Saturday, July 30, 2005

Shaking Up the Final Frontier

In the past two weeks, the American public witnessed the following events, in rapid succession: (a) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) preparing for the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery, the first such space shuttle launch since the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003; (b) NASA scrubbing that launch because of technical problems; (c) NASA restarting the launch countdown after (presumably) fixing those technical problems; (d) NASA finally launching Discovery, only to discover that the shuttle had, like its doomed predecessor, apparently lost some of the heat shielding that permits re-entry into Earth's atmosphere; (e) NASA maneuvering to see if the damage to Discovery is serious; (f) NASA talking about the possibility of launching a rescue mission with another space shuttle, if necessary; and (g) NASA administrators updating their resumes (well . . . okay, maybe that last step is wishful thinking, or at least not publicly discussed).

This most recent epic of incompetence serves as a stark reminder for the American public that the United States government's space program is in tatters, due in varying parts to the end of the Cold War (and thus a loss of interest in space-based technologies), real (and phony) budgetary concerns, and a gradual loss of a sense of mission for the beleaguered agency.

Thirty years ago, Americans had goals and missions that made them proud: Mercury, Apollo, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, the surface of the moon, visions of the planet Mars and the great beyond. Today? Today, we have the space shuttle fleet and little else. To be perfectly frank, the space shuttle fleet is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with the modern space program. The space shuttles themselves are antiquated, clunky, expensive pieces of equipment that accomplish very little when they are even serviceable at all. They are the orbital equivalents of UPS trucks -- minus, of course, the speed, productivity, or cost-effectiveness of UPS trucks. The mere fact that the shuttle fleet is the core of NASA's operations demonstrates a sense of directionlessness that is disheartening for generations that dream of a space program that does more than drop off zero-gravity lab experiments and deploy communications satellites.

I offer a handful of ideas -- some of which are expensive, many of which would take years to fulfill, but all of which would yield positive results -- that would go a long way toward rejuvenating our space program:

1) Change the way we fly. The shuttle program is floundering. It may be time to give the shuttles to the Smithsonian and look to entirely new ways to reach for the stars.

The first step would be to abandon the classic rocket-shuttle model and move toward airplane-like spacecraft that can achieve escape velocity (for you non-space people, escape velocity is the speed an object needs to be able to break the bonds of Earth's gravitational pull) after taking off from a runway. NASA has supposedly been working on so-called scramjet technology that would permit runway-based aircraft to do precisely that by burning fuel skimmed directly from the atmosphere and reaching record-breaking speeds, but nothing has been publicly discussed in years. And recent attempts by private individuals such as Burt Rutan and his historic SpaceShipOne have shown that it is possible to get an airplane-like craft into space and back safely (although SpaceShipOne cheated in that Rutan's award-winning aircraft achieved earth orbit after being boosted into the atmosphere by a carrier plane; realistically, the real deal would have to go from ground to orbit on its own in one stage).

Such technology (which is very feasible now) would negate the need for brittle shuttles and heavy fuel tanks (with heavy fuel), which in turn would make missions less expensive and more appealing -- and would no doubt spur a whole new wave of propulsion technology in the process.

2) Elevator to the stars. The advance of technologies such as nanotechnology is rapidly bringing us to the point where we as a species will be able to shape the universe around us in ways heretofore unimagined. One such vision is the development of something known as a space elevator.

Imagine the following: rockets deploy, land on, and attach to a nearby asteroid. These rockets then propel that asteroid into a stable geosynchronous Earth orbit. Once in orbit, robotic probes are sent to the asteroid's surface, where they quickly begin to mine the metals that make up the asteroid and weave them into ultra-strong metallic nanotubes. These nanotubes are then woven into larger and larger threads, which in turn are joined into one large cable, lowered into the atmosphere, and anchored on the Earth's surface. The resulting cable would be held taut by the Earth's centrifugal force, and would permit large-scale elevator cars to ride up and down the cable, all the while transporting personnel and goods into orbit with relative ease and without the risk and stress of spaceflight.

For now, the space elevator belongs to science fiction writers like Kim Stanley Robinson, whose amazing trilogy (which I highly recommend, by the way) about the exploration and colonization of Mars -- Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars -- makes use of the revolutionary transportation. But the science behind the plan is sound -- sound enough that NASA has commissioned studies on the subject and discussed the probability of such a project.

3) Red, and then . . . ? If part of going somewhere is having a goal, then why not provide that goal? The technicians who work for NASA may be brilliant, but without a focus for their energies, why have them in the first place?

How to solve the problem? Simple: plan a manned Mars mission. Make it a goal to put human beings on the surface of Mars within the next twenty or thirty years. NASA has discussed such a mission, but currently lacks the funding and political commitment necessary to make it a reality.

And sending a few astronauts to collect rock and soil samples just won't cut it this time. The scale and expense of the mission means we need to do it right: we need to send men and women to Mars with the intention of forming a permanent planetary colony there. From there, the possibilities are limited only by our own imaginations.

4) A little private space. Why should NASA take the above proposals seriously? Because it runs the dangerous risk of being left behind by the private sector, which is poised to have a real presence in the great beyond, whether the Earth's governments like it or not.

Rutan's SpaceShipOne showed the world two things: (1) massive government spending is not needed to break the bonds of Earth's gravity; and (2) space is imminently marketable, notably as a tourist destination. With that in mind, Rutan just inked a deal with Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson that would allow Branson's latest offshoot of his corporate empire -- Virgin Galactic -- to use the technology of Rutan's spacecraft company to build a fleet of spacecraft that could transport passengers into space for a not-exactly-nominal fee. Branson himself predicts that his foray into space tourism is only three years away from being operational.

And Branson is not the only one calling for the opening of space to corporate ventures. Others have seriously begun brainstorming about the construction of orbital hotels, while Hilton International is already in the process of designing and constructing its own orbital hotel to be assembled from used shuttle fuel tanks. One company -- Constellation Services International -- is in the process of planning a whole panoply of space services ranging from private satellite maintenance to circumlunar cruises. And there are others.

Will we be renaming the moon's Sea of Tranquility the Sea of Pepsi-Cola anytime soon? Probably not. Will the Orion Nebula eventually be brought to us by Nike? Doubtful. But I take solace in knowing that, if NASA refuses to lead the other way in space exploration and colonization, others will not hesitate to fill that void.


The problem with the space shuttle program is that it represents a more stagnant era of space exploration, when there was actually very little exploring going on. The trick to solving our space woes is not to become more timid, but rather to be bolder. The solution is not to close our eyes in fear, but to open them wide to the possibilites of what may be. I am hopeful that future generations will not hide behind the skeptics who view space as a dead-end, but will see space for what it truly is: a gateway to our future and the next great step in human evolution.

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Scrappleface on the Sudan

Scott manages to capture the futility of the UN's actions regarding Sudan with another great bit of satire.
In another display of the value of the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today announced that women brutally raped by Sudanese government forces would each receive a free copy of the latest report documenting the widespread, savage abuse.

"It legitimizes their suffering and lets them know that they are not alone," said Mr. Annan, as he held aloft a copy of the 29-page report. "This is why the United Nations is so desperately needed in today's world. We will continue to take bold action in producing reports on the rape and abuse of Sudanese women. The U.N. exists to fearlessly monitor tragic violence against oppressed people by government forces in our U.N. member states."

One woman in Darfur, who had been sexually assaulted by an armed Sudanese law enforcement official while on an excursion to gather firewood, welcomed the free copy of the report.

"Perhaps I can use the paper to make fire," said the unnamed rape victim. "I only wish it was a much longer document so I wouldn't have to risk gathering wood again soon.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Things that make you go hmmm . . .

Waiting for my bbq spare-rb tips to be finished, I was perusing the Montogomery County local paper and saw an article that caught my attention. It seems that the good folks on the County Council would like to make public urination and defecation illegal within the county. I think this raises an interesting question.

You mean it 's currently legal to publicly urinate in Montogomery County?

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Sorry, I'm a little late with the weekly Coalition post.

Two weeks ago, the Center for American Progress and the Genocide Intervention Fund launched a joint initiative known as "Be A Witness" built around a petition calling on television networks to increase their coverage of the genocide in Darfur.

As "Be a Witness" noted
During June 2005, CNN, FOX News, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.
This week, tireless Sudan advocate Nicholas Kristof took up the call and chastised the press for its lack of Darfur coverage
If only Michael Jackson's trial had been held in Darfur. Last month, CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur.
Shortly thereafter, Editor and Publisher printed a piece reporting
New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof's attack on the press for underreporting the atrocities and genocide in Darfur, which ran in today's paper, has drawn the ire of some newspaper editors who said they are doing the best they can with what they have.
In this piece, USA Today Foreign Editor James Cox offered a partial but important explanation for the dearth of coverage
Cox pointed to a two-day series USA Today ran in May on Darfur, stressing the difficulty the paper had in even getting a visa for reporter Rick Hampson to travel there. "It was excruciatingly difficult to get the permission," he said. "We had an application that had been stalled for months."
Sudan does not want journalists freely traveling around Darfur for the sole reason that their reports are going to reveal the true nature of Khartoum's genocidal campaign.

Considering this basic fact in conjunction with the efforts currently underway to expand the African Union mission in Darfur, it might behoove all involved to consider embedding journalists with the AU just as the US did during the initial weeks of the war in Iraq.

People want information about Darfur; journalists want access to Darfur; and the UN and AU want (or at least should want) to disseminate information regarding to crisis in Darfur as widely as possible.

The US and NATO are currently providing key logistical support to the AU mission and ought to insist that any reporter who wants access to Darfur be assigned to and granted protection by an AU patrol force.

Brian Steidle served with the AU in Darfur for six months before eventually resigning his position so that he could share his photos with the world.

Steidle is a hero for doing this - but it shouldn't take personal acts of sacrifice and courage to make the world aware of the genocide in Darfur.

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French Lessons

Krugman's column in the NYT today makes a thought-provoking comparison of our economy and supposed "values" to those of the French, in light of the barrage of criticism their society receives from various elements of ours. Thoughts?

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sweep Dreams

The Atlanta Braves just completed a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals. The sweep gives the Braves a comfortable three-game lead on the Nats.


All three games were decided by one run. In fact the Nats' streak of losing one run games mirrors their early season success in such contests. It looks like whatever magic held the Nats up for the first hundred games of the season is now vanishing.

Which is fine by me. Sneaking up right behind the Nats are the New York Mets. Despite losing two of three to the pitiful Colorado Rockies the Mets are just 2.5 games back of the Nats for the wild card lead. In front of the Mets are the team they are set to start a four game series with tonight - the Houston Astros, whose recent surge from oblivion has them a mere half-game behind the Nats. Luckily for the Mets they will not have to face Roger Clemens in this series, though I suppose that means fans will be deprived of just one more Piazza-Clemens showdown.

The Wild Card race is pretty tight, with six teams all within three games of each other, and a couple more just a few games further out. Because so few teams are completely out of it with the trade deadline just a few days away, there might not be a lot to be had. But one word of advice to the Mets and in particular GM Omar Minaya: PLEASE be rationale. We lucked out last year in that the deadline deals we all disparaged have not in fact turned out to be the unmitigated disasters we thought they would be. It took him more than ten minutes, but it looks like pitching coach Rick Petersen has figured out how to harness Victor Zambrano's ability. But, we got lucky, and I really don't want the farm being sold for Mr. K himself, Alfonso Soriano. As the saying goes, he's great for your fantasy team, not so much for an actual baseball team. I'd almost prefer to stand pat and see how the season plays out with the talent that's already in place. Steve Trachsel is set to rejoin the team, solidifying an already solid rotation (bye bye Ishii). Unless the Reds have second thoughts about trading Adam Dunn, there is no need to overpay for mediocre talent.

Should be a fun weekend of trade talk, and an even more fun final two months of the season.

And G**damn it I can't believe the Braves are going to fucking win the division again. Great, we get to see them lose in the first round again. Joy.

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9th Amendment

Interesting topic and debate going on over at Southern Appeal on the meaning of the rather vague 9th Amendment. Feddie argues for a more substantive interpretation of the amendment than do most:
Having examined many of the written records from the founding period, as well as several of the framers' "theoretical writing[s]," I can say, with a good deal of confidence, that most (if not all) of the "rights" protected by my Ninth Amendment jurisprudence would simply be those natural law rights recognized by well-established English common law. These rights (in most instances) have clearly defined historical parameters, which would make it possible to establish a coherent Ninth Amendment jurisprudence.

In sum, I think my interpretation of the Ninth Amendment is far superior to Judge Bork's, which renders the amendment meaningless, or Randy Barnett's, who seeks to use the amendment to support a radical form of individualism never envisioned by the framers.
There's a pretty good debate going on in the comments section.

My take: I honestly haven't given this much thought. I suppose on one level I am inclined to think that the 9th Amendment primarily applies to the federal rather than state governments since 99% of the orginal Constitutional text and Bill of Rights is on the powers (and limits thereof) of the federal government. Even if one concedes that the amendment applies to both state and federal governments I am not sure what substantive meaning can be given to the 9th Amendment. Again, though, I really haven't thought too much about it. It's an interesting topic to pursue.

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On DR-CAFTA and the Nature of Representation

The House of Representatives last night (well technically early this morning) passed the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) 217-215, with a couple of Republican members not voting. I don’t have a real problem with this result, as I’ve commented before, free trade is, on the whole and over the long run, a good thing, but this agreement might not have been the best vehicle at this present time. Be that as it may, the debate and the vote (a 15 minute vote that by my watch lasted in excess of 1 hour and 15 minutes) last night got me to thinking, what exactly are the duties of House members, who do they ultimately owe their votes to, their constituents, their party, their country, or some combination of all of the above?

DR-CAFTA might be exhibit A to this problem. Take, for example, many of the GOP members from southern districts that either produce textiles and apparel or grow sugar, both of which were seen as vulnerable given some of the provisions of DR-CAFTA (for what it’s worth some of the arguments against the agreement were downright embarrassing and wholly without foundation in fact or law, but the two that I have highlighted were among the most well crafted and honest in terms of pros and cons). How were these people supposed to vote? Arguably the agreement put the screws to the people that live and work in those districts and in the vulnerable industries, however, there are other districts around the country that stood to benefit greatly from some of the provisions of DR-CAFTA. Moreover, the agreement was seen as a much needed political win for the Bush administration and House leadership who have had some trouble keeping people in line recently. Are those considerations to matter to House members?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but it seems to me that individual members arguably have a primary responsibility to vote in the best interests of the people who elected them to Congress. In most instances the district’s interests will align with the interests of the leadership, the Party, the country, and the President. In some isolated cases, however, like DR-CAFTA, it might be necessary for a member to say: "I’m sorry, but this isn’t in my constituent’s best interests. I know it helps this member’s people over here, but I don’t represent them, thus, I can’t give you my vote on this one." Or, maybe I’m wrong? Maybe when the President comes to Capitol Hill and asks for your vote to help the country be more secure by making the DR-CAFTA countries more democratic you are supposed to say: "Yes, sir, even if this screws my constituents you have my vote. I’m a loyal party guy, the President has asked for my support and this is what I need to do." I’m not going to fault any member, Democrat or Republican for their vote on DR-CAFTA, but I have to admit a certain amount of respect for those Members that said on the floor was that as supportive as they may be of the principles of free trade, they couldn’t vote for this agreement because of its negative (or perceived negative) effects on the businesses and interests of their constituents. Thoughts from the peanut gallery will be interesting, I hope.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thank you Howard Dean

Can anyone spot the logical flaw(s) in the latest spouting from Mr Dean:
The president and his right-wing Supreme Court think it is 'okay' to have the government take your house if they feel like putting a hotel where your house is.
Setting aside the fact that President Bush has not yet appointed a single person who has ever rendered a Supreme Court decision, Mr. Dean might be well surprised to discover that it was the liberals on the Court that in fact voted to uphold the taking in the Kelo case. You would think that the chairman of the Democratic party might be a little more up on the news, but then you would be expecting a little too much from the dumbest politician in America (sorry Nancy, even Howard's got you beat).

I remain mystified as to why the Democratic Party thought it was a good idea to appoint this man as its chair. It may have sounded like a good move to energize the base, but the base is already energized, and the base alone cannot keep the party afloat financially. The numbers indicate why. Don't be deceived by the relative increase in DNC fundraising activity for the first 6 months of the post-general election cycle in 2005 as compared to 2001. Last year the DNC raised over 360 million dollars (see line 20). In fact, the DNC outdid the RNC, a monumentally shocking development in the wake of the ban on soft money. Meanhwile the RNC has doubled the amount of money the DNC has raised so far this year. So the DNC has gone from parity to the RNC to being outspent by 30 million dollars in six months under Dean's stewardship.

The Republicans didn't select Pat Buchanan to head the RNC after the 1996 election. Dean may not be as far on the fringe relatively speaking as Buchanan, but he's sure close. The Democrats made an incredibly foolish decision, one this Republican is even sorry they made. This man serves no value to either his party or this country.

Rant on Howard, you just make it so easy to pick on you.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Reason: The Myth of Millions of Years: Creationist cosmology is full of wormholes

"How do you know that you, your memories, and the whole universe with its 'history' weren't called into existence just 5 minutes ago? ":

No time for a lengthy discourse on the absolute fallacy of the hypothesis known as macro evolution (why do they call is a theory when it is more properly labeled as an untested hypothesis?). However, for the record, Macro-Evolultion is the salve that some have replaced religion with however the replacement fails in that it is 1)unproven, 2) posits a reason why life exists without solid proof (like most religions), and 3) requires blind faith and ignorance of illogical and contradictory messages to believe.

"To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree." Charles Darwin, 1859.

He then went on the state that "reason" told him that his theory could support the development of the eye....blah, blah, blah.

Could the eye have evolved from a light sensing cell mass? Maybe, if it gave its mutant carrier an advantage. However, see blood clotting. No way it could have evolved unless every aspect of it spontaneously "evolved"/mutated in one fell swoop: Not part of the theory of evollution but rather creationism.

There's the rub, evolutionary theory doesn't allow for instantaneous macro-evolutionary changes and irreducible complexity like clotting doesn't buttress Mr. Darwin and his believers.

The Blood Clotting Cascade :

1. A cut occurs and Hageman Factor sticks to the surface of cells near the wound. Bound Hageman Factor reacts with another enzyme called HMK to produce Activated Hageman.
2. Pre Kallikrein reacts with Activated Hageman to produce Kallikrein.
3. Hageman Factor also reacts with HMK and Kallikrein to form Activated Hageman.
4. PTA reacts with Activated Hageman and HMK to produce Activated PTA.
5. Christmas Factor reacts with Activated PTA and Convertin to produce Activated Christmas Factor.
6. Antihemophilic Factor is activated by Thrombin to produce Activated Antihemophilic Factor.
7. Stuart Factor reacts with Activated Christmas Factor and Activated Antihemophilic Factor to produce Activated Stuart Factor.
8. Proconvertin is activated by Activated Hageman Factor to produce Convertin.
9. When a cut occurs, Tissue Factor (which is only found outside of cells) is brought in near the wound where it reacts with Convertin and Stuart Factor to produce Activated Stuart Factor. (Note that step 9 involves an extrinsic process whereas step 7 is an intrinsic process.)
10. Proaccelerin is activated by Thrombin to produce Accelerin.
11a. GLU-Prothrombin reacts with Prothrombin Enzyme and Vitamin K to produce GLA-Prothrombin. (Note that Prothrombin cannot be activated in the GLU form so it must be formed into the GLA form. In this process ten amino acids must be changed from glutamate to gama carboxy glutamate.)
11b. GLS-Prothrombin is then able to bind to Calcium. This allows GLA-Prothrombin to stick to surfaces of cells. Only intact modified Calcium-Prothrombin Complex can bind to the cell membrane and be cleaved by Activated Stuart and Accerlerin to produce Thrombin.
12. Prothrombin-Ca (bound to cell surface) is activated by Activated Stuart to produce Thrombin.
13.Prothrombin also reacts with Activated Stuart and Accelerin to produce Thrombin. (Step 13 is much faster than step 12.)
14. Fibrinogin is activated by Thrombin to produce Fibrin. Threads of Fibrin are the final clot. However, it would be more effective if the Fibrin threads could form more cross links with each other.
15. FSF (Fibrin Stabilizing Factor) is activated by Thrombin to form Activated FSF.
16. When Fibrin reacts with Activated FSF many more cross ties are made with other Fibrin filaments to form a more effective clot.

Any mutation that gave rise to one of these enzymes or even several at one time would have rendered the mutant unfit comparatively. Nature doesn't say "wow, this mutant being may be able to make its life-blood clot if it can reproduce and continue to spontaneously evolve," and thus make sure that it lives to spawn. No, this mutant dies because it expends more calories than its counterparts making the unecessary enzymes and never gets to reproduce because it probably starves. Darwinism....what a crock.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Off to Boston

I'm on my way to Boston right now to attend the wedding of frequent Political Specrum contributor "Reversed Curse." He has assured me he will not use profanity during the wedding vows. Darn.

Congratulations Mr. RC, and a hearty Go Sox!

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A great sense of perspective

Looks like our new perspective Justice has a great appreciation for historical truth. Courtesy of Southern Appeal:
Take, for instance, Roberts's response to a request sent by then-Rep. Elliott Levitas (D-Ga.) to Reagan. In 1983, the Supreme Court struck down laws that contained provisions for Congress to veto actions taken by executive departments and agencies. Levitas wanted to meet with Reagan to determine "the manner of power sharing and accountability within in the federal government." The request offended Roberts's notion of the proper separation of powers.

"There already has, of course, been a 'Conference on Power Sharing,'" Roberts wrote, sarcastically referring to the convention at which the Constitution was drafted. "It took place in Philadelphia's Constitution Hall in 1787, and someone should tell Levitas about it and the 'report' it issued."
As Austin Power would say, "Yeah baby!"

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tigers, Pawns, and Queens

"If the Americans are determined to interfere, then we will be determined to respond,' he said. 'We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.'":

The beloved leader Chairman Mao, bringer of prosperity, happiness, and the 7 years of plenty, once said something to the effect that there will always be Chinese. This was in response to a question regarding the United State's superior war making capabilities. 1.2 billion people is ALOT and now that China's got the bomb, irrelevant.

My cousin just returned from a stay of several years in China. His ideas on Taiwan: 1) China is a hegemon, especially with regard to its Asian neighbors. Taiwan is nothing more to us than a rook. Japan and England are our Queens. God save the Queens: Sorry Taiwan, we now view your separation from the mainland as a regional and internal matter.

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"The budget improvement is coming from a gusher (Texas word "gusher" not emphasized in original) of tax revenues, reflecting the economy's improving fortunes with more people working and businesses reporting higher profits".

How can tax revenues increase following a tax cut for the wealthy? This makes no logical sense whatsoever in that those who were and are able to keep more of the money they make just put the cash in a can, a mattress, or other similar savings vehicle. Right?

Isn't this the third time tax receipts increases have followed tax cuts? Answer, at least in the past 50 years it is...Count 'em: Kennedy's cuts (for the rich), Reagan's cuts (for the rich), and Bush II's cuts (again, for the rich, evil capitalist at that). Rich people must employ others or buy stuff that leads to employment and further spending and economic growth. Supply side? What? "A rising tide lifts all boats".....silly Jack Kemp, what did he know about economics; this third causal effect certainly proves that history certainly is no window to the future and we should quickly raise some taxes.

Maybe we should get on to repealing the 22nd and let this idiot who can wage a couple of wars, cut taxes for the evil rich and those worthless entities known as corporations, spend like a Kennedy on a bender (is that redundant?), enrage most of my ideological foes (there must be some word stronger than enrage but it eludes me), bumble through speeches, and increase the tax receipts of the country: all this whilst believing in God!
What's the status on getting that stupid amendment repealed anyway?

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More on Roberts

This is interesting. From Goldstein & Howe's Supreme Court Nominations Blog, there is this post detailing out the frequency with which Judge Roberts has agreed or disagreed with the various members of the DC Circuit. The post notes how apparently infrequent it is to have dissenting opinions in the DC Circuit, a fact of which I was not aware. Take these stats for what they're worth, but I suppose there is something there to make everyone happy regarding Robert's performance as a judge thus far.

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Advice to Senate Democrats and Others Regarding Judge Roberts

Now that the President has spoken and selected Judge John G. Roberts to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, the focus has shifted from the President and the White House to the Congress and specifically the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate. Not that any members of the Senate read this, nor even if they did would they solicit my advice, but I like to think that one day they might, so here’s my advice to Senate Democrats and to Democrats in general with respect to Judge Roberts's nomination. It’s simple and straight forward; STAND DOWN.

Yes, I know that Judge Roberts is a conservative, so what. The country elected a conservative President, over my and 49 million or so’s (whatever the actual number was I don't remember, but you get my point) objections. Thus, we knew when O’Connor or whomever retired that we were going to get a conservative nominee to replace her. We also knew, with a fair amount of certainty, that regardless of how conservative people thought O’Connor was, that we were going to get someone more conservative. Well, I think we got that, but what we didn’t get was the worst nightmare. We didn’t get a Janice Rodgers Brown, J. Michael Luddig, or Edith Jones. We didn’t get a Bill Pryor, or, thank the heavens, a Roy Moore. All in all, from a liberal perspective, things could have been much, much worse. I said long before last night that Roberts or 10th Circuit Judge Michael McConnell would be "acceptable" conservatives, and this tried and true Democrat, will stand by that statement. Judge Roberts is first and foremost a lawyer, and by all accounts a very, very good one. He knows the Court, how it functions, and has what appears to be a proper respect for its workings and more importantly for its traditions.

More important to me, however, is what Judge Roberts is not. Namely, he does not appear to be someone who will go out of his way to pick an ideological fight or advance an agenda. Roberts strikes me as much more like a Scalia than a Thomas. True, both are conservatives, both are originalists (whatever that means), but the difference for me is that I get the impression that Thomas is much more interested in overturning precedents and advocating for cases and specific arguments than Scalia is. Many of Thomas’s dissents, and even some of his concurrences, contain statements suggesting future cases that might come before the Court. For example, just this term, in Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Mfg. a 9-0 case that got little, if any, public attention, Justice Thomas starts his concurring opinion, with the following paragraph:
The Court faithfully applies our precedents interpreting 28 U. S. C. §1331 to
authorize federal-court jurisdiction over some cases in which state law creates
the cause of action but requires determination of an issue of federal law, e.g.,
Smith v. Kansas City Title & Trust Co.
, 255 U. S. 180 (1921); Merrell Dow
Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Thompson
, 478 U. S. 804 (1986). In this case, no one has
asked us to overrule those precedents and adopt the rule Justice Holmes set
forth in American Well Works Co. v. Layne & Bowler Co., 241 U. S. 257
(1916), limiting §1331 jurisdiction to cases in which federal law creates the
cause of action pleaded on the face of the plaintiff’s complaint. Id., at 260.
In an appropriate case, and perhaps with the benefit of better evidence as to
the original meaning of §1331’s text, I would be willing to consider that
Now if someone wants to debate the merits of 1331, I’d be more than happy to, as I think the Court has gotten this right for some time, but consider the date on the precedent that Thomas is willing to consider, namely, 1921. The Court has been consistent for more than 86 years, providing necessary and welcome consistency to this area of federal jurisdiction. Thomas, apparently is unconcerned by this and dispite concurring with the majority, expresses a willingness to throw the baby out with the bathwater and reconsider precedent that has served the Court quite well.

Roberts may in fact prove to be a good fit for the Court, and may be much more like O’Connor if only in the sense that you actually have to argue and convince him of a given position. Consistently conservative does not mean close minded, and Roberts, if anything, understands the value of a well argued position even if it results in a position that goes against his personal conservative likings. In other words, he strikes me as willing to hold for the party who has the better of the arguments and the law, not the party that he most agrees with personally. This is what good judges do, regardless of their ideological positions.

I also want to send a word of caution to my conservative friends. There will be opposition to Roberts. It will come from pro-choice groups. It may even come from some Democratic Senators. It doesn’t mean anything. Its politics, period. Those groups have constituents who send money and expect them to do certain things, Republicans have their own versions of these groups, Paul’s previous post calls them "crankycons." I think the same sentiment applies to people on the extreme left as well, call them the "crankylibs" if you will. These are the people for whom no nominee was going to be satisfactory even if he pledged allegiance to the ACLU. Let them raise their money, make their stink, send their press-releases, and make their speeches. They have every right to be obnoxious, but they won’t make a difference, at least not until the next election. In the end, a little perspective is all I’m asking for here. The crankylibs, like the crankycons, don’t speak for all people who call themselves liberals or democrats, to expect that this process will be without political spectacle is being incredibly naive, not to mention stupid. Interest groups from all perspectives have been hoarding money and resources for years waiting for the next SCOTUS nomination. Let them spend. Look at it this way, it’s good for the economy, right?

Oh, one last thing, to those groups who’s objection to Roberts is going to be 100% based on the 1991 brief he filed before the Supreme Court while he was Assistant Solicitor General of the United States. Go home. The same brief has been filed in every abortion case, in every court, state, federal, and before the Supreme Court since 1974. The only exceptions to this rule was during the 4 years of Jimmy Carter's Presidency and the 8 years that Bill Clinton was President. Roberts was doing his job. His client was the President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, and the President’s position on abortion and Roe v. Wade was well known. Who knows, the brief may coincide with his personal views, but so what. We (liberals) knew we were going to get a nominee with those views so its should suprise anyone, much less be the sole basis for opposition. If that’s all you got, stay home, live to fight another day, no one with half a brain is going to be persuaded by that. If they are, well then I fear for the state of liberals, and Americans everywhere.

I’ll restate my predication from last night. There will be a circus at the nomination hearings. Senators will ask questions that don’t get answered and there will be complaints, some founded some not so founded. Interest groups will spend tens of millions of dollars on both sides and we’ll be sick of the whole thing by Aug. 15. Nevertheless, after everyone gets their 15 minutes, with some taking 30 or 45, Roberts will be confirmed with significant Democratic support in the Senate and will take his place on the Supreme Court. As a side note, the happiest person when that happens will be Justice Breyer who has been the junior Justice for 11 years and must be getting mighty tired of having to answer the door at conference when the coffee arrives. Refer to Woodward’s book The Brethren or Eddie Lazarus’s book Inside the Supreme Court, if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

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The Irony of a Paper Trail

Before I get to the substance of this post, I want to issue a combined thank-you/apology to the President of the United States:

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for keeping your word. Thank you for nominating a justice that will actually read the Constitution before rendering a decision. Thank you for nominating a justice that will be in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. Thank you for having courage and not buckling to the American Left's calls for a "mainstream conservative," which essentially means a liberal who is able to mask his liberalism until post-confirmation. And forgive me for ever thinking that you would do anything other than what you did.

Now, on to business.

Within milliseconds of the conclusion of President Bush's press conference last night announcing that he had selected John G. Roberts of the United States Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit, Senator Charles "Chucky" Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the rest of his smear posse launched their political campaign to destroy Roberts and hopefully prevent his confirmation. (We all knew the smear was coming; all we needed was a name.)

Chucky was quoted in today's online edition of the Albany Times-Union as saying the following:
There is no question that Judge Roberts has outstanding legal credentials and an
appropriate legal temperament and demeanor, but his actual judicial record is
limited to only two years on the D.C. Circuit Court.

We will put aside for the moment that a nominee's personal views on issues have never been an arena for questioning during the Supreme Court nomination process. We will also put aside for the moment that Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to answer such probing questions during her confirmation process and was nevertheless confirmed with virtually no resistance from Republicans.

Here's some food for thought regarding Chucky's caterwauling about no paper trail:

Roberts was nominated for an appellate position on the D.C. Circuit by President George H.W. Bush back in 1992. Democrats sat on Roberts' nomination, refusing to give him so much as a committee hearing, much less a vote on the Senate floor. While this was technically not a filibuster, it may as well have been, as the net effect was to stall his confirmation until Bill Clinton became president.

In early 2001, President George W. Bush again nominated Roberts for a position on the D.C. Circuit, but the Democrats again obstructed, this time with the threat of an actual filibuster. It was not until sometime in 2003, after Republicans had made gains in the midterm elections, that Roberts received his confirmation via a voice vote on the Senate floor -- meaning that there was so little resistance to his confirmation at the time that a precise vote tally was unnecessary. Roberts has been on the D.C. Circuit since that time.

The irony is that if the Democrats had allowed Roberts to be confirmed in 1992, they would have had their blessed paper trail.

Does this qualify as poetic justice or what?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Oh just shut up already

As ecstatic as I am about the Roberts pick, a glance over at the comments in Confirm Them reveals that the real headache over the next few weeks will not come from the predictable losers on the left such as Sanctimonious Chuck and glug glug glug Teddy, but from irate righties who not only need a blood oath that Roberts would vote to overturn Roe, but who also need to see him with some dynamite strapped to his chest outside an abortion clinic. (It should be noted that this comment relates not to the esteemed blogging crew at Confirm Them, but a few of the ornery commenters.) They're harping over Robert's comments during his confirmation hearing that Roe was the settled law of the land, and that he would uphold the law. Of course he said this. If he had said anything else he would have revealed himself to be a Roy Moore-esque ass clown vowing to take on a Court superior to the one he would be sitting on.

Reading some of the comments calls to mind something I have wanted to blog about for a while. There is a certain fringe element of the right that I like to call the "crankycons." These represent a certain bloc of right-wingers that are so curmudgeonly that it is an embarassment to be associated with them. This reactionary lot cannot bare to stand the thought that any fragment of American society is just not so, and pine for the glory days of an America which never existed. Certainly paleocons like Pat Buchanan are crankycons, but not all crankycons are paleocons.

Exhibit number 1 in this group is radio commentator Michael Savage. I actually started listening to Savage last summer. He was a welcome change from some of the boring radio personalities on the air in the evening. In fact, Savage can be quite interesting, hitting upon topics no other radio voice usually would deem worthy of discussion. He once had a great discussion about the French Revolution that indicated that he was a pretty well-educated individual, and he had some keen insights. But after a while his constant moaning and groaning about everything grew so warrying that I had to stop listening. Well, that and the fact that the radio station he's on in DC doesn't get great reception in my apartment,

Every now and then I tune in, and he's managed to have gotten more irritating. He has a passionate belief that no one walking this planet is as smart or as courageous as he, and would have us think that Bush is a traitor to this Nation because he hasn't personally walked into Iran with a nuke and blown the place to smithereens.

I just can't take it anymore. There are certainly plenty of things wrong with the country, and I have no qualms about bitching about each and every one of them. But for the love of humanity the world isn't that fucked up, and the mere existence of people with opposing points of view does not get me all hot and bothered. Yes, the President could do a bit more about illegal immigration, but his lack of strong action does not signify he's the equal of Ted Kennedy. President Bush's "compassionate conservatism" will hopefully not be an ideology ascribed to by the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, but it's ridiculous to spend as much time as Savage and his ilk do in portraying Bush as some Democrat-in-conservative's clothing.

It is enough for me that George Bush has appointed a seemingly brilliant legal mind to the Supreme Court - a brilliant mind that is also apparently an originalist. While it's certainly possible that Roberts will disappoint us all, I am fairly confident in Bush's selection and do not need the skies to open up as a voice declares, "this is Bush's Supreme Court nominee, with whom I am well pleased."

Grow up already, or just get it over with and take your things and pack to Montana or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The rest of us will be content to remain tied to the ground in the real world.

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It's Roberts

Judge John Roberts is the pick. From what I have read of him, this is a fantastic pick. Thank you Mr. President.

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Membership Changes

Some of our more frequent visitors may have noticed a couple of changes to our membership roll here at the Political Spectrum. I'd like to welcome our newest member W, who in addition to being a fellow CUA Law alum, is also an accomplished blogger in his own right. I encourage all to check out his personal cite Whither Logic. I'll defer further introduction to the man himself. Suffice it say, welcome W, happy posting and commenting.

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Opinions of Presumptive SCOTUS Nominee Edith Clement

Assuming all of the blogosphere and MSM rumors are accurate, the President appears to be ready to announce the Fifth Circuit's Edith Clement as the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Nomination Blog, run by the folks at Goldstien & Howe have this post regarding some of Judge Clement's 5th Circuit Opinions. I'd be particularly interested in the federalism and Commerce Clause cases, because they seem to go in the opposite direction of the Court's most recent opinion in Gonzales v. Raich. Thoughts from my more learned 5th Circuit colleagues(s) would be appreciated, (hint, hint) lest I have to read these opinions myself.

UPDATE 10:00p.m.: As Paul has noted above, the pre-announcement speculation was incorrect and the President has nomined DC Circuit Judge John G. Roberts. By all accounts a lawyers lawyer and more importantly a lawyers judge. Roberts is said to be technically sound and not ideologically driven. Conservative yes, but not a firebreather, nor as demonstratively conservative as many on the "short list," but nonetheless a judge that likely will recieve a broad amount of support. My tenative prediction, a circus show for the nomination hearing, but in the end a confirmation by say 67-33 or something along those lines.

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SCOTUS announcement tonight

Extra! Extra! There will be a primetime news conference tonight at 9 eastern, and Bush will announce his pick for the Supreme Court. Captain Ed has the details, as well as the roundup on speculation on who Bush might choose.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Hey (beep) kills (beep)

Don't click on this link if you have not yet read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I mean it. It gives away a nasty surprise.

Okay. Now that you haven't clinked on the link, feel free to read on.

Terrible thing about Snape killing Dumbledore.

Oh, wait a sec:


Oh yeah, now then. I just finished reading the book the Pope didn't tell me not to read. Once again, it was enthralling as I stayed up 'til 2 in the morning because I just had to know what happened. It reminded me a bit of sophomore year of college, reading the last 400 pages or so of Sum of All Fears in one sitting. It also reminded me a bit of Clancy because I just kept thinking, "get a fucking editor already. I don't need to know the name of every person who attended Dumbledore's funeral. Blimey."

It's not that I think Rowling's gotten lazy. I'm sure sleeping on piles and piles of 100 pound notes hasn't affected her in the least. And as George Lucas has shown us, a creator is never wearied with his or her project. It's just that, as exciting as it is to read through thirty pages of Dumbledore drinking water (so thirsty, can't go on "drink more Professor" can't "just some more" can't, "just another cup" but I musn't, "one more sip" [just finish the damned potion already, will ya, blimey]), I would suggest that she cut out some of the slow parts.

I can take it from experience that writing is no easy gambit. Writers can get into lazy habits. Er, I mean, sometimes it's easy to fall back upon certain crutches (he said with a smirk). And believe me I'm as excited as the next fan to see where this all ends in a couple of years, though something tells me that other worldly pursuits just might make me able to survive the next couple of years without my head exploding. Look, I may have been up at midnight to purchase a book, but at least I wasn't wearing a faux scar on my head. No, instead I chose to write about the bloody book at midnight three days later. See, I'm no geek.

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Annoying moments in fantasy baseball history

The day started off rough enough as it turns out the blockbuster deal I pulled off to acquire Carlos Delgado would have to be put off another week because my trading partner was unable to adequately plug a roster hole. But my aggravation would only be magnified later in the evening.

Carlos Silva pitches 9 magnificent innings, allowing only a 2-run homer to Sammy Sosa. Unfortunately for me he was on the short-end of a 2-1 score. But here's where the trade failure pays dividends for yours truly. BJ Ryan remains on my roster for another week, and he comes in to close the game.

This presents a truly golden opportunity. If the Twins fail to score I at least earn a save. If the Twins score twice I earn a win for Silva.

So, fellow fantasy owners, I don't really have to tell you what happens, right?

The Twins tie the game in the bottom of the ninth with a single run, but strand the winning run on first.

No save, no win.

But there's still a shot at redemption. The Orioles could score in the top of the tenth, earning me a cheap win for Ryan.

No, of course not. 1-2-3.

I hate this game.

Update: Flipping channels, I watch Bernie Williams muff a ball as I type this to allow the Rangers to tie the game against the Yankees, brightening my day at least a little (along with homers by Inge, Posada, and Matsui).

Update II: Oh yeah, how did I fail to mention the fact that one of my other ptichers, Kenny Rogers, was booked and arrested for assault today. Nothing will be able to cheer me up . . . oooh look, there's another shot of Bernie Williams dropping that easy fly. Nevermind.

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Feel the hate

Met blogger Metstradamus has put him an hysterically funny but also accurate list of the "Hate List Hall of Fame." Essentially, it's a group all of the players that he, as a Met fan, has come to love to hate. Here's a quick rundown of the list:

C: Mike Scioscia (1988 NLCS villain)
1B: Jeff Kent (great after he left New York, a jerk while there)
2B: Robby Alomar (Ugh)
SS: Rey Ordonez (spoke English only to insult fans)
3B: Larry Jones
LF: Vince Coleman (firecrackers)
CF: Ken Griffey
LF: Bobby Bonilla
P: Roger Clemens, Mike Hampton, Mike Scott, John Tudor, David Wells
RP: Armando Benitez, John Rocker, Donne Wall, Mike Stanton, Mike DeJean
Bench: Brian Jordan, Eddie Perez, Pat Burrell, Terry Pendleton, Pedro Guerrero, Jose Vizcaino, Juan Gonzalez
Managers: Whitey Herzog, Art Howe, Dallas Green

Excellent stuff, particularly his take on Benitez:
Has the intestinal fortitude of a marshmallow. Can't win a big game, whines that the media only talks to him when he loses, and only throws at a hitter because he hits him well (a la Clemens).
I would also have to add Kenny Rogers to the list. You know why. I don't need to relive that moment again.

NB: Mike Hampton's departure had a silver lining. The compensatory pick for Hampton turned into David Wright. Not bad. Got rid of an overrated lefty in exchange for a future Hall-of-Famer. Still, it is worth asking: are the schools in Atlanta that much better than the schools in Denver?

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Supreme Debate (Part 2 of 3)

Last week, I wrote about the approaching Supreme Court vacancy, the heated politics of the moment, and how liberal Democrats are dead wrong about this debate (as per the usual). In a nutshell, these same liberal Democrats are obsessed with controlling the process of refilling the federal judiciary generally, and the Supreme Court specifically, notwithstanding (a) their lack of a congressional majority, (b) their lack of a Senate majority, and (c) their lack of control over the executive branch for two straight elections. I mean, hey, why let history, precedent, and common sense stand in the way of a minority party dictating to the majority party the content of American courts?

To understand why liberals are, and have been, in such a tizzy when it comes to federal judgeships, you have to understand the liberal mind and what they think is at stake. (Granted, in some circles, this is akin to stepping into the twisted mind of a serial killer, but I assure you, this is only a simulation and will result in no permanent damage. Hopefully.)

Put on your spelunking helmets and follow me . . .


Question: What is a liberal’s view of freedom?

I’m glad you asked. Many liberals believe that “freedom” is that which flows from nine Supreme Court judges, judges who get to have the final say on what rights the American people do and do not have. Throw the actual text of the U.S. Constitution, two-hundred-plus years of jurisprudence, and the voice of the people via the ballot box out the window – such things are mere surplusage and a waste of time. Liberals believe the Court can make these far-reaching decisions via the Constitution, which, in their interpretation, is not a carefully crafted document laying out the precise limitations of federal power, but rather a living, breathing document to be re-read and re-interpreted from time to time.

More troubling, liberals also believe that the members of the Court get to be the final arbiters of said rights – meaning that there is no means, short of the steep climb of the constitutional amendment process, for overturning a Court’s decision. Somehow, in the liberal mind, this elitist and one-sided process loosely falls under the umbrella of “democracy,” despite the fact that none of the Court’s justices are elected by the people.

With all due respect to my friends on the left – many of whom belong to a party that still has the audacity to refer to itself as the Democratic Party – liberals seem to have a deep misunderstanding of the dual concepts of freedom and rights. I cannot speak for other conservatives, but I find it problematic, and contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, that five black-robed lawyers could conceivably be the final arbiters of constitutionality on any given issue. I find it unfortunate that the Court has historically made binding decisions with a total disregard for the content (or lack thereof) of the Constitution. I find it disturbing that a Court decision is considered democratic even though the people at large are realistically shut out of the process. Most importantly, I find it un-American that liberals believe our rights flow not from some higher power, but from government generally and the Court specifically (see the Gospel according to Nancy Pelosi).

In a 1996 lecture at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law (three cheers for the alma mater!), current associate justice Antonin Scalia expressed perfectly how liberals’ views about the Constitution serve to restrict freedom rather than enhance it:
It should not be thought, although it is often argued, that this new way of
looking at the Constitution is desirable because it promotes needed
flexibility. That's the argument you sometimes hear. The argument is
usually made in anthropomorphic terms, like the people who talk about the stock
market is resting for a new assault at the 4000 level. They do the same
thing with Constitution. The argument is "The Constitution is meant for a
living society. If it could not grow and evolve with the society, it would
become brittle and snap. You have to provide the flexibility." A
very plausible argument. It sounds wonderful until you start to think,
"Now, wait a minute. Do these people, who want to chuck away the old
original, constitution, is it flexibility they're looking for?" What was
the situation, before Roe vs. Wade? If you wanted a right to an abortion,
create that right the way a democratic society creates most rights. Pass a
law. If you don't want it, pass a law against it. Or capital
punishment. I have sat with three colleagues on the Supreme Court who
thought that capital punishment is unconstitutional. Even though the
Constitution mentions capital punishment. The clause you're all familiar
with: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due
process..." What do you think they're talking about? They're talking
about the death penalty. And elsewhere, it says you shall not be sentenced
for a capital crime without a grand jury indictment. What do think they're
talking about? They're talking about the death penalty, clearly approved
in the text of the Constitution. It doesn't matter. For the constitutional
evolutionist, everyday is a new day. And so, the death penalty may be
unconstitutional. Now does that produce flexibility? Under the original
disposition, you want to have the death penalty? Enact it. You don't
want it? Repeal it. That's flexibility.

So these people who go around talking about the need for growing and bending –
that's nonsense. What these people want is to impose a view of things on
the whole society from coast to coast, and it is most quickly and most
effectively done through the Constitution.

Scalia could not have been more on target. In essence, liberals do not see the intellectual inconsistency in claiming that the American people are made freer by an effective lack of involvement in the determination of what is and is not constitutional. And liberals are also apparently quite comfortable telling people what to do, notwithstanding their cries for flexibility.


Whew! We made it out of the liberal mind alive. That was just like that movie with Jennifer Lopez, only this was scarier.

But back to our main subject: if you are still wondering why liberal Democrats are so worried about the upcoming Supreme Court battle, it is because their worst nightmare is a Court full of people who read the Constitution for what it is: a document with concrete limits on federal power rather than some constitutional Rorschach with a limitless supply of penumbral rights. Liberal Democrats are horrified that President Bush might actually nominate someone with the judicial philosophy of a Scalia or a Clarence Thomas – as Bush promised he would do during his two presidential campaigns – and that that person might read the Constitution as it was intended to be read.

When you get right down to it, can you really blame liberal Democrats for their recent spate of death-rattle tactics? For a party that has almost literally crafted rights out of thin air for several decades, a conservative replacement for the moderate O’Connor would be a severe blow to the left’s agenda, and might just relegate Democrats to permanent minority party status for decades to come.

And the problem is . . . ?

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Pope condemns Harry Potter books . . .

Except he wasn't Pope.

And he didn't condemn them.

Jimmy Akin has more.

And more.

And more, in particular:
In this case, Pope Benedict has said absolutely nothing about Harry Potter.

What the stories is based on is a pair of extremely short letters written by Cardinal Ratzinger. We therefore have a problem with LifeSite misrepresenting, in its headline, comments by a cardinal as comments by the pope. The fact that this cardinal later became pope is irrelevant. Cardinals have a liberty to say things that popes do not, and you cannot go rummaging around in things a cardinal said years before becoming pope and represent them in a fashion that will lead the casual reader to suppose that they are things that he has endorsed as pope.

Further, the two letters were not from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They were private correspondence from Cardinal Ratzinger. We therefore have a problem, again on the headline level, with representing personal opinion in a way that would lead the reader to think of it as official.

Further, the two letters were written more than two years ago. We therefore have a problem with representing old material as if it were new. Note the tenses in the headline: "Pope Benedict opposes [present tense] Harry Potter." Uh-uh. Cardinal Ratzinger two years ago said things that sounded anti-Potter, but people can, y'know, change their minds on subjects, particularly as they learn more about them. You can't take a statement someone made two years ago and represent it as indicative of present opposition when, in fact, there has been NO present opposition.
And as the Seventh Age writes:
A private communication to a German friend saying, "ja, good article, you're probably right," is not a public statement that merits much attention without further reason. Even if the Pope had read the series and made the comments, which it is fairly certain he did not, Catholics are not bound to papal literary criticism. Catholics, said Chesterton, are bound in faith to agree on a few things, but tend to disagree about everything else.
Hat tips to Amy Welborn and Southern Appeal.

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It must be the pointy hats...

You gotta love this...

"It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because these are subtle seductions which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly,"

Pope Benedict

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Please Let Them Be Joking

Today’s Style section of the Washington Post contains an article regarding a group of "conservatives" who are pushing for the nomination of none other than, yes you guessed it, ROY MOORE for the position of Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Now I am fully aware that "conservatives," like "liberals," come in all shapes and sizes, but this strikes me as the textbook definition of fringe. This is so looney I don’t even know where to start. I’ll simply leave it for the comments, but note this one interesting statement from the article:

"A judge who has defied a federal order might seem like a counterintuitive
choice for the Supreme Court. But that kind of detail-oriented thinking
disregards the ideological purity permeating this room. ‘Judge Moore responds to
a higher law," says Don Dwyer, a Maryland state delegate from Anne Arundel
County. "His allegiance to the Creator God is paramount above everything.’"

Please, in the name of all things rationale, tell me this kind of thinking doesn’t represent the majority of conservatives. This man, a state supreme court judge no less, willfully violated a federal court order, then was removed from office and disbarred. This guy is SCOTUS material...ok I’m done, I promise ... for now.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Wartime Glossary

In the last few weeks, we have seen groups and individuals join the fray and speak their (theoretically present) minds over who they think President Bush should appoint to be the next Supreme Court justice. In the course of this judicial free-for-all, several new terms, previously known only to law students and Beltway types, have made their way into the American vernacular. Here is a brief (and hastily prepared) glossary of some of those terms, for your convenience:

Mainstream conservative: an individual who is able to pretend to be a textualist or originalist just long enough to survive the confirmation process; good examples include David Souter and Anthony Kennedy.

Textualist: an individual who eats small children under dark of night.

Originalist: see above.

Stare decisis: the process whereby judges uphold the laws they like and ignore the ones they dislike.

Advise and Consent Clause: the clause in the U.S. Constitution that permits the U.S. Senate to convene a grand global conference in order to select the next Supreme Court justice; please note that France, Germany, and Iran would in fact have veto power over any of President Bush's choices.

Divisive elections: elections that are won by Republicans.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: a moderate; she may have done some work for the ACLU or something.

The Brooklyn Bridge: for sale; inquire within.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.): righteous defender of truth, justice, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Did I miss any?

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A-Gon the Amateur

For those of you who think that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (already known in some circles as "AGAG"; I prefer the more athletic-sounding "A-Gon") is a brimming legal mind ripe for appointment to the Supreme Court -- I know you're reading this, Teddy! put that Chivas down! -- I encourage you to read his concurrence from In re Jane Doe, the 2000 Texas Supreme Court case that upheld a minor's right to bypass Texas's parental notification statute.

The boys (and girls) over at ConfirmThem were particularly harsh in their assessment of Gonzales's legal reasoning and writing abilities. I figured that his stuff couldn't be that bad.

After reading it, I offer this three-word critique: Oh . . . my . . . God. It reaffirms my sad belief that very mediocre people can go very far in life.

I am horrified that President Bush has even given this man serious consideration for one of the most important judicial assignments this nation has to offer. He is a C+ paper. He is Amateur Night at the local comedy club. He is Single-A baseball. In short, he is anything but Supreme Court material, and Bush should know better than to let his friendship cloud his judgment.

With each passing day, I wonder what kind of amazing dirt A-Gon must have on Dubya. Maybe he caught him having sex with a pig or something.

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More evidence of the decline of western civilization

Tonight, while jogging on the Mall, I passed a group of people playing a game close to the 14th Street side of the Mall (right before you cross over to the Washington Monument). Usually at this time of the year they would be playing softball - as indeed another group was doing by the 7th Street side. But they weren't playing softball. Oh no.

They were playing kickball.

That's right. A group of adult men and women were on the Mall playing kickball. I had actually read about this new phenomenon, but tonight was the first time I had ever witnessed it.


Evidently softball is too physically demanding for these people. I can understand that hitting a giant ball traveling at approximately 10 miles per hour can be a challenge. But . . . kickball?

Then again, they were playing fast-pitch kickball, though it did seem they were pitching slower to the girls. That brings me to another unrelated point. In college my co-ed service "fraternity" Alpha Phi Omega participated in co-ed intramural sports, and they had all these idiotic rules. For instance, a male could not block a female's shot, and women's points counted double. Give me a fucking break. If girls are going to participate in sports with boys, then the same rules should apply. If we have to establish childish rules in order for them to participate, then they shouldn't participate.

Anyway, back to kickball. No, let's not get back to kickball. Let's hope this little trend just disappears. Then again, in five years I'll be pining for the days of kickball when all the grownups are playing duck-duck-goose on the Mall.

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A Prayer for the Dying

This week's Coalition Post.

It should be noted that the weekly post is e-mailed to member blogs, and this week Eugene and Feddie stated that this week's post is particularly negative in tone, and they'd understand if Coalition members edited or did not even post it. Well, I'll state for the record I have no problem with the sentiments herein expressed, though I will not necessarily speak for all of my co-bloggers. I'll save my comments until the end. Read on.

As Mark Leon Goldberg of the American Prospect reported back in April, the Bush administration was leaning heavily on congressional leaders and managed to stall, and probably killed, the Darfur Accountability Act.

As Goldberg explained, the bill
[E]stablishes targeted U.S. sanctions against the Sudanese regime, accelerates assistance to expand the size and mandate of the African Union mission in Darfur, expands the United Nations Mission in Sudan to include the protection of civilians in Darfur, establishes a no-fly zone over Darfur, and calls for a presidential envoy to Sudan.
Because of this pressue, the bill appears to be trapped in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Relations, presumably never to be seen again.

So what is Congress going to do now that sanctions, a no-fly zone and civilian protection are off the table? Apparently it has been reduced to "[encouraging] the people of the United States [to pray] for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan."

That's right, the US Congress has been reduced to calling on the American people to pray that somehow this genocide ends.

On July 1st, the US Senate quietly passed S.RES.186
A resolution affirming the importance of a national weekend of prayer for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, and expressing the sense of the Senate that July 15 through July 17, 2005, should be designated as a national weekend of prayer and reflection for the people of Darfur.
The House passed a companion resolution (H.RES.333) just yesterday.

The key portion of the resolution reads as follows
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) supports the goals and ideals of a National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection for Darfur, Sudan;

(2) encourages the people of the United States to observe that weekend by praying for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan; and

(3) urges all churches, synagogues, mosques, and religious institutions in the United States to consider the issue of Darfur in their activities and to observe the National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection with appropriate activities and services.
This resolution appears to be the work of the Save Darfur Coalition, a vital organization that has done a great deal to raise awareness of the genocide - but what does it say about the level of US commitment to address this situation when Congress is unwilling to do anything beyond simply asking the American people to pray for the dying people of Darfur?

If members of Congress are truly concerned about the deaths of nearly 400,000 Darfuris, or the fates of an estimated 3 million more, they are certainly capable of doing more than quietly declaring a "National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection."

Save Darfur deserves credit for getting Congress to even do this much, but this resolution cannot absolve Congress of its pathetic failure to adequately address the situation in Darfur. If anything, it only serves to highlight the government's utter lack of concern.

Harsh rhetoric perhaps, but merited. I can understand the reluctance to use force, but as token measures go, this is about as weak as it gets.

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Monday, July 11, 2005


I am the Angel of Def with my rhymes against humanity,
Teeter-tottering between brilliance and insanity,
The one part the Fuehrer the one part the Pope,
It's the inevitable return baby of the Great White Dope
- Bloodhound Gang

My buddy TSL at Geek Soap Box relates this funny bit from legendary Queen guitarist Brian May:
I sense there is a mood of quiet resolve among the people I speak to. We are feeling that we must not go any further down the road of escalation .... this is old stuff, but I personally feel that in the wake of 9/11 an opportunity was missed .... to seek understanding rather than revenge. The Nelson Mandela way. I do not subscribe to this "War on Terrorism" slogan. I believe we have a need to secure a peaceful world for our children, and that it cannot be done by exerting our muscle internationally. It sure hasn't worked yet, has it?! It must be done by adjusting OUR behavior; we must stop playing "Cowboys and Indians" - a self-damning phrase if ever there was one. I no longer believe we are the good guys. We must earn this view of ourselves, and start recognizing that there are other legitimate views of the world than ours.
Brian May should wake up and pray not to God but to Les Paul or whoever it was who invented the electric guitar, because were it not for musical talent, Mr. May would be asking you whether you want fries with that order.

Of course Mr. May is just the latest in a line of people who think that just because they play a mean guitar the world should stop and listen to their oh-so-deep policy pronouncements. Heck, was it not Billy Joe of Green Day who declared that he learned most of his stuff from rock albums? Impressive. While Condi Rice was wasting her time studying at Stanford, Billy Joe was listening to the profound wisdom of guys who were busy puking themselves to death. Surely we are the better for sage foreign policy advice offered in American Idiot. Okay, so maybe it doesn't really delve into the Islamic mindset, or provide us with any coherent strategy in dealing with people who want to blow us all up, but at least it lets us know that we all walk alone, walk alone.

Of course the gold star goes to Coldplay's Chris Martin, the man who declared that, like, Live 8 was the biggest thing, like, ever in human history. The death and resurrection of Christ? Mere child's play as compared to a bunch of self-satisfied limousine liberals who sing a couple of songs to force countrys to extort tax payers to give them more money so that they may in turn blow their hard-earned money on African dictators who will of course utilize the money they have received from western governments to buy more palaces feed their hungry people.

Mr. Paltrow, err Martin, has also offered these pearls of wisdom:
It would be interesting to see how the world would be different if Dick Cheney really listened to Radiohead’s OK Computer. I think the world would improve. That album is f*#!ing brilliant. It changed my life, so why wouldn’t it change his?
I gotta say I agree with part of this: OK Computer is indeed fucking brilliant. It is perhaps the greatest album ever produced, and has had a profound influence on my life.

So that's what bothers me. I have listened to this great album countless times, and yet I prefer to kill rather than "understand" terrorists. Surely I must be missing something. I must not be getting the important meaning in Thom York's lyrics. This merits closer examination.

For example, in "Paranoind Android," York bellows
you don't remember
you don't remember
why don't you remember my name?
off with his head, off with his head
why wont he remember my name...
i guess he does
Hmmmm. You know, I never considered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that way. Very interesting.

And what does Mr. York have to say about bin Laden's 1998 fatwa against the US?
A heart that's full up like a landfill a job that slowly kills you bruises that won't heal
You were so tired happy bring down the government they don't they don't speak for her
I'll take the quiet life a handshake of carbon monoxide
No alarms and no surprises no alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
Silent silent

Of course, I really think that Radiohead must speak to Chris Martin personally.
Hey man slow down slow down
idiot slow down slow down
But at least these passionate left-wing entertainers mean well. As we all know leftism is all about peace and harmony, and if you don't believe me, just clink on this link to see the fruits of left-wing pacifism. Go ahead, click.

Update: In the comments section of Geek Soap Box Jeff provides some background information on Brian May. While I maintain that what he said was pretty dumb, his academic pedigree is such that I have to take back my McDonald's remarks. As for Billy Joe and Chris, my comments stand.

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A neoconservative foreign policy?

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line has an excellent piece in the Weekly Standard on Bush's foreign policy. He argues against the oft-repeated mantra that Bush's foreign policy has been unduly influenced by the neoconservative ideology, and instead states that said policy reflects a blend of traditional conservative realism with neoconservatism, and I believe Mirengoff hits the mark, proving once again that bloggers named Paul are full of keen insights.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Supreme Debate (Part 1 of 3)

When Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement last week, people across the political spectrum (not to be confused with The Political Spectrum) mobilized in an effort to affect the Supreme Court nomination process. Conservative voices spent most of their time expressing discontent with the possibility that President Bush might select current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to be his nominee. (In my personal opinion, a Gonzales nomination would be an out-and-out disaster. It would essentially be a violation of Bush’s pledge to put justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the Court; it would serve to alienate much of the conservative base that fought so hard to give Bush a second term; and it would probably lead to heavy Republican losses in the 2006 midterm elections, when conservatives who feel betrayed by Bush’s poor choice stay home and let the party flounder. But I digress.)

Liberals took a different tack in their mobilization, launching a propaganda campaign designed to deceive the American public about the Court nomination process generally and the U.S. Senate’s role specifically. Prominent Democrats such as Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), and Ted Kennedy (D-Ma.) worked the Sunday morning talk show circuit in this effort. For instance, Kennedy explicitly (and inaccurately) stated that it would be an “abuse” of presidential authority for Bush to nominate a candidate that Democrats in the Senate did not like, and also declared that he was obligated as a senator to dig into the legal ideas of any of potential nominee – conveniently forgetting his exact words from Thurgood Marshall’s confirmation process regarding how it was inappropriate for senators to look beyond a nominee’s credentials to his ideology. Schumer and Leahy demanded that the Senate be consulted before any names were even put before the public. Schumer even had the gall to request that a judicial summit be convened, whereby the Senate could help – yes, help – President Bush pick a “mainstream conservative” nominee. (You’ll forgive me if I doubt that Schumer sincerely wants a conservative to be placed on the Court. And no, Schumer did not cite the provision of the Constitution that gives the Senate the authority to convene a judicial conference in order to select a Supreme Court nominee because that provision does not exist.) Other less prominent Democrats have commented in the course of the last week and a half on the subject, with varying degrees of inanity.

What gets lost in the frothy liberal panic over the idea that they might not get to put Alan Dershowitz or Laurence Tribe on the Court is the fact that senators do not get to choose Supreme Court nominees. They never have, and if sanity is maintained and the Constitution is followed, they never will. Constitutionally, their role is simple: evaluate the nominees put forward by the president, and either accept or reject them via a Senate vote. Democrats have done their best to mutilate the long-understood concept of “advise and consent,” but their recent efforts have taken the fiction quotient to a whole new level. In typical Orwellian fashion, Kennedy et al are trying to convince the public that they have always helped select Court nominees, and that any attempt to shut them out of the process would somehow be a break from tradition and a subversion of the Constitution. (I almost feel sorry for them. Perhaps this is what happens when a party collectively descends into madness after losing five consecutive congressional elections and two consecutive presidential elections. Is there a way to put an entire party on Prozac and see what happens?)

Keeping it short and sweet: President Bush, and President Bush alone, gets to choose O’Connor’s successor. The liberals in the Senate can huff and puff all they want, but the Constitution does not give them the authority to pick a successor. If the Senate as a whole does not like President Bush’s nominee, it can reject that nominee, a new name will be put forth, and the process starts again.

Chug that, Teddy.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Rehnquist to retire today?

Various sources, including Drudge, Bob Novak and Southern Appeal (via Red State) are reporting that Chief Justice William Rehnquist is set to announce his retirement sometime today. Keep your eyes on these sites, as well as The Corner, Bench Memos and Confirm Them for all the breaking news.

My reax: if true, FINALLY!!! And if the reports of Stevens' impending retirement (by the end of the year) are also true, a double Hallelujah.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005


There's not much more that I can say that's not already been said on the blogosphere and elsewhere, but to state that my thoughts and prayers are with those who have died or been injured in London today. And I also hope that the barbarians responsible for this attack are killed - not brought to justice - killed.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Blue Science?

The Catholic Church is one thing, but coming from the HHS Asst. Scty (Wade Horn) it is just incredulous...

Essentially, this duly qualified (he must have been a minister of a really BIG church) presidential appointee has clarified that teen sex prevention is Federal health policy. This government-sponsored ignorance is apparently the preferred expenditure over signing the ironically increased number of resultant welfare checks, or god-forbid, the cost-free alternative of letting doctors actually, well, practice non-governmental, non-political, non-religious, science-based, medicine. Interestingly enough, however, the Asst. Scty suggests (although careful not to be quoted as such) that sexually active teens should have access to birth control. Of course, when they ask those people in positions of trust, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc., about sex for the first time, and those people just say "don't do it," it doesn't do a whole lot of good when they go ahead and "do it" anyway (to the tune of about 44% of teens being sexually active, resulting in approx 900K unplanned teen pregnacies/year) , now does it? So what then, would the esteemed Asst. Scty Horn advocate passing out condoms to teen mothers, or perhaps at their first gynocologist's visit?

At least such GOP brainchilds may help spawn (pun intended) some interesting Dem campaign slogans to get out the young vote..."Red State, Blue Balls," or the better late than never, "If you really want Bush, vote Democrat."

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

This makes me sick

Yesterday on the Metro I saw an advertisement that attracted my attention. It was titled "Got lactose intolerance?" and showed a bunch of people clutching their tummies and looking to get into the bathroom. The ad claimed that 75% of people are lactose intolerant, and an even higher proportion of African-American and other minority groups are so. Finally, the ad states that if you are lactose intolerant you might be able to participate in a lawsuit. Curious, I went to the Milk Makes Me Sick website. Here's the most pertinent text:
But the dairy industry’s deceptive marketing keeps the public in the dark about this common condition. It spends millions of dollars on advertising designed to give the false impression that milk is a necessary part of a healthy diet. The industry even encourages lactose-intolerant people to continue drinking milk and consuming other dairy products.

Consumers deserve the truth: There is no reason for people with lactose intolerance to drink milk. Milk does not offer any nutrients that cannot be found in more healthful foods, and dairy products can cause acute distress to lactose-intolerant people. All consumers can be harmed by the artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol in dairy products.

That’s why the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine intends to file suit against dairy producers on behalf of D.C. residents who are lactose intolerant. In addition to seeking compensation for those who have been harmed, the lawsuit will seek a court order mandating that warning labels about lactose intolerance be placed on all milk sold in the District of Columbia.
So let's sue the milk industry because it attempts to induce people to drink milk? Those evil, vile bastards.

This is the sort of thing that makes people think ill of lawyers (no offense to my co-bloggers, all of whom are upstanding members of the bar). Please explain to me the justification behind this lawsuit. While it is true that one can have a healthy diet that does not include milk, it's hardly fair to castigate the milk industry for emphasizing the beneficial aspects of its product. People are allergic to all sorts of things which are otherwise healthful. Should everyone who has an allergy sue the maker of the product which makes them allergic because said producer had the unmitigated gall to advertise their product? If so, let me be the first to line up everyone who has a seafood allergy in mass lawsuit against Red Lobster.

As for the labels: why stop there? Why don't we attach brochures to every item sold in stores warning of the possible ill effects? The entire can of peanuts can have a label warning the buyer of the existence of peanut allergies. Not only will it inform the consumer of the detrimental effects of said allergy, but it might also go into excruciating detail about how a person might die from said allergy. Why not have a cartoon of someone chocking to death on a peanut? I can just see it now, a picture of some poor sap lying dead on the ground, with Mr. Peanut poking his cane at the poor man's chest, cackling with delight.

Well, good luck to the folks at Milk makes Me Sick anyway. You know I was wondering what John Edwards was up to nowadays. Now we know. I can only picture the closing arguments of the civil trial.
At 5:00 Jim's intestinal tract was saying everything's okay.

At 5:05 Jim's intestinal tract was sending warning signals to Jim's brain.

At 5:10 Jim's intestinal tract was saying, "release me now."

At 5:12 Jim's intestinal tract was saying, "if you don't get to a bathroom stat, it ain't gonna be pretty."

At 5:13 Jim's intestinal tract failed, and Jim was left with a brown surprise.
Well, it beats having to be John Kerry's running mate.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

I agree with feddie

Feddie at Southern Appeal hears rumors that Alberto Gonzales has not, contrary to reports, been erased from the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Feddie is none too pleased with this information, nor am I. While there might be a few people who are completely enamored with the David Souter judicial school of thought, that's not why conservatives voted for George W. Bush. In fact the most common reason that conservatives otherwise bothered by Bush's policies voted for the guy was the hope that he would appoint originalists to the Court. Thus if he were to appoint someone like Gonzales, he would be in serious jeopardy of alienating his base. Heck, I'll let Feddie speak for us all:
Let me be blunt. If President Bush nominates Alberto Gonzales to fill O'Connor's seat or any other vacancy that may arise during his second term, then I am done with him. He'll be dead to me. And if Gonzales is confirmed, I am not giving the Republican party another dime. It's time to start walking the talk, boys. Either y'all deliver on Bush's promise to appoint justices like Scalia and Thomas, or I and others will make you pay for it dearly come election time. And you won't be able to bring me back into the fold with a "Well, things will be worse if the dems return to power" argument, because at that point I would just as soon wreck the ship and start from scratch.

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You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when not to shove a cameraman

As a Met fan I had almost learned to forgive Kenny Rogers for walking in the winning run of the 1999 NLCS. After all, hadn't his performance down the stretch help get the Mets into the playoffs? Of course, such rationale never completely blots out the image of Mr. Rogers walking Andrew Jones. Couldn't he have just thrown a stinking strike? I could have lived with a game-winning hit, but a fucking WALK?

But I learned to put my anger aside for a moment. In early May I was looking for some pitching help for my fantasy team, and Mr. Rogers was on the waiver line for my league, so, I did what any good owner would do - put aside my personal distaste for the player and acquire a hot hand. And Rogers continued to pitch well, helping to bolster what had been a mediocre staff.

And then he goes and shoves a cameraman and gets a 20 game suspension. And while I am less than thrilled with the prospect of having to replace Rogers in my rotation with Aaron Sele, a small part of me just can't help but smile at seeing a guy who COULDN'T THROW JUST ONE MORE FREAKING STRIKE get the punishment he deserves. In fact you could probably argue he deserves a stiffer penalty, but come on, I can't last that long with Sele.


Sorry, it's a tick. But I'm feeling better now.


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How many women should be on the Court?

Justice O'Connor announced her retirement this morning. Mindful that Justice Marshall was replaced by Justice Thomas, there will be pressure on the President to nominate a woman. (Not as much, of course, because there is Justice Ginsburg. But more than 1/9 lawyers are women...)

Everyone's lists were targeted to a Rehnquist requirement, and did not need to undertake any of this speculation. Does this narrow it to Clement, Jones, and the not-yet-seated Brown?

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