Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Racial Discrimination in New Orleans

It would be nice if racism were the worst of our problems, I suppose. Louisiana is sort of like a jambalaya of screwed-upedness. Racism is just one of the fun flavors.

Here's the CNN rundown. District Attorney Eddie Jordan was sued when, after taking office, he fired 56 people, of whom 53 were white. Uh, hey Eddie, how would you feel if those numbers were reversed, under a white D.A.? That's what I thought. And get this: Jordan denies that his firings were racially motivated, and yet:

"Jordan acknowledged he wanted to make the office more reflective of the city's racial makeup, but said he did not know the race of the people fired."

How did he plan on achieving his admitted racial goals if he didn't consider race in hiring and firing practices? I guess we're still waiting on the answer to that one.

"We thought the facts as well as the law favored us. I still maintain that I did not use race as a factor in my hiring practices," he said."

The facts favor you? 53 of 56 is an ugly percentage- those aren't the kinds of numbers you want to go up against in court. Granted, after the Supreme Court's decision in Washington v. Davis, numbers alone aren't good enough to prove racial discrimination, but they are admissible as evidence of racist intent, and when the facts run so strongly counter to your assertions, you can't be surprised at the verdict.

The case presents a number of interesting questions, the least of which is "Is Eddie Jordan a racist." That's not an interesting question because most or all of you have never heard of Eddie Jordan, and will never meet Eddie Jordan. He could be a fascist anarchist for all you care - you'd still have to bum rides off people.

The first interesting question in this kind of case is, even if we all agree that Jordan fired people because of their skin color, is that ever justified? Because you can argue that the history of America is such that a little race-based balancing is justified.

The second is about the appropriate remedy. Because I'll tell you what will most likely happen: the D.A. office will say they don't have enough money to pay out a $1.8 million verdict and still run the office which, in a place with as much crime as New Orleans, would be a decidedly bad thing. That means the taxpayers will foot the bill, meaning I am paying money because Eddie Jordan is a racist (well, if I had income, anyway). That's an odd form of justice, indeed. And there's little likelihood that Jordan will suffer for this the next time he's up for re-election, because I suspect the overwhelmingly black and poor population of New Orleans will be unmoved by either the fact that a) the D.A. prefers blacks over whites, and b) people from wealthier parts of the state are footing the bill.

I therefore propose that Jordan be sent to Zimbabwe, where he can disriminate against white folks with the government's blessing. It's win-win, really.

Update: Jeff Crouere is the Louisiana politics guru, and he's none too happy with Jordan.

Links: I've never heard of Common Bastard before today, so I don't know his politics, but his blogroll includes Atrios, Kos, Oliver Willis, Josh Marshall and Wonkette, so I think I can make an educated guess about his political views. And here's his take: "I’m sorry, but to me this is so obvious that it borders on the surreal. And the silence in the so-called 'progressive' neighborhood of the blogosphere is deafening… and embarrassing. We are either going to view each other as members of one race, the human race, or we are not. Make your decision." Sound advice, even if it's coming from a Lefty (which I can only assume).

A different view: "I suggest every black guy who gets the power, follow the Eddie Jordan example. We could redress racial imbalance within a generation with the Eddie Jordan brand of affirmative action."

This guy agrees with me.

This guy used to work with Jordan and says he's no racist. Make sure you read his comments, where you can find Edwin Edwards, David Duke and Tom DeLay arguing that white political machines are never racist or corrupt. Apparently, racism excuses racism, in the eyes of some.

Here's a great statement: "That was an awful dumb move for a lawyer. Sounds to me like the people of New Orleans need someone a little sharper in that position." This is Louisiana we're talking about, bud. The pool of candidates isn't as stellar as you might expect.

This one is ironic: After a long post on the evils of reverse racism, a commenter named "redneckcivilrightsadvocate" says, "We need more people to spak [sic] out about reverse discrimination." Uh, I'm not really in any position to chastize people for spelling errors, but something about a self-professed redneck who can't spell the word "speak" struck me as terribly funny.

Bobby thinks that even patronage-based firings are unacceptable, so even if we take Eddie Jordan's defense at face value he's still a huge crapweasel (my word, not Bobby's). Somewhat ironically, Justice Scalia - the most conservative guy on the Supreme Court - thinks patronage hirings and firings should be totally unrestricted. How odd that Jordan is relying on a Scalia argument.

Thoughts from a law student (boo! hiss!). She brings up three oddities of the case, two of which I hadn't seen anywhere else.

Several people (here's an example) have noted that Jordan's asserted desire to make the D.A. office look like New Orleans tends to fly directly in the face of his claim that the firings weren't racially motivated. Yeah, I haven't been able to figure out that one yet, either.

If I missed any Louisiana bloggers who want to chime in, let me know and I'll link you.

Before They Were Politicians

The Man has an interesting post in which he reveals that Dick Cheney used to be a male stripper, and Fidel Castro used to be a mall Santa. Along those same lines, Rep. Nancy Pelosi tells me that before she entered public life she battled aliens on a distant planet. And really, why wouldn't I believe Nancy Pelosi?

Which is scarier?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Blogroll Update

I've added Basil's Blog, Geek Soap Box, Think Sink, Mean Ol' Meany and My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, all blogs that have had me linked for some time and I've been too much of a pig to return the favor. Go check them out.

Also, I like discovering new blogs (usually by using Blogger's "Next Blog" button), but if you've got something you want me to look at, let me know.

Think Sink, a self-described Conservative Christian, has a post and a follow-up about Judge Greer of Terry Schiavo infamy. He is outraged that Judge Greer, who apparently attends a Southern Baptist church, has thus far not been censured by his church, and is pleased that the pastor has asked Greer to leave the congregation:

"Indeed, I wonder why it took so long for the pastor to write that letter to Greer, "suggesting" that it might be better if he left the church. The church had been in strong support of saving Terri (no surprise there, thankfully). I believe church polity practically screams out for a vote by the congregation to remove him, after the appropriate steps have been taken for redemptive, corrective action (as outlined in Jesus' words in Matthew 18:15-17)."

In the follow-up post he addresses a Biblical challenge based on the "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" passage in John. I agree with Jeff's response that church governance sometimes requires excommunication (always with an eye to redeeming the sinner, if at all possible). Many liberals with only a passing knowledge of the Bible quote that passage against social conservatives who condemn, for example, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, or getting drunk, driving your car off a bridge and letting your girlfriend drown in a few feet of water while worrying about the impact on your political career. The simplest response is "love the sinner, hate the sin" (even though that particular phrase isn't found in the Bible, the principle is pretty well-accepted), and a condemnation of homosexuality is not the same thing as a condemnation of homosexuals. A more involved answer would include passage, for example Matt. 5:30, which refer to individuals being cut off for the sake of the church as a whole.

None of that is to suggest that I believe Greer should be kicked out of his church - I'd much rather leave that up to the people who know him, and know his heart, and hopefully they make their decision in a spirit of prayer, rather than a spirit of politics.

Also, in case anyone is interested, John 8:1-11 (the passage with the "cast the first stone" passage) is almost universally believed by scholars to be a later interpolation. For what that's worth.

More: Princess Sparkle Pony fields a tough question from the crowd. I won't bother with the "can you imagine if a conservative did something like this" angle, because I think it's funny. Can't fight the funny. And I like the blog name - sounds like it's written by a third grader with a unicorn fixation.

To answer this guy's question:

I'm Proud to Be ...

In a singularly unusual move, I'm about to link a post by Kos which quotes from Oliver Willis. As a practical matter, it makes no difference whatsoever if my 100-hits on a good day blog links the web's biggest Lefty, so I'm not too worried about my conscience. Ready?

Here it is.

It gets a link because it asks an interesting question, one I'd like to see hashed out in a less summary fashion. O-Chubb writes:

"I've found this to be a remarkable phenomenon. In the blogosphere, you have almost a reverse dynamic to that found in the media. Overwhelmingly liberal bloggers identify themselves directly as Democrats. Yes, there are many who see the party as the lesser of two evils, and in their hearts would prefer Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, but overwhelmingly I've found bloggers on the left have no problem saying "yep, I'm a Democrat" (I obviously count myself among that group).

"But among bloggers on the right, it always seems that great pains are taken to make it clear that they are "independents" or "libertarians" - these are people who usually endorse much of the GOP agenda and reliably vote for Republicans - and they don't identify as "Republican". Yes, there are some like GOPBloggers who identify with the party, but that was essentially a recent development."

So, if you're a Republican, are you proud to be so? If you're a conservative-leaning independent, do you avoid being associated with the party?

I am a registered Republican, but I guess I'm an example of the type Fat Ollie is discussing. I'm not particularly proud to be a Republican, as such, but if the Republican party best represents my views (and is more viable than another party that better represents my views) then that's the way I'll vote. Simple as that. If the GOP were in competition with a national party other than the Dems, and that other party better represented my views, I'd switch. No questions asked. I'm not married to the party, I just see it as the closest approximation, taking into consideration the political realities of compromise and biding one's time.

Now about labels - I was once taken to task by a liberal after I used the word liberal in a column I wrote. The guy pointed out that not all liberals think alike, and therefore it's cheap to lump them all together under a common label. The thing is, we use labels for a reason - they are very convenient. When I refer to Lefties, liberals, Democrats, or moonbats, it's not because I assume uniformity of thought, but because I'm consciously choosing to generalize about an issue where generalization is appropriate. For that reason, although I sometimes disagree with what the GOP is doing, I'm not about to shriek hysterically when someone calls me a Republican or a conservative. Broadly speaking, it's a good enough label for practical use. If the shoe fits, I'll wear it. I have libertarian leanings in some areas, but I won't insist upon some new label to better describe my "generally conservative with some libertarian and liberal ideas" philosophy.

Dems, on the other hand - and this seems to be Man Boobs' main premise - identify very closely with the party. I can't think of a better example of this than former Georgia Senator Zell Miller, who wrote a book about how his party started to suck, but never left it.

Note: that's not necessarily something to be proud of, Ollie. Even if, as Kos claims, libs are far more likely to take on their own party.

As to that last claim by Kos, I note that conservatives, independents and libertarians are in the middle of a huge dispute amongst themselves over Terry Schiavo. Consider what the Commissar (who was unjustly denied links by Instapundit and TKS) has to say:

"I'm Republican voter, voted for Bush twice, with high enthusiasm both times...Today you asked:
"'In November 2006, voters across the country will turn against the GOP because they fear that Congress will pass individually-targeted laws that prevent patients from being deliberately starved to death?'
"This voter might. I am very, very unhappy right now. Use whatever language you like. This 'law,' using the word loosely, makes a mockery of federalism."

How's that for taking on one's own party?

Finally, Kos has an interestingly ironic overbroad generalization:

"Is it the Fox News Effect? Do they think they are more effective or persuasive if they pretend to be unpartisan? Or are they simply embarrassed of being associated too publicly with the party of hate, war, and religious extremists?" (Links added. Make sure you click them yo get the irony.)

All that said, what do you think? Are you proud of, or disgusted with, the Republican Party?

Dissension in the Ranks

Patton has a piece on uncertainties in the Terry Schiavo case. Most people, I think, who support saving her life do so, not on the basis of certainty, but on the basis of "erring on the side of life," a stance that implies uncertainty. Still, I can certainly appreciate this sentiment:

"Michael Schiavo is either a self-interested, lying s***heel or he's spent 15 years looking out for Terry's best interests. Of that I'm certain. The Schindlers are either concerned parents or they're religious zealots. Of this, too, I'm certain. Congress has engaged itself on a dangerously slippery slope or it hasn't. Ditto. And the more information I get, the more certain I am that all possible interpretations might well be the truth. Looked at in isolation, then, it's possible for everyone with an opinion to claim moral certainty that they're correct and everyone who disagrees with them is wrong.

"I beg to differ."

Part of my confusion on the issue is factual: I know I haven't spent as much time as many, many other people considering the facts and sources in this case. I read on Ace a while back a claim that no MRI has ever been done on Terry. If true, that's prima facie negligence, but I don't know how to verify whether or not it is true. I've heard that Terry's parents actively encouraged Michael Schiavo to date other women. If true, then the constant mentioning of Michael's girlfriend and kids by the pro-tubers is intellectually dishonest and a total cheap-shot, but I don't know how to verify.

I'm also legally confused. When and under what circumstances should government agency X do Y to accomplish Z - these are not easy questions, folks. Is philosophical consistency to be protected even if it means Terry dies? Maybe, if it protects social values that are more important than a single life. And remember, all you supporters of the Iraq war, you support it because you believe that there is something more important than the individual lives that are lost for some greater purpose.

All that said, I couldn't disagree more with former Neal Boortz listeners who call him the spawn of Satan. I disagree with Neal on this issue. I think his position is self-serving and hypocritical. I think he's accepting unquestioningly those facts which support his views while waving off contradictory facts, exactly as he's accusing pro-tubers of doing. But does any of that make him evil? He's looking at the evidence and drawing a conclusion, just like the pro-tubers are doing.

And I see today that Protein Wisdom, A Small Victory and INDC Journal have been removed from this guy's blogroll because they aren't pro-tubers like him.

"As far as my blogging is concerned, I generally try to link to websites that share my ideologies."

When I fail to link someone, it usually laziness or lack of desire to give people traffic. The first is inexcusable if I want to maintain any kind of credibility, and the second is - let's be honest here - a total joke. Kos isn't going to notice if I link him, let alone notice the level of traffic I send his way. But actually removing someone from the blogroll because you disagree with them? I find that ludicrous. If you disagree with someone, link their post and explain why you disagree. "I refuse to acknowledge you" is a tactic of third-graders.

The Music Post, Part 2

As Dave clarified in the comments below, his extremely lengthy post on music wasn't about which music is good or bad, only about the soundtrack to life in college back in the day. Mine was just about telling the world which music I liked and which I don't.

But that post was entirely responsive. Not this one, no siree.

I have never met anyone whose taste in music entirely coincides with my own. My best friends growing up would hear some of my stuff and ask "Why are you listening to this crap?" That's why I murdered most of them and left their bodies in cornfields, where I assume they remain to this day. Ha ha! Am I kidding?

Anyway, Dave mentioned that one of his friends played Pearl Jam's Ten into dust. I've done that with a few CDs, and I thought I'd name as many as I can right here. If any of my former roommates are reading this, which I seriously doubt, you'll probably recognize and tremble at the mere mention of some of these albums. I'll omit those that got mentioned in the last post, like Garbage and Smashing Pumkins.

The Verve, Urban Hymns - There are a few songs on this one I always skipped, like "Chasing the Butterfly" and "This Time." They don't go anywhere, and I assume you have to be high on pot to appreciate them. Other than that, I played this one into the ground. Lucky Man is my favorite, along with Bittersweet Symphony, The Drugs Don't Work, Velvet Morning, Weeping Willow, One Day and Space and Time.

Cake, Fashion Nugget and Prolonging the Magic - The first time I heard "Going the Distance" on the radio, I instantly hated the song after the first verse, and by the time the song ended I was a die-hard Cake fan. That's how fast I was sucked in. If you've never heard the song "Race Car Ya Yas" I will spoil its very sparse lyrics for you:

The land of the race car ya yas
The land where you can't change lanes
The land where large, fuzzy dice
Still hand proudly
Like testicles from rear-view mirrors (Repeat)

Non-exhaustive list of other favorites: Stickshifts and Safety Belts, She'll Come Back to Me, Never There, Walk On By, Hem of Your Garment, Cool Blue Reason. I have a funny story about the song Cool Blue Reason. If you remind me some time, I'll tell you.

Dig, Dig - They had their fifteen minutes of fame with an MTV buzz clip for "Believe," which is a good song, but I also really liked I'll Stay High, Green Room and Anymore. Their follow-up album, Defenders of the Universe was overall a worse album, but the songs Detune and Electric Chord are better than anything on the debut. There were a couple of good tunes on Lifelike, but overall a skippable album.

Afghan Whigs, Congregation, Gentlemen, and Black Love - To the best of my knowledge, I have never met another Afghan Whigs fan. They are not an accessible band, by any stretch of the imagination. So this is not a recommendation to go out and buy their stuff, because there's a really good chance you won't like it. That said, I love it. The best description I ever read of the lyrics is that they are about "relationships gone rancid." If there were a stronger word for "rancid," I'd use it. Gentlemen is a masterpiece, start to finish. Black Love is more hit and miss, but really gets under your skin. Congregation is less developed, but the title track on that one I have listened to in the upper hundreds of thousands of times. Here's a sample lyric from the song 66 which I think is just so wonderfully poetic:

You walked in
Just like smoke
With a little "Come on, come on, come on" in your walk
Come on

The mental image of a woman walking in "like smoke" is just too perfect.

Man or Astroman, Destroy all Astromen - All their stuff is good, but this is my favorite. Destination Venus and Taco Wagon are at the top. In my life I've met maybe ten people who know who these guys are.

Best. Concert. Ever. How good? The bass (etc.) player, Coco the Electric Monkey Wizard, played one song with a burning television set on his freakin head! I don't know how you could possibly get any cooler than that. Also, Coco let me wear this crazy helmet with surgical tubing glued to it for one song. What a classy guy. They have a song called __________, in which the guitarist, Starcrunch, slides his glasses over the strings for this crazy crescendo at the end. I seriously cannot tell you how awesome that show was.

Primus, everything up to and including Tales from the Punchbowl - Les Claypool is half the reason I play bass (the other half is Cliff Burton, so that's kind of a wierd combination). Another not easily accessible band (although far more so than Afghan Whigs). I thought I had outgrown them, but they came in concert earlier this year, the original line-up reunited, and it instantly knocked 14 years or so off my maturity level. Les is the freakin man.

Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head - I know, I'm a sissy. My brother got me into this one when he showed me the really cool video for The Scientist. There are a couple of mediocre songs on the album, and everything else is great.

The Cure, Wish - I actually never listened to this album until I was about to graduate from college, and it was very old at the time, but I borrowed the tape from a friend of mine and proceeded to drive my roommates (and later my wife) nuts with it. Edge of the Deep Green Sea, Doing the Unstuck, Open and High are my favorites.

Catherine Wheel, Ferment, Chrome and Happy Days - The first one I heard was Chrome, again courtesy of my brother who saw the video for Crank on some late night show. On the first two albums, the band has this really awesome, dreamy sound on the vocals. They lose it a bit on the third, which turns into more standard alt-rock, but still very good. Favorites include Pain, Broken Head, Bill and Ben, Flower to Hide, Hole, and Judy Staring at the Sun.

States Rights, Part 2

This is the follow-up post to a Terry Schiavo post I wrote, arguing against federal encroachment. The quick summary is that I believe the feds should only get involved where you can credibly answer yes to the question, "does the federal government need to be involved in this?" Because I think most health care issues can't meet that test, and in spite of my extreme distaste for the probable outcome in Terry's case, I'm sticking to my federalism guns on this one.

In this follow-up, however, I want to sort of rehash an argument I made a long time ago concerning a different balance of powers issue. Vertical balance of powers is that separation between federal and state power and turns on the question of which governmental system is best equipped to efficiently deal with a problem. Horizontal balance of power, on the other hand, is the division of power between co-equal branches - between legislature, executive and judiciary. This issue exists on both the federal and state levels, although the varying state systems makes it hard to discuss them all unless you generalize. That's what I'm going to do here, taking the federal system (with which we are all familiar) as my prototype.

If we take for granted that our tripartite government branches are co-equal, then there is a problem when one of those branches can avoid the checks and balances designed to keep them co-equal. Take the case of judicial review: if the Congress passes a bill, presumably it is because Congress feels the bill is constitutional (and if not, then everyone who voted for it should be strongly censured). If the executive signs that bill into law, presumably it is because the President feels the bill is constitutional. If the judiciary then decrees that the law is unconstitutional, then we have one-third of our federal government imposing its will on the other two-thirds, and for the past 200+ years we seem to have grown accustomed to that idea.

I think that was a terrible mistake.

My proposed remedy is not to remove the power of judicial review from the courts, but to give the other two branches a collective override mechanism, by which they may decide that a particular piece of legislation is, in fact, constitutional. Such a mechanism would restore the common-sense assumption that two-thirds of the government is more powerful than one-third of the government. But it should be a limited mechanism, to avoid tyranny of the majority, and so should only be available with a super-majority of Congress and the President's signature. My proposed plan does not intrude on the judicial function of interpreting the law, because Congress would not have the power to apply the law to any particular case, only - with the aid of the President - to respond, when the Supreme Court says "this is unconstitutional," that "no, it isn't."

Now consider the Terry Schiavo case in this light. We have two branches of the government that have attempted corrective action in a state issue. And we have one co-equal branch that say "screw you all, we say what goes around here" and declaring the actions of the other two branches unconstitutional. Under my proposed mechanism, the legislature and the executive would have no power to make findings of fact in the case, or rule that Terry is not in a persistent vegitative state, or rule that Michael Schiavo is a world-class douchebag. I'm not asking for micromanagement, here, because judges do have to actually do their jobs. I'm saying that if two branches of government have some way of telling the state supreme court that yes, their actions are constitutional, then the court should back down in the face of two co-equal branches. If the people of the state think their representatives have made a mistake, vote them out.

In drafting the federal constitution, James Madison feared both the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of the minority. By giving unlimited power to judges to strike down the will of the people, the tyranny of the majority is very effectively hampered. But in the process we grant unfettered license to the minority to act as tyrant through the simple process of filing a lawsuit in front of the proper judge.

RIP Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran, famed O.J. Simpson defense attorney, passed away this week.

He's famous here in Louisiana for another reason. He recently won a civil suit in a case where a little girl fell out of a New Orleans street car (that's like a trolley, but you can't use that word down here) window and got her arm ground into hamburger by the wheels. He got a $55 million dollar verdict in that case, although I suspect the defense attorneys in that case argued something along the lines of "why did her parents let her fall out the window?" After the verdict came down, rumor has it that the jury members asked to get their picture taken with Mr. Cochran, which to me suggests that they may have been more captivated by the famous guy in the room than with the facts of the case.

But I'm not posting this because of O.J., or the civil suit. I'm posting because Michael Savage is a piece of crap. Yesterday on his show he mentioned Cochran's death, and made some snide remark.

Look, I disagree with the O.J. verdict, and I think his approach in the O.J. case was a little under-handed, but is there some reason we can't abstain from disparaging the dead? Show some class you retard, if you're capable. There's a reason I think Savage is a piece of human garbage. This just adds fuel to the fire.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Music Post

Dave has a list of college tunes that makes me realize he's not that much older than me. Go read his list, and then come back here for my assessment.


Okay. Before I assess, let me just say that I like rock and/or roll, among other things. The problem is that objectively speaking, I must admit that a whole lot of rock really, really sucks. Case in point: the other day (it may have been yesterday - they all kind of blur together for me) as I was driving home, the DJs at the local rock station thought, for some reason I will never comprehend, to play a new-ish song by Three Days Grace. They are an aural abomination in general, but when I heard the first line of the song, "I am coming home/just to be alone" I knew I had just reached a new low. Part of me died that day. I'm just glad I had the strength to immediately change the station. But I still wake up screaming at night. I've been wanting to gripe about that stupid, stupid song ever since, and Dave has given me an opportunity to do so while transitioning into something less emotionally disturbing.

Let me make two other points about Three Days Grace. The band's name sounds more like public library book return policy than a name for a band. And second, Dr. David Thorpe did a "nostalgia" music review a few weeks ago, in which he observed that thanks to Three Days Grace, early 90s flash-in-the-pan Ugly Kid Joe now has the second worst song about hating everything about someone.

Now back to Dave's list:

Nirvana, Nevermind - Great album.

Pearl Jam, Ten - Also a great album.

Boyz to Men, Cooleyhighharmonymyspacebarisbroken - I admit I like Motown Philly and It's So Hard to Say Goodbye at the time, but now I can't say I particularly care. And I don't know anything else from the album.

Garth Brooks, Ropin' the Wind - Being married to a country music fan has gotten me to the point of tolerating country music if absolutely necessary, but that's as far as I'll go. Back in college I would have shivved Dave for even mentioning Garth. It looks like I've mellowed out a bit.

Enya, Shepard Moons - Enya is good stuff. I don't care for her newest single, Only Time, but Shepard Moons was good from start to finish.

The Ocean Blue, Cerulean - Huh?

Soundgarden, Badmotorfingerthere'sthatstupidspacebaragain - Of the four major Seattle bands, the one I listened to the least. But Chris Cornell can scream like a banshee, huh?

Temple of the Dog, Temple of the Dog - I never thought this was worth listening to.

Toad the Wet Sprocket, Fear - There are a lot of bands out there that can write an album with one or two good songs, and all the rest are crap. The difference between Toad the Wet Sprocket and those bands is that Toad wrote really, really great songs, and all the rest were crap. Their Dulcinea album is the same thing. Listen to "Fall Down," but ignore the rest.

Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend - The only Matthew Sweet album I know is 100% Fun, which is a great album from start to finish. I'll take Dave's word for it on this one.

Spin Doctors, Pocket Full of Kryptonite - Hated them now, hate them still.

House of Pain, House of Pain - You can't seriously suggest that an album is good just because everyone on the planet knows one song from it.

Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes - I don't know enough Tori Amos to discuss, but I love Dave's take on it. If you haven't read Dave's review yet, at least read what he has to say about the song "Crucify."

Alice in Chains, Dirt - My absolute favorite Seattle band, and Dirt is the reason why. These guys freakin rocked.

Stone Temple Pilots, Core - Skip the stuff the radio killed, but the rest is really good. Good, solid rock.

Eddie From Ohio, Various - Don't know.

Singles, Soundtrack - Like all soundtracks, some good and some bad. My favorite (unsurprisingly) is "Would?" by Alice in Chains, but that's on Dirt anyway, so you don't need to buy Singles just to hear the song. Incidentally, how much does it suck when a cool band releases a really cool song on an otherwise intolerable soundtrack, and that's the only place you can get it? It's crap like that that makes MP3 players worth their weight in gold.

Juice, Soundtrack - Like Dave, I never saw the movie. But unlike Dave, I never listened to the soundtrack.

Gin Blossoms, New Miserable Experience - These guys put out some great songs, even if they all sounded more or less the same. I never listened to the whole album, but the radio stuff never got old for me.

Screaming Trees, Sweet Oblivion - I absolutely love "Nearly Lost You," but I've never heard of them doing anything else.

Blind Melon, Blind Melon - Their first and only real hit, "No Rain," bugged the crap out of me when I first heard it, but now I listen to it when it comes on. For Dave's information, it was Michael Hutchence who was into the kinky sex. Shannon Hoon was into heroin, and that's why he's dead now.

Soul Asylum, Grave Dancer's Union - I liked "Runaway Train," as required by state law at the time, but it got real old, real quick. The rest of the album can be safely skipped, as well.

Lemonheads, It's a Shame About Ray - Don't know. I know the album cover, but I never bothered listening to the CD.

Dada, Puzzle - My brother bought a Dada album. He bought a bunch of albums because he liked the single played on the radio, and then I'd listen to the rest of the album and hate everything else on it. But with Dada, I hated the radio song as well. The only album he ever picked based on a single that turned out to be great was Catherine Wheel's Chrome.

Nirvana, In Utero - Better than Nevermind.

Pearl Jam, Vs - You take the good with the bad.

Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Sister Sweetly - I have a confession. You're not allowed to tell anyone about this, because I could get in serious trouble. I grew up in Colorado, and Big Head Todd is a Denver band. They are, to my knowledge, the only Denver band, and that's not saying much because I don't think more than 20 people ever heard of them outside of Denver. But in Colorado, you had to be able to quote from their song lyrics to pass the written portion of the driver's license test, because Colorado was just so proud to finally have a band. My confession: I don't think I ever heard even "Bittersweet" all the way through. Remember, don't tell anyone.

Belly, Star - The best thing Belly ever did was let Tanya Donelly do a duet with Catherine Wheel called "Judy Staring at the Sun." That's a great song. I don't know Star, though.

Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream - I have to disagree with Dave on this one. Billy Corgan's anal retentive approach to his music pays off. "Today" was a good single, not necessarily because of its staying power, but because it sounded new enough to get people to go buy the album and realize it had so much really cool stuff on it. There was a time when I could easily quote every Smashing Pumpkins song on every album from start to finish. I have since devoted my limited brain capacity to more noble pursuits, much to my parents' satisfaction. But I still love the music.

Cypress Hill, Black Sunday - There are few bands that I hate quite as thoroughly as Cypress Hill.

Judgment Night, Soundtrack - Never heard it, although Dave's description sounds interesting. Rap and metal, if blended properly, can work very well. Best case in point I know of is the lamentable Public Enemy track "Bring tha Noize." When they remade it with Anthrax, it turned into one of the greatest songs in the history of mankind.

Velocity Girl, Velocity Girl - Never heard of 'em.

James, Laid - These guys did some great songs, but not so great that I ever listened to the whole thing.

Cracker, Kerosene Hat - Like Blind Melon, they did a single that I hated at the time, but that I think is kinda cool now. But other than "Low," I don't know anything by them.

Tool, Undertow - I still kinda like "Sober," but other than that I pretty much ignore these guys.

P.J. Harvey, Rid of Me - Don't know.

Crash Test Dummies, God Shuffled His Feet - I like this album, but there's a problem. The lyrics make no sense at first, but after the thousandth listen, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they're all a bunch of High School teachers who formed a band and wrote songs to trick their students into learning, for example, about T.S. Eliot.

Juliana Hatfield, Become What You Are - Never cared.

The Breeders, Last Splash - They did "Cannonball," right? I liked that one. That's all I can say about them.

Lenny Kravitz, Are you Gonna Go My Way - The drummer had this crazy cool afro at a time when you didn't see many crazy cool afros. But she looked like she couldn't move her back.

Counting Crows, August and Everything After - Something of a paradox, here. As I mentioned before, I really like the Smashing Pumpkins. I can't stand the whiny vocals on Counting Crows albums, and yet I don't mind the whiny vocals on Smashing Pumpkins albums. Figure that one out.

New Order, Republic - Like Dave, I enjoyed Republic. Unlike Dave, I don't eat Cool Whip straight from the tub.

Liz Phair, Exit to Guyville - Don't know, don't care.

Dinosaur, Jr., Where You Been - True story. When I was in college, some friends of mine heard that Dinosaur, Jr. would be on television (Dave Letterman or something), and they were excited because they liked the band, but were unhappy that they didn't have the original drummer anymore. But then the band came on, and the drummer was hideously ugly, and my friends said, "Hey, he's not [whatever the old guy's name was], but he's ugly, so it's okay]." Whatever that means.

Pearl Jam, Vitalogy - They lost me at Vs. Dave goes into a commentary about Mortal Kombat, so I will take this moment to mention that I once beat my friend Chris at Street Fighter [I don't know what version] something like 50 times in a row, before he finally beat me once.

Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York - I don't like unplugged albums.

Stone Temple Pilots, Purple - Better and worse than Core, and the last STP I listened to. After this one I stopped caring.

Soundgarden, Superunknown - About the time this one came out, I faithfully bought every issue of Guitar for the Practicing Musician I could find so I could learn whatever was on the radio at the time, and I remember one issue was all excited about Kim Thayil getting back together with Soundgarden. Given that the band soon disappeared into the mists of history, I'd say that was an ironic article. I never listened to the album, BTW.

Dave Matthews Band, Under the Table and Dreaming - Never liked them, other than "Crush." Hey, I recognize that they're techincally proficient. But Dave Matthews is a cautionary tale - even if you're the best guitar player in the world, if your songs suck, it doesn't matter that you play them really, really well.

Hootie and the Blowfish, Cracked Rear View - I like "Let Her Cry," but you have to admit every one of their songs sounds exactly the same.

House of Pain, Same as it Ever Was - They did another album? Huh.

Garth Brooks, In Pieces - Ug.

Pulp Fiction, Sountrack - Good stuff. Everyone knows that. Introduced me to that perennial favorite "Flowers on the Wall."

Frente, Marvin the Album - While it's true that their "Bizarre Love Triangle" is "peaceful," I've never understood why you would cover a second-rate song from an album with great stuff like "Regret."

Hole, Live Through This - Some good rockers on here, but Courtney Love has always (even before she started to look like she'd been partially digested by something) scared the crap out of me. Crazy demon woman.

The Cranberries, No Need to Argue - Is that the first or the second one? The first one was boring, the second one had some really great stuff on it, with "Ridiculous Thoughts" at the top of my personal list. I never bothered with their third.

Blues Traveller, Four - When these guys got popular, I think it was for the sole and exclusive reason that John Popper used a (gasp!) harmonica, and that was a bit of a novelty. But actually, harmonicas usually sound like crap, so the novelty wore off for me in a huge hurry [Note: Alice in Chains' "Don't Follow" is an exception to the rule of harmonicas sounding like crap].

Rusted Root, When I Wake - This is a great album, start to finish. But it's so hippy granola Earth-mother Birkenstocky that I always want to beat myself up after listening.

Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy - Sorry Dave, I don't know if she's a lesbian or not. She probably keeps it secret so she can appeal to a broader crowd.

Radiohead, Pablo Honey - Another "hated it when I first heard it, like it now" single. Don't know anything on the album other than "Creep."

Bush, Sixteen Stone - Remember a while back when I mentioned how thoroughly I hate Cypress Hill? Bush is the one band that easily beats out Cypress Hill for top spot on my "I hope you get in a crippling, but not quite fatal car accident" list.

Weezer, Weezer - Great album. What went wrong?

Green Day, Dookie - Dave, if you need a reason to hate Green Day, their politics (and ignorance thereof) should be enough for you. But they can write some hooks, I'll give them that.

Tori Amos, Under the Pink - Hey readers, remember how the last time Tori Amos came up I told you to make sure you read Dave's comments? That is officially no longer a good idea. Do yourself a favor.

Beck, Mellow Gold - I know "Loser," of course, but nothing else, and I don't particularly care.

Veruca Salt, American Thighs - Yet another album with one good song and a bunch of songs I've never heard, and don't care.

Clerks, Soundtrack - Let me echo Dave's sentiments:

My love for you is ticking clock BERSERKER!!!

Foo Fighters, Foo Fighters - I love their song "All My Life," but other than that I've never paid them enough attention to know if their non-radio songs are any good. Dave seems to think they're worth a listen. And I'm going to have to agree with him that Michael Bolton blows them out of the water any day of the week.

Garbage, Garbage - Along with Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins, one of my favorites on the list. Their first album was nowhere near as strong as Version 2.0, but still solid.

Mad Season, Above - As an Alice in Chains fan, I was morally obligated to buy this, but it's nowhere as good as anything AIC did. It's okay. That's the best I'll give it.

Everclear, Sparkle & Fade - Obviously Dave likes "Santa Monica." Were it not for that song, I would have passed this album with a "don't know, don't care," but that song was good.

Radiohead, The Bends - Hated "Fake Plastic Trees," and the picture on the cover of the album is really distrurbing. Don't know anything else about the album, and I'm not the least bit inclined to find out.

Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill - No Dave, she's not.

Natalie Merchant, Tigerlily - Pass. Her voice. Ug.

Better than Ezra, Deluxe - After "Good," I never heard of them until I moved to New Orleans, and now I hear them on the radio, hear about their concerts, see posters, etc. I figured out it's because they're from New Orleans, and once again I find myself thinking, "Is this the best my town can do?"

Collective Soul, Collective Soul - These guys have a talent for writing songs that don't make me instantly want to change the station, but that's the best I'll give them.

Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - Double album means twice the Pumpkiny goodness, no matter what Dave thinks. But this album illustrates, perhaps more clearly than any other, that Billy has no idea how to put songs on an album in an order that doesn't completely defy reason.

DJ Kool, It Takes Two - Don't know it, and I'm automatically wary of anyone with a name as shamelessly self-promotional and yet utterly lacking in imagination as "DJ Kool."

Squirrel Nut Zippers, Hot - No idea. Weren't they big band? I thought big band didn't come back until later in the 90s. But what do I know?

Beck, Odelay - Where it's at. I like what I've heard from this one a lot more than anything I've heard from his others, including his new single.

Cranberries, To The Faithful Departed - I guess this is the second album. It seems I like this one better than Dave does.

Monday, March 28, 2005

States Rights

Today I heard for what must have been the millionth time someone called into a radio show and claimed that health care issues (such as the Schiavo case) should be left up to the states. Social conservatives will complain about Roe v. Wade on the basis of States Rights. The conflict of federal versus state power is older than our Constitution.

Here's an interesting experiment you can try, when you hear someone make the States Rights argument. Listen to see if the person making the claim explains why a given question should be left up to the state. The caller I heard today didn't. Bloggers usually don't (if ever). A natural conclusion, then, is that people who call for States Rights only say so when they think they will get a favorable result in a given situation. Don't want Terry's tube pulled? Then it's not a state issue. Don't like Roe v. Wade? Then it's a state issue. Gay marriage? It's a state issue if decided by popular referendum, or a federal issue if decided by a conservative president and Congress.

If that's the extent of your rigorous analysis of federalism, you won't end up arguing very persuasively, because you're using federalism as a surrogate for some other argument.

With that in mind, and taking the most objective approach I can, I think those who clamor for federal intervention for Terry Schiavo (well, try reading that in the past tense, because the battle looks like it's over) are wrong to support federal intervention. I'm speaking as someone who is extremely wary of federal power, not as one who want Terry dead (because I would reinsert that tube in a heartbeat, given the opportunity). With any federalism issue, my default question is, Is there any reason we need the federal government involved in this? My answer is usually No. Does the federal government need to be involved in public education? No, because there is no real issue of conflict between states that needs to be equalized by a higher governmental power. Does the federal government need to be involved in military operations? Yes, because no one State can effectively handle foreign policy concerns. (And note, here, that our Constitution expressly governs military issues, and not public education issues. Our Founding Fathers were no dummies).

Does the federal government really need to be involved in entirely local health care issues? If you're reading this, and you want to try to make the argument that it does, please feel free to make that argument in the comments. But I don't see it. There is nothing of a national or interstate character about the Schiavo case. The very best you can do is argue that the federal government should step in when the state has committed a manifest injustice - but that would effectively put every state decision up for federal scrutiny, which encroachment of federal power should scare the crap out of every thinking person.

The melancholy outcome of this line of thinking is that, according to that approach to constitutional governance, Terry Schiavo dies at the hand of her highly suspicious "husband." My next post will be about separation of powers within the state, and my reasoning leads to the conclusion that Terry should live. But in this post, if you want to comment, I'd ask you to stick with the issue of federal power, and specifically: When and under what circumstances should the federal government intervene in a Terry Schiavo-like situation?

A Most Compelling Rebuttal

Again from Hans Bricks. It's hard to argue with the guy, you know?

On an unrelated note, I think that instead of "lawyer," I prefer the title "Law Man." It suggests that I know something about the law, and simultaneously brings to mind the Old West sherrif who shoots first and asks questions later. Once I pass the bar (fifteen years or so down the road), I think I'll use that title on my business cards:

Sobek Schwartz
"Law Man"
Legal Gunslinger Since 2019

I might have time to post more thoughts on the Schiavo case later today. If what I've written so far has been muddled, it's because I feel so muddled on the issue. It is, to say the least, a complicated case. I will state unequivocally that in the usual case, I support a spouse's rights to make medical decisions, even where it conflicts with the wishes of the parents. The question, then, is whether this case should be an exception to that general rule, and if so, why (and how we ought to draw the lines of that exception). I know that not everyone here agrees with me - some of you will say that no spouse should ever have the right to terminate treatment. I'm simply not willing to go that far.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone. My kidd-o certainly had fun, although I need to teach him to be more aggressive during Easter egg hunts. Not one bloody nose. Huh.

Anyway, I see that the godless heathen are complaining about Easter.

"Daddy, that Garfield Ridge guy is going to burn for all eternity, right?"
"Of course he will, son."
"Good. And what's his deal with the monkeys?"

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Two From Hans Bricks

The first is a reflection on how seriously we ought to take someone who says "I don't want to live like that," and it involves guns, strippers and alcohol. That's the trifecta, people.

The second is an interesting piece on whether a results-oriented approach is acceptable, as a response to a comment by Instapundit (Note: I haven't been reading Insty lately - or anyone else, for that matter - but as a libertarian I assume he's in favor of leaving Terry's feeding tube out). Hans agrees with Wuzzadem, who argues that Judge Whittimore should have given the Schiavo case de novo review, didn't do so, and so this is a failure of procedure (at the very least). On that basis, according to Hans, the growing schism in the right-wing blogosphere is actually a schism between lawyers and non-lawyers.

Well, I guess as a law student I've been called out, so I may as well respond. First of all, Hans offers some examples of results-oriented lawbreaking that I'm not sure is convincing:

"If I’m not mistaken, our approach to Iraq was a results oriented approach..Ask any democrat. They’ll tell you we broke the law."

Well yes, that's what they'll tell you, but that doesn't necessarily make it so. I have never yet seen any liberal go beyond the Michael Moore approach, whereby you call a war a "fictition" [sic] at the Oscars, without backing up the claim. If the war was illegal, what law was broken? Where can I go read that law? By what authority was that law made? These questions aren't entirely facetious, because international law is very complicated and doesn't rely on the same sources of law as, for example, the Mississippi penal code - but that complexity doesn't absolve anti-war advocates of the responsibility of at least trying to prove their case. Again, it's true that Dems will tell us that GWB broke the law, but that doesn't necessaily make it so.

[Note: I'm passing on Hans' reference to Nicaragua, because I don't know anything about it].

"We sometimes have a results oriented approach to the interogation of terrorists. Democrats will tell you we break the law."

Our approach is carefully calculated to be legal, if shady. There is no law against Jordanians torturing detainees to get information, and so the U.S. sends some detainees to Jordan and stand in the hall whistling while the detainee screams. It's certainly not ethical, but illegal? Again I ask, where can I read the law that says you can't do that? The only real question here is whether or not the ethics violation is justified - and "illegal" doesn't enter into that equation.

And finally, to the Terry Schiavo matter:

"Congress tried to give this woman a final chance at life. Glenn will tell you we broke the law."

Again, I haven't seen Instapundit's argument. But I remain singularly unconvinced that any law was broken (although I know exactly how I would argue the opposite). In my view, the only real question isn't whether Congress can do what it did, but whether it should. The limited-government conservative in me wants to stand by principle and resist all encroachments of federal power into areas traditionally governed by the states, because it is just such encroachments that got us, among other things, Roe v. Wade. In my mind, the difficult conflict arises because I want to stand by that principle of limited government, and yet I want to see someone do something to protect this innocent woman from being killed by her untrustworthy husband and a callous judiciary. If we make an exception for Terry, my law school mind wonders, what other "exceptions" will arise, and where does federal encroachment end? If I was horrified at the Clintonian disregard for the law when Elian Gonzalez was basically kidnapped by the government, there is at least some part of me that views a parallel disregard by the Congress with distaste.

It seems the split among right-wing bloggers can be alive in well even in my own head.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Don't Like the Ruling? Murder the Judge

"Greer has been under 24-hour protection by two U.S. marshals due to increased threats against his life by those unhappy with his handling of the Schiavo case."

And they aren't just idle threats, it would seem:

"Meanwhile, FBI agents have arrested a North Carolina man on suspicion of soliciting offers over the internet to kill Michael Schiavo and Greer. Richard Alan Meywes of Fairview is accused of offering $250,000 for the killing of Schiavo and another $50,000 for the 'the elimination of the judge who ruled against Terry.'"

That kind of crap does not help your cause, folks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Life Lessons We Can Learn From Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Part Two)

If you're fighting an evil, killer robot made in 2005, and you use a powerful electromagnet to immobilize it, you can also safely assume that the magnet will wipe out its CPU, thus rendering it completely useless. But if the evil, killer robot is from the future, apparently the CPU isn't affected by magnets, so temporary immobilization is the best you can get.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Life Lessons We Can Learn From Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

If you're in a battle with someone in a narrow hallway, and you're armed with a propelled explosive like a missile, don't shoot directly at your intended target because if you miss, your shot will go all the way down the hall and the explosion won't neutralize your target. Instead, shoot at the target's feet, because even if he or she dives out of the way, the blast will be close enough to kill your enemy.

On the plane ride home tonight, the guy next to me was watching Terminator 3, so now I can truthfully say I've seen the movie, even though I haven't heard it.

Friday, March 18, 2005


I finished my German corporate law final. But spring break just started, and I'm flying out of here for vacation and a job interview, so I don't think I'll be blogging much until I get back on Wednesday. Then again, for some reason it seems I post more immediately after announcing light posting, so you never know. I like to keep my readers on their toes. Maybe that's how I managed to squander all of the increased traffic I enjoyed the past month or so.

In the mean time, Ace has about fifty posts, riddled with links, on the Terry Schiavo situation. I think this one hit the mark especially well. If I recall correctly, this is the second time her tube has been pulled. Let's hope another miracle puts it back in this second time.

It occurred to me that although I laughed extensively at this, I never linked to All Along the Blogtower's post about Beatallica. Maybe it's because I don't know how many of my readers can appreciate the sophisticated fusion of Beatles and Metallica necessary to really "get" this music. But I thought it was hilarious. He has some update posts, too, if you want to look for them, including the Beatallica message boards.

Mrs. R blows a perfect opportunity to throw out a quote from that eminent lawyer, Lionel Hutz, but I assume it's because she was too busy with original funny, rather than secondary funny.

Liberal Larry looks at the Schiavo case from the opposite side of the aisle, and with his usual penetrating and sensitive approach: "When half the country and your wife's entire family insist that she must 'live', it takes great courage to stand up for your convictions and shout, 'No! The bitch must DIE!'" Have I ever mentioned that I think Larry is one of the greatest bloggers ever?

Average Joe has a link to an article on 13 science things that don't make sense. Conspicuously absent from the list? How is it possible that Ted Kennedy's liver hasn't forcibly removed itself from his body?

Dave from Garfield Ridge weighs in on the perennial question: Pearl Jam or Nirvana? Actually, I don't think it's really all that perennial. It kind of came out of left field. But that didn't stop me from opining in his comments here. (My answer: Alice in Chains).

The Man has a caption contest. I can either think of something funny to say and enter it, or go to sleep. I'm thinking sleep.

And on that note, let me now point out that I won't be link-dumping anyone on my blogroll whose blog starts with "I" or later. That's just because I ran out of time. Let this be a lesson to those of you who didn't name your blog something like Aaaaaaaaadam's House of Punditry.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

European Union Final Exam

I'm not supposed to discuss my European Union test, but I'm pretty sure my professor doesn't read this blog, so what the heck. It was a surprisingly easy test, given the amount of material we covered in the class. So easy, in fact, that I bet my readers here could do reasonably well on it, even without taking the class. Try for yourselves:

Section 1: Fill in the blank
1. The French are a bunch of pantywaisted ________________.
2. European "unity" is analogous to ______________.
3. The theory the Europe can improve its economic situation by forcing Member States to get rid of crippling regulations, but replacing those regulations with even more crippling regulations, is just plain old freaking _______________.
4. The European Court of Justice's shameless power grabs are analogous to those of the Supreme Court of the United States of _______________.
5. "They can be _______________________ (two words) for all I care; I'd still have to bum rides off of people."

Section 2: Multiple Choice
1. The Council is based in Brussels because:
a) waffles contribute to good decision-making
b) otherwise Belgium was going to use its military might to conquer the rest of Europe
c) clerical error; it was supposed to say "Brad's house."
d) otherwise Belgium would be even more useless than it is now.

2. Cartels are bad because:
a) they hurt everyone's feelings
b) they're always trying to steal me Looky Charms
c) European muckety-mucks say they're bad
d) only wise European economists should be restricting trade, not private businessmen

3. The European Court of Justice can fine a company for charging prices that are too high under:
a) Art. 43 EC
b) Art. 81 EC
c) Art. 82 EC
d) Are you serious? What a bunch of communist douchebags!

4. The Equal Protection portions of the Treaty are designed to:
a) ensure equality between the sexes
b) help amend past injustices against women
c) both of the above
d) make sure England can't fire public school teachers who have sex change operations because somehow a sex change operation has the same meaning as the word "gender"

5. Under the consumer protection directive:
a) consumers are protected from forum selection clauses
b) courts are authorized to challenge contract fairness sua sponte
c) untransposed directives should still be enforced by interpreting local law in light of the directive

Section 3: Essay
1. Explain how, under Friedrich Engel's theory of historical dialectic and Marx' Communist Manifesto, the emergence of the European Union was inevitable and will ultimatley lead to the downfall of capitalism in violent revolution, and the institution of communist utopia.

2. An Italian business decides to manufacture cars, but incorporates in Germany in order to take advantage of favorable laws. After three years, in spite of constant interference from the Commission and the ECJ, the business starts to turn a profit. What penalties should apply for their failure to comply with the Treaty requirements that no business revenue should exceed expenditures?

3. Generally rail on capitalism, business and America. Because of the screed-like nature of this question, no extra points will be given for proper punctuation and grammar. But extra points will be awarded if you somehow manage to mention Israel unfavorably.

You have two hours. Good luck.

One test down. One more on Friday. I'm a pretty happy crocodile.

Sorry things have been so boring around here recently.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Judicial Activism and Gay Marriage in California

You can find the story anywhere, like Wizbang, for example. In a nutshell, a California court held that a state cannot constitutionally forbid gay marriage. Conservatives complain about judicial activism, liberals salute - well, I guess they're saluting judicial activism, although not in so many words. For example:

"As predicted, they’re already crying Judicial Activism™...even though they haven’t defended those charges." Gay Orbit

"And to all the right-wing blowhards who will be all over the teevee, the newspapers, and the blogosphere crying about 'judicial activism,' I say: So was Brown v Board of Education..." Captain Normal

At the first link, blogger Michael essentially argues that it's not judicial activism because it's "interpreting the Constitution correctly." I don't find that to be a convincing claim by a long shot, because experience with Constitutional law has jaded me to the point that I'm convinced there's no such thing as the correct interpretation, only the interpretation that happens to carry the day. And Captain Normal expressly embraces judicial activism, analogizing gay rights to the desegregation movement, and calls it justified on that basis. And Kevin from Wizbang succintly states, "Judicial activism - it's what's for dinner."

None of the above-linked writers actually explains what "judicial activism" is - it's kind of taken for granted. And if the conservative claim that this is judicial activism is to be defended, as Michael apparently wants, first we're going to need a definition.

Let's start by discarding one myth. Judicial activism is not the process of a judge making up law. That is called Common Law, and it's actually at the foundation of our Anglo-American judicial system. In fact, it is probably impossible to devise a system where judges don't make up - by which I mean, at a minimum, filling in gaps - the law.

A better definition of "judicial activism," - and by better, I mean it's a definition that accurately encapsulates the meaning generally ascribed to it in political discussions - would be an attempt by the judiciary to change social trends and patterns in order to shape society. Thus, if Captain Normal's claims about Brown v. Board were legitimate (they aren't), that case could be described as the Supreme Court seeing a pattern of racial discrimination and saying, "That's not good enough. We know what reality is, but we want to change things to fit the way we think things should be." There's a big difference between that attitude and simply asking judges to fill in gaps, as they must.

Brown v. Board was the famous school desegregation case, where the Supreme Court said public schools can't be separate but equal, because separate is never equal. What Captain Normal doesn't mention (and he candidly admits he has no legal training, so I don't blame him) is that leading up to the Brown decision, the political branches had been working to acheive equality. It was the executive and legislative bodies that looked at society and said, "that's not good enough. We need to change this." It was only after three constitutional amendments, countless federal bills, nearly a hundred years of history, massive political pressure brought to bear by huge portions of the country, and even the U.S. Department of Justice arguing against the Topeka Board of Education that the Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of desegregation. Captain Normal calls that judicial activism? Activism of the laziest sort, if at all. More importantly, the will of the people had overwhelmingly spoken by changing the Constitution, and only when older attempts at applying that change (i.e. in Plessy v. Ferguson) failed that the Court moved on to more stringent measures to, again, affect the will of the people.

In other words, Brown v. Board is not a good example of judicial activism, if that's your chosen means of justifying it.

Consider gay marriage, by contrast. Bill Clinton signed a federal Defense of Marriage Act. No state that has put an anti-gay marriage amendment up for a vote has seen it voted down - indeed, many liberals blame these amendments for unusually high voter turn-out in states like Florida, Missouri, and Louisiana (to name a few). A proposed amendment to the United States Constitution, although roundly criticized in the Senate, garnered far more votes than expected (it nevertheless failed in the Senate, FYI). Many people blame possible gay rights arguments on the failure of the Equal Rights amendment, which expressly sought to even the playing field for men and women (interesting side-note: then-professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the authors of that ill-starred Amendment, and in promoting it, she expressly claimed that the drafting history was clear that it could not be used for gay rights. If Ginsburg the arch-liberal wasn't willing to touch gay rights with a ten foot pole, what does that say?). In liberal Massachusetts, the majority of people oppose the Supreme Judicial Court's decision to mandate gay marriage. Gay marriage has found no substantial support from any President, Congress, or state legislative or executive body.

In other words, gay marriage does not compare favorably with the civil rights movement, historically speaking.

Granted, none of that makes gay marriage wrong. A correct principle, though despised by everyone in the world but one, would neveretheless be a correct principle. But it does shed some interesting light on the aptness of the phrase "judicial activism." Consider that in California, the people have spoken. Although it is a very, very blue state, they actually changed their Constitution to forbid gay marriage. The executive, too, is on the side of the social conservatives on this point. That means this judge looked at the political reality in California and decided, "that's not good enough. It has to change." I hope that, based on all of the preceding, I have effectively responded to Michael's charge that social conservatives haven't defended the charge of "judicial activism."

The next question, and one I won't answer here, is whether or not judicial activism is appropriate in this case. Because the fact is, our government is not designed to run on a strict "majority rules" system. We have two branches of government that (in theory, at least) respond to the will of the majority, because they are directly elected and re-elected by that majority. This prevents James Madison's fears of tyranny by the minority. But we also have a branch that responds to the needs of the minority, and that responsiveness is protected by total insulation (in theory, at least; I'm looking at you, O'Connor) from elections. This prevents James Madison's fears of tyranny by the majority. Both are dangerous. Both were foreseen by Founding Fathers who gave us a certain type of government. The question is, which branch must yield in this case? Should the strident cries of maybe 20% of the population work to change one of society's most important foundations? Or should 80% of the people get what they want through brute electoral force alone? Again, I won't answer that question yet (I've already gone on too long), but I put the question out to consider, and I hope Michael and Captain Normal will take the opportunity consider the question, as well.

More: From No Oil for Pacifists:

"Because California's people, and their representatives, explicitly prohibited gay marriage a few years ago, the court had to reach back and claim the 126 year old Constitution foresaw and forbade statutory heterosexual qualifications for marriage today."

From Right Pundit:

"Judge Kramer, in his infinite wisdom, has declared every civilization since the beginning of time 'irrational'."

From College Pundit:

"The obvious problem for these activists is that they can't make a cogent argument to a state legislature, so they try and turn a few judges to do the heavy lifting for them.... Instead, they're creating their own PR nightmare by appearing to be weasels - people who can't persuade others to their side, so they get judges to do the work for them."

From Pennywit:

"This California decision, however, is a thing of beauty. In his opinion, Judge Kramer strips away the sentimentality of marriage and examines the issue strictly through a prism of law.... While those of us who support same-sex marriage can wax poetic about the right to love whom one chooses, to raise a family, et cetera, a judge cannot afford to suffer the same emotional malady. He needs to approach the issue sensibly, with an eye toward the federal and state constitutions and a fair application of the relevant common law." [Pennywit contrasts this decision to those in New York and Massachusetts, which were too emotional].

From The Sundries Shack:

"First, is it wise for a judge to call everyone who argued the losing side of this case irrational? [Note: in constitutional law, the "rational basis" test doesn't necessarily imply a condemnation of the person making the argument. It's technical language, without all of the emotional baggage we'd find if I were to say "those people at the Sundries Shack are irrational."] ... Second, the judge has just opened a great big can of worms. By ruling that the ability to 'marry the person of one's choice' is a 'basic human right', the judge has just legalized bigamy, polygamy and incest." [Note: The point is well-taken. Proponents of gay marriage persistently deny that gay marriage and polygamy are analogous, but I'd be very interested to see one of them read this opinion and explain to me how it leaves polygamy or incest out of its broad language].

From Brain Fertilizer:

" maybe we do need a Federal Marriage Amendment after all? Their assurances of 'letting the States decide' might have been deliberate misrepresentations? Perish the thought!" [Note: Inherent in the idea of letting the states decide is the possibility that some of the states will decide in favor of gay marriage, so I don't know that the criticism is well-taken. It might be answered that judicial activism isn't the same as "letting the states decide," but you have to make that argument, not just presume that it's been made and accepted].

From Scared Monkeys:

"However, there are also bills pending in the CA Legislature that would put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the November ballot. Frankly, this is where it should be decided, the voters. It is far time that the electorate be allowed to vote on this issue instead of unelected men and women in black." [Note: the author doesn't explain on what basis certain issues should be left to voters, and other issues should be left with judges. It is natural to claim that an issue should be decided by a certain group, when we know that group agrees with you].

From Outside the Beltway:

"Michael Demmons links a poorly scanned PDF of the opinion at FindLaw. He accuses me, along with Rusty Shackleford, of being 'social conservatives.' I find this amusing, since I've repeatedly defended the idea of gay marriage on libertarian grounds. My belief that public policy should be made through legitimate processes simply trumps having my preferred outcome prevail."

From Obsidian Wings:

"Personally, I want to marry the Equal Protection Clause, but I don't think that's legal anywhere. (And just think of the parade of social ills that would be visited on us if we were allowed to marry abstract entities...)" [Even better, from the comments: "Shall we refer to you as Mrs. Clause?"].

From Boi from Troy:

"Of course, this will surely be appealed, but it's beginning to be look like Californians may join those in Massachussets in enjoying equal marriage rights sooner rather than later." [Note: there is a picture of (what I can only assume is) a gay couple with rings on their left hands, for some reason. I also note that Boi from Troy has taken to heart the advice to stop calling it "gay marriage" and start calling it "equal marriage"].

From Prestopundit:

"SAN FRANCISCO JUDGE to the people of California: I make the laws in this state, your job is to shut up and follow the laws as I pull them randomly out of my a**... The LA Times come out in support marriage law by judicial fiat -- and in a bizarre twist of logic it claims that respect for democracy demands that we respect the reasoning of a judge who clearly has contempt for both democracy and our constitutional system." [Note: "Respect for democracy"? Uh, yeah. Sure].


"Think about that for a moment. What exactly is this 'democratic process' of which he speaks?" [Note: are you really so unfamiliar with the concept?].

From TalkLeft:

"Prepare to hear more complaints about 'activist' judges -- 'activist' being defined as any judge who interprets the law in a way that upsets the religious right --"

From Daily Kos:

"The opinion is even a good read (Kramer is a Pete Wilson appointee with a finely-crafted sense of irony), that demolished all arguments that proponents of the ban might try to carry forward on appeal. A fine smackdown, indeed." [Note: regardless of how you feel about this issue, I think we can all agree that this statement is nothing more than substanceless cheerleading. Way to raise the bar].

And speaking of "substanceless," from Oliver Willis:

"Gay people should be allowed to marry - and all the joy, happiness, madness, and frustration that ensues." [Note, for both Willis and the Kossacks: when you attempt persuasive writing, you're going to have to actually give reasons for your conclusion. Bare assertion is all well and good for getting cheers from people who already agree with you, but you're certainly not going to convince anyone].

Myopic Zeal has a round-up. The Moderate Voice wonders how the Governator will react. Vote for Judges uses the issue to make the case that judges should face election, thus removing them from electoral insulation. A very interesting read. Rusty has a link-fest, and denies (contra Gay Orbit, cited above) that he is a social conservative. Skippy the Bush Kangaroo describes the opinion as declaring "bigotry unconstitutional," but doesn't opine on bigotry against polygamists or incestuous marriage.

What the Heck?

What part of "I'm trying to stay anonymous" don't you understand, Dave?



Maybe there's hope for me after all...

I just don't know if it's worth the price I'd have to pay, just to be able to whistle along to the intro to the Guns N' Roses song "Patience."

Also: A new AYC quiz tells the unknown story of the Declaration of Independence.

Dave has some important rules for gunfighting.

I've decided that instead of studying for my finals, I should spend my time working on this. "Thanks" to Hans, whose high score will haunt my dreams.

Important Announcement

Dave has moved. Please make a note of it.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Light Blogging Ahead

I have two finals next week, so don't be surprised by light posting. You have been warned.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Metaphor

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

So, how's it goin'?

Hey, did you know I'm a poet?

'Cause I am.

Well, an amateur poet, of course.

I know, a bit of a surprise. Cameron Woods might be surprised, 'cause he's always writing poems, and I've never shared anything with him. So to make up for that, I'll give him a link to a post where I wrote a poem in the comments.

Y'all can write poems there, too.

If you want.

Update: More poetry here.

Update: I've been critiqued! (Via Way Off Bass). I've actually been critiqued by the Terminator, writing with a German accent, of all things. That's a bit of a surreal moment.

Arnie is right to focus on the cadence - that's usually my main focus when writing poetry. Rhymes are secondary, and usually reserved for when the theme is silly enough that I can slip in a few forced rhymes where necessary (e.g my eight-pages magnum opus on Bruce, the Ninja Hippo). The first two lines are a little sloppy, and then I tighten things up in the last three.

I'm taken to task for ending the poem with an elipsis rather than a period, but I prefer to leave things open-ended in this one. The saga of Mr. Daschle is far from over, and even the theme of the last line is far from over: the haunting reminder of that dark November day when Daschle met his electoral match. It's a dirge, but it laments only the end of his political life.

I'm also criticized because without the title of the post where my comment appeared, it's hard to tell what's going on in the poem. I suppose I could claim that I wanted it to be more universal than simply applying to Mr. Daschle alone, but that would be a dishonest cover-up after the fact.

Finally, while I'm given high marks for cadence, there's no mention of the poetic structure, or the way I tied imagery elements together within that structure. I realize the Terminator is just an unfeeling machine, but if you're going to program him to critique poetry, you should at least have a program to deal with imagery. The first two lines place us in a bleak place in South Dakota, and three distinct elements are highlighted there: cold wind, frantic motion, and black hills. These elements are then tied to Mr. Daschle in the last two lines: chill - cold; frantic - frantic; blackened - black. Thus, the state of S. Dakota represents the man, just as he in turn used to represent the state.

Also, in the thematic elements in the final three lines, we are shown an expanding universe: we go from Daschle's tears (individual) to the Senate floor (the small group) to the November elections (the nation at large). Thus, the dark tone can be seen as finding an epicenter in our tragic hero, but ultimately casting a pall on all of us. Thus, the dirge-like quality is reinforced because it impacts us all, not just an individual.

But hey, I should just be grateful not to have been shot in the head by a machine that can't be reasoned with, no?

They're On to You, Insty

Breaking Update: AP Releases Correct Picture of Sgrena Car

Update: AP issues correction; "this is the real picture of her car. The one we meant to use. That other picture was ... um ... for something else. Something totally unrelated to the Sgrena story. Yeah, that's the ticket."

Hundreds of Bullets, Eh?

Maybe the 300-400 bullet holes are all on the other side...

Via LGF.

LGF readers have suggested that the only bullet involved must have been fired inside the car. Ah, a conspiracy theory! Nicola Calipari was assassinated because he knew too much! I haven't seen any proof, but it makes a lot more sense than claiming that hundreds of bullets were pumped into that vehicle by U.S. Marines.

NOTE: here's a story with a picture of a car with a little more damage (still not 3-400 bullets, but a little closer). Which is the one Sgrena used? Still working on that... The first pic is from Yahoo News.

Pro-Syrian Rally in Lebanon

Via Jeff Goldstein, here's a blogger who wants to know why the right side of the blogosphere (now officially re-named the Parrotosphere) hasn't mentioned the massive turnout of pro-Syria rally in Lebanon.

"The larger issue is, of course, what's a silver tongued devil going to do when the going gets tough? Sure, it's easy to churn out the posts when Lebanese babes are gracing the front of Time. But when four times as many Hezbollah inspired Lebanese show up and defy the Right's little crayon drawing representation of the situation. . ."

In the comments to that post, reader Daniel suggests that a totalitarian regime bussed in people to protest. I don't buy it; at least, not without some kind of evidence. Something like, say, pictures of buses, or eyewitness accounts of buses. And who would be sending these buses? If it was Syria, I think it's extremely unlikely that a massive convoy of demonstrators could be bused across the border without somebody mentioning it.

Reader Bumperstickerist added, "by my read that wasn't a pro-Syria 'Please Stay' rally. It was a 'Thanks, Syria! Now Leave' rally." I'm not sure where he gets the info to draw that distinction, and in any case, I don't think it makes any practical difference. The whole point of the Lebanese protest story is "Look, people in the Middle East are speaking out against a hated foreign influence," and the fact of the pro-Syrians suggests that maybe Syria wasn't so hated after all. In that light, consider TallDave's observation:

"1) The first (anti-Syrian) protest was illegal; they risked being machine-gunned to death just for showing up.
2) The second (pro-Syrian) "protest" was not only condoned and heavily armed, but supported by (and comprised of) the very people who would have been machine-gunning protest #1 if not for world media attention and the fact that a few hours away there are 165,000 troops from a military superpower led by a man who just said he was going to stand with democratic reformers "

True, but the relative courage and enthusiasm of the crowds calls to my mind the claim by Lefties in the last election that they could only pull the lever once, but they were going to pull it really freakin' hard. That's great as far as it goes, but it still only counts as a vote. 200,000 anti-Syrians don't get to vote more often than 500,000 pro-Syrians, no matter how good-looking they are. (h/t Unabrewer).

The fact is, Hezbollah got out a whole lot of people, and that really does look genuinely bad, no matter how one might try to spin it. One might point out that the anti-Syrians have already succeeded in getting some tangible results (i.e. resignations of important politicos), and that demonstrations are only as good as the results they achieve. I might also observe that Syria is in fact (partially) withdrawing troops, and that they were spooked into turning over some important insurgency leaders. None of these tangible results changes the fact that turn-out was huge in the pro-Syria rally, although they might serve to remind us that hope is not lost.

Far more disturbing, in my view, than the numbers of pro-Syria demonstrators is the cynicism of those bloggers who look to the demonstration as a breath of fresh air, since they finally (FINALLY!) have something linke actual ammo against the right-wingers who have been, let's face it, on something of a winning streak.

Another important point: bloggers might post links to the story of the pro-Syrian demonstrations. And they might go so far as to speculate about the impact those demonstrations might have. But what can we really say, that is of substance? There are pro-Syrians in the streets of Beirut, that much is plain - but so what? What will come of it? What tangible gains will be made by pro-Syrian elements because of it? And until we have some further evidence, what good can speculation do?

Update: From Lebanon's Daily Star, Hezbollah's Secretary General has a theory about who came up with UN resolution 1559, calling for the immediate withdrawal of Syrian troops. Any guesses? Here's a hint.

"But he pointedly failed to say that Syrian troops should remain on Lebanese soil in a move that many observers interpreted as a concession to Lebanese opposition demands for their withdrawal."

So peace may not be on the march, but perhaps it's on the "smarch."

Related: Not all anti-Syrian activity is of the "hot chicks waving flags" variety.

Update: Don't miss Patton's thoughts on the counter-demonstrations. The upshot:

"I'm now comfortable asserting my belief that the fun and games from yesterday's news aren't indicative of Lebanese reality."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Congress Passes Firebomber Legal Protection Act

At least, that's what the pro-abortion lobby is calling it.

Which, let's be honest, is a lot more colorful than what I would have called it, so I guess I should give credit where credit is due.

So what is "it"? It's actually boring, technical stuff in a massive federal bankruptcy overhaul. Dems wanted to add an amendment, and it got shot down, so actually it's not that an Act of any sort was passed. The amendment would have removed bankruptcy protection from violent protestors who have to pay fines. Pro-abortionists, apparently, want to make sure I don't blow up an abortion clinic, and then avoid paying court fines by declaring bankruptcy.

Uh, sure. I see how that could be called the "firebomber legal protection act," other than the fact that I would still go to jail for a long, long time. Other than that minor quibble, sounds like the Lefties have us nailed on this one.

The problem is, as Sen. Hatch points out, the amendment was stuck in there to delay the bill, not to protect a woman's right to jab sharp metal objects into her own children. And yet the pro-abortionists have to freak out and claim this is a victory for pro-lifers. It seems they cannot give an inch, even a tangential inch, or else all is lost.

The real irony is, other than pro-lifers, it seems to me that the people most likely to get in trouble for violent protests are lefties.