Brownie, you are doing a heck of job? We recently learned that the Iraqi government purchased large quantities of yellowcake? Mission: Accomplished?

"Indeed, the whole world can see the change, and the rising hope in places like Lebanon."

Rising hope, you say? You mean the same Lebanon that was devastated by the Hezbollah-Israel standoff last year that lead to a small war?

"The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences. (Applause.) For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime. (Applause.) And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Or we'll do what, exactly? Invade? Who does Cheney think he's fooling?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Hawks update

In the last 24 hours, the Seahawks:

1. Cut Grant Wistrom. We now have only one old, white defensive end.

2. Signed Deon Grant (formerly of the Jaguars) to play free safety, and made him the third richest safety in the league. Grant’s not the third best safety, but he is a solid coverage guy, and he’s said to be a leader in the locker room. This means Ken Hamlin is almost certainly gone.

The Hawks cap room is now drying up. Our remaining needs are TE and guard. The latter is a good position to draft, but this is a weak TE class for the draft, and the only free agent left on the market is…Jerramy Stevens.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

12 Not Very Angry Persons

I've never served on a jury, and frankly, I've long though they were a suspect method of adjudicating "the truth," if for no other reason than most people who have the time to spend on a jury are (a) elderly or (b) unemployed. (There's nothing wrong with being old, of course, but would you pick twelve grandparents to decide your legal fate?)

That said, I'm always fascinated when I read insider accounts of jury deliberations, particularly because most jurors seem to take their civic responsibilities very seriously. And few insider accounts are more interesting than this story from "Juror #9" in the Libby trial. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

National scandal round-up

1. Libby -- he's convicted! I think there is a decent chance he'll get a new trial, or the verdict will be reversed -- the jury's confusing notes to the judge may end up being the best thing that ever happened to him. If not, he'll almost certainly be pardoned. Someone will need to explain to me why we still have the Presidential pardon -- it's simply a shield for cronies, no?

2. Walter Reed hospital -- it's crappy! I'm paying zero attention to this scandal, but it seems that, once again, the Administration ignored reports of systematic, institutional failure until the press got wind of it and exposed the decrepit system. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? (Hint: Abu Ghraib).

3. U.S. Attorneys -- a political purge! Yesterday's Senate hearings confirmed that leading Republicans leaned on U.S. Attorneys to indict Democrats ahead of the November elections. The abuse of power is naked, yet for some reason, this scandal hasn't caught fire with the public. But this one has staying power, because U.S. Attorneys are sharp cookies, and will have extensive notes to back up their charges (and after years of trial experience, the ability to provide riveting live testimony). Pay attention to this one.

4. Seahawks front office -- dark times! We managed to overpay for Patrick Kerney, and then miss out on Daniel Graham at TE. Also, we don't have a first round draft pick. Not good.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Seahawks news you probably didn't know

1. The Seahawks major offseason free agency was supposed to be Kris Deilman, the left guard for the San Diego Chargers who would have plugged the hole left by Steve Hutchinson last year. Dielman visited Seattle, everyone expected we would get him...and then he decided to stay in San Diego -- and take less money! -- because of Seattle's weather. I'd be more angry if I wasn't so sympathetic to his Seattle-weather hatred.

2. For some reason, the front office is actively pursing defensive end Patrick Kerney, formerly of the Falcons. Kerney had one good season but a history of injury problems, and he's also old and white. In other words, he's just like our current old and white defensive end Grant Wistrom.

3. The Hawks front office is actively trying to trade Darrell Jackson, possibly for a second round pick. I don't get it. We traded our first round pick for Deion Branch because -- according to President Tim Ruskell -- the risk of a first round bust is high. The same logic should apply even more forcefully to the second round of the draft, no? So why would we trade D-Jack for an unknown quantity, particularly when (a) Branch didn't look that good, (b) Burleson looked like shit, and (c) D.J. Hackett may get poached by another team (more on that in a sec)? The logic eludes me.

4. Speaking of Hackett, we tendered him at the "second" level, meaning, we offered him $1.3 million for next year. Other teams can sign him for more, but they have to give up a second round pick to do so. Hmm, does this sound familiar? Would you rather have Hackett -- who looks awesome in every game he plays -- or the rights to some unknown quantity?

5. We seem to be losing the race for Daniel Graham, the best free agent TE on the market; we haven't resigned Stevens; and the TE draft market is extremely shallow. In other words, we're kind of screwed at TE.

At this point, we're going to need one of the all-time great drafts to to stay competitive in the NFC. The 49ers are making all the right moves and we are floundering.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rock on

I continue to evade posting anything substantive -- I'm starting to feel like Barbie ("Blogging is hard!") In keeping with this unfortunate tradition, here's an interesting story about a baseball player who is about to become a multimillionaire because he owns some rocks. Seriously. Matt White, a pitcher for the Dodgers, bought a 50-acre parsel a couple of years ago that is sitting on a huge slab of rock that apparently is worth a lot of money, though not -- as Yahoo! News misleadingly suggest -- a billion dollars.

Another installment of "Meet the Mormons,"er, I mean morons, will come later today.