Sharpton

Like David Bernstein, I have no tolerance for Al Sharpton. But when Bernstein asks whether he is "really supposed to take seriously a party" that gives Sharpton a slot at the convention, it is not immediately clear whether he is just expressing his disgust, or is actually trying to impliedly distinguish the Republicans. I have strong, strong antipathy for Al Sharpton, but will be flayed alive before agreeing to the notion that Pat Robertson or Pat Buchanan are any less repugnant.

So perhaps David will join me in a bipartisan call to both parties, asking them to stop letting anti-Semites, homophobes, racists, bigots, and general crackpots from giving prominent (or even non-prominent) speeches at the party conventions. It would make the election cycle just a little bit more tolerable.

Jews Off the Jury

If true, the accusations in this story strain the limits of absurdity:

The California Supreme Court is asking the attorney general's office to explain why a convicted murderer's death sentence shouldn't be reversed based on allegations that a now-deceased Alameda County, Calif., judge colluded with prosecutors to ensure a capital conviction by keeping Jews off the jury.

The court on Wednesday issued an order to show cause based on defense lawyers' claims that convicted murderer Fred Freeman's 1987 trial was tainted when then-Superior Court Judge Stanley Golde allegedly told prosecutors to keep Jews off the jury because they would never vote to send someone to the gas chamber.

These allegations stem from statements obtained from the prosecutor in the case, which sounds pretty credible. It is still hard to imagine something like this going on in an American courtroom in 1987, but perhaps that is my naivete speaking.

Either way, the story leaves open the question of whether Jewish jurors really are that much more hostile to the death penalty. If so, does that hostility stems from the (implied) allusions to Nazi gas chambers, or from the more general leftward leanings of most American Jews?

Just Stupid

Does anyone else think that posts like this just make Josh Marshall seem like a pretentious jerk?

Great work CNN! (You'll understand soon enough ...)

Well if I'll understand soon enough, and through no help from him, then what the hell is the point of that post? This is the blogging equivalent of running up to a friend, telling them you know a great secret but then refusing to share it. Imagine CNN running a breaking news bar on the website that read "Shocking story. Details soon." You'd be annoyed, and rightfully so. It is especially obnoxious because Marshall has made sort of a specialty of this, and seems to rarely deliver. It makes it a bit hard to take him seriously.

UPDATE: Oh look, Marshall actually explained himself:

The reference to CNN last night was to their running live on-air the panicked reactions of the convention director as the balloons failed to drop precisely on schedule. Originally it may have been a glitch. But they seemed to keep it running long after they could have rectified the problem.

Huh. Neat. I'm not trying to pick on Marshall, he does great work. But he has to know that he's getting a reputation for these sly and elusive comments, and would be better served to avoid them. Particularly when, as here, they concern tremendously trivial matters.

Tinfoil Hats

Like Kevin, I tend to be pretty skeptical of the many tinfoil hat theories that seem particularly contagious in the blogosphere. And I still don't know what to make of this claim that the Pakistani government was pressured to make and publicize a high profile terrorism arrest during the Democratic National Convention.

But if the story is true (which would, by the way, confirm my worst possible fears about this administration), it certainly hasn't gone according to plan. Already this morning, the news of the capture is off the front page of CNN and MSNBC, and barely registers even at FOXNews. Either the media has decided that this election is too important to let it be bumped by less-than-Osama arrests, or they for once have seen through blatant politicization of an important national security task, and are refusing to take part.

Book-Buyers Anonymous

I do not think it is too much of a stretch to say that the biggest recurring annoyance I cause my betrothed (and this shows how great I am, ha) is my inability to stop buying books. There are just too damn many, and there are too many good places to buy them. The latest bargain shop I've found is IcoBooks, which is the first place I've found to have lots of books published by Vintage. I've picked up Ellison, Mishima, Kawabata, Faulkner, and others, all in new or like new condition for $5 each with shipping. The website is slow and often broken, but the books arrive fast, well-packed, and in great condition. One of the best sites I've found.

But now I am done. I declare right now, publicly and in writing, that I will not buy another book in 2004. I will not attend the Green Valley Book Fair in August as planned. I will not be placing any more online orders (and the vendors gasp!). Instead, I will try and make do with the hundreds of books still on my shelf, waiting to be read. It's a veritable library of its own at this point, and I'll be better off getting excited about books I own, "shopping" among them for the next one to actually read, and giving my fiancee no further concern that our already cramped apartment will soon be a library with a bed.

No Atkins in Schools

Once in a while, public schools ought to be praised for getting it right:

Low-carb diets like Atkins and South Beach are changing the contents of grocery stores and the orders at fast-food restaurants.

But in school lunch lines -- and at the national meeting of the school food service association this week -- bread isn't a bad word.

I'm not even sold on Atkins diets being particularly healthy for adults, but that's an arguable question. The problem with children's diets is that they eat too much shit, not too many carbohydrates. So while a low-carb candy bar might be less harmful than a regular candy bar, the better answer would be fruit.

The story includes this groundbreaking news:

[H]uge portions and lack of exercise are the real causes of American obesity, not an occasional cookie or snack.

Try bringing back gym classes where they've been eliminated. Get children outside after school, keep track of how much they've been eating, and things will be fine. Let them eat crap, whether eggs and bacon or chocolate cake, and watch TV all night, and they'll be fat.

Unfinished Business, Pt. II

Maybe Medecins Sans Frontieres is getting out just in time:

A British parliamentary committee has warned that Afghanistan is likely to "implode, with terrible consequences" unless more troops and resources are sent to calm the country.

The all-party Foreign Affairs Select Committee, in a report released Thursday, said warlord violence and the struggle between U.S.-led troops and insurgents continues to be a threat to security in Afghanistan.

Yeah, it sure would be nice if we could, you know, actually defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements still operating at large. And if that somehow doesn't meet your policy desires, there's always the war on drugs to inspire the need for an increased presence and new strategy:

The wide-ranging report on the war against terrorism also said raised concerns over the failure of the UK government and its allies to limit the production of opium in Afghanistan.

"We conclude that there is little, if any, sign of the war on drugs being won, and every indication that the situation is likely to deteriorate, at least in the short term," the report says.

Drugs bad.

"There is a real danger if these resources are not provided soon that Afghanistan -- a fragile state in one of the most sensitive and volatile regions of the world -- could implode, with terrible consequences," the committee says in its report.

Imposion bad. Finishing what we started good.

Editors-in-Chief

I normally avoid comment sections like the plague, but Kevin Drum's post about the Obama speech was repeatedly updated in response to comments, so I thought I'd take a look. Mostly the same dreck, but I thought this comment was funny for its innocent ignorance:

Obama apparently was head? president? of the Harvard Law Review. Not surprised he can speak off the cuff so well.

All due respect to past and present editors-in-chief and presidents of the nation's many (way, way too many) law reviews, but I am not under the impression that extemporaneous speechmaking is a weighty consideration in the selection of the EIC. Nor should it be. That's not to say that it would not be a useful skill, or completely ignored by those who choose the EIC. But I doubt there is enough of a causative or even correlative relationship to provide any explanatory value for Obama's oratory skills. That's my snotty law student comment for the week.

The Speeches

I have been studiously avoiding coverage of the convention, both of the traditional and the blogospheric variety. I just do not think it is a very interesting event, and certainly not worth the attention, time, and money that is expended on it.

Of course, I feel a particular apathy toward rhetoric of almost all kinds, whether friendly or hostile to the positions I advocate. There is a certain lowest common denominator factor to most of it that turns me off. I do not like the feeling that I am being manipulated, and that is essentially the point of much or most rhetoric.

On the other hand, lots of people do like rhetoric and can become very inspired or enthused when it is done correctly. And it seems that Barack Obama does it quite correctly. Good for him, and good for us, as it seems he could make an excellent senator in the best tradition of that institution.

Back in Danang

I am not particularly well-versed in the modern political and economic climate in Vietnam, but this story seems positive:

An American warship docked in Vietnam's central port city of Danang on Wednesday, nearly four decades after U.S. Marines splashed ashore here heralding the unofficial start of the Vietnam War.

The arrival of the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer in the U.S. Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, is only the second American vessel to make a port call in Vietnam since the end of the war.

With four Vietnamese patrol boats acting as guides, the destroyer pulled into Tien Sa port with its flags flying and white-uniformed sailors lining the deck.

And for those looking for less symbolic measures of success:

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1995, bilateral ties between the former wartime foes have steadily expanded. A landmark trade agreement in 2001 has led to an explosion in two-way trade, with the United States becoming Vietnam's largest trading partner.

There's a lot of people who, twenty or thirty years ago, would not have been prepared or pleased to see "Made in Vietnam" on any of their possessions. I'm sure there are still some today, but I suspect the more common reaction would be mild surprise or total indifference.

Unfinished Business

Remember Afghanistan? Not all peaches and cream yet:

Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres says it will pull out from Afghanistan because of the killing of five of its staff and the risk of further attacks.

The group said in a statement it was also unhappy with a government inquiry into the 2 June deaths.

The statement accused US-led forces in Afghanistan of using humanitarian aid for "military and political motives".

The Nobel prize-winning agency has continued to operate through the country's upheavals for 24 years.

This is bad news for all involved. It demonstrates the inability (or perhaps the unwillingness) of the current regime to provide even minimal levels of physical security in the country, and the escalation of random violence in an environment that was never particularly safe.

We're not talking about some small Latin American country pulling out troops, or the French or Germans having another attack of consicence. This is an apolitical relief organization that has done phenomenal work in the world's most dangerous places, and is announcing that under the current conditions in Afghanistan, it can do no more. That is serious.

Here's their official statement.

No More Meat

I have come to believe that the massive slaughter of livestock and the frequent cruelty exhibited towards animals right up to and during their deaths is one of the most unnecessary and avoidable sources of suffering in this country. That the suffering is largely endured by animals rather than people is not sufficient reason to ignore it any longer. Even if humans are to have temporary control or governance of God's creation, it is not ours to exercise inhumanely. We have perverted nature to the point of absurdity. Hens laying eggs are so crowded in cages that they live their entire lives without spreading a single wing. Milk cows never get to feed their young. We are mocking nature, mocking God. And that's just the norm; look at the excess:

An animal rights group plans to release a videotape showing slaughterhouse workers with a KFC Corp. supplier jumping on live chickens and slamming them into walls, apparently for fun, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Here is PETA's website on the KFC slaughterhouse.

Even for those who adamantly refuse to consider the pain of non-humans, I would offer the argument that by taking part in such conduct, either as a businessman or employee in that field or a consumer of that product, most American people are also suffering as a result. Can it reasonably be argued that the suppliers throwing live chickens against walls for fun are not disturbed and suffering? Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Anger, devotes much of the first chapter to a Buddhist perspective on how the massive suffering by animals is transmitted to humans.

And yet even for a non-Buddhist, it would seem to me hard to deny that taking part in a consumer culture that devours meat without coming to terms with what that means is a willful blindness and ignorance that is an indictment all to itself. Many, perhaps most people get very uncomfortable at the dinner table if anyone starts a discussion of what they are actually eating, how it actually came to be on their plates. I was one such person. Yet how can we justify to ourselves that the only way to avoid losing our appetites or even vomiting at the dinner table is to pretend that we do not know or do not care where the food came from, how it got there, and whether the animal we're eating lived a pathetic and short life filled with little but pain and slaughter? Is this not evidence of at least a subconscious understanding of the wrong being committed, the suffering being encouraged? And if so, does it not reflect an internal hypocrisy, paradox, or at least guilt that can be ignored but never eliminated? Even outside a Buddhist tradition, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that the willfully ignorant consumption of livestock and associated products is planting the seeds of suffering, anger, and guilt inside the vast majority of Americans.

And I am absolutely included in that group. This was a dark little secret for me. Particularly as an aspiring Buddhist practitioner, it was incumbent on me to do my research, understand where my food was coming from, be thankful when it came from suffering-free sources, and avoid it when it did not. But instead, for years I have put my head in the sand. Vegetarianism and animal-friendly dairy and egg products have always seemed just a bit too inconvenient. Yet I knew that if I were confronted with the truth about the meat I was eating, I would never be able to eat it again.

So I kept myself ignorant.

Well, no longer. While flipping through the channels last night, I encountered a documentary sponsored by PETA (not the KFC one described above) that was perhaps the most horrifying thing I've ever seen. That sounds like hyperbole, particularly considering my experience with the tragic visuals of the Holocaust and other slaughters of people, or various wars. Yet though those horrors are even more tragic and more regrettable, they are events in which I had no complicity. I did not give money to those people to commit the very acts that filled me with such horror. With the livestock industry, I did.

And I had no excuse for doing so. I am very well-educated, with access to all the information one could ever need to see the truth. I have all the resources I need to make a healthy and relatively easy transition away from eating meat from caged pigs or eggs from caged hens, or milk from caged cattle. I have enough money that I can afford to pay more for food gathered in more compassionate, animal-friendly, and environment-friendly ways.

It may be easy to dismiss what I have said as the rantings and ravings of a converted PETA eco-terrorist, or something along those lines. And I will freely admit that I am particularly emotional about this right now. But I would ask no one to take my word for anything that I've said. All I would ask is that people start asking questions, start doing research, and then decide for themselves. Doing what I did, hiding from the facts while enjoying the fruits of suffering, is perhaps the most cowardly and indefensible choice of all.

Interesting New Blog

A "recently admitted part time 1L" has a new blog called Tex Lex, and today's post about new technology is fascinating. He introduces me to two new concepts, Wi-Fi cell phones and digital music on eBay (though without links... blogs need links!), and has this to say about his legal interests:

It's innovation like this that keeps me employed in the industry I'm in and it's the legal consequences of these technologies that are prompting me to go to law school. Legally, we have no idea how to regulate either of these industries and the people in charge are too old and too far removed from actual users to understand the legal impacts of the decisions they are making (like the DCMA, for example). Yes, that's a broad generalization and yes, there are senior citizens who are avid users of the latest and greatest technologies available today, but if Michael Powell fully understood the implications of allowing the Baby Bells to buy up all the cell phone companies and to then buy up all the Wi-Fi providers, he might object to these mergers a little louder than he has recently. Competing technologies are not as useful to consumers if they are all owned and priced by the same companies.

Good point.

Sentencing Consultants

By now, most of us are familiar with jury consultants, brought in solely for their supposed expertise in picking a favorable jury during voir dire. But apropos Martha Stewart's brand spankin' new five month prison sentence, word comes of a new legal industry: sentencing consultants:

Ms. Stewart's hire is not an anomaly these days. As white-collar criminals increasingly face jail terms, a group of consultants is helping them transition from life in the fast lane to life behind bars.

Some advisers focus solely on the sentencing process, often convincing judges to hand down shorter and lighter penalties. Others are more all-encompassing: part legal adviser, part psychiatrist, and part friend, as they help defendants and their families prepare for the shock, humiliation, and isolation that often accompany a prison sentence.

Those familiar with the business say the industry is in great demand from white collar criminals, ranging from child pornographers to CEOs accused of stealing corporate funds.

Well it looks like Stewart got the minimum reasonable sentence, but who knows how much this consultant had to do with it. The lower end of the guidelines suggest 10 months, and the judge split that into 5 months in prison and 5 months home confinement. Speaking of which, is there really a sensible way to think of 5 months confined in Martha Stewart's home as punishment? I'd pay for that opportunity.

But for those who think Stewart's five months in prison will also be a walk in the park, don't be so sure:

[I]t's not a given that a white-collar criminal will go to a federal prison camp. Lea Fastow, convicted of Enron-related crimes with her husband, former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow, entered a maximum security facility this week because there was no room in a camp. "She will spend most of her time locked down; it will be terrible," says Hoelter.

And one must be prepared for a new social hierarchy:

Novak also tells clients to go without notions of superiority. "It's very easy to delude yourself that you are superior to your fellow inmates," says Novak. "Federal prison is truly the great equalizer."

That's one way to look at it.

Terrorist Dry Run

Hard to know what to make of this anecdotal story about a possible terrorist dry run on a flight a couple weeks ago. At the least, it is not the sort of the thing to read 10 hours before you are scheduled to fly out of Washington National.

First-Class Goodwill

I think this is the sort of random kindness we can all appreciate:

Eight soldiers flying home from Iraq for two weeks of R&R flew in style instead of coach after first-class passengers offered to swap seats with them.

"The soldiers were very, very happy, and the whole aircraft had a different feeling," flight attendant Lorrie Gammon told The Dallas Morning News in Thursday's editions.

The June 29 seat-swap on American Airlines Flight 866 from Atlanta to Chicago started before boarding, when a businessman approached one of the soldiers and traded his seat.

When the swapping was done, "the other two first-class passengers wanted to give up their seats, too, but they couldn't find any more soldiers," Gammon said.

Well done.

Rumsfeld's Departure

Is Secretary Rumsfeld being eased out?

Burdened by the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal and constrained by the presidential election campaign, the Pentagon chief who spearheaded the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been relegated to a less visible role.

Once seemingly in danger of being fired over the prisoner abuse, Rumsfeld appears to have survived. Yet some wonder whether the White House might still conclude he is a political liability and prefer he leave this summer.

You might think his job security would have more to do with his job performance, but that doesn't seem to be so.

William Nash, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a retired two-star Army general who commanded American peacekeeping forces in Bosnia, said the White House's political calculations will determine Rumsfeld's fate.

"Right now everything in this administration is being measured against whether or not it contributes to the re-election of the president in November," he said. "Obviously he's been a lightning rod and oh, by the way, he's also been wrong and that's never good" for Bush.

There's so much speculation floating about, it is hard to make sense of. I will say this: I cannot fathom Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell all serving in a second-term Bush administration. Powell seems the likeliest to leave, and that's been true for many months, even years. Yet it appears that Rumsfeld is the liability. And the rumors about Cheney are endless.

Drug-Induced Cowardice?

The Army wanted to call it cowardice, but changed its mind:

The U.S. Army Thursday dropped its case against a soldier who was initially accused of cowardice after he suffered a panic attack when he saw the bloody corpse of an Iraqi on his second day in the war zone.

Why the about-face? Turns out Sgt. Pogany's nervous breakdown was probably a result of Army medication rather than cowardice:

The decision to drop the case against Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany came after a Navy doctor last month diagnosed him as suffering from damage to his balance system, most likely caused by Lariam, an anti-malaria drug issued to some troops serving in Iraq.

Hallucinations and panic attacks are among the possible side effects listed by Lariam's manufacturer, Roche Pharmaceuticals.

How about that? Poor guy.

Biased Cutting

fnc_logo.gifI gather that it is not at all unusual for publications to edit some of the stories they get from wire services. And insofar as this is done for space, efficiency, or any other relatively neutral reason, it is probably entirely unnewsworthy. But this effort by FOXNews is just so transparently biased that it is silly. They have cut several paragraphs out of the middle of the story on this year's presidential debates, thus rendering later lines nonsensical:

Presidential debates are traditionally preceded by delicate negotiations and attempts by both campaigns to manage expectations. By accepting the commission's recommendation, Kerry has opened the bidding for this year's debates.

Bush's staff could not be reached immediately.

[CUT]

Cahiment [sic] continues another debate tradition: campaign aides setting the bar high for their opponents.

So not only does this last line have an egregious typo, it is entirely unsupported by the story (which is how I noticed something was wrong). That's because the statement in question was cut. The cut paragraphs look like this:

Cahill accused the Bush campaign of waiting until the last minute to agree to three presidential debates in 2000, which she said was a tactic designed to �lower expectations about Bush�s debate skills and performance. In the end, Bush was declared the winner of each of the three debates against Vice President Al Gore.�

There was no formal winner declared after the 2000 debates, though most strategists from both parties believe Gore hurt his prospects.

Cahill�s statement continues another debate tradition: campaign aides setting the bar high for their opponents.

Thus the reference to "Cahill's statement" rather than "Cahiment"... and thus the blatant attempt by FOXNews to ensure that President Bush is able to repeat his low-expectations effort without being caught playing the same card twice.

She Got a Ring, I Got Emerilware. Cool!

emerilware.jpg

This cookware looks and feels great! It has that sturdy, well-crafted All-Clad feel, without that sturdy, well-crafted All-Clad price. I can't wait to get back to Charlottesville to start cooking.

Confidentiality

I'm not in a position to evaluate whether the law in question is wise, effective, or possibly even unconstitutional. But it sure makes me raise an eyebrow:

Keith Emerich, 44, said Tuesday that he disclosed his drinking habit in February to doctors who were treating him at a hospital for an irregular heartbeat.

Emerich received a notice from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in April that his license was being revoked effective May 6 for medical reasons related to substance abuse.

A state law dating to the 1960s requires doctors to report any physical or mental impairments that could compromise a patient's ability to drive safely, PennDOT spokeswoman Joan Nissley said.

And I can not help but note the dripping irony in this statement:

Nissley said she could not discuss the details of Emerich's case because of confidentiality requirements that also protect the doctor from being identified.

Huh. The doctor can (in fact, must) tell the state government what his patient tells him about his alcohol consumption, but the doctor's name is protected by confidentiality. That's an interesting arrangement, to say the least.

Contrasts

A study in contrasts for me coming out of the Metro this morning. Like many others, I read "Metro" (the free tabloid-style newspaper published by the Washington Post) on my way to work. Like many others, I am finished with it by the end of my commute. As you exit a metro station, they have conveniently put big newspaper recycling bins right next to the trash cans.

Yet as my fellow subway riders departed the station, the four people in front of people all tossed their newspapers in the trash. I was the only one to put it in the newspaper recycling bin. Seriously, what the hell is that about? I can understand (though not respect) the argument that recycling is more work, more expensive, whatever. But when the recycling bin is sitting right next to the trash can, and you still choose to throw it away... that's disgraceful.

Fortunately for me, my morning was wonderfully redeemed only minutes later during the escalator ride out of the station. An older Asian gentleman was sitting outside the station, as he is known to do once a week or so, and playing a gorgeous Eastern melody on what I assume is a cello. I absolutely love Chinese and Japanese string music (I'm less familiar with other Asian countries), so this is a delight for me everytime I encounter him. It always gives me great pleasure to put $5 in his jar. This gentleman and his music are pure grace.

Office Space Soundtrack

I never thought I'd be quoting this song, but having finally gotten a hold of the Office Space soundtrack, I discovered that "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" actually has something to say on the political front:

So voters of the world keep supporting me
And I promise to take you very far
Other leaders better not upset me
Or I'll send a million troops to die at war
To all you Republicans, that helped me win
I sincerely like to thank you
Cuz now I got the world swingin' from my nuts
And damn it feels good to be a gangsta

I've never heard it better said.

Olson on the Detainee Cases

Interesting, and I think essentially correct thoughts on the detainee cases from departing-SG Ted Olson:

"The justices of this Court, I submit, are keenly sensitive that the Court's human rights precedents have not, in retrospect, been perceived as the Court's finest hours," Olson said.

Olson noted the 1942 ruling that upheld the military trials of eight German saboteurs, including six who were executed, and the 1944 decision affirming the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

"The underlying current in the enemy combatant cases is that this Court is determined not to go down in history as the court that turned its back when asked to help," Olson said.

I also have trouble believing that the constant news about the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib had no effect on the justices, particularly those in the squishy middle most prone to influence by factors outside the record.

Terrible Reporting

Yet another example of why the mainstream media is utterly unreliable when it comes to reporting on Supreme Court decisions:

Moderate-liberal justice David Souter, as well as Breyer and Ginsburg sided with Hamdi, joining the more conservative Rehnquist, Anthony Kennedy and O'Connor. Supporting the government was liberal John Paul Stevens, joined by the two most conservative justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Whoever wrote this paragraph apparently made the simplistic (and false) assumption that because Scalia, Stevens, and Thomas dissented, they all supported the government. Yet anyone who is at all familiar with the decisions knows that Scalia and Stevens dissented from the decision because they disagreed with the government's position even more than the plurality, arguing that only a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus could authorize such a detention. Thomas alone accepted the government's position.

Legal topics just happen to be an area in which I have sufficient personal knowledge to recognize some of these blatant errors. Who knows how many errors pass me undetected in most other stories because I lack such expertise?

Great Literature Project

I did some maintenance work on the book section this weekend. The Great Literature Project is now on its own page, and is now powered by Book Collector. While that primarily means a great deal more convenience for me (and a much lower likelihood that I will continue to purchase books I already own), it includes one very nice feature that some UH readers may take advantage of. The title of each book on the list is automatically linked to the book's page at Amazon, so you can immediately peruse other reviews.

For the bookworms out there, I highly recommend the Book Collector software. It is easy to use and powerful out of the (proverbial) box, but also allows nearly limitless customization (as evidenced by the Great Literature Project, which is nearly a straight export from the program).

9/11 Screenshot Archive

My Google wandering has led me to an amazing and sobering digital resource: an archive of screenshots of online news sites from September 11 and 12, 2001, sorted by site, country, and hour of the day. It is worth a look when you think you are ready.

A Confession

I'm listening to the new Avril Lavigne album. And I like it. A lot. Oh, the shame.

What?

I read it twice and can not figure it out. Please excuse my language, but what the fuck is Frank Rich talking about?

The extraordinary popularity of [Spiderman] on the Fourth of July weekend might give partisans on both sides of this year's political race pause. As a man locked in a war against terror, Peter Parker could not be further removed from the hubristic bravura of Mr. Bush and his own cinematic model, the Tom Cruise of "Top Gun." There's nothing triumphalist about Spider-Man; he would never declare "Mission Accomplished" after a passing victory, and his very creed is antithetical to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war. But neither is he a stand-in for John Kerry. Whatever inner equivocation he suffers over his role as a superhero, he stops playing Hamlet when he has a decision to make. Nor does he follow Mr. Kerry's vainglorious example of turning his own past battles into slick promotional hagiography.

For God's sake. It's Spiderman! Maybe, just maybe, it has absolutely nothing to teach us about this year's election. Goddamn columnists.

Potter Fanaticism

I think Books-a-Million might be taking Harry Potter fanaticism a little too far:

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the sixth title in the Harry Potter series. Sign up to find out when it can be pre-ordered!

Just to be clear: this is an e-mail list created so that you can be notified just as soon as BAMM starts taking advanced orders. Deep breaths, people.

How Not to Reach Out

President Bush will be the first president since Herbert Hoover not to attend an NAACP convention. He attended during his first campaign, but perhaps he has given up on the idea of wooing black voters.

UPDATE: The Clerk says I'm being disingenuous. I prefer "snarky," but his point is valid. Maybe I'm channeling Michael Moore. Anyhow, this was a silly post, as are many of my shorter posts, and should thus not be mistaken for anything approaching an actual argument. I have neither the time nor inclination to consistently write with the length and precision that the Clerk does. Maybe that means I should just be quiet, but sometimes I'd rather be simplistic and snarky.

Cookware Bargain

Via a cookware forum, I found this great deal on a 7 qt. Le Creuset French Oven: $106 including shipping. Check out Amazon for product reviews (and a price comparison) and enjoy. I just ordered one myself. My first Le Creuset!

lecreuset.jpg

Stretched Thin

Republican lawmakers are becoming concerned that our military is being stretched too thin. So am I:

Amid worries the high level of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan could discourage potential new service members, Rep. John McHugh, R-New York, said it was not reassuring that most reserve components were falling below their recruiting goals for the year.

As of May 31, the Army National Guard was reported at 88 percent, the Air National Guard at 93 percent and the Air Force Reserve at 91 percent of their goals.

The article does a good job of summarizing all of the various indicators which by themselves might not be cause for alarm, but taken together paint a more bleak picture.

What I Did This Weekend

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Preparing For the Worst

I do not really think it helps all that much to be aware of such terrible possibilities, but for those who can steel themselves for such horrors, here is a potential next step in the crimes of Iraq-based terrorists:

Terrorists in the Abu Musab Zarqawi network in Iraq are specifically trying to kidnap an American female service member to further horrify the US public, senior defence officials were on Thursday quoted as saying.

The word is being passed within the network on the importance of taking one or more women hostages, The Washington Times reported quoting two senior US defence officers.

"We have heard through intelligence channels that several extremist organisations are attempting to capture coalition servicemen and women. We have instituted additional force protection methods to thwart these attempts," a senior military officer in Iraq told the paper.

Another defence source said there is an "edict, either on paper or as an order," within terrorist networks to capture an American female service member."

Let's hope this story is the last we hear of this.

Jacob Levy v. George W. Bush

It looks like Jacob Levy will be casting his first vote for a major-party presidential candidate: John Kerry. Why?

[W]e've had no Social Security reform, no push for vouchers, atrocious incompetence and policy made for the wrong reasons on the important foreign policy questions, protectionism, agricultural subsidies, and a spending explosion. All that's left are a) the tax cuts, which are good but something close to meaningless in the absence of spending cuts; b) a general positioning as "hawkish;" and c) annoyance at various elements of the left who I'd rather not be aligned with and certainly don't want to listen to crowing. (I really don't want Michael Moore to spend four years feeling like, and crowing that, he decided a presidential election.) Those aren't sufficient reasons to outweigh the general inability to govern competently or to make good policy judgments.

Levy also has links to various grumblings amongst the President's usually loyal base. It all makes for good reading. I think it is safe to say that this will be one of the most interesting and bizarre election cycles in decades.

9th Circuit in the SC

Interesting article about the domination of the Supreme Court docket by the Ninth Circuit, pointing out (as many have) that the reversal rate is not higher than average:

Ninth Circuit appeals accounted for about one-third of the Supreme Court's docket in the term that ended Tuesday -- 25 of 78 cases. Hellman said about one-sixth of petitions for certiorari were from the 9th Circuit, meaning that the Supreme Court is "taking cases from the 9th Circuit at a much higher rate than you would expect."

Legal scholars offer a handful of explanations for the circuit's increasing domination of the high court docket, which they noticed a few years ago. One reason may be that the West is a cultural and economic powerhouse, a place where novel legal issues are simply more likely to come up.

"If an issue is not happening somewhere on the West Coast, it's probably not a significant issue," said Hastings College of the Law professor Vikram Amar.

Besides that, there's also the microscope factor.

"You have to wonder whether the [Supreme Court] law clerks don't take a special look at 9th cases," said Hellman, who closely follows the 9th Circuit. It's like "a self-reinforcing phenomenon because they've taken so many in the past that it becomes the focus of attention," he speculated.

Amar pointed out that nearly half the Supreme Court has personal ties to California and the West: Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor both attended Stanford Law School and then worked in Arizona. Justice Anthony Kennedy was born in Sacramento and sat on the 9th Circuit, and Justice Stephen Breyer was born in San Francisco.

But as the article notes, the Ninth Circuit is likely no longer the black sheep it was in recent years:

The tarring came just a few years ago when the circuit was viewed as being dangerously out of step with the rest of the country. Unhappy with what the circuit was doing, U.S. Supreme Court justices sent a strong message, Goldstein said, by reversing circuit cases and making comments at judicial conferences and in other speeches and writings.

"What the Supreme Court was really doing was encouraging the 9th Circuit to police itself," Goldstein said.

The 9th Circuit is apparently taking that message to heart. Goldstein pointed to the litigation last fall over the recall, where a three-judge panel halted the election -- a move many believed would benefit embattled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

But the court immediately reconsidered the case en banc and issued a unanimous ruling in Southwest Voter Registration Education Project v. Shelley, 03 C.D.O.S. 8617. Arnold Schwarzenegger won the election by a comfortable margin.

Interesting stuff.

Tax Cut Skepticism

Plenty of people, myself included, have been skeptical of this administration's tax cuts. But I don't think anyone has so succintly explained why as Brad Delong did today, in a post about conservative reevaluations of Clinton's economic legacy:

[C]an we please please please please please please PLEASE!! stop talking about Bush's "tax cuts." There are no tax cuts. There's a tax shift--current taxpayers pay less, and future taxpayers pay more. Only by pretending that nobody has to service and amortize the growing federal debt can you talk about Bush's "tax cuts." They aren't there, any more than a $5,000 increase in your VISA limit is an increase in your income.

Good point.