Third Circuit Strikes Down Solomon Amendment

I have not yet gotten a copy of the holding to assess the decision fully, but I must admit surprise that the Third Circuit has struck down the Solomon Amendment:

A federal appeals court barred the government Monday from blocking funds to colleges and universities that deny access to military recruiters because of the Pentagon's policy banning openly gay men and women.

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said a 10-year-old federal law that allows the government to block such funds violates the schools' First Amendment right to prohibit on-campus recruiting in response to the Pentagon policy.

The Justice Department promptly criticized the ruling, but it did not immediately announce plans to appeal.

The case challenging the law known as the Solomon Amendment was brought by more than a dozen law schools but applies to all institutions of higher learning.

First Amendment law is such a mess that I'm not sure it is possible to claim this case had to come out one way or the other. I can say that I have long held, and still hold, a hostility towards the law schools themselves for using their anti-discrimination policy in this way. It is the same argument which forced my Harvard colleagues and I to attend ROTC at MIT, rather than our alma mater. As I've said before:

I would like to register my continued discontent with the hypocritical policy of these schools that desire to take the federal government's money but refuse to allow its military recruiters on campus. If a university wants to take a principled stand and refuse these recruiters, let them bear the consequences of the action. But to want it both ways, to be able to exclude the recruiters, put up roadblocks preventing students from seeking military service, all while taking money from the same Congress responsible for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? That I cannot accept.

I am not an advocate for exclusion of gays. Were I a congressman, I would vote for full inclusion. If I were a general on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I would urge the same. But I cannot support the policies of universities that place the entire cost of the policy on the students who are interested in serving their country by becoming officers in the military.

New DVD Covers: The Mariachi Trilogy

Robert Rodriguez's Mariachi trilogy is one of the most underrated film cycles of recent years, but fortunately all three films have received pretty decent releases on DVD. The only deficiency is the lack of any uniformity between the DVD covers, belying any connection between the films at all. To rectify that, I have crafted new covers for each: El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico:

mariachi3_preview.jpg

The backs are straight copies of the originals; there was nothing wrong with them. As for the front covers, the El Mariachi front is from the original, minus the obnoxious review quotes and the "special edition" banner. The Desperado front is from the original DVD release, much preferable to the special edition's own front. And the OUATIM front is simply a scan of the insert found inside the DVD case.

The only particularly original parts of the design are the spines, which is where the uniformity was most important to me. I took the belt/pistol image from the original OUATIM cover, then added a new "trilogy" logo and the original logos for each. For a preview of what the spines look like all lined up, click here.

All the Pretty Horses

It took me an unusually long time to finish Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses. It was not a difficult book, it was simply a matter of timing. First there was the MPRE, then my trial advocacy trial (the jury deliberated for two minutes before returning a verdict in our favor), and then last week was the DeepDiscountDVD sale. That might sound particularly silly, but I spent a lot of time (and money) stocking up on my new anime hobby.

And then I spent a good bit of time creating a section of this website dedicated to my DVDs, with separate pages dedicated to mainstream DVDs, anime, and Asian cinema. That's also why I haven't done much blogging. Whatever time I spent at the computer was dedicated either to DVD shopping or setting up those pages.

Anyhow, back to the book. I loved it. Having spent my teenage years in the mountains of the West, I harbor both a real and ideal vision of the frontier, of the vast expanses of land, the rugged independence. Yet this worldview has been largely untapped by true literary talent, instead left to flounder in the hands of cliched westerns that see only the ideal, and not what lurks beneath.

But McCarthy was able to capture the whole. He saw and portrayed the idealistic code that governs the stoic cowboy worldview, but he dug further, to show that while this idealism can occasionally spur the achievement of its aspirations, it is more often a mask to obscure the harshness of reality. John Grady Cole is strong and silent, honest and noble. Yet he can also be aimless, anguished, heartbroken, and most shocking of all for the cowboy ideal, full of self-doubt. McCarthy is a subtle artist, and draws much of this out in small vignettes, single lines, single moments scattered throughout the novel. The world he paints is beautiful but fractured, full of the ghosts of hopes and dreams. In his novel, he was able to show both the ghosts and the hope, which in the end is the duality of the West, and perhaps of romance and idealism themselves.

When NOT To Call the Police

I love this story:

A father's attempt to teach his daughter a lesson about drinking backfired when the teen led police to a stash of drugs and weapons inside their home.

Kevin Winston, 46, called police at 2:45 a.m. Friday after his 16-year-old daughter came home drunk and unruly. When police arrived, however, the girl told them she feared for her safety because her father stored drugs and weapons in the home.

The girl led officers to a crawl space above the ceiling where they found four semiautomatic guns and more than 600 vials of cocaine.

Winston was charged with numerous weapons and drug charges. His five daughters were placed in the custody of a relative.

"He called us on her and ended up getting locked up himself," said Newark Police Director Anthony Ambrose.

It's people like this that make the rest of us feel better about ourselves, right?

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

That's right. DeepDiscountDVD is having their 20% off sale. That's 20% their already discounted prices, usually the lowest available on the web.

Check out this thread at DVDTalk for more info. Or don't, if you don't want your wallet to get a lot lighter.

New DVD Covers - The Godfather Trilogy

A series that needs no introduction. Here is my cover for the first film:

godfather_preview.jpg

The covers for the second and third films are in the same theme.

Just because the MPRE is in two days doesn't mean I have to study for it. Right?

The New Virus

See if you can spot the unintentional (I think) self-parody in the latest email from my school's IT department, regarding the latest version of the MyDoom virus that is floating around:

To protect yourself from infection from this virus, do not click on emailed hyperlinks unless you are certain of their integrity and are sure that they are to be trusted.

For additional information, please see this link:

http://money.cnn.com/2004/11/09/technology/mydoom/index.htm?cnn=yes

It's like they're testing us.

New DVD Cover - Glory

My latest custom DVD cover, for one of my favorite films, Edward Zwick's Glory:

glory_preview.jpg

As a brilliant and somber film, Glory received the special edition DVD treatment it deserved. Unfortunately, it also received the dreaded "floating head" DVD cover, which you can see here. I like mine better.

More Consolation

I know a lot of people in the blogosphere were finally hoping to knock off Arlen Specter this year, but I was never convinced it would have been a good thing. And I think this is evidence of why:

The Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee next year bluntly warned newly re-elected President Bush today against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation.

Sen. Arlen Specter, fresh from winning a fifth term in Pennsylvania, also said the current Supreme Court now lacks legal "giants" on the bench.

"When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely," Specter said, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Remember that Specter helped stop the Bork nomination. His colleagues certainly do:

When asked Wednesday about Specter's impending chairmanship, another Republican on the panel, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, did not offer a ringing endorsement.

"We'll have to see where he stands," said Cornyn, a close friend of Bush who worked to get all of the president's nominees through the Senate. "I'm hoping that he will stand behind the president's nominees. I'm intending to sit down and discuss with him how things are going to work. We want to know what he's going do and how things are going to work."

Does this provide any guarantees for Democrats? No, of course not. But it gives them a little more breathing room than their post-election panic would suggest.

A Ray of Hope For Democrats

This ought to be some consolation for the broken-hearted:

Attorney General John Ashcroft could be one of the first Cabinet members to leave the administration.

Sources close to Ashcroft told CNN Thursday that they believe it is most likely the attorney general will submit his resignation in the near future, possibly within the next two weeks.

I wonder who the most hated cabinet member really is. At the beginning of the term, Ashcroft would have won in a walk. But Rumsfeld has really been making a case in Democratic circles... will he be next?

New Democratic Minority Leader

Oh, and I think the Harry Reid pick is just awful. The debilitating thing about Tom Daschle, other than his personality, was that he came from a red state and thus could not be as strong a partisan leader as Democrats needed. You'll notice Republic majority leaders come from Tennessee, Mississippi, Kansas... not Maine, Minnesota, or Oregon. I saw Daschle's loss as the one ray of hope for Democrats in this election, as I thought it meant a guy like Dick Durbin, in a safe blue state, could step up and provide some meaningful opposition leadership.

Now Harry Reid just won re-election, and easily, in a state that Bush carried rather narrowly. Perhaps he's not planning on running again in 2010, or perhaps he thinks Nevada Republicans will again be unable to field a top-tier opponent (don't count on it, they'll be gunning for another minority leader). Otherwise I see this as a huge strategic blunder, and a real missed opportunity.

What's next? Replace Terry McAuliffe with Bob Shrum?

Most in U.S. Hopeful?

I don't have a lot to say about the election. Democracy at work, some people are pleased and some are not. But the current (as of 10:19am) front page blurb from CNN is so utterly stupid that I had to at least point it out:

A post-election poll indicates most of those surveyed are hopeful the country will be drawn together during President Bush's second term. Just over half -- 51 percent -- said they were pleased with the outcome of the election; 38 percent said they were upset.

Wow, 51 percent were pleased with the outcome! You think it might be the same 51 percent that voted for the guy who won? How can CNN write something like that without comment? It's just silly.

Granted, within the article itself there are some statistics to support the "most of those surveyed" notion: 57 percent expecting more unity, 74 percent seeing this election as fair and square. But the fact that 51 percent of the electorate is pleased with the outcome is just such a mindnumbing truism that I can't believe it is the current lede on the front page of CNN.

So I Voted

I decided to walk to the polling location, since it is one of the most gorgeous fall days I can remember. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the leaves are a majestic Virginia blend of red, yellow, and green. After fifteen minutes of such bliss, the voting itself was a bit anticlimactic. I walked into the little booth, pressed a couple buttons on this bizarre screen, and pressed the big yellow "cast vote" button. It says my vote was recorded, but who knows.

In fact, this whole day is a bit anticlimactic. After experiencing some rather uncomfortable tension the last few days, today I feel fine. I can't explain it. But I'm glad. Whatever happens today, the world goes on. It always does.

Custom DVD Covers

Other than the Xbox, which does make an excellent election-eve distraction device, I've been busying myself with a rather geeky hobby: creating custom DVD covers. There is a whole community of DVD fans and artists on the web creating their own covers for their favorite DVDs, and they've largely been driven underground by the movie studios and their threats of copyright actions. Nonetheless, the community is thriving and I've gotten a lot of tips from more experienced hobbyists. Anyhow, for my first try I decided to take a shot at the four DVD volumes of Futurama, my favorite cartoon. I don't like the boxes they came in, either in form (several thinpaks within a box covered by a slipcase) or appearance (rather random and frenetic artwork). Not to mention that they don't match each other, so even if you have them all lined up it doesn't look very attractive.

Here's the original Volume One design:

And here's the rough draft of my design (in an unusably low resolution to avoid a nasty e-mail from Fox):

None of the graphics are originals, but the design is mine. I'm still working on the spine, as I'd like for the four boxes to create one single image when they're all on a shelf next to each other. Otherwise, this is the basic design for all four volumes. It's been a fun little project, and I look forward to continuing this hobby. It lets me enjoy my DVDs in a slightly more creative way, and anything that give me a chance to be artistic is a good thing.

Overwhelmed

You know, four years ago there was no blogosphere to speak of, I spent relatively little time on the Internet, and I didn't start paying much attention to the election until I voted. Even on election day, I watched a little coverage and then went to bed.

Oh how I long for those days. I just can't take the tension anymore... it is seeping into my bones and driving me nuts. I can't go half an hour without checking the various political blogs, and might even bring my computer to school tomorrow for the first time in a year just to stay up to date. I have Trial Ad from 7pm-10pm tomorrow night, and I don't know how anyone will be concentrating.

I thought about writing a post about Democratic pessimism (or my anecdotal evidence thereof), what it tells us about Democrats and Republicans, what the consequences of perceptions are, and the like. But instead I'm going to step away, walk slowly toward the Xbox, and pretend I'm a gladiator with magical powers. Yeah, that sounds good.