May 31, 2005

Evaluating Rehnquist

Stuart Taylor wrote this recent cover story in the National Journal. It strikes me as a fair evaluation of CJ Rehnquist's service on the Supreme Court. It also reminds us that what makes a good Chief Justice is somewhat different from what makes a good Justice. It will be important to remember all the functions associated with that role when considering whether the individual nominated to serve as Rehnquist's successor is qualified for the office.

Posted by armand at 11:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2005

Le Fils (The Son)

This film by the Dardenne brothers (who just won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival for their latest work) is somewhat difficult to describe. It is a little bit creepy and it's suspenseful throughout. But even with that and the rather menacing way in which it is shot it's also a film that's filled with a great deal of heart. It's just not entirely clear what form the considerable emotional intensity felt by the characters will take.

In terms of plot, it involves a man who teaches carpentry to reform school boys. One day a new boy arrives. This arrival deeply disturbs the teacher. Over time we find out why. And then once we learn that the movie more or less entails waiting for the inevitable confrontation, and discovering how that will happen and what will result from it. In many ways this is a rather small film. The cast is tiny, and in fact it's shot in such a way that at first a viewer's vision of what's going on is tightly limited. But the creators of this film know what they are doing, and the way in which the movie is constructed adds a great deal to our understanding of the events and feelings on the screen.

I wouldn't say it's a great film, but it's an intriguing one.

Posted by armand at 03:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Justice Thomas: A Results Driven Originalist

Publius is in fine form in this critique of Justice Thomas' dissent in Deck v. Missouri. He uses this opinion to illustrate the holes in originalism, and the related notion that certain judges like him who follow this doctrine are merely "interpreting the law" and not on occasion pushing their own policy/ideology preferences. The point here isn't that the result that Thomas wants is a bad thing, it's that originalism is deeply flawed.

Posted by armand at 02:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2005

Secretary Rice: Lowering the "Success" Bar Even Further, and Attacking the Founders in the Process!

So while she implies things could be going better, she's pleased that at least the Iraqis haven't written slavery into their constitution like we did. Of course they don't even have a constitution yet. But presuming they get around to writing one eventually, somehow I don't think we really need to worry about it legalizing slavery any more than we need to worry about it calling for the burning of witches at the stake. Talk about a lame attempt to divert attention from today's serious issues. That's not even remotely relevant to securing US interests, or to the creation of a free, democratic Iraq. Let's stop making excuses and lowering the bar for what we should expect of both the Iraqi elites and ourselves.

Posted by armand at 05:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

River Rips Tom Friedman a New One

Those of you who enjoy Tom Friedman bashing won't want to miss out on this excoriating critique of his "Outrage and Silence" by River. I'd be willing to muster a few words of defense for him on certain points that are raised (well, to the degree that "I think what he really meant was ..." is a defense), but maybe he should just go back to covering Beirut, a place he seems to have more of an actual clue about. After all, there's a lot going on there this month. Alternatively, the Times could turn over his column inches to Paul Krugman or Frank Rich. Actually, that would be my preference at this point considering the number of phoned-in columns he's written of late.

Posted by armand at 04:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

MTV: Bland, Corporate and Inoffensive

MTV has rarely been in danger of developing any sort of edge (and any they ever had disappeared over 10 years ago), but I've got to say you've fallen to rather shocking depths of fraidy-cat cowering, lowest-common-denominator let's-make-a-cheap-buck meaningless blandness when Trent Reznor manages to make you look like a weak-willed toadie of corporate rock and the man.

Posted by armand at 02:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

How to Get Ahead in DC Without Really Trying

One of the fundamental tenets of of rational government and non-political bureaucrats is the idea that (much like the capitalist economic system) productive job behavior is good, and that non-productive behavior is bad. In other words, do a good job and get raises and promotions, do a bad job and get no raise and no promotion (or even fired). This is critical to how our system of government works. Bureaucrats who do their jobs professionally and non-politically get rewarded, while those that are less competant are demoted or fired. The bureaucrats have to be professional and non-political: if the entire bureaucracy were politicized, we'd have to replace them all (from park rangers to dog catchers to secretaries) every time their was a change in party in power. No one likes "bureaucrats", but a professional class of non-political government workers is critical to running a democracy for over 300 million people.

This was what was so worrying about the "Did Bush force the CIA to manufacture intelligence" debate. The country will survive even serious mistakes by Presidents (see Kennedy & Johnson on Vietnam, just for one example). The much more significant problem is if Bush politicizes the intelligence system so it no longer gives accurate forecasts and analysis. If the system works, and Presidents make bad decisions, we can get around that (solution: replace the President). If the system is broken, then by definition every President (regardless of party) will make bad decisions, because every administration will be operating with bad intelligence. No one will make good decisions at that point.

Hence, it is worrying that some of the analysts who made faulty intelligence assessments regarding Iraq are being rewarded, not fired or demoted. This is fundamentally wrong, no matter what political party you are from. A non-political intelligence service is critical to the country, not any particular party. This is not just an isolated case, either:

Pentagon spokesmen said the awards for the analysts were to recognize their overall contributions on the job over the course of each year. But some current and former officials, including those who called attention to the awards, said the episode shows how the administration has failed to hold people accountable for mistakes on prewar intelligence.
Despite sharp critiques from the president's commission and the Senate intelligence committee, no major reprimand or penalty has been announced publicly in connection with the intelligence failures, though investigations are still underway at the CIA. George J. Tenet resigned as CIA director but was later awarded the Medal of Freedom by Bush.

So, these individuals are representative of all the intelligence analysts: not one single person has been demoted or fired as a result of one of the greatest intelligence failures in the modern history of the United States. This isn't a political argument - if we don't fire or demote people who are demonstrably wrong (and, at least on a prima facia case, get promoted or rewarded for screwing up in a politically expedient direction), we hurt the country. This is just wrong.

Posted by baltar at 08:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 27, 2005

Is the Filibuster Fight Over?

I accept that the filibuster fight is over. I'm still not sure what that agreement between the "gang of fourteen" means. The Dems agreed to let three nominees go by, and may or may not have agreed to let more go. The Reps agreed not to have an actual vote that would procedurally ban filibusters for judicial nominees at this time, but retain the right to have that same vote at some future point (which, I guess, means anytime they want). So, I'm honestly not sure what changed, except a bunch of Senators pretty much broke their arms patting themselves in the back for finding a solution and being bipartisan and all pally-like.

Except that less than two days later, the Dems put Bolton's vote to be UN Ambassador into a cardboard box at the back of their shoe closet. This is a move very much like the filibuster: you need sixty votes to agree to have a vote on anything of substance in the Senate, and the vote to end debate about Bolton didn't get it. Hence, much like a filibuster, Bolton can't be confirmed (but hasn't been rejected yet, either). Why isn't this fight the same as the filibuster fight?

I think my preference just to have this fight. Let the Reps trigger the "nuclear option" and lets just get this fight over with. I'd rather do it over Bolton or Owens (I know, she already made it through), who are clearly easy to take pot shots at, then wait for a Supreme Court nominee who nobody likes, but isn't as easy to generate the enthusiams for filibustering. Just have the fight now, so everyone knows what the playing field looks like for more important fights in the future.

By the way, is Frist useful for anything besides holding the Senate's coats or parking their cars? He seems awfully useless these days.

Posted by baltar at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Al-Jazeera Lauds President Bush's Statements on Egyptian Reform

Yup. Honest. It's true. And really not all that surprising. While a lot of Americans, particularly those on the right, see much of the Arab press as hopelessly anti-American, it's more complicated than that. If there's one thing that many Arabs and the press they support loathe it's the autocrats and oligarchs who've held power for decades with an iron fist. So when you have someone powerful who's influential in supporting their reign criticizing them (democracy lovers are probably exhaling "finally!") it's going to get the sort of praise that is often in short supply for the US government at the moment (what with Abu Ghraib and usual Bush policy of coddling Mubarak and the royals of Saudi, Kuwait, and the UAE). The merits of particular policies and alliances can be debated. But this should reinforce that it's not so much that "they hate us" as "they hate our policies".

Posted by armand at 03:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sobek on Machiavelli and Imperial Regimes

Since it's published in a purely academic journal and almost certainly would escape the attention of most of you, I thought I would take a moment to mention a new article by David Sobek in the June 2005 issue of International Studies Quarterly. Sobek examines Machiavelli's work and whether or not what Machiavelli terms "imperial regimes" (which can be either democratic or autocratic) are indeed more prone to initiate international conflict (as Machiavelli hypothesizes). Through two sets of statistical analyses (one focused on Renaissance Italy, the other on the modern international system since 1920) Sobek finds strong support for this proposition. It's an important article if you are interested in how domestic institutions affect the foreign policy behavior of states. It deepens our knowledge of the differences between the foreign policies of democracies and autocracies, but it also makes some key insights dealing with the differences that exist among democracies that should be of great interest to anyone interested in the idea of a democractic peace. One central point is that increasing the size of a country's electorate without increasing the role that non-elites play in government increases the likehood that a country will initiate a militarized conflict. The paper is titled "Machiavelli's Legacy: Domestic Politics and International Conflict".

Posted by armand at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Crash by Paul Haggis

Crash has been getting some of the best reviews of the year. Roger Ebert called it a "movie of intense fascination". Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly has called it "one of the best Hollywood movies about race, but, along with Collateral, one of the finest portrayals of contemporary Los Angeles life period". Tom Meek in The Boston Phoenix says writer/director Paul Haggis (who wrote Million Dollar Baby) "slices into the racism and the elitism that are rife in America today".

Such observations are absurd. Thankfully there are some critics like A.O. Scott of The New York Times. He describes it as "full of heart and devoid of life; crudely manipulative when it tries hardest to be subtle; and profoundly complacent in spite of its intention to unsettle and disturb". Hopefully at least some Americans will read things other than raves about Crash - because honestly I haven't seen such a disappointing movie praised so much since House of Sand and Fog.

This trainwreck of supposed meaning and inspiration is banal and overwrought. Overwrought actually doesn't even come close to getting the point across though. This film comes to such shocking conclusions as 1) people are complex 2) racism is something even rich black Americans face 3) people do occasionally not follow their principles 4) and people often make decisions and comments based on stereotypes. Honestly, I thought about leaving the theater after the first few lines of the movie were spoken (yes, the ridiculous high-school-sophmore-quality diagoue starts that early) and I thought about leaving at least 2 more times as I watched.

Oh, and a very special permanent pink slip in the movie business should go to anyone who had anything to do with the music in this film. It was so over used to hit every obvious emotional spike that you'd think you were watching Return of the King. And don't even get me started on the slow motion.

Yes, race, class, steretypes and urban life make for drama. But there is precious little of it here in this sort of predestined melee of constant anger and improbable (yet somehow predictable) turns. On that point, there were sections of Revenge of the Sith that were more plausible.

The one reason that I was glad I stuck with it was that there were some nice performances. Don Cheadle is always fantastic of course, and in this I'd put Terrence Howard right up there with him. He's great. And there are some nice little turns by Jennifer Esposito, William Fitchner and Ryan Phillippe.

But all in all, this is the kind of loathsome and insipid crap that all too often passes for art of late. If this is supposedly insightful - the level of thoughtfulness and critical thinking in this country has reached a shocking new low. I give it a definite thumbs down. Go watch the last Star Wars film instead.

Posted by armand at 01:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Newsweek Didn't Do It

Of course assuming you're not a shill for the Bush administration, you already knew that. This piece by Sarah Chayes from Thursday is well worth reading. One basic point it contains is something many bloggers have noted this week. Given the poor behavoir that many Americans have shown, for which the president has held no one accountable, it's entirely reasonable for many people in that part of the world to simply assume such allegations are true. As she puts it:

On their own, the fatal beatings of probably innocent detainees and the use of religiously based sexual humiliation at the prison on the American base in Bagram would be sufficient pretext for troublemakers to provoke a riot, never mind the Newsweek report about desecration of the Koran.

While Americans keep doing these types of things for which no US officials are held accountable, and as long as the US and the Karzai regime it works with are allied with thugs, criminals, and multinational corporations that often seem not to have the people's best interests at heart, many people have every reason to doubt our statements and intentions.

But beyond that this story points out that there are foreign agents in Afghanistan (represenatives of Pakistan and Iran) who can easily use the deepening misgivings about the American presence to their advantage if they feel the need to do so. It's a deadly combination. And until we become more serious about certain types of reforms there the sad thing is that the bad behaviors that the Bush administration has ignored and/or encouraged are likely to result in many more deaths in the future. And while it's fair to criticize Mike Isikoff for certain things he's done in his career, those deaths won't be his fault.

Posted by armand at 01:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 26, 2005

An Explanation For My Absence.

Charles Hauser; 1929 Ė 2005

Obituary

New York Times Story

(I havenít blogged in over a month, and this post is in part an explanation, in part a memorial, and in part just an emotional release. Iíll apologize for the length (but Iím co-owner of this blog, so Iím allowed), and those who want can just skip it.)

In the normal course of events, children bury their parents. One would think, given the normality of this event, I might have been better prepared when it happened to me. I wasnít. But who is?

My dad died on April 17, 2005. This was not expected, and it was sudden. He was, by all accounts, in very good health for a 76-year-old man. His cholesterol levels were below normal for his age; his blood pressure was (healthily) below normal; his weight was within five pounds of what it was twenty years ago (which, in turn, was within five pounds of what it was as a thirty-year-old man). He had no diseases or conditions. In short, there were no medical reasons for him to have died when he did.

Six days before he died, he gave a lecture at Davidson College (outside Charlotte, North Carolina). While he had supposedly retired some fifteen years before, he kept a fairly busy schedule. Since January, he had been teaching two classes at Davidson College. As part of the contract he had with them, he was required to give a campus-wide lecture on a subject of his choosing. A lifelong newspaperman, he spoke on ďMedia: Madness, Mergers and MoneyĒ. It was not a lecture that held up the modern newspaper, with its focus on revenue and the bottom line, in a good light. It speaks well of Davidson College that the president of the college came to the talk, as well as various faculty members and several students (including some who were not in his classes). I was very, very lucky to have decided at the last minute to drive down, to see the speech, spend the night and have some time with Dad. I almost didnít go (bad time of the academic year), but will be everlastingly grateful that I did. Dad was not the most polished public speaker (the written word was his forte), and as I can attest, when one attempts to talk (or write) about subjects that one is passionate about, that attempt can sometimes produce prose that is less polished, less concise and less focused than when writing about subjects that are less dear to oneís heart. It was clear he was disappointed in his chosen profession Ė he felt the field had moved away from its public duty and role to hold a light up to those in power, and instead was more concerned with money. There was, he noted, less reporting and less emphasis on news than in other times, and this reflected badly on the profession. Hence, he explained, the declining readership of newspapers. His point was clear, but the words didnít ring with the crisp, clear, emotional writing I knew he had done so many times before. I chalked it up to the aforementioned too-much-passion-in-the-subject explanation, and looked forward to asking him specific questions at a later date, when he had more distance. Relaxing after the speech, with a glass of wine in his hand at the apartment Davidson had given him for the semester, he seemed his old self.

Five days before he died, he played golf with his good friend Irwin Smallwood. Irwin and my dad were friends, beginning back when both worked together at the Daily Tar Heel (the student-run newspaper of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Both Irwin and my dad became heavily involved in the student newspaper, both turning to journalism as a profession. At the memorial service, and after, I heard several stories of my dadís time-management skills at college: his grades were not good, as he was spending most time putting out the newspaper. Irwin was caught up in this circle as well (I wonít speak to Irwinís time-management skills), and the two were fast and life-long friends. Where my dad went on to newspaper jobs outside of North Carolina, Irwin rose to run the sports section for the Greensboro (North Carolina) Observer. Irwin caught the golf bug (playing and writing), and turned my dad to it as well. I never caught the golf bug. I did golf with him at times, and he golfed like he lived: calmly, with focus and good humor. He tried to teach me, and never complained when my swings pushed balls on to other fairways or into water traps. He was never disappointed when I failed to take up the sport. I never saw him upset at a swing or a game. He just...enjoyed it (Iím incredulous: golf still bores me to tears).

Four days before he died, he taught his classes at Davidson. This was a calling he had taken to later in life, and seemed to enjoy more than the running of newspapers, though running newspapers is what he had done for his professional career. Both of these he loved less than writing, which remained his passion (see the extended entry for some recent columns I collected). He had taught a number of courses (writing, editing, ethics, journalism) in a fairly large number of places (University of Rhode Island, the Chautauqua Writerís Center, Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, others, and finally at Davidson College). He had clearly ďtakenĒ to teaching. He was tremendously ethical and passionately concerned that journalists be (first) good writers: teaching allowed him to pass both of those pillars of his professional life onto a next generation. I donít think he came to teaching for those noble-sounding reasons: I think he came to it because he mostly enjoyed the interaction with bright, young students. They challenged him in the class, and he enjoyed the give and take, back and forth between the students and the teacher. This wasnít a one-way process: he took from them as well. As he told the president of Davidson, who had come by my dadís office to mention that several students had passed along that they were enjoying my dadís classes (itís a small school, this stuff actually happens), my dad replied that he learned something new from the students every day. He took to teaching like he took to everything he did: calmly, seriously, but with great enjoyment. I donít think my dad did anything in his life that he didnít enjoy (he claimed that paying his income taxes was a great personal honor, and he did the tax returns himself), and I believe he took to teaching (and the time it took out of the other parts of his life) with as much, or greater, enjoyment than anything else he had done. I think he was good at teaching, as he was good at writing and being a newspaperman (not so good at golf, however). While I think that every son ďseesĒ his father in a good light, and wants to believe that his father is the best ever, there is supporting evidence in this case: half a dozen of dadís Davidson students (he only had 30) drove the two-and-a-half hours to his memorial service on a week day. While we have received over 200 condolence cards, some of the most heartfelt are from those young students. This is not normal behavior for college students (likewise the editorial about Dad at the Davidson student newspaper Ė not available online), and my conclusion is that they liked and respected him enough to expend the effort for the trip and the sentiments. To the end, he excelled at whatever he did, and he excelled not just because he cared, passionately, about what he did, but because he had the ability to share that enthusiasm with students, reporters and writers of all stripes.

Three days before he died, he came home to his wife. Dad was commuting over to Davidson (two-and-a-half hour drive) on Monday nights, teaching, then back to Chapel Hill on Thursday night. Not a prohibitive commute, but fatiguing over twelve weeks. Mom and Dad had just moved into a new house, closer to Chapel Hill, and were still unpacking boxes, hanging pictures and moving things around. So, Dad was off teaching and Mom was at home working on the house. The two had met at Chapel Hill almost fifty years ago (they would have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 2006). He had come back from serving in the Army in the Korean War and was getting the last few credits for his Journalism degree, and Mom was finishing an English major. They were set up on a blind date (a newspaper reporter who liked to party and a sorority-house girl who liked to party; it doesnít seem so odd). Both shared a background without a geographically stable home: dadís family was career army, and momís was career college football Ė in both cases there was no hometown or permanent home. Each moved, on average, about every year. Chapel Hill was, for almost the first time, a place they had both lived for an extended period. In this way, when dad retired, they moved back to where they started. The intervening years had taken them to Greensboro (NC), Paris, London, Washington DC, Norfolk (VA), and finally Providence, Rhode Island, before retirement and moving back ďhomeĒ to North Carolina. They were very different people, but it complimented their relationship very well. He was a steady provider; she was mercurial and spontaneous. She dragged them all about, but always knew he would blunt her excesses. He knew that she introduced him to places and events he never would otherwise have seen, and people he never otherwise would have met. They weathered the ups and downs of a half-century together, and to the end they could make each other laugh. No marriage is perfect, and I wonít claim it here. It did, however, work like it should: they were happier with each other. They loved each other. He enjoyed going home each night. This Thursday trip home from Davidson was no exception. However, this time when he walked through the door Dad went straight to bed. He told Mom he wasnít feeling well, just a cold.

In the day before he died, and two days before he died, Dad stayed in bed. He had a fever, but no other symptoms. No cough, no pains, no runny nose. Just tired, with a fever. He didnít eat much. He was reluctant to see a doctor; itís just a cold, or the flu, he claimed. By the morning of the day he died, he was worse than ever, and Mom finally convinced him to go the emergency room. He protested, and argued, but gave in. He refused to go, however, without a shower first. Dad and Mom walked into the hospital together about 8 am. Even then, he was a newspaperman. On the way to the hospital, he asked mom to ďbe sure and get a paper, my column ran today.Ē His last column, for the Chapel Hill News, ran on Sunday, April 17, 2005. He died at 4:01pm, that day.

They still, a month later, donít know what it was. The death certificate says ďsepsisĒ: a full-body infection. They donít know what sort of bacteria, where he picked it up, what it attacked, why their antibiotics didnít work, why the respirator and dialysis machines didnít keep him alive, or a host of other questions. They did an autopsy, but the results are still pending.

I had called down to talk to my parents on the day before dad died. I had no idea anything was going on. I talked to dad every weekend Ė curious about his teaching, mostly, but also just checking in. Mom said everything was fine, but dad had caught something. It didnít sound serious. I called back the next morning just to check in, and got no answer. I figured he had recovered, and they had gone out to do something fun. Mom called around 1pm, from the hospital. Dad was on a respirator, but the doctors were hopeful (the respirator was just to let him concentrate his energy for fighting off the infection; the doctors thought heíd be off it in 24 hours). This was the first Iíd heard that anything was wrong. I left messages for my sister everywhere I could, and my girlfriend and I were packed and out the door in under an hour. We arrived at the hospital at 9pm. Mom was alone in the entryway. He had died a few hours ago. I remember first feeling bad for Mom (sheíd known him longest, and best, and the hole his death created would be felt largely by her), and then for my sister (she didnít get there until late the next night; just unluckily far away). Mom had talked the hospital into leaving dadís body in the chapel for me to see one last time. It seemed Ė and still seems Ė odd. Iím still not sure I wanted to see him there, like that. I was mostly just stunned (clichťd, but accurate). What do you say at this point? What are you supposed to feel? How are you supposed to act?

The day after Ė and days since Ė was somewhat of a blur. There were lots of people to call, Irwin Smallwood came down and immediately took on the difficult task of writing the obituary (side note: when Mom called Irwin to tell him dad had died, his first response was ďAre you sure?Ē), a funeral home to line up (How do you find a good one? What is a good one? Should you care at times like this?), more phone calls, plans to make, classes to cancel, etc. The house was quiet the morning after, but became busy and full of people quickly (and stayed that way for most of a week). Family came in from all up and down the east coast.

The obituary ran in many newspapers two days after he died. I never knew you paid to run an obituary Ė I thought that newspapers ran them as a public service, to let people know who had died. Silly me, they make money out of obituaries, too. We ran the obit in all the papers he had worked at: Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Norfolk (VA), and Providence. On Irwinís suggestion, we added Charlotte and Raleigh (the major cities in North Carolina): he had been inducted into the University of North Carolinaís Journalism Hall of Fame back in 2000, and Irwin thought there were enough people around the state who might want to know.

I didnít really figure that his death was ďnewsĒ Ė he was a good journalist, but not a Krauthamer, an Ivins or some such. I was clearly wrong. The Raleigh News & Observer (the major paper in North Carolina) put a reporter on the story; the Associated Press put together a story (based on the obit) that went out on the national wires (and was run by newspapers from Alabama to South Dakota); the Washington Post did their own little blurb, as did the LA Times. The New York Times wrote their own story (I remain somewhat stunned by this: the New York Times devoted a not trivial amount of space to this story. I guess he really was a pretty good journalist). The Providence Journal (where he spent most of his career) ran a story, an editorial, and a reporter my dad had mentored wrote a column. (Note: All the Providence Journal links are to pages to buy the whole article; I've copied them into the extended entry.)

I had always known he had done some good things as a journalist, but I really had no idea that he was something approaching a renowned figure. Itís still hard to believe.

While all the press was certainly welcome (who doesnít want to hear good things said, publicly, about their dad?), it never really penetrated into Momís home. We had family around, and once they started to depart, there remained the unknown and daunting task of picking up the pieces. Life, at least for the rest of the world, goes on pretty much as it was. Dad was a remarkably well-organized man: he went so far as to prepare a binder for Mom, listing everything that needed to be done when he died, where it was located, who needed to be notified and whatever else (in one of the many unexplained events, the binder was found on top of his desk: did he get it out? When? Why?). However well organized, there remains the ongoing task for the remaining family of learning to do the things that he did for decades. The past month has seen a steep leaning curve; add to that the fact that the three of us are all strong-willed people who learn and decide in very different ways, and there is a recipe for family stress (on top of the still very raw wound that Dadís death continues to be). Weíre managing it pretty well. Check back with me in six months, and ask me again.

Iím not sure how grief works. Iím not sure how Iím supposed to feel or supposed to act. I have yet to fall apart, collapse completely, or ďlose itĒ in any conventionally defined way. Should I? Am I obliged? Am I not grieving enough if I donít? Does it mean I didnít love him enough? I donít really feel any better about his death, or less sad, than the week after he died. I havenít had any sort of transcendent event or emotional release. Mostly it just sneaks up on me. I remember something I had planned to with dad, and realize that Iím not going to do that. I remember a question I wanted to discuss with him, and realize I canít. I pull a bottle of wine that I had planned to open with him, and realize I wonít. I figure there are a relatively limited number of those ďfuture memoriesĒ, and as I run out of those, Iíll get choked up less and less. Is this ďhealingĒ?

Itís been about a month now. Time for me to begin doing the things I was doing before he died; blogging is one of those things. Iím never going to go into journalism; I know this. Iím not going to attempt to follow in his footsteps. I will make no grand life-changing decisions, or grandiose rededicate-my-life pronouncements. He was, however, fiercely protective about the role of the press as watchdog over the people in power: that defined, for him, political journalism. This blog, in its own small way, like thousands of others around, fulfils some of those same purposes. I donít know what my dad really thought about Bloodless Coup, beyond generally encouraging me. To my knowledge, he never wrote a comment. He did read it (I found it on the recent history in his web browser). It isnít his journalism, however, it is journalism in its own way. Not conventionally defined, but it does its own share of raising hell (as dad declared the role of journalists to be at Davidson this past semester). For those, however, who want to appreciate a real journalist, click on any of the links above, and read about my dad. He learned his journalism in a different era, complete with a higher set of values that spoke of public service; his was the generation of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers. He never achieved that level of publicity (though his newspaper did uncover financial ties between the Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the mafia, and his US Supreme Court case is taught in journalism schools here and there), but that was unnecessary. It was the attitude, the calling, the morals that made him the reporter, editor, writer and father he was (he always had it: one of the earliest outings he and Mom went on was to a KKK rally in near Chapel Hill; he had her hold the flashlight on the license plates of the KKK memberís cars while he wrote down the numbers.)

It wasnít that the profession made him honorable; it was that an honorable man choose the profession. The profession got the benefits of having him write, report and edit; given the extent of the coverage when he died, I have to believe (of course, I want to believe) that the profession recognized how good he really was at being a journalist. That was never really clear to me, until he was gone. I got the benefits of that same honorable, ethical, generous, and kind journalist as a father. He was pretty good at that, too.

Chuck Hauser was my dad; Iíll miss him.

I've collected the weblinks to several of the monthly columns that dad was doing for the local newspaper, the Chapel Hill News. The link to the last column he wrote is in the main entry. Here are a few more, listed in the order I liked them.

A Minor Medical Miracle (September 17, 2004)

The untold stories of Choo-Choo and Cooley (November 14, 2003)

A coach catches the bridal bouquet (February 13, 2004)

Message in a bottle: The welcome mat is not out (August 13, 2004)

'Big Time' equals bad news for the university (December 19, 2003)

Delayed graduation walk triggers exhilaration, nostalgia (May 14, 2004)

Carolina query: Which beach do you go to? (July 18, 2004)

Christmas in Paris and some shameful episodes at home (January 14, 2005)

You're located where? Your policy is what? (March 19, 2004)

Witch hunt in classrooms (April 16, 2004)

Reckless red-light runners (January 16, 2004)

Poking around Carolina's nooks and crannies (October 15, 2004)

I have also included the text of some of the Providence Journal links that are now paid links. This first is the editorial the Providence Journal ran on Sunday, April 24th:

Charles McCorkle Hauser, The Journal's executive editor from 1973 to 1989, was a journalist so devoted to his trade that he was willing to go to jail for it.
That was in the '80s, when he, backed by his publisher, the late Michael Metcalf, defied a federal judge's gag order and printed a story based on the illegal FBI bugging of mobster Raymond L.S. Patriarca. The Journal eventually won that case, which ended in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case was heavily cited in most obituaries of Chuck Hauser, almost to a fault, along with the obligatory reference to the Pulitzer Prize and six Pulitzer finalist positions won by The Journal during his tenure.
For Mr. Hauser's career was long, distinguished and varied. It started in the late '40s, at his college paper, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and included writing and editing jobs in North Carolina and Virginia; the general managership of The Virginia-Pilot, in Norfolk; and a stint as a foreign correspondent for United Press International in London and Paris. (His former boss in Paris once told us that Chuck Hauser was an indefatigable and very reliable reporter.)
Chuck also served time as an Army officer in the Korean War, in which he was wounded. He complained, in his low-key mordant way, about how little Americans knew about that war.
Later in life, he taught journalism, first at the University of Rhode Island, and then, after moving back to North Carolina, at UNC, Duke and Davidson College. Chuck was by all accounts a dedicated teacher, who conveyed his love of reporting and writing to students, and persuaded more than a few to devote their careers to it. (He told us some years ago that he had been working on a novel, some of it set in Rhode Island. We sure would like to read it.)
But to him and his colleagues and friends, the core of Chuck Hauser's career was the 16 years he spent running the news department at The Journal. (He briefly served as Journal general manager, but hated that business role, and could hardly wait to get back to devoting all his working hours to journalism -- even in as fractious and exasperating a place as a newsroom.)
Like his courage in pursuing tough stories, his success in nurturing writers was nationally known. The writers and editors he hired and trained now hold key journalistic positions across America. "He was a writer's editor," said Irwin Smallwood, a former deputy executive editor of The Daily News & Record, of Greensboro, N.C., who had been a college friend of Chuck's. "He knew the difference between editing and fiddling."
Chuck Hauser's shyness was sometimes taken as arrogance and coldness. But in different settings, he showed himself funny, companionable, and possessing a surprisingly wide array of interests. He was also modest. He knew many famous people, but never dropped a name; he had had many dramatic, even dangerous, moments, but it was almost impossible to drag the stories out of him. Indeed, one sometimes had the feeling that he had seen many things about which he could never speak.
Mr. Hauser always seemed about 20 years younger than his chronological age. His death last week, at 76, after a brief illness, was therefore a great shock -- and a big loss to journalism.

Finally, here is the column that Mark Patinkin wrote. Dad hired Mark as a reporter, then moved him over to writing columns. They had a very long and cordial professional relationship. This column also ran on Sunday, April 24.

Mark Patinkin: Chuck Hauser helped kick-start a columnist.
At first, I wasn't going to write about Chuck Hauser.
He died last week at age 76, and yes, he was the top editor at The Providence Journal for 16 years, but he left in 1988. That's a long time ago.
Then something occurred to me.
Have you ever tried asking yourself who, besides family, has had the greatest impact on your life?
If I had to pick two or three, one of them would be Chuck.
He wasn't my closest friend or colleague. He was the big boss, and I was among hundreds who reported to him.
But his decisions shaped my adult life.
I was 24 and a reporter at a small upstate New York paper when I applied to The Providence Journal. They rejected me, but I drove down and showed up anyway, managing to get a brief meeting with Chuck.
He offered me a job as copy editor, a key position, but I wanted to write, so I turned him down. I figured that ended my chances at The Providence Journal.
Two weeks later, The Journal called and told me Chuck had decided to give me a chance.
After a few years as a general reporter, a columnist's job opened up, and Chuck decided to give me another chance. At the time, it was four columns a week. I said yes, but panicked. Four seemed like a lot.
I told him I definitely wanted the job, but added, "I don't know. Four a week?"
Chuck shrugged. Well, he said, if I was able to do five, that would be fine, too.
To this day, I don't know if he was kidding, but it told me he believed in me, and that helped me believe in myself.
As head editor, Chuck brought an interesting personality to The Providence Journal. He was a writer at heart, and turned The Journal into a writer's paper, encouraging great storytelling. That's the kind of paper I wanted to be a part of. Without that, I might have moved on in time, but because of Chuck, I realized this was the place. And it still is.
It often takes a bigger-than-life personality to rise to the top of a news operation, but if anything, Chuck was shy, bad at small talk. Sometimes, that made you think he wasn't fully engaged. In truth, he may have been quiet, but he was always watching.
After a half-dozen years as columnist, he took me to lunch and asked how I was doing. I told him fine, but perhaps could use a new challenge. I mentioned recent headlines about a famine in Africa, not that The Providence Journal would cover that, but it was all I could think of. The next day, an editor came up and told me Chuck wanted me to plan a trip to Africa.
He later had me do other foreign assignments, as a columnist. Those trips became part of me.
One day, he asked if I wanted to play racquetball, a new game for him. I was 35 or so and Chuck was 60ish. It was intimidating playing against the big boss. I struggled with whether to let him win, or if that would make him feel patronized. But he wasn't a bad player. And it showed me that despite his position, he wasn't above wanting to connect on a casual level.
In 1988, he retired to his native North Carolina, but continued writing and stayed in touch, occasionally sending me a note if he thought I had done something exceptional. I saved those notes. I also saved the earlier ones he wrote when I was in slumps that began, "It's time to kick you in the rear." Only he didn't say "rear."
In truth, I've had plenty of other influential colleagues and bosses.
But I'm doing the job I do because of Chuck. I'm in this town because of him. And his shaping influence is one reason why The Journal, despite its flaws, is a good paper.
I will miss him.
And I couldn't be more grateful that he came this way.

Posted by baltar at 02:29 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Is Bush a Failure? Or Do Historians Just Hate Him?

Jim Lindgren has this post up on Volokh's site that criticizes an informal survey of historians that asserts that the Bush presidency is a failure. Now, ranking the general "success" of presidents is, to me, so pointless an exercise that it's better fit for some mid-afternoon talk show on VH1, or maybe an old Docker's commercial, than for supposedly scientific measurement. There are specific measures you can look at for certain types of ratings - so why not just hit the reference section of your local library? And of course ranking the success of a president who's still in office seems close to moronic. But since Lindgren and folks like him apparently want to write books on this kind of thing, well, I'm willing to play for a moment and consider his argument. What he seems to be arguing here is that Bush is rated a failure because the sample that was polled was skewed (the people who hang out in archives and actually read a plethora of White House memos are apparently not that friendly to the GOP). But his solution (add more conservative Republicans to the mix) doesn't seem to get at the real problem here. The real problem isn't a matter of the sample, it's that "success" can mean many things. So here's a notion for you - precisely specify your dependent variable! Do that, and you should remove a good deal of the error that might come from the experts you use looking at things through a partisan lens.

Posted by armand at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2005

Judge Owen of the Fifth Circuit

It's happened. The first of the federal appeals court judges that had been blocked by a Democratic filibuster has been confirmed. She will leave the Supreme Court in Texas and join the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which is based in New Orleans and covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Fifth is already, along with the Fourth Circuit, one of the nation's most conservative appeals courts, and the addition of Judge Owen would seem to just strengthen that orientation (since both her supporters and detractors consider her to be a staunch conservative). The vote in the Senate was a largely party-line affair with just 3 senators not voting with the majority of their caucus. Democrats Robert Byrd (WV) and Mary Landrieu (LA) voted to confirm Judge Owen while Republican Linc Chafee (RI) voted against her. All 3 were members of the so-called "Gang of 14" that made the deal that averted the use of the "nuclear option". Chafee's vote is just the second time a Republican senator has voted against a G.W. Bush appeals court nominee (Trent Lott of Mississippi voted against Judge Gregory who now sits on the Fourth Circuit).

Posted by armand at 07:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

Frist's Role in the Filibuster Deal

None at all it would seem. The merits of the deal are certainly debateable. My immediate inclination, and I honestly haven't pondered it yet, is to say that it's about as good a deal as can be expected. But whatever you think of it, one thing is clear (yet again). Bill Frist is inept, has the political skills of Harold Stassen, and couldn't organize a one car parade.

Posted by armand at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iran Allows More Reformists to Run for President

Just I heard Secretary Rice calling them the biggest impediment to democracy in the region. I look forward to her next speech in which she'll no doubt praise the mullahs for this move. I mean c'mon she was just praising Egypt for its move to democracy in a presidential race, and that "move" is woefully insignificant compared to this one.

But leaving aside the fact that Iran is already much more of a democracy than several of our allies in the region, it's moves like this one that might make many Americans wary if they took a moment to think beyond the a simple predisposition to believe that all forms of democracy are naturally wonderful. I'm generally pro-democracy, but by allowing more "reformists" to run, you'd think that the current powers that be believe that they'll actually be splitting that the vote of that side of the electorate - and hence making it easier to elect a hardliner. So while I'm in theory a fan of democracy, people in the US should be more willing to acknowledge that when countries actually pursue it we might not like the outcome at all. And as for me, I'm at least as interested in what policies a country may pursue as I am in the techniques they use to elect choose their leaders.

Posted by armand at 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Queens Democrats Back Giff

Gifford Miller has gotten a big boost in his campaign to win the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City. He's been endorsed by the Queen's Democratic organization," the strongest county party in town" according to Ben at The Politicker.

Posted by armand at 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2005

Make Up the Breakdown

Since yesterday I decided to comment on one not remotely new album (though it was new to me!), obviously I should note an even older one today (spiraling backwards for no particular reason - yep, it's that kind of Monday) - Make Up the Breakdown from Hot Hot Heat. While I'm not sure how I mostly missed it back in 2002 since I remember a couple of the most energetic songs on it, somehow I did. But luckily I eventually did pick it up. This is a great little album. I suppose it sort of got lost in the whole White Stripes, Interpol, Strokes thing. If you overlooked it then, look for it now. It contains some great New Wave-influenced rock songs.

Posted by armand at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

North Rhine-Westphalia the Springboard for Angela Merkel?

Well, that didn't take long. The CDU wins in North Rhine-Westphalia, the German Chancellor is suddenly planning early elections, and profiles of Angela Merkel (Chancellor Schroeder's likely opponent) are quickly updated. Meet the woman who may be the next Chancellor. I didn't know about her scientific background (a former chemist with a doctorate in physics).

Posted by armand at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Angel, Season 4

Far be it from me to pick a fight with Joss Whedon. I mean the man created TV's Buffy so he should be close to sainted for that alone. But I have to really disagree with his evaluation of Season 4 as the best of Angel's first 4 seasons (he said this in one of the dvd extras - I'm currently catching up on episodes of the show, which I really like, that I missed). I can understand why he might say that as the creator of the show. The production team was certainly doing some very grand things that season, and it was in many senses a bigger season than the earlier years. But in a way I think that's why it, especially the second half of the year involving Jasmine, is to my mind the weakest period of the first 4 years of the show. To me the whole Jasmine thing just didn't work. It seems a terribly impersonal reason for Connor's existence. And the notion of fighting with one of the powers ... I hate to call such a concept contrived since the whole show is a huge fantasy ... but quite frankly most of that was ridiculous, and not even in especially fun or threatening ways.

There were some good things in season 4 to be sure. The return of Angelus and the darker Wesley added a lot to the show. Evil/possessed Cordy/Jasmine fighting Willow was very entertaining. And there was Stephanie Romanov, who prior to season 4 had been a bit of a 2-dimensional drip, gaining a good deal of pathos as they humanized her. Her relationship with Wesley was very entertaining and touching if always tinged with sadness. And as to her performance in the season finale - that was probably the best comedy all season.

So it's not like season 4 was bad. Angel is (was) still far better than most TV. But bigger is not necessarily better, and I think they really got sidetracked in the show's mythology late in that year.

Posted by armand at 09:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A New Ambassador to the Vatican; Reactions to Levada

In John Allen's latest The Word From Rome we see two things. If you want to get a sweet appointment as a US Ambassador (say in France, Switzerland, or Rome) it helps to give the president several hundred thousand dollars. I realize that practice is very common, and it's not exactly selling federal offices to the highest bidder, but ...

The other thing is just how far to the right the Church has moved under John Paul II, and how thrilled the uber-reactionaries are with Benedict XVI. Allen seems to imply that the difference in the types of reactions that have greeted the appointment of the Archbishop of San Francisco as the new head of the CDF (he'll be the highest ranking American in the history of the Vatican) are partially due to the fact that the secular press just doesn't understand theChurch and that Archbishop Levada's really a moderate in the Church. That's one interpretation, sure. But it also implies that the church has drifted so far to the right under the late pope that at this point even the church's moderate leaders look like scary Dark Ages monsters to many people in the developed world. Since Benedict XVI seems very much interested in the place of the Church in the developed world ... there may be interesting times ahead.

Posted by armand at 09:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 22, 2005

The Magnetic Fields - i

69 Love Songs will probably always remain one of those works that defines a certain period of my life. Friends and I played it constantly - and rightly so since it was utterly brilliant. The range of work in it was astounding, the different types of vocalists intriguing, and it was clever, funny and blissful (even if some of the songs were about bloody revenge). True, any album that contains 69 songs will have some clunkers (the second half of volume 3 seemed to have a particularly unfortunate number) but all in all it was brilliant.

Given that, I didn't purchase i when it came out last year? Why, given that I loved 69 Love Songs (and quite liked one of their earlier albums - Holiday)? Because 69 Love Songs was such a wonder that I thought I'd surely be disappointed by its follow-up. So I didn't buy it, but it's been out for about a year now and eventually curiousity got the better of me so I picked up i few weeks ago.

All in all, I think it was perfectly fine to wait, but if you like The Magnetic Fields it should definitely be on your "get it eventually" list. It features the same level of breadth in terms of the sounds on it. "I Die" is chamber pop and "In an Operetta" features a harpsichord, but "I'm Tongue-Tied" would sound appropriate on a Hawaiin beach, while "Infinitely Late at Night" would sound just right sung by a drunken chanteuse in a smokey largely empty bar in a desolate part of an urban center. But while these and other songs are interesting, and are definitely likely to interest fans, I don't know that there are all that many standout tracks on this album that would be likely to draw in new admirers. "I Don't Really Love You Anymore" would have fit perfectly on 69 Love Songs - a chipper and bouncy tune, with resigned, depressing lyrics. I don't understand why "I Thought You Were My Boyrfiend" didn't get a remix and become a huge hit in certain clubs across the country (it's got just the right mix of 80's synth thing and bitter, slutty lyrics going on). My favorite is probably "I Wish I Had an Evil Twin". The whole concept of the song is both funny and odd, and how can you not smile or snicker at a line like "all men would writhe beneath his scythe".

So, to conclude, I was right that it's not nearly as grand as 69 Love Songs. And really unless you are a big fan, you might find the last 6 or so songs a bit dull. But there are a couple of prizes on this, and if you generally like this sort of thing it's well worth checking out.

Posted by armand at 04:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gov. Ehrlich (R-MD) Doesn't Really Hate Gays and Unmarried Couples

Is Bob Ehrlich having an "I voted for it before I voted against it" moment? Looks that way to me. He vetoes legislation that would have recognized the creation of a life partner registry that could be used by either gay or straight unmarried couples that would have helped these couples overcome legal hurdles relating to, say, hospital visits, or planning funerals. Apparently the governor thinks that such a registry would lead to domestic partnerships. Which would harm the sanctity of marriage. Which then leads to ... a guy on a pale horse and the whore of Babylon? Or offend "man on dog" Rick Santorum? Something like that. It's really hard for me to follow this tenuous supposed chain of horribles in anything approaching a logical way - since the whole thing is UTTERLY NUTS. Look Sen. Santorum if you think that a couple of old committed grannies who've lived together for years getting the rights to plan each other's funerals is going to end civilization ... you are batty. There's no two ways about that. You are un-freaking-hinged. And if you think it threatens your own marriage ... your level of insecurity and paranoia is such that you should probably be getting help. Actually given the fact that bestiality apparently often leaps into your mind ... maybe you should run to the nearest good therapist in any event. And as to you Gov. Ehrlich, it's great to say that you don't REALLY mean to make life harder on thousands of Marylanders. But guess what - you just did. You made it more difficult for lots of people to feel secure and to deal with terribly difficult issues that people have to face when they are at they're weakest. Hopefully Mayor O'Malley will put your cold-hearted ass into forced retirement next year. I just feel bad for all the people who'll have to suffer in the meantime because of what you've done.

Posted by armand at 03:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Karzai Not Aggressive Enough on Poppy Eradication

It seems appropriate that someone named "gall" is in the by-line on this story. US officials don't think Hamid Karzai (the guy we put in power after the Russians and Iranians signed off on him) isn't doing enough to eradicate poppy production in Afghanistan. Can you imagine any Afghan leader who would be more likely to work with the US? I can't. Given the current economy situation in his country, this is sort of like asking the Emir of Kuwait to end petroleum production. But beyond that, we've simply been slow in helping to develop economic alternatives that would make it less of a jolt to the Afghan economy to cut down on this. Until we do that (and perhaps give them all that development money we promised them back when fighting there was the #1 news story in the US) and become more successful at making Afghanistan the kind of secure place that will be conducive to greater economic growth, that the Afghans are unwilling to be more aggressive on this issue isn't remotely surprising.

Posted by armand at 02:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rob Capehart to Lead the GOP in West Virginia

Good news for Republicans, bad news for Democrats. Capehart is serious, smart and knows how to throw effective political punches. I thought he was clearly the most threatening conservative in last year's gubenatorial primary (not that that anything short of the old "dead girl, live boy" thing could have stopped Joe Manchin from winning), and if he was the guy who ran Brent Benjamin's successful race for the State Supreme Court (obviously with the help of millions and millions from a certain coal company millionaire) the Democrats had best raise their guard. He should be far more successful than the last state chairman.

Posted by armand at 12:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yet Another Beauty for the WTC Site

Yes, this came out days ago, but if you are interested in architecture you should really check out the design for the new Cultural Center that will be built on the WTC site. I strongly agree with the Downtown Lad that with additions like this and the new Calatrava building that area of Manhattan is going to be vastly more cool and beautiful than it used to be.

Posted by armand at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 21, 2005

Go Press Corps Go!

Ken Herman of Cox News nails Scott McClellan and the White House.

With all due respect, though, it sounds like you're saying your single anonymous sources are okay and everyone else's aren't.
Posted by armand at 03:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poirot: Five Little Pigs

Since I enjoyed The Hollow last week I watched Five Little Pigs this week. If you are looking for a country house setting and characters acting like they are in Gosford Park, you'll probably prefer The Hollow. But if you are more into the whole Rashomon-and-confrontation thing Poirot specializes in (interviewing the suspects individually, getting different perspectives on the same events, and then bringing everyone together at the scene of the crime to unveil the real killer) you'll likely prefer Five Little Pigs. Neither is brilliant, but both are good light entertainment. Oh, if figuring it out matters to you, if you watch these for the puzzle, you'll probably prefer Five Little Pigs. A key bit of information in The Hollow doesn't come until the end.

Posted by armand at 03:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2005

US Torturing People to Death in Afghanistan

It's not that this kind of report should be viewed as all that new or surprising, but I'm linking to this because I think it's extremely important that we don't forget 1) what Americans are complicit in (or at least that's the view of many) as part of our government's actions to bring "democracy" to Southwestern Asia and 2) the kinds of people that Americans turn our soliders into in order to ensure that they can carry out the orders that come from being placed in situtations that lead to these types of actions. Read on, if you can stomach it.

Posted by armand at 01:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Boaz on the Nuclear Option

This column by David Boaz makes some key points. One is incredinbly obvious. Ending the filibuster has to be one of George "Big Government" Bush's dearest dreams. He's shown a hearty desire for his entire tenure to spend spend and spend some more (well, not necessarily on Medicaid, programs for those with disabilities etc., but in general the man seems set on taking the national debt ever higher into the stratosphere). And obviously anything that will make that easier he's likely something he'll approve of. It's no shock that Boaz and the other libertarian types in the party disagree, but they aren't in charge right now, Bush is. And Bush's approach to government in many ways looks much more like that of LBJ and Nixon than it looks like Barry Goldwater's or Ike's.

But the other key point here is getting far too little attention. The Senate is by nature undemocratic, and if the politicians or the media foster the view that getting 51% of the votes there means that representatives of over half the country favor a bill or nomination they are misleading the people.

The Senate itself is apportioned by states, not by population. California has 53 members of the House to Wyoming's one, but each state gets two senators. If each senator is assumed to represent half that state's population, then the Senate's 55 Republicans represent 131 million people, while its 44 Democrats represent 161 million. So is the "democratic will" what the 55 senators want, or what senators representing a majority of the country want?

If the Democrats want to win the politics of this issue, bringing this up is just as important (and maybe more so) as constantly hitting that 1) the Republicans are going to knowingly misinterpret the rules of the Senate and 2) throw away an ancient rule that has been key in protecting many from a tyranny of the majority. If you look at it this way, and frame it this way, Democrats can make the case that protecting the filibuster actually is the truly democratic thing to do. It ensures that you don't have a narrow coalition from tiny states running things. If you don't want an unrepresentative minority running the Senate (and hence much of the country's business) the filibuster should be maintained - it does more to protect majority rule and the people's interests than the Republican's scheming.

Posted by armand at 01:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sen. Santorum: The Democrats Are As Bad As Hitler!

Bob Casey Jr. can't beat this guy soon enough. You'll pardon me if I don't buy his apology.

UPDATE: From the latest big profile on him I'm perplexed by 2 particular questions - Are people usually allowed to sleep with dead babies? Or take corpses home so they can be introduced to young children? I'm rather amazed that state law doesn't prevent that sort of thing.

Posted by armand at 12:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 19, 2005

The Surge of Bombings in Iraq

It's getting bloodier. Much bloodier.

The senior officer who met with reporters in Baghdad said there had been 21 car bombings in the capital in May, and 126 in the past 80 days. All last year, he said, there were only about 25 car bombings in Baghdad.

Posted by armand at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 18, 2005

Lamboley Challenges Bainbridge Over Yalta

Yeah, the whole controversy about the president's bizarre remarks dealing with the Yalta Conference has largely died down, but that doesn't mean that the disagreements over whether much was "lost" at Yalta have. Those fights have been going on for decades in certain circles, and Amy Lamboley gamely keeps them alive in this post in which she disagrees with Professor Bainbridge over whether the US could have done much to prevent Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

Posted by armand at 06:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Pro-Republican National Public Radio

The head of the CPB has got to go. I mean check out his worries relating to NPR and his ideas about how to change it.

Old liberals hosting shows (worse yet, old liberals with a heavy Christian bent who might obscure the fact that not all Democrats are pagans or worship Satan)!?! Investigative reporting (you know that's usually aimed at those in power or big business ...)!?! Those kinds of thing have got to go. And NPR needs more balance (though of course most listeners think it has that). (But just to be on the safe side) Above all else what the network really needs is less news and more classical music.

While I doubt it'll have any real effect on his behavior, at least the inspector general of the CPB is keeping an eye on him.

Posted by armand at 05:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Media Matters - The GOP's Top 10 Lies About the Filibuster

Check them out here.

The best moment in today's "debate" so far seems to be what followed Senator Schumer pointing out to Senator Frist that in 2000 he actually voted to continue a filibuster against a Clinton appeals court nominee that the Republicans had held up four years. Frist's attempt to justify his actions, while still calling the filibuster unconstitutional (which is such a beyond ridiculous lie that it's terribly irresponsible that the media doesn't call Frist to account for continually making such a misleading statement), is Frist at his pathetic best - some unfortunate combination of serial liar and hopelessly inept.

Posted by armand at 05:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 17, 2005

Belinda Stronach Saves Canada's Liberal Party?

Indeed, the 30-something former President and CEO of Magna International may very well have. This is a shock. Just last year she was competing against Stephen Harper for leadership of the Conservative Party. Now she's in the Liberal cabinet.

Posted by armand at 06:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A New South Korean Initiative; North Korean Trade

South Korea has made a new, secret proposal to North Korea in an attempt to get negotiations to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program back on track. This is potentially important news, all the more so coming on the heels of the North Koreans announcing that they have successfully completed the removal of 8,000 fuel rods from their Yongbyon complex (as they did back in 2003 - this is ANOTHER 8,000 rods). The US response has so far been (as it was in 2003) a simple refusal to meet with the North Koreans, and a call for greater isolation of the regime. Ah yes, that's a way to deal with a murderous despot building ever greater stashes of weapons-grade plutonium - just call him names, inflame his fears, but otherwise ignore him and take no real action to stop him from developing the world's most dangerous weapons - I feel safer and more secure, don't you?

And that isolation thing is working really well. We have such a successful record of achieving that - for example, did you know that North Korea's foreign trade increased 22% from 2002 to 2004 and is now at the highest level since 1991 (when another Bush was in the White House). You can make a strong case for this regime being the greatest security threat the US faces today - and for the last 4+ years this administration has failed utterly in trying to weaken it. When I think about this issue, and the president's embarrassing performance in last year's foreign policy debate, I'd feel a great deal safer if John Kerry was in the White House.

Posted by armand at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

Bradley Radko Refutes DEA Administrator Karen Tandy

In the area of truly appalling things that the US government does, the prosecution of doctors who are trying to help those suffering from chronic pain is high on the list of morally-disgusting nastiness perpetrated by a disinterested public, cowardly politicians and weasly do-gooders run amuck. Last month Bradley Radko wrote a column on the subject that Karen Tandy then responded to. Here Radko carefully refutes the lies and odious obfuscations committed by Ms. Tandy in her lame defense of her organization's behavior.

Posted by armand at 05:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Women Get the Vote in Kuwait

Sort of. And of course it remains entirely possible that that lovely regime we protect could just suspend the elected parliament entirely. But hey, women can now vote in certain elections for some somewhat unstable representative (well, kind of) institutions. All in all, it's movement in the right direction.

Posted by armand at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Wine Shipment Cases Are Decided

And the state laws in Michigan and New York are found to be unconstitutional.

In soaring rhetoric, Kennedy said that preserving cross-country access to consumers was "essential to the foundations of the Union," citing the Federalist Papers, and the work of James Madison. The opinion said that it was a "central concern" of those who wrote the Constitution in the beginning to preserve economic access without individual state trade barriers.

It was a 5-4 decision, featuring a somewhat unusual split (the majority was composed of Kennedy, Scalia, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer). This decision should be a big win for wine consumers all across the country.

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge has an interesting post on this decision. He notes that this was the first time we've ever seen this 5-4 line-up in a Supreme Court case.

Posted by armand at 11:51 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

Poirot: The Hollow

I've been a huge Agatha Christie fan since I was a little kid. I've read lots of the books, seen most of the feature films, and have grown to quite enjoy the various television productions - even if they obviously aren't going to often measure up to bigger productions like Evil Under the Sun from 1982, Ten Little Indians from 1965, or the star-studded spectaculars of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. David Suchet's Poirot shows are a bit uneven, bit I watched a pretty good one this weekend. The Hollow is very much your standard Christie fare in many ways, but what sets it a cut above average is a number of very good supporting performances Edward Fox, Claire Price and Edward Hardwicke are all good, and Megan Dodds and Sarah Miles are especially good in crucial major roles. If you are into this kind of thing it's worth checking out. I'd still say that the best of the Suchet Poirots is Dumb Witness, and to be honest the writing here isn't superb. But it's as pleasant a diversion as some of his other Poirot adaptations, for example, Death in the Clouds.

Posted by armand at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

James Spader and Me

This is just a little oddity that I think might amuse one or two readers. Friday night I was in one of our town's drinking establishments playing pinball (very poorly) with some friends when someone noted that 1) James Spader was being interviewed by Conan and 2) I looked exactly like James Spader. On that second point everyone in the room agreed. Now I would have been utterly thrilled to get this comparison back when he was playing Steff and I was in middle school. In 2005 my initial reaction was a bit of more wary since the guy is over a decade older than I am. Still, all in all, he's a pretty handsome guy, and he dresses very well - so I'm happy to receive the compliment.

Posted by armand at 03:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bush Gets Chalabi Pardoned?

Well, how about that. I wonder how many other Iranian spies that steal from little old ladies the president will personally lobby to have pardoned? Gee, and I was thinking that after executing all those Texans he was a tough on crime kind of a guy.

Posted by armand at 03:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2005

Haruki Murakami and William Trevor in The New Yorker

Out of the many (many, many, many, many ....) things I read on a regular basis, The New Yorker is always my top priority. Of course I adore New York, so I like to keep up on the major happenings in the city. But beyond that, to me no other periodical regularly provides such interesting, insightful and well written pieces on politics and the arts. With people like Anthony Lane, Paul Goldberger, George Packer, Seymour Hersh and Sasha Frere-Jones regularly filling its pages, it's something that I often wish I could read from cover to cover. However, even though I often love it so, time constraints are time constraints, and frequently I have to skip a few things. And sadly, especially since I'm a big fan of short fiction, their short fiction stories are among the things I too frequently have to skip. Still, I try to make time for it on occasion, and if like me you enjoy short fiction but don't know if you have the time to read a new story every week ... well, let me point you to two you should definitely check out in case you still have copies of the magazine lying about your house. "Where I'm Likely to Find It" by Murakami in the May 2 issue and "The Room" by William Trevor in the May 16 issue are both little gems. These are two of the best stories I've read in The New Yorker in months, and they are quite different works, so ... well, I encourage you to check 'em out. And of course if you have giant piles of The New Yorker lying about, you might want to go back and read Joyce Carol Oates' "Spider Boy" from September 20, 2004. That story is still with me.

Posted by armand at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2005

Going to Jail for Drug Trafficking When You Clearly Haven't Trafficked

Jacob Sullum notes some of the latest appalling follies that are being perpetrated by those in power.

Posted by armand at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why is Raich Taking So Long?

Ann Althouse has some ideas as to why it is taking the Supreme Court so long to come up with an opinion in the Raich case.

While I think that her piece is generally quite insightful, I find the end of it bizarre. While she expects the feds to win in this case, she imagines what may come to be if they don't.

Or maybe the Court will put all homegrown marijuana outside of the reach of the federal government, and we can all start tending our own little marijuana plants on our windowsills. I wonder how many people who never consider buying illegal marijuana would happily pursue the option of growing their own. A lot, I think. It's hard to imagine how much America would change if the Court made that little move -- one that is quite justifiable as a matter of constitutional interpretation.

How in the world would America change? Marijuana is extremely easy to come by. I don't see how it would make much of a difference if suddenly people could grow it in their backyards. If you want it badly enough, you can get it now. And if you don't want it, you've probably got other things you'd rather be doing with your time.

Posted by armand at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2005

The Foreign Relations Committee Today

War and Piece features loads and loads of senators' comments on Bolton today. One that struck me as particularly noteworthy and indictative of why he shouldn't be trusted with a senior government job came from Sen. Biden (D-DE): I don't ever recall a nominee being put forward by the president that had so many people who worked for the president come forward and say that the nominee should not be confirmed. [and Biden's been in the Senate since 1973]

Fred Kaplan noted another key line from Sen. Voinovich (R-OH):

He was such a loose cannon that Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, forbade him to say anything in public without prior approval. A half-dozen officials, most of them Republicans who served in this administration, say that Bolton would makeóin the words of Colin Powell's chief of staffó"an abysmal ambassador." Voinovich said today that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured him that Bolton would be firmly supervised in his new job. Voinovich wondered, "Why in the world would you want to send somebody up to the U.N. that has to be supervised?"

Sadly though it seems we will now be stuck with this dangerously unqualified buffoon. And who do we have to thank? George Bush and Lincoln Chafee, among others. While it's too late to do anything about the former, I look forward to the voters of Rhode Island electing Matt Brown or Sheldon Whitehouse to the Senate next year. While in general I think Chafee has been one of the nation's better senators (in terms of his voting record) - his weak-kneed cowardice on this vote is appalling.

Posted by armand at 09:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2005

Savannahs on the Lam

I didn't realize these were outlawed in some areas. Think what you will of their owners, these cats are pretty cool.

Posted by armand at 09:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Ideological Axe to Swing Under Benedict XVI

The ouster of Rev. Thomas Reese as the editor of the Jesuit magazine America is likely to be just the first in a long line actions that the new leadership in the Vatican will take against anything resembling dissent. And if you want to read something scary, check out the latest issue of The New Yorker. The story they run on Benedict XVI and the bishops appointed by John Paul II is likely to make many people positively shiver. However, those people will not include GOP social conservative types. It's looking more and more like the central players in the Vatican belong to the Border Patrol party or the right wing of the Salt of the Earth party (to borrow John Allen's typology), and they are going to do all they can to pressure voters and politicians on issues near and dear to much of the Bush/Cheney bloc (abortion, stem cell research) while looking the other way on issues that were once presumed to be central to John Paul II's culture of life (the death penalty, war). We saw this come up in the last election cycle in the US, and we've seen in recently come up in Spanish politics. In fact, according to the article in The New Yorker, President Bush doesn't think he would have won the race last fall without the public attention that was brought about by several Catholic leaders putting heavy pressure on their parishoners to vote a certain way and urging that pro-choice politicians not be given communion. Of course some of the scum of the Church has often tried to influence in politics - I grew up in Louisiana were it wouldn't be a Senate race without the Church taking dead aim at Mary Landrieu (who actually is probably one of their most influential allies on cloning related issues - unfortunately). But even if it's to be expected, it's unfortunate that this ugliness is going to be ratcheted up several notches in the near future.

Posted by armand at 07:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kent Conrad's Nightmare

For now the coming Senate race in North Dakota isn't making any of the lists of races to watch in 2006. Races like those anticipated in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and even Nebraska are understandably getting much more attention. But Survey USA's new polls out on the popularity of the nation's governors vividly illustrate why North Dakota needs to stay on the "potentially at risk" list for the Democrats. Supposedly Gov. John Hoeven has been getting a lot of pressure to make the race against Conrad for the GOP. And according to these poll numbers, Hoeven is the most popular governor in the country.

Posted by armand at 11:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 10, 2005

The Top 10 Senate Races of the Last 50 Years

Roll Call has come up with such a list, and it is critiqued by Robert KC Johnson at Cliopatria here. I agree with him that the Roll Call list is rather odd in overlooking the New York 1964, Illinois 1992 and Missouri 2000 races. I'd also say that the 1974 race in New Hampshire merits consideration, as does the 1990 race in North Carolina. But Roll Call is definitely on target in including the 1970 Tennessee, 1984 North Carolina and 1994 Virginia races on its list.

Posted by armand at 06:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Steve Clemons on Lawrence Wilkerson and John Bolton

Steve Clemons continues to be essential reading for everything tied to the Bolton nomination. In one of today's posts he covers the New York Times story on Powell aide Wilkerson's testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which included key revelations about Bolton's behavior on the endangering US foreign policy relating to North Korea. The story includes yet more support for the position that Bolton lied to senators during his confirmation hearing. But most importantly it becomes ever more clear that "Bolton sabotaged U.S. foreign policy repeatedly".

Posted by armand at 06:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michael Howard Reshuffles the Shadow Cabinet

He's put together an awfully appealing team, or at least a team with a lot of potential. We'll see if whomever will soon replace him as party leader can equal this feat.

George Osborne, 33, is the new Shadow Chancellor (cue the spooky music). The party's other 30-something star of tomorrow today, David Cameron, is taking over at Education. Former Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram (an Earl and the heir to the 12th Marquess of Lothian) shifts to take over Defence. Malcolm Rifkind, the new MP from Kensington and Chelsea and a former Cabinet official - including Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary - under Prime Ministers Thatcher and Major, gets the choice job of shadowing the newly rehabilitated David Blunkett at Work and Pensions. And Francis Maude replaces Liam Fox as Party Secretary (Fox becomes Shadow Foreign Minister).

Posted by armand at 01:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The President on Yalta and the Conclusion of World War II

Jennifer Loven reports here on a speech made by President Bush over the weekend in Latvia. Looking beyond obvious lines that I imagine would lead many Americans to cringe - say, that the US is willing to commit the lives of its own people to defend freedom in Latvia (whatever that means - I'm guessing just Latvian sovereignty, which of course may or may not be particularly "free"), or, and I find this particularly unsettling, "We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations ó appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability" (emphasis mine) - more and more these extremely idealistic sentiments make me wonder about the president's grasp of history. Does he think FDR and Churchill turned over the Baltics and Poland to Stalin with a hearty slap on the back and giant piles of cash for his trouble? There were perfectly good reasons (though they can certainly be debated) for why the US and the UK did what they did back then. For example, in the case of Poland, the exiled leaders were disorganized, intransigent and often unhelpful to their own cause, and the US was still seeking Soviet support to fight Nazis and the Japanese. And of course there was a gigantic Soviet army in these places that we would like to have seen "free".

I'm not anti-freedom, and I'm pleased he's pushing for change in Belarus. But his lofty speeches about amorphous goals make me wonder about about what he's going to lead us through in the next 3 years. "Freedom" can mean many things to many peoples, and stability isn't necessarily such a bad thing.

Posted by armand at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

The 2005 Tony Award Nominations

For those of you into theater, one of my favorite blog finds this year has been Modern Fabulousity. Gabriel has done a great job of tracking the ups and downs of this year's shows and the honors that have already been awarded. If you are interested in a good rundown and critique of the nominations (that will be announced tomorrow) you'll surely want to check out his insights.

Posted by armand at 08:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Terrorism? Communism? Terrorism?! Communism?!

Worth the read is a New York Times article on the potential for the United State to grant asylum to Luis Posada Carriles. As the article points out, this ought to put the administration between Scylla and Charybdis:

Mr. Posada's case could create tension between the politics of the global war on terrorism and the ghosts of the cold war on communism. If Mr. Posada has indeed illegally entered the United States, the Bush administration has three choices: granting him asylum; jailing him for illegal entry; or granting Venezuela's request for extradition.
A grant of asylum could invite charges that the Bush administration is compromising its principle that no nation should harbor suspected terrorists. But to turn Mr. Posada away could provoke political wrath in the conservative Cuban-American communities of South Florida, deep sources of support and campaign money for President Bush and his brother Jeb, the state's governor.
To jail Mr. Posada would be a political bonanza for Mr. Castro, who has railed against him in recent speeches, calling him the worst terrorist in the Western Hemisphere.
To allow his extradition would hand a victory to President Hugo ChŠvez of Venezuela, Mr. Castro's closest ally in Latin America and no friend to President Bush.
"As a Cuban, as a freedom fighter myself, I believe he should be granted asylum," said Marcelino Miyares, a veteran of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and president of the Christian Democratic Party of Cuba, which is based in Miami. "But it's a no-win situation for the United States government."

Posted by binky at 01:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Bush Team on Global Warming

Elizabeth Kolbert's recent 3-part story on global warming in The New Yorker is one of the more informative things I've read on the topic. It covers the science, presents interesting descriptions of the current costs being incurred in certain areas, and, in the final segment, goes into possible solutions. It won't come as any big surprise that the Bush administration's actions on this topic vary beyond the farcical and insane, but some of the pictures she paints surprised even a cynical and jaded guy like me. My favorite bit (in terms of what should bring on screams of terror) was on pages 62-63 of the May 9th issue. Consider the Bush administration's "plan" as presented by the administration official charged with Kyoto-related issues:

While the rest of the industrialized world is pursuing one strategy (emissions limits), the U.S. is pursuing another (no emissions limits), and it is still too early to say which approach will work best.

Yes, they actually think not limiting emissions might be a better way to prevent global warming. Given the way this administration views science, that is sadly not a shock. But consider the lengths they go to to avoid even preliminary meetings on this topic.

The U.S. delegation opposed these efforts so adamantly that finally the Americans were asked to describe, in writing, what sort of meeting they would find acceptable. They issued a half a page of conditions, one of which was that the session "shall be a one-time event held during a single day." Another condition was, paradoxically, that, if they were going to discuss the future, the future would have to be barred from discussion; presentations, they wrote, should be limited to "an information exchange" on "existing national policies."

The mind reels.

Yet another issue on which Bush contributors and delusions must not be upset by having to face actual facts - and yet another one which is a much more pressing threat than the funding of Social Security.

Posted by armand at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mike Smith's Big Day at the Derby

For those of you looking for something uplifting to read over lunch, consider what Mike Smith has overcome to reach the heights he reached on Saturday.

Posted by armand at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Has Blair Done Grievous Harm to the Special Relationship?

I think sometimes people my age or a bit older put too much faith in the "special relationship". After all the personal relationships between Clinton and Blair and Thatcher and Reagan were unusually strong, and that no doubt had an effect on their views of the other. But something like a special relationship has been a cornerstone of US-British relations for many years. John Simpson however thinks that the election last week in the UK shows that in the aftermath of Iraq it will be much more difficult for a future British prime minister to ally with the US in a similar way.

Posted by armand at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fighting Rebels Near Syria

More than 1,000 American troops supported by fighter jets and helicopter gunships attacked villages on Sunday in and around Obeidi, a city near the Euphrates not far from the Syrian border, an embedded correspondent of The Chicago Tribune reported today.

And the AP says there are 75 dead militants. So ... are these minor combat operations? Just asking.

Posted by armand at 09:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monsieur Ibrahim

In the grand scheme of things it's rather slight, and I bet the novel it's based on plays out some key points in ways that would contribute to your appreciation of this film ... but this adaptation directed by Francois Dupeyron is a rather sweet little movie. I wouldn't say I loved it, but both Omar Sharif and young Pierre Boulanger give compelling performances (I'd say especially the teenager since while great earlier Sharif perhaps overdoes it a bit near the end) . And while it's not exactly heart-warming or hopeful exactly, it is ... well, again "sweet" is the word to leaps to mind. Fundamentally, it's about a young Parisian coming of age. And it's an effective and evocative illustration of a turning point in the life of Boulanger's character.

Posted by armand at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chuck Hagel's Honesty on the Filibuster

It's unlikely to win him friends in Bill Frist's office (though he does the smart thing in suggesting that Frist wants to work this out), but I think it's comments like these that could in the long run endear him to many indepenedent-minded voters and contribute to him being a McCain-esque candidate with much more appeal to both the right and the center than McCain has. Though of course if McCain himself runs in 2008, that will make things much more difficult for Senator Hagel.

Posted by armand at 09:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 07, 2005

Blade: Trinity

So it's too often ponderous, and Natasha Lyonne as some sort of blind sciene whiz?!? Uh-huh. And Wesley Snipes has gone from being kind of badass too being far to full of his supposed serious coolness. But all that said - if you're in the mood for this kind of thing, it's not bad. It looks good, sometimes very good, and there are some great action sequences. Dominic Purcell is just right as Drake, Jessica Biel is ... well, Jessica Biel, Parker Posey is nuts, and Ryan Reynolds is great as the comic relief. Actually, if Reynolds hadn't been in the picture it would have been so over-wrought I probably couldn't have stood it. But it's both action-y and sometimes funny. And hey, how can you not love a movie with a vampire Pomeranian?

Though don't take the above as any sort of ringing endorsement. Since I've been sick all week, and have rarely benefited from this thing called sleep that I hear so much about, I decided to watch the commentary track by Biel, Reynolds and director David Goyer too. And you know what - that was more fun than the movie. Nonetheless, both tracks are reasonably entertaining diversions.

Posted by armand at 12:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blair's New Cabinet

Looks a lot like his old cabinet. The holders of the big 3 posts kept their jobs. But deeper down the list of ministers it is apparent that many of the allies of Chancellor (and presumed next Prime Minister) Gordon Brown (the New York Times discusses Brown and his future here) have filled those slots. To Americans perhaps the most interesting move is Blair dumping (ahem, I mean making him the Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons) the often criticized Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon. His successor is Dr. John Reid who has held several top posts under Blair, most recently Health Secretary. Another key foreign policy position is being filled by 30-something Douglas Alexander, a Gordon Brown ally, who has become Minister of State for Europe in the FCO.

Posted by armand at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 06, 2005

Yet More Bill Frist Follies

Jeffrey Dubner uses ham-handed tactics employed against the senators from Maine to make a point that I'm really surprised doesn't get raised more often as part of the filibuster debate. Bill Frist is inept. He's the least impressive Senate leader I've seen since I started following politics. Mitchell, Dole, Lott, Daschle - all could run circles around him. Many, many, many circles. Frist has 55 Republican senators and can get extraordinarily little accomplished. It's kind of astounding.

Tom DeLay plays with the rules because he can, and because he's the kind of guy who'll never settle for 999 of something if he can get 1000. Bill Frist plays with the rules because he lacks the basic political skills needed to accomplish even just one or two things of note withot turning over decades of precedents and procedures.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - The Democrats in the Senate are going to miss him when he's gone.

Posted by armand at 01:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The FDA to Ban Gay Sperm Donors?

What the hell is this about? Quite apart from it being blatantly offenisve and bigoted, I really fail to see what good this does. If you don't want people who who've engaged in risky sex to donate sperm ... well, you'd get at that with a whole different set of questions.

Posted by armand at 01:19 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Michael Howard to Step Aside

Even though his party picked up over 30 seats in yesterday's national elections, British Conservative Party leader Michael Howard has decided to leave his post "sooner rather than later". He feels he is too old for the job, and of course there are a number of ambitious Tories who feel he was not the most effective possible spokesman in the last campaign. Who will succeed him? The BBC has this list of possible contenders. David Davis and Liam Fox are the most obvious choices, though I've always rather liked Malcolm Rifkind. I don't know much about the two 30-somethings they mention, though I've noted their very quick rise to prominence in the last few years.

Posted by armand at 12:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 05, 2005

Who Wants in the Army? Who Will the Army Take?

This is more Baltar's area than mine, but I've got to say that I hope our military and foreign policy planners are taking into account the constraints of numbers like these as they weigh future strategic plans.

The U.S. Army missed its April recruiting goal by a whopping 42 percent and the Army Reserve fell short by 37 percent, officials said on Tuesday, showing the depth of the military's wartime recruiting woes ... The Army National Guard said it did not yet have its April numbers, but has missed its recruiting goal in every month of the current fiscal year through March and was 23 percent behind its year-to-date goal at that time. It missed its fiscal 2004 annual goal.

Our leaders can make all kinds of whiz-bang plans - but if the American people don't want to serve in the military that's necessary to carry them out ... well, let's hope someone is making sure that people in DC are keeping in mind what is possible, and what's not possible, as long as we have a volunteer military.

Of course the failure to meet recruiting goals is only part of the problem lately. An article in Tuesday's New York Times lays out the incredibly risky tactics that recruiters are resorting to to get the new recruits they can land. Just out of a psychiatric ward? Apparently that's not a problem. Of course lowering standards to the degree they have been lowered has all kinds of effects in terms of the quality and reliability of the military. And as the story notes, as some of these people move up the ranks ... we could see more problems in the future stemming from this slide in standards.

Will these recruitment problems lead to a rethinking of Don't Ask, Don't Tell? I doubt it. But it would appear that something needs to be done.

Posted by armand at 12:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Georgie and Abdullah, Sitting in a Tree

I realize that this is old news at this point, but I just can't get it out of my head - Why is the religious right not more outraged at the sight of the President of the United States of America inviting the leader of the Saudis to his summer home, and then walking hand in hand with the man as they stroll around the estate? Can you imagine what the reaction would be if President Bush had done such a thing with the head of the ACLU? And the ACLU, revolting GOP advertisements to the contrary, is not trying to ban the practice of Christianity. They just don't want the state to force people to have to practice it. By contrast, in Saudi all religions but the state religion are banned. And not only that, their government went through another bit of anti-Christian oppression just a couple of days before the President and the Crown Prince went on their walk together. I realize we need to work with the Saudis even if their state is revolting. But surely that doesn't mean that the President has to regularly bring their leadership to his home and praise them. And surely people who are serious about promoting religious freedom for Christians all over the world should hold the president accountable for his (agruably disgraceful) actions.

Posted by armand at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 04, 2005

San Francisco Deals With Homelessness

I just love Gavin Newsom. Sure, to audiences who watch The 700 Club he's the devil incarnate. But it's these kinds of not especially flashy solutions to deep, chronic societal problems that we need more of in this country.

Posted by armand at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poor Florida

I've been picking on them so much lately, I feel the need to share the wealth with my other former state of residence. No, not Rio, sillies...Pennsylvania!!! And, don't for get to wait...for...it...

From Donna Wentworth at Corante (hat tip to The Disenchanted Forest): Rick Santorum is concerned about AccuWeather's profit margin, he wants us to "pay twice" to get access to weather information from the National Weather Service, so that AccuWeather doesn't have to complete with "free" government service.

Did you wait?:

AccuWeather's operation is housed in its Global Headquarters, a 52,000 square foot facility built on 6.5 acres of land near State College, PA.
AccuWeather spent several years designing its headquarters, incorporating many features that enable us to serve our clients even better than ever. Some of the highlights include redundant computer facilities, on-site UPS and power generation, 23 radio booths and a TV studio.
The dramatic operations room is larger than two basketball courts, and with a 21-foot high ceiling, it enables AccuWeather meteorologists, graphic artists, editors and operational support staff to interact together as integrated teams.
The headquarters' state-of-the-art design and equipment enables AccuWeather to provide the most reliable and accurate weather information well into the new millennium.

Ahhhhh! The overripe smell of constituent service! Majikthise smells something fishy too.

Posted by binky at 03:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chuck Hagel as Margot Tenenbaum

Everyone knows that Chuck Hagel has a great deal of interest in the presidency. One of the reasons that I like the guy is that he's going about seeking it in ways that aren't painfully (aka Bill Frist) obvious and expected, and obfuscates with panache when pressed about it (while at the same time making his intentions perfectly clear). Consider this line - "I hope to be in position to have the option of entertaining the possibility of running for president." That's a great line.

Actually, it reminds me of another great line - when Margot says "I couldn't even begin to think about knowing how to answer that question" in The Royal Tenenbuams.

Posted by armand at 01:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Today's Friedmanism

It's soooo easy to knock him about, how can you resist?

In today's latest bit of wasted column inches in the nation's supposedly most august newspaper he concludes:

The bad guys won't win, but neither will the good guys, and all we will have produced is a bloody stalemate.

If he by "bad guys" he means jihadists, and if by "win" he means create some sort of Sunni fundamentalist government in Iraq - well, duh. Of course not. NO ONE thinks that will happen. But the thing is, there are lots of bad guys. I tend to agree that most of the most radical forms of Sunni Islamist politics are in decline at the moment, but that started happening ages ago. You can read Gilles Kepel's Jihad for a good run-down on the decline of Islamist political movements (though it also might be worth looking at Kepel's latest book for a discussion of how our actions in Iraq are strengthening them, something that even US military commanders and Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss have acknowledged). But you see those are not the only bad guys. And if we leave thousands dead, tens of thousands maimed, hundreds of billions spent, and end up with a bloody stalemate that features some very bad guys holding powerful positions in the country - to me that's a loss, whether or not al Qaeda is running the country.

Posted by armand at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2005

Ye Gods and Little Fishes

Kansas. Run, Toto, run.

Posted by binky at 01:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 02, 2005

While We're At It...

...discussing reproductive freedom that is, let me send you to the always worthwhile Bitch, Ph.D. for a post about hospital policy toward rape victims.

Posted by binky at 04:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Child 1: Judge 0

While the case of the 13 year old Floridian's struggle against DCF efforts to block the abortion she wants has received plenty of attention, and sparked some insightful discussion around the web, this article from the Sun Sentinel shows the hypocrisy of the argument that this young woman is not informed, intelligent or mature enough to understand the consequences of her actions (emphasis mine):

"Why can't I make my own decision?"
That was the blunt question to a judge from a pregnant 13-year-old girl ensnared in a Palm Beach County court fight over whether she can have an abortion. "I don't know," Circuit Judge Ronald Alvarez replied, according to a recording of the closed hearing obtained Friday.
"You don't know?" replied the girl, who is a ward of the state. "Aren't you the judge?" "I think if I want to make the decision, it's my business and I can do that," she told the judge.
The DCF is the teen's legal guardian after she was taken away from her parents for abuse or neglect. State law allows minors to have abortions without notifying their guardians. Experts say the law extends to wards of the state, raising the question of why this girl's decision has ended up before a judge.
snip
DCF attorney Jeffrey Gillen said he was concerned L.G. was more likely to suffer "detrimental effects" if she underwent an abortion because she had psychiatric or behavioral problems in the past.
L.G., who told Alvarez she had run away at least five times from her youth shelter, maintained, "It would make no sense to have the baby."
"I don't think I should have the baby because I'm 13, I'm in a shelter and I can't get a job," the girl said as Alvarez and her guardian ad litem, assigned to shepherd her in the legal system, questioned her.
L.G. laid out different reasons for wanting an abortion. "DCF would take the baby anyway," she said, but later added: "If I do have it, I'm not going to let them take it."
She also questioned the health risk of carrying the fetus to term. "Since you guys are supposedly here for the best interest of me, then wouldn't you all look at that fact that it'd be more dangerous for me to have the baby than to have an abortion?" she asked. Alvarez called that "a good point."
snip
L.G. said her caseworker had taken her on three visits to clinics, and risks and alternatives to abortion were discussed.
Lynn Hargrove, the court-appointed psychologist, testified L.G. had a "mild mood disorder" but did not have "a significant psychotic or delusional thought process" that would interfere with rational decision making.
J.G. is 14 weeks pregnant, witnesses testified, which would indicate she became pregnant after she ran away from a group home in late January and was missing for a month.
She had sex with "a boy" but refused to disclose his name to Alvarez saying: "That's not really necessary."

This child has more poise than many women twice her age would have in front of a judge, but somehow is portrayed as not knowing her own mind and not able to make a decision about her reproductive life. She has been repeatedly counseled about the "dangers" of abortion as required by law (and it seems beyond, at three visits), but still maintains her belief. Is her sin being resistant? Or that she refuses to accept her punishment for being a "fallen woman"? Clearly this young woman has had a difficult life, however she also seems to have substantial insight into the realities facing "unwanted" children, and the potential life ahead of her child with DCF. And speaking of DCF, if the agency demonstrated its complete incompetence in protecting this child in the past (read down to the part about where she was in custody of DCF but ran away five times) how on earth can they be trusted with making this most intimate decision for her now?

Posted by binky at 02:44 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Dominant Divides in British Politics

The Guardian links to an interesting power point presentation on the issue dimensions that are most powerful in the UK at the moment. Don't forget - their national elections are coming up on Thursday.

Posted by armand at 01:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bush's Favorite Author Resigns from the Israeli Cabinet

Think the president will have anything to say about Sharansky's resignation?

Posted by armand at 11:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Krugman and Me

Doubtless Krugman reads Bloodless Coup every day and just forgot to hat tip to my great idea about social security queens.

No, this is about ideology: Mr. Bush comes to bury Social Security, not to save it. His goal is to turn F.D.R.'s most durable achievement into an unpopular welfare program, so some future president will be able to attack it with tall tales about Social Security queens driving Cadillacs.

Or is it just that the GOP is too predictable, that even academics and economists are able to see into the future?

Posted by binky at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 01, 2005

Next Term's Clerks at the SCOTUS

Underneath Their Robes is running a series on the men and women who will be serving as Supreme Court clerks in the coming term. Here is the run-down on the four men who'll be clerking for Justice Scalia. You can find links relating to the incoming clerks for Stevens, O'Connor and Rehnquist in that post. They are more or less what you'd expect (in some cases more stereotypical than you'd even think possible), but it's still interesting to see their backgrounds and interests.

Posted by armand at 04:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Any Meaning in Lieberman's Budget Vote?

I just looked at the US Senate's vote on the 2006 budget. The vote bascially exhibited a partisan breakdown with the Republicans passing it on a vote of 52-47. The Republican senators from Ohio and Rhode Island, plus the Independent senator from Vermont joined all the Democrats (but one) in voting against it, while 52 Republican senators voted in favor of it. The one Democrat who didn't vote against it was Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. He didn't vote at all. Does anyone know why? Could this have anything to do with the fact that his name has been floated as a possible successor to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld?

As to whether or not that latter possibility is a real one, it may be of note that Lieberman recently backed Sen. Warner's attempt to force the US Navy not to retire the USS John F. Kennedy (the Pentagon wants to retire it). Something for people interested in that issue, and for people who are interested in who controls the Defense budget, to keep in mind.

Posted by armand at 04:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack