June 30, 2009

The Brothers Bloom

So tonight I finally saw Rian Johnson's follow-up to the terrific Brick. This time out he's got a cast of luminaries, a bigger budget, and a host of locations in Central and Eastern Europe, all used toward telling a con tale, or perhaps the tale about tales. The film, which many have understandably compared to a Wes Anderson work, looks fabulous. The sets, the costumes, the locations - it all gives off a scent of a moneyed yet seedy world that exists out of, or maybe across, time - and it looks wonderful. I yearned to be aboard the Fidele, on that European train, or in those sumptuous yet decaying buildings. And the clothes! The dialogue is fun and snappy. The acting varies from fine to good. I particularly enjoyed Rachel Weisz's awkward heiress who appears to deeply love yellow Lamborghinis and who among other talents juggles chainsaws. Basically, its component parts are great. And yet ... I don't know that it works. The plot I mean. Nonetheless, even if it's not a great film, and maybe it has failings as a whole, its component parts are of such a high quality that I'm quite glad I went out to see it.

Posted by armand at 10:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Top 10 "Cougars" in Movies

Fun list. I squealed a little (on the inside) with glee when I saw that #5 and #10 were remembered. But all in all it's a strong list, my considerable dislike for The Piano Teacher notwithstanding.

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June 29, 2009

The Big SCOTUS News of the Day - Will the Supremes Toss Austin?

Ricci will get all the press, but this seems a more startling move. And it could have far-reaching effects.

If Republicans were wondering how their 2012 presidential candidate is going to compete against President Obama's $600 million fundraising juggernaut, the Supreme Court seems poised to provide an answer: unlimited corporate spending supporting the Republican candidate, or attacking Obama.
Posted by armand at 03:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Gehry Designs in Atlantic Yards

I missed this news earlier. The mammoth construction project in Brooklyn may be going forward - but none of the buildings will be built to Frank Gehry designs.

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June 27, 2009

Ken Rudin Ranks the Republican Governors

The usual path to the White House is running against Washington. So as the chatter begins about future propsects for the Republican presidential nomination, it makes sense that people are turning to the Republican governors. With that in mind NPR's Ken Rudin ranks the Republican governors who are closest to the White House. I'd say this is more or less on target, though I'd think the only ones with a shot are those in his top 8, plus Sonny Perdue.

Posted by armand at 04:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 26, 2009

Mark Sanford Compares Himself to David?

This is bizarre. Either he doesn't know the Bible very well, or ... he thinks he's a king appointed by the almighty who can have any woman he wants and then have their husbands killed? Or, something like that? And he's looking to David as an example of humility? Ummm, that's ... interesting. This comparison merits much mockery.

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

Bill Simmons Suffers Through the NBA Draft

I haven't cared about the NBA in years, but regardless, Bill Simmons' minute-by-minute coverage is amusing. And of course it reminds me of why I have no interest in the game.

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June 25, 2009

LSU Ties Texas

Well of course the Tigers drubbed the Longhorns to win the College World Series. The tie noted in the headline is that LSU is now tied with Texas for the second-most College World Series championships. After winnning half of 'em in the 1990s, LSU finally picked up championship #6. Both schools trail USC, which has won twelve.

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June 24, 2009

John Shadegg - "Boycott ABC!"

I realize one shouldn't expect Republicans to be logical, but isn't this freak-out sort of odd given that many Republicans consider the Fairness Doctrine to have been the work of the devil?

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10 Best Picture Nominees!?!

The Oscars are going back to a system last used during World War II. You'd think this could lead to less obvious Best Picture winners since winning a competition among 10 nominees will presumably require fewer votes than winning among 5 nominees.

Posted by armand at 03:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Minimalist? Deferential? As If

Linda Greenhouse reviews some of the latest handiwork of the Roberts Court. So much for judicial minimalism and justices merely serving as umpires. They look much more like baseball owners to me - writing the game's rules and deciding who is allowed to come into the ballpark.

I just want to mention two other cases. One is Gross v. FBL Financial Services, which came down last Thursday and was largely overlooked among the coverage of the DNA case Walter talked about. Why did this 5-to-4 decision (majority opinion by Justice Thomas) provoke just about the angriest dissent I've seen from Justice Stevens since Bush v. Gore? Because of the bait-and-switch game the majority played. The court granted on the relatively narrow question of whether a plaintiff in a "mixed motive" age discrimination case has to present "direct evidence" of age discrimination in order to shift the burden to the employer to show that the adverse action - firing, failure to promote, unwelcome transfer, etc. - would have been taken regardless of the employee's age. ("Mixed motive" simply means that the defendant is alleged to have acted for an impermissible reason among other reasons, and since malefactors rarely declare their bad motives, many discrimination cases require peeling back the cover story to get at the truth.)

Having granted cert on this question, the majority then leapfrogged over it to rewrite the rules for litigating an age discrimination case. The court held that the burden never shifts to the employer to explain itself. Rather, the employee-plaintiff bears the burden throughout the case of showing that age was not simply one factor among others but that it was the "but-for" cause of the adverse employment action. The court took this big step without notice to the parties that it was even under consideration. Once it decided to go that route, the court should have invited supplemental briefing or - as would have happened in earlier years - scheduled a reargument so that all parties could have addressed the implications of a potential ruling that will, predictably, make it much harder for victims of age discrimination to survive summary judgment, let alone prevail on the merits. This was a nasty/lazy/shoddy way to proceed. Justice Stevens said it better: "[a]n unabashed display of judicial lawmaking."

Another case that has not received sufficient scrutiny is Ashcroft v. Iqbal, decided May 18. In this 5-to-4 decision (majority opinion by Kennedy), the court dismissed a suit against the former attorney general by one of the hundreds of Muslim men who were rounded up after 9/11 and jailed under harsh conditions in the federal prison in Manhattan. The question concerned the pleading requirements for such a suit - had the plaintiff, Iqbal, presented enough of a case to be able to get discovery. In holding that he had not, the majority relied on an antitrust case from 2007, Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, which raised the pleading bar in antitrust cases by requiring plaintiffs to show at the outset that their theory of the case was not only conceivable and nonconclusory but also "plausible." Justice Kennedy declared that the Twombly case was not limited to the antitrust area but "expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions." Not so fast, said Twombly's author, Justice Souter, in dissent. He said his point in Twombly was to enable a court to dismiss a case at the pleading stage when the plaintiff's theory (of Sherman Act violations) was consistent with lawful conduct as well as with illegality, taking the allegations as factually correct. In the Iqbal case, Justice Souter said, Iqbal's allegations, if true, showed only illegality, and he was therefore entitled to move on to discovery; this was not a Twombly case. Ah, but by a 5-4 vote, it became a Twombly case, and all civil litigation now has to meet a higher pleading standard than Twombly's author himself intended. Another bait-and-switch. Nice.

Posted by armand at 01:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dan Burton's Plexiglass Shield

It goes without saying that it seems highly unlikely the member of from Indiana probably will be similarly innovative when it comes to protecting high-crime areas of the country. Beyond that - why stop there Mr. Burton? Why not throw taxpayer money at developing a Borg-like personal shield for you? Or perhaps you'd like to move the House's business to an underground secret location?

Posted by armand at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2009

The Proposal

Sure it's hugely predictable, but given that Ryan Reynolds is so watchable this is a nice variation on a traditional theme. Actually that's a good word for this - nice. And for what it's worth, I like Reynolds as a brunette.

Posted by armand at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ebert on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Some say that Roger Ebert has reached a point in his career when he'll give a positive review to anything. Today we see that is clearly not true.

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Nerd in Chief

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Other Matters Relating to the SCOTUS Rulings Handed Down on June 22

TAPPED has a couple of good posts up. In one Bruce Cain and Daniel Tokaji "argue that states with low participation rates should be required to issue 'electoral impact statements,' which would discourage practices that suppress turnout among poor and minority voters." Another considers Couer Alaska v. SAC and the Court's (and the Bush administration's) friendliness to the arguments of certain polluters. The latter also includes a swing at Justice Breyer.

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

June 22, 2009

Larry Sabato - Rented (in the John Breaux Sense) by Virgil Goode?

Sabato didn't return our calls, which has to be a first for him.


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June 20, 2009

Georgia Theatre

Bummer. The Georgia Theatre has been gutted by a fire.

Wilmot Greene, 38, the current owner of the theater, sat on a wall in a bank parking lot, drinking bottled water and smoking cigarettes while firemen fought the blaze. He said he bought the theater five years ago for $1.5 million and has been renovating it since then. He said he had spent nearly $750,000 on the 1930s-style art deco renovation.

"It was almost completely done," said Greene, his white Oxford shirt covered in soot. "It was really beautiful. It was in better shape than it's ever been in."

I've seen some great shows there. What a shame.

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June 19, 2009

The Violent Death of Omar Hashi Aden

More bad news from Somalia:

The death of Omar Hashi Aden and at least 20 others in a suicide bomb attack on a hotel in central Somalia could shift power towards the country’s main militant Islamist group, al-Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr. Aden’s killing was "a very severe blow", said one western diplomat. "He was the man everyone was putting their hopes on to organise a counter-offensive and reverse some of the positions al-Shabaab had taken."

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist who the militants accuse of being a western stooge, said the attack was the latest evidence that al-Qaeda was using al-Shabaab to bring global jihadism to his country.

Posted by armand at 02:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2009

The Obama Administration's Smelt Brief

"The Obama administration chose poorly." I'd say Professor Dorf's evaluation of the brief may be too complimentary.

Posted by armand at 12:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 12, 2009

As if it wasn't already obvious...

... we are all out and about away from computers for the most part. Baltar has been out in the woods near Ft. Ticonderoga and is now hiking in the mountains of Vermont. Armand is out and about visiting with traveling friends. And I am spending lots of hours on the trails in the area. Happy, healthy, and lousy ass bloggers. Hope you don't miss us because you are out and about enjoying spring as well!

Posted by binky at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 10, 2009

Let the Right One In

Not nearly as good as its reputation. But the cat scene - that was great.

Posted by armand at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When Supreme Court Seats Lurch to the Left - Scalia and Ginsburg

There are of course a variety of ways to measure the ideology of Supreme Court Justices, but if these scores are correct, in the 40-something years since Justice Thurgood Marshall joined the Supreme Court exactly 2 new members of the Supreme Court have been more liberal than their predecessor - Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. That's something that I think people sometimes don't appreciate - sure their are liberal and conservatives, but there are a variety of stripes of both, and in our lifetimes the norm has been to nominate increasingly right-wing versions of both. And this could very well continue this year - I'm not at all sure that Sotomayor won't be to the right of Souter, even as she takes a "liberal" seat.

Other interesting trends in the numbers - while the intensity of one's tendency to the right or the left might change, most justices seem to fluctuate (if they do) within different shades of the same color. But some did move over the course of their careers, according to this measure - Frankfurter and Black from left to right, and Blackmun, Souter and Stevens from right to left.

Posted by armand at 04:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"How Trillion-Dollar Deficits Were Created"

This graph suggests that while it's not happening on the last president's watch, the current deficit has a lot to do with his decisions (plus, of course, the global economic downturn).

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

June 08, 2009

The New York Senate Is Republican Once More

What the hell just happened?

Well the upper body of the New York legislature which had been run by Republicans seemingly since the Founding until this year, is now in Republican hands once more. Two senators (both of whom are under investigation - actually one is under indictment), one from the Bronx and one from Queens, have switched parties. This is a big win for battered Republicans in the Northeast. And I suppose some party operatives might say it as a sign the party can appeal to Hispanics, even if there are questions about the Hispanics in question.

Malcolm Smith, who had been Majority Leader, is not taking this well. And presuming this switch holds, you've got to think some people will be questioning if he should remain the leader of the Democrats in the Senate.

Posted by armand at 05:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14 Wins Again

Last weekend we saw record low turnout in Europe produce wins for the right, the far right, racists, Greens, and the Pirate Party. In Lebanon's national elections though there was record high turnout, and it resulted in another win for the March 14 alliance.

Posted by armand at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2009

The 2009 Tonys Open With a Bang

So the Tonys are being broadcast on CBS right now. I don't know if I'll watch the whole thing, but apparently by tuning in for the start I saw the biggest and most expensive number in the history of the awards show. And it was something to see, if not hear (there were sound problems). There was number after number after number, including appearances by Elton John, Liza, Dolly Parton, Poison, Stockard Channing, and big productions from the casts of Guys and Dolls (damn Matt Cavenaugh is handsome man), Hair, and Shrek. And now they've moved on to a big number from Shrek. But I'm still wondering what Neil Patrick Harris (tonight's host) is wearing. I don't know if I've ever seen a tux that shiny.

Update: Awww - who doesn't like seeing Angela Lansbury win an award? She's now joined Julie Harris as one of two women who've won 5 Tonys. Following that, "Dancing Queen". They've promised the most music-filled Tonys ever, and it looks like they're going to meet that mark. And I'm still wondering - What is that tux made of?

Update 2: The Rock of Ages numbers make me wonder if there might now be a musical that Baltar would actually enjoy.

Update 3: Olive Snook (Kristin C.)!!!! I knew there must be a reason I was still watching this.

Posted by armand at 08:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The BBC Live-Blogs the EU Election Results

Results here. For people who aren't fans of the status quo, this should be fun. It looks like fringe parties on the right and the left are going to do well in this unusually low-turnout election. The thread should also tell us about various national-level political outcomes. In some cases national votes were held alongside the EU vote (the incumbent governments of Luxembourg and the Czech Republic have won further support). And people will be reading the tea-leaves of the EU vote to see which governments are strong or weak. In another bad sign for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, there are reports that Labour might come in 5th or 6th in the East of England.

Posted by armand at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 06, 2009

The Belmont 2009

Now that the first sports event of the day is done (congratulations to Ms. Kuznetsova!), attention can move on to today's racing at Belmont Park. This year's races have been exciting, and this year's 3 year-olds are strong, so I expect I'll be watching. But I don't think I can pick a favorite. The ten runners include two sons of Belmont winner Birdstone (Mine That Bird and Summer Bird), Charitable Man (a son of Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid) who won the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park four weeks ago, Chocolate Candy and Dunkirk who were attracting a lot attention before the Kentucky Derby, Flying Private, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus who has been attracting more and more attention the last few weeks, and Mr. Hot Stuff, a gorgeous son of Tiznow. With so many quality horses running a length they've never run before and will likely never run again, it's hard to pick a winner. But it should make for a good race.

Posted by armand at 01:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 05, 2009

The Telegraph Blogs the UK's Electoral Circus

Some great stuff here on Gordon Brown's reshuffle and the results of the UK's local elections. Among the high/low-lights.

17.32 Caroline Flint has launched an astonishing attack on Gordon Brown in her resignation statement. Less than 24 hours after praising the PM, and a matter of minutes after she was overlooked for promotion, she has accused him of treating her like "female window dressing". She claims he is running a "two tier Cabinet", with his cronies holding more power than other ministers.

17.28 Lord Mandelson's new expanded department will be called the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, formed by the merger of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Universities, Innovation and Skills. He also takes the honorary title of First Secretary of State - making him the second most important man in Government.

17.19 While Brown has been speaking, local council results have been pouring in. Labour have lost power in Nottinghamshire to no overall control, although they remain the largest party. It means that Labour now runs no county councils in England.

16.47 The BBC's estimated projected national vote share puts the Tories on 38 per cent, Labour on 23 per cent and the Lib Dems on 28 per cent.

16.30 Despite the Tory gains, Sky News has calculated that the local election swing, if replicated at a general election, would give them a majority of just 24. Voters are abandoning Labour but many are seeking refuge with independents and smaller parties, rather than the Tories.

Posted by armand at 01:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2009

MySpace Cases Split PA Federal Judges, and Perhaps the 3rd Circuit

Two federal judges in PA issue notably different rulings, and 2 different 3-judge panels of the 3rd Circuit have different responses to the cases. What's at stake? Well, perhaps students' ability to criticize, insult or lampoon school administrators in the age of the internet.

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

OAS lifts Cuba's suspension

The OAS lifts the 1962 suspension.

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June 02, 2009

Spring Breakdown

Just what I needed to break me out of my summer coma, if only for 85 minutes. A night of wine, chocolate, and an actually amusing comedy. It's about what happens when 3 nerdy (or at least not cool kid) friends (Parker Posey, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch) go to Spring Break at South Padre to watch over another good girl (Amber Tamblyn) to keep her out of trouble, at her mother's suggestion (her mother is being considered for Vice President). Her mother is Jane Lynch, hilariously playing Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (errrr, Texas Sen. Kay B. Harman). The predictable antics ensue, and right from its first moments (the leads singing True Colors in a college talent show) I was hooked. Is it The Reader or I've Loved You So Long? Ummm, no. But it's better than your usual Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler comedy, and it's got a cast to die for. In little roles you'll see Ann Veal, Mary Cherry, Borat's hooker, Amanda from Buffy, SNL's Seth Meyers, Frau Farbissina, Will Arnett, Kristin Cavallari, Loretta Devine, and my personal favorite, Missi Pyle. Love her.

Posted by armand at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gordon Brown's Government Slips Away

It's hard to imagine there's a major government in worse shape than California's, but the one in London looks that way of late. The scandal which took down the Speaker (a new one will be elected in about 3 weeks) continues to claim prominent heads, and more and more members of parliament are announcing they will not be candidates for reelection. It's expected that Prime Minister Brown will carry out a major reshuffle after the European elections in a last ditch effort to save his premiership. Of course the most interesting possibility toward that end would be major electoral reforms, but it remains to be seen how far he will go with such a proposal.

Posted by armand at 06:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Opposition-Party Pol as Army Secretary

The current Secretary of the Army, President Bush's last, was a Democratic congressman. The new Secretary of the Army will be John McHugh, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. He represents the northernmost district in New York (sort of from Oswego to Plattsburgh).

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

June 01, 2009

The Limited Appeal of Los Angeles

Reading through the story in this week's EW on the return of Project Runway, and the show's move to Los Angeles, I came across this amusing line which captures in a nutshell why I think people who rate it at or near the top of best US cities have egregious taste.

The first challenge was tackling the logistics of moving from pedestrian-friendly New York City to car-centric Los Angeles. To avoid wasting precious sewing time in traffic, Murray and Rea set up base camp in the city's remote downtown area ...
Posted by armand at 12:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack