Friday, May 27, 2005

US v. England

Tomorrow I'm heading to Chicago to see the US Men's National Soccer team face off against England for the first time in eleven years.

I have been to Chicago once before on business, but I contracted food poisoning while there, and did not get to experience much of the city. This time, I'm only there for 30 hours, so I won' t have a lot of "tourist" opportunities.

I'm heading to the soccer match on Saturday, then I'm going to catch a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley on Sunday, then I fly back directly. (With some help) I found a couple of really websites for planning your trip on the Chicago Regional Transit Authority, and Chicago Transit Authority rail map. So now, I've got all the buses and tains I need planned out for getting to and from Soldier Field, Wrigley, and O'Hare.

This will be my third time at a US soccer match...I was on hand here in Houston for the 0-0 match v. Mexico on May 8, 2003. And I was in Dallas last year for the thrilling 1-0 victory over Mexico on April 28, 2004.

England comes in without several of their biggest stars: Frank Lampard, John Terry, David Beckam, Michael Owen, and Wayne Rooney will all be missing. In addition, promising winger Stuart Downing came down with an injury on the first day of training in Chicago and was flown back to England. The US, too, is without several of its regular starters, although none with the world-wide notariety of the English stars mentioned above. DaMarcus Beasley, Eddie Johnson, Pablo Mastroeni, Eddie Lewis, and Claudio Reyna are all out for the USNats.

Obviously, I'm hoping for an exciting match and the US to prevail and continue its drive to establish itself as one of the premier soccer sides in the world.

Read more about the match-up:
US Roster
England Roster
England missing several big names - Marc Connolly at ESPN Soccernet
Wasted in the USA - Dominic Raynor for ESPN Soccernet
English giving US a different look - AP

Thursday, May 26, 2005

And here they are...

And an added bonus - they're annotated!!! I haven't found a Scalia annotated picture yet, but I did find a full action version...

Click here (Eclectica) to see the rest in full bobbling action - also, this includes the Chief Justice Rehnquist bobblehead annotated, which I could not find a way to post.

Click here for an NPR article.

Supreme Court Bobbleheads...

This is classic - the Justice Antonin Scalia bobblehead.

The Green Bag is in the process of creating a bobblehead of each of the Supreme Court justices for their subscribers.

Click here for an article at
Instead, Scalia is shown with a wolf, recalling Scalia's memorable line in his dissent in Morrison v. Olson, the 1988 decision that upheld the Independent Counsel law. In sapping the powers of the executive branch, Scalia wrote, the law was unlike a wolf in sheep's clothing. "This wolf comes as a wolf," Scalia wrote. Scalia is shown standing atop the second edition of Webster's New International Dictionary, which he cites in his opinions, even though it was succeeded by a third edition in 1961. He is also accompanied by a skewered lemon, symbolizing Scalia's disdain for the so-called Lemon test for assessing establishment clause violations.
And a bit about the previous bobbleheads:
Since 2003, the law review has been turning out the bobbleheads, one justice at a time -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist first, then down the line of seniority to John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, and now Scalia. Portrayed in ceramic serenity with spring-loaded heads, the dolls are replete with iconography specific to each justice. Resting at O'Connor's feet, for example, is a Hereford cow with the brand and earmark of the Lazy B Ranch, where she grew up.

I'm going to have to find pictures of the others...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Speaking of Lochner...

Isn't it amazing the way that sooner do I mention Lochner in my post below, and almost the next thing I'm reading, I stumble upon this from Legal Theory Blog.

Balkin on Lochner

Jack Balkin has posted Wrong the Day it Was Decided: Lochner and Constitutional Historicism (Boston University Law Review, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Until quite recently Lochner v. New York and Plessy v. Ferguson were canonical examples of how courts should not decide constitutional questions -- both were generally considered not only wrong, but wrong the day they were decided. Although Plessy remains anti-canonical in this sense, for an increasing number of legal thinkers, Lochner no longer does. This essay, written for the 100th anniversary of Lochner v. New York, explains why Lochner's canonical status has altered, and how changing views of Lochner are connected to (or driven by) contemporary theories of legitimate constitutional change. It also explores the connections between contemporary attitudes about Lochner and constitutional ethos-the stories that Americans tell each other about who we are, where we have come from, and what we stand for. In analyzing these questions, the essay employs an approach called constitutional historicism, which holds that the conventions determining what is a good or bad legal argument about the Constitution, what is a plausible legal claim and what is off-the-wall, change over time in response to changing social, political, and historical conditions. The essay concludes by considering to what extent constitutional historicism might help constitutional theory.

Everything by Balkin is worth a read!

Quite the fortunate coincidence. I've downloaded Prof. Balkin's paper and can't wait to read it...

On the Merits

From today's Washington Post:
Democrats have attacked Justice Owen as a radical conservative eager to substitute her views for those of elected officials. She is part of the conservative flank of a conservative court. Some of her opinions, particularly concerning abortion, seem fairly aggressive. But the cases that have made her controversial -- even the now-famous abortion case in which her then-colleague on the court, Alberto R. Gonzales, seemed to accuse her of judicial activism -- presented difficult questions about which reasonable minds can disagree. Justice Owen would not have been our choice for the job. But she is undoubtedly well-qualified, and the case against her is not strong enough to justify denying the president his choice. Mr. Bush did win the election.

This very well sums up my opinions on Justice Owen. While I would not have nominated her, she is a well-qualified and capable jurist. The American people elected Bush and a Republican Senate, just because I disagree with some of her rulings does not mean she is unfit for the position.

The editorial then goes on to question the validity of the nominations of Pryor and Brown, saying this of Brown:
In speeches she has openly yearned for the "Lochner era," a period in the early decades of the 20th century during which the Supreme Court invalidated various regulatory actions in the name of a supposed right of free contract. This is one of the most discredited periods of the court's history, a time when the courts wrote libertarian economic theory into the Constitution. And her speeches are not merely playful musings, for Justice Brown's work on the court in California reflects the same nostalgia. For years, Republicans have railed against "judicial activism." If that term has any meaning, it certainly describes Justice Brown's adventurous approach to economic liberties.

In recent months, I've seen quite a bit of scholarly re-acquaintance to Lochner - primarily from conservative legal thinkers. I admit I am no scholar, but this resurfacing of Lochner-type law seems utterly incomprehensible to me.

Does law need to be intellectually pure - yes, to a point. But there are also the lives of real individuals, real people that have to enter into the equasion. Justice demands it. Substantive due process may ask serious questions of consistency ... but to me, those questions can be answered with that one word: Justice.

A side point - in my very first subject in law school, I entered into the fray, discussing WW Volkswagen with my Civ Pro professor. I was attempting to make a point about the need to provide restitution to the party who was so horribly injured by the clear cause of the defendant party. My professor kept pressing me on why - and I finally said, "our law has to be able to provide justice." He looked at me and smirked and said, "Do you think Law has anything to do with Justice?" I meekly replied, "yes, I would hope so." He smiled and said, "Law has nothing to do with justice - and if anyone else here has such thoughts, we will beat them out of you before you leave law school." He said that and laughed, and the class laughed, and I laughed. He was joking after all...sort of.

A return to Lochner is yanking the justice out of law. I, for one, will fight that...but I am still a 1L - so maybe it will be beaten out of me soon enough...

Stevens Speaks on the Role of Int'l Law

A couple of articles this week discussed Justice J.P. Stevens' recent speech to the 7th Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference of the 7th Circuit.

In that speech Stevens noted that the Supreme Court considering the views of international courts is a responsible practice.

Here is the article from FindLaw.
Here is the article from The Indianapolis Star.

The FindLaw article specifically notes Justice Scalia's recent speeches opposing the influence of international law on American part stemming from this quote from Justice Kennedy's opinion in Roper v. Simmons: "The United States now stands alone in a world that has turned its face against the juvenile death penalty." That quote in large part sparked the dissents of Scalia, Rehnquist, and Thomas - in the case which eliminated capital punishment for minors. Stevens seems to make a fair point - one that is ignored by Scalia in his 'outrage' over the influence of international law:
There is a vast difference between U.S. justices considering meaningful views of scholars and judges before reaching a conclusion and allowing international opinion to control the interpretation of U.S. laws, Stevens said ..."We should not be impeached for the former," he said. "And we are not guilty of the latter."

For more on the Supreme Court's take on international law, please see my October 28, 2004 post entitled: O'Connor extols role of international law.

(Credit to ACSBlog for coverage of Stevens speech.)

An economics detective story.

Absolutely fascinating and compellingly intertwined piece from Slate. (Credit to Volokh, where I first saw this here.)

The Search for 100 Million Missing Women

This article is interesting enough on its face - the story of how an economist is using data to "find" about 50MM of Amartya Sen's 100MM 'missing women' in southeast Asia. But, it takes an almost surreal twist at the end when the demographic study intertwines with an earlier phsycological study of toddlers - it gets wild.

This is great stuff - intersting and informative, and a story that is almost too good to believe. Read this, and tell me you don't double take at the last paragraph...

Is there any hidden meaning here?

Owen uproar may not extend to her appeals court decisions

"She's my friend but more importantly she's a great judge," Bush said. "It's a great day for our friend, to see our friend finally get a just due, after a long, long wait."

Is it just me - or is that a really weird, almost haunting quote. Can't you just see Bush, Cheney, Hutchinson, Cornyn, Frist, Gonzales, and Owen in a back room somewhere with sinister lighting talking about how they can get "friends" in other positions of power? Shudddddddder... I mean, I know there's not really any hidden meaning here, but it's still kind of ... creepy.

In addition,
On the 5th U.S. Circuit, Owen is likely to continue her track record for conservative opinions in civil cases, said David Dow, a University of Houston law center professor. But it is far from certain how she will decide on criminal cases given that her experience comes on the Texas Supreme Court, which did not handle criminal matters.
"Any attempt to predict how she will rule on matters like the death penalty and other criminal issues would not be based on her record as a judge, because she doesn't have a record," Dow said. Texas and Oklahoma are the only states with separate high courts for criminal and civil trials.
For all the upset over Owen's nomination, she is not likely to change the flow of decisions out of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans, experts said.

Professor Dow was my Contracts professor last semester.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Lots of news this morning...

Chief justice visits Capitol Medical Department

The Supreme Court has two nurses on its staff but no physician. In the past, some justices have used the Capitol Medical Department, which is one long block away from the court.

I continue to hope the best for Mr. Chief Justice Rehnquist, and hope the summer will see him in full recovery.

Senators compromise on filibusters

Under the agreement, three of President Bush's nominees for appellate courts stalled by Democratic filibusters will go forward and two others will remain subject to filibuster.

Under the deal, the senators will allow three of Bush's controversial nominees to come to a vote: Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor.
The group made no commitment to vote for or against a filibuster on two nominees, William Myers and Henry Saad.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid later welcomed the deal and indicated Democrats would continue to filibuster Myers and Saad, likely dooming their nominations.

This seems like a lot for the Democrats to have given up...especially when it seemed they had the public support on this issue. All and all, this is an example of why the Senate has always been a more deliberative, less partisan body - they find away to work together.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A filibuster perspective from a Texas attorney...

From TPM:

A reader from Texas checks in ...

I have been licensed to practice law in Texas since 1961. During that period we have seen the complete deterioration of the 5th Circuit in New Orleans from a beacon of reason during the civil rights battles (of course it then included more States including Alabama) to the a rubber stamp right-wing caricature of its former stature.

Here is my compromise, as much as it pains me: Let Owens go through. It will not make the 5th appreciably worse; the only more retrograde Circuit is the 4th. I know it will further imbalance the 5th and violate the dictum laid down by Sen. Schumer. The way I see it is that the 5th is a lost cause or sacrifice area already and for the foreseeable future. But, the DC Circuit to which Judge Brown has been nominated is both more important and more closely divided. Brown is so far out of the mainstream she almost makes Owens look moderate. Brown must be stopped.
I would tend to agree. Although I may not agree with much of Justice Owen's jurisprudence - I think that she is a qualified jurist, and will not dramatically change the makeup of the far-right 5th Cir. Brown, however, is a different story - my impression is that she is far more radical, far less qualified, and the DC Cir. is much more balanced.

Click here for the perspective of a Houston attorney from Houston's Clear Thinkers.

This is why the DNC needed a new chair...

Dean says DeLay likely will go to jail

For years, the Democratic party has been unwilling to stand up to Republican strong-arm tactics - that seems to have all changed with Howard Dean in charge.

Dean offered a blistering review of the Republican Party — "I hate what the Republicans are doing to this country. I really do," he said — and used DeLay, R-Sugar Land, as an example of the "abuse of power" that he said now permeates Washington.
"This gentleman is not an ethical person, and he ought not to be leading Congress, period," Dean said on NBC's Meet the Press. "And it is endemic of what happens in Congress when one party controls everything."

I've got to completely agree with Dean - I hate what the current administration is doing to our country. I really do. America was meant for better.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Okay, I changed my mind - Water for everyone!!!

Can you believe this - one day and the EPA changes its policy:

EPA Does About-Face, Won't Allow Partial Treatment at Sewage Plants in Storms

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will not allow sewage treatment plants to skip a process for killing some disease-causing micro-organisms after heavy rains or snow melts.

If the EPA had adopted the policy, U.S. sewage plants might have avoided an estimated $90 billion or more in facility upgrades to allow for oxidation of pollutants in wastes after heavy rains.

The agency had proposed letting [untreated sewage dumping] become the official policy for handling the huge volume of waste water that storms bring, but changed its mind after reviewing 98,000 public comments and the testimony at some congressional hearings.

Info here from the League of Conservation Voters.

It's good to know the the public can still make a difference.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Don't get caught in the white noise...

Two good articles in Slate about recent foreign policy issues.

First - Behind Bush's latest assault on the Press

Let's see. A mistake … lives lost … America's image abroad damaged. Does any of that sound vaguely familiar? A few instances do spring to mind. Newsweek didn't have anything to do with them. McClellan's boss did.
And - Kaboom! How to Enrage Iraqi Sunnis

Rather than respond in a coordinated fashion, U.S. forces blazed in with armored vehicles and helicopter gun ships and simply pummeled the place. Fasal al-Goud, a former governor of Anbar province and one of the sheiks who had asked for assistance, told the Inquirer, "The Americans were bombing whole villages, and saying they were only after the foreigners."

Don't Drink the Water...

Just found this post at Uncommon Sense at It is amazing what kind of political choices are made while most of us are unaware.

The EPA has proposed legislation to allow sewage companies to dump sewage which has not completed treatment into our water supplies.

No, unfortunately I'm not kidding. The EPA - purportedly the government's agency to protect our environment - is proposing this. That fact just boggles my mind. The issue is that in times of heavy storms and flooding, much of America's water systems - pipes/drains/etc. - can't handle the excess water. This cause of this problem is the age and decline of this water infrastructure. But instead of a long-term plan to overhaul and invest in this vital infrastructure, the EPA (and the Bush administration) is proposing a "quick-fix" - a short term solution that is no solution at all. They propose to allow sewage companies to release sewage which has not been fully treated to remove biological contaminants into our waters in order to free up space needed to funnel the excess water during storms and flooding.

We, as the public that will be most impacted by this legislation, should stand in opposition.

Click here to read about the problem that is our aging water infrastructure system.
Click here to read what the League of Conservation Voters says about this sewage legislation.
Click here to take action and send an e-mail to your Congressperson urging them to oppose the EPA legislation and vote for the Save Our Waters from Sewage Act, proposed by a large group in Congress.
Click here to read the Save Our Waters from Sewage Act and see who all introduced the bill.
Click here to send an e-mail to others to encourage them to take action to keep our waters clean.

Deep sigh...

Outlook Turns Bleak in Iraq

In interviews and briefings Wednesday, the generals pulled back from recent suggestions — including by some of the same officers — that positive trends in Iraq could allow a reduction in the 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq late this year or early in 2006.

"I think that this could still fail," the officer said at the briefing, referring to the U.S. effort in Iraq. "It's much more likely to succeed, but it could still fail."

The officer said recent polls conducted by Baghdad University had shown confidence falling, down from an 85 percent rating after the elections.
The Rising Cost of the Iraq War

The cost of the US military in Iraq is running about $5 billion a month, estimated the former Pentagon comptroller earlier this year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Frist caught in the hole he dug...

I'm not a big fan of trying to use one vote in a politician's career to label them as hypocritical, or a flip-flopper, or as inconsistent. Frankly, as an active legislative leader, I expect someone to have a wide and varied voting record - and there are always times when someone votes for or against a measure do to 'peripheral' or 'technical' issues. That's part of the game of politics - and, in those situations, it seems very unfair to me to blast a person on the basis of one vote years ago.

There are other times, however, when someone's previous stance in a particular situation is at utter odds with their current position. Then such a vote can be instructive as to that person's current motivations...

Take for example Senator Bill Frist. Today he stands before America (running as hard as he can for the Republican nomination in '08) trying to take the "moral" highroad in the judicial filibuster issue. He claims that the judicial filibuster is unconstitutional. AND he claims that every judge the President nominated deserves their 'up or down vote'. Of course, that's not what Sen. Frist thought in 2000 when he voted for the filibuster of a Clinton appointee to the 9th Circuit.

Frist is clearly doing nothing but engaging in lowest-common-denominator partisan-ship with his nuclear option.

See this Center for American Progress story from January - Frist's Hypocritical and Dishonest Attack on Democracy. Exerpts:

Conservatives in Congress held up Paez's nomination for more than four years, culminating in an attempted filibuster on March 8, 2000. Bill Frist was among those who voted to filibuster Paez.

But American Progress has obtained a document that proves Frist was not, as he suggested, voting to filibuster Paez for scheduling purposes or to get more information. He voted to filibuster Paez for the very reason he said was illegitimate – to block Paez's nomination indefinitely.

Smith did not organize the filibuster to get more information on Paez (after all his nomination had been pending for four years). He organized the filibuster because he had already decided Paez was "out of the mainstream of political though and...should [not] be on the court[.]"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Why anti-Ecuador?

Article from The Nation posted May 11 entitled Ecuador Gets Chavez'd.

This article discusses how Ecuador (along with several other developing central and South American nations) has been the playground for rich to get richer, and how it has come at the expense of the poor people of the nation.

Ecuador has a new Presdient, Alfredo Palacio, who is trying to take some of the profits from high oil prices and use those on social programs for the people of Ecuador - but the World Bank loans that Ecuador has require that the nation can use only 10% of oil profits for expenditures for the people of Ecuador...70% must be paid to wealthy bondholders (the majority of whom are not Ecuador residents) and 20% must be set aside for bondholder contingencies. Palacio, a doctor by trade, is refusing to go along with that extortionist agreement - he wants to spend the oil windfall on the people.

The article describes Palacio this way:
Palacio seems an unlikely target of US official assaults. He comes off like a cardiologist you'd meet at an AMA convention. That is, in fact, what he is: a heart doctor who practiced in the United States for a decade, a man outside politics, affiliated with no party, brought in by Gutierrez to build a national health program. Hugo Chávez he is not: Palacio is conservative, pro-market, pro-American, but his patient, his nation, is in bad shape.

Other portions of the World Bank agreement call for electricity rates to rise to double the amount charged in the US. This seems like a deal which was implemented to help a handful of wealthy investors and energy corporations take advantage of a developing nation. Hopefully, Palacio will be willing to stay the course to the benefit of his people, rather than capitulating to the whims of a few rich and powerful.

Gross Misunderstanding

Really good article yesterday from Slate about the irrelevance of box-office grosses to the studios.

The piece is interesting overall - detailing the reasons why the box office is not as imporant as a judge of much anything these days - but it's most revealing portions was the discussion of how home entertainment has completely changed Hollywood.

Movie theatre ticket sales now make up less than 20 percent of the studios' revenues. Home entertainment provides 82%. In addition - Wal-Mart accounts for more than 33% of the studios' revenues in video and DVD. Wal-Mart is a power player in Hollywood - whodathunkit?

Hollywood is really driven these days not by what we go to see - but what we stay home to see, be it on DVD or TV or pay-per-view. Now, that is different.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Smartest Guys in the Room...

Maybe it's because it was Houston.

Maybe it's because I'm an accountant.

Maybe it's because I had friends there.

Maybe it's because I bought the stock.

Maybe it's because I only worked a few blocks down the street.

Or, maybe it's because it is the worst story of corporate corruption in history.

Whatever the reason, the story of Enron is compelling. At least, it is to me. And the documentary Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room is VERY compelling.

It's amazing the hubris. It's amazing how quickly the House of Cards fell. And this movie tells that story wonderfully. Toward the beginning, one of the interviewees says something very key - so often the story of Enron is nebulous because its all about complicated structured finance, and tricky accounting and numbers, but in reality, it's a story about people. That is dead on.

This documentary provides intimate details of the rise and fall of Enron, and Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow - much of in their own words. This was a company that was never really doing anything - at least nothing that made money, yet they trotted out record earnings quarter after quarter. The tales of arrogance are alarming and almost unbelieveable.

The stories of Enron around town were unbelieveable. Like I mentioned, I worked not far away, worked in finance and accounting for a big company in Houston - and we would always hear stories floating around about guys 28 years old making multi-million dollar bonuses; about the ultra-competitive culture where over 10% of the employees were laid off every year. Yet I had three friends who left our company to go work over there - because if you made it, you made it big time. And, you were considered best of the best. Enron was the thing. Of course, now we know that it was really nothing. Nothing but smoke and mirrors. Crazy stuff.

One of the best thing this movie does is it shows how it was a whole web of entities responsible. Sure the top guys at Enron conceived and sold the scheme. But auditors signed off; attorneys signed off; analysts signed off; bankers signed off; the government signed off. The list is mind boggling - all the reputable business that turned a blind eye to shocking schemes (like Andy Fastow being the primary partner in partnerships that dealt only with Enron) and malfeasance (like rigging the California power market to cause black-outs which drove the price of electricity to unprecednented levels).

The dean of my law school, Nancy Rappaport, is in one portion of the film where she discusses a telling analogy with a scientific study done in the 50s where ordinary people were found to be willing to inflict pain upon others - pain to the point of death - only because they were told they could. At Enron, these people lied and cheated and stole. Only because they could. Only because they believed no one could stop them.

Sherron Watkins, a key whistle-blower who contributed to the unraveling of the illegal accounting schemes, at one point of the film is addressing what was going on and how they were getting away with it, and she says hauntingly - and it could happen again. Believe me, it certainly could happen again.

I ended my last post with a age-old phrase which fits startlingly here as well:

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Tribute to Power

Nick Penniman, editor of, wrote a good piece today on the Right-Wing-black-tie-multi-million-dollar shindig in "honor" of Tom DeLay last night in D.C.

In it, he touched on one of the perplexing things to me about today's conservatives - they have sold out for power.

Penniman details how DeLay's history is the anthesis of what old-school conservatism would be about:
~ Conservatives used to believe in increased morality in politics. But three of DeLay's close associates have been indicted for illegal campaign addition DeLay himself has been chastised three times by the House ethics committee.

~ Conservatives used to believe in smaller government. But DeLay's 'leadership' has overseen the pharmicudical welfare bill which is the largest social program since the Great Society.

~ Conservatives used to believe in fiscal responsibility. But DeLay has ruled over the turning a surplus into the largest deficit in US history - all the while pushing through tax cuts for millionaires.

~ Conservatives used to believe in opposing gambling interests. But DeLay has been investigated for unethical dealings and compensation for services he provided to American Indian tribes related to the expansion of their gambling operations.

~ Conservativism used to be about principles. Tom DeLay is all about power. And yesterday right-wing conservatives threw him a multi-million dollar, $250-a-plate, $10,000-a-table, black-tie, rally around the Hammer party. The 'Traditional Values Coalition' was there. 'Americans for Tax Reform' was there. The 'Heritage Foundation' was there. The 'Family Research Council' was there. 'American Values' was there. tell me what their values are.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Lies, and the Lying Liars who tell them...

Credit to 3martini for catching this.

Bill O'Reilly is a liar. That should come as news to no one. This guy has made himself famous, and likely millions, by simply catering to the lowest common denominator of American Idiocy.

O'Reilly - again - was caught in his lies and by my own hometown Houston Chronicle yesterday. The editorial follows:

The No Facts Zone
Read before you complain Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

The 19th century American writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said of a man, "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons." Were he alive today, Emerson might be thinking of television host Bill O'Reilly.

On The O'Reilly Factor cable television program Tuesday night, the popular host included a segment that took the Houston Chronicle to task for an editorial that had run the same day. The editorial was entitled
Cold comfort: Florida's sex offender law has emotional appeal, but it's not the best way to stop sexual predators from preying on children.

Hang on while I count our spoons:
At the start of the segment, O'Reilly stated that the Chronicle had "taken a lot of shots at me, so it must be left of center." O'Reilly's name has appeared only once in a Chronicle editorial, which concerned not O'Reilly, but Fox News' suit against Al Franken for his use of the phrase "fair and balanced." The suit was thrown out of court.

O'Reilly told his viewers that the Chronicle editorial said the Florida law was too harsh. He was mistaken. The editorial excerpts that O'Reilly projected on the screen said nothing about the harshness of the punishment. The editorial, citing extensive research on this subject, said hooking GPS monitors to sexual predators released from prison might prove less effective than closer supervision by parole officers and other low-tech strategies. The Chronicle did not call for lighter punishment; it called for the adoption of the most effective measures to protect our children.

O'Reilly said the editorial advocated "community service" for sexual predators. It did not.

O'Reilly accused his guest, Austin defense attorney Courtney Anderson, of misleading the audience when she defended the Chronicle editorial. O'Reilly then read what he said was a quote from the editorial. Unfortunately, not one word of what O'Reilly read appeared in the Chronicle editorial or anywhere else in the paper. He and his staff apparently confused someone else's commentary with the Chronicle's.

O'Reilly claims his show is free of spin. Spin is when someone casts the facts in such a light as to reinforce his argument and weaken his opponent's. What O'Reilly did was to disregard the facts altogether, even going so far as to attribute to the Chronicle words and views it did not print and does not espouse. That's not spin; it's misrepresentation that is unprofessional, unwarranted and injurious to the public debate about a serious and urgent issue: protecting children from predators.

The Chronicle's reader representative and letters editor received several complaints about the editorial from people who admitted they hadn't read it, or who attributed to it quotations that did not appear in the editorial.

Before Chronicle readers complain about an editorial, I hope they take the time to read the editorial carefully, rather than relying on someone else's careless characterization of its contents.

James Howard Gibbons editor / opinion pages

I tip my hat to the Chronicle for calling this actor out - he deserves no less.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Now this I like...

From Daily Kos:

Story on the billboards from the Argus Leader -
Democrats are tired of letting Republicans own the faith and values message, so they are taking their case to the streets.
A billboard campaign was launched Monday by the Minneheha County's Grassroots Democrats, letting people know what their party stands for, says chairwoman Lisa Engels.
Green, black and white signs at Seventh Street and Minnesota Avenue and at Russell Street and Westport Avenue say: "Jesus cares for the poor, so do we. Democrats make America stronger."
"The whole thing behind it is to counteract the Christian right and their so-called monopoly on religion," Engels said. "They have been able to get out there and convince people that the flag wraps better around them than it does us, and that is not true."

Excellent work by the GrassrootsDems up in S. Dakota. There are many of us out here that are politically progressive PRECISELY because of that now-commercialized question - what would Jesus do...

Crime Doesn't Pay

Well, I became the victim of a crime last night for the first time ever (if you don't include the money I lost on Enron stock).

My car was broken into. Whomever the poor soul was who did it must have been sorely disappointed only to rummage through a car with nothing but a few CD's and a ton of little boys toys.

The culprit was actually pretty considerate - they left my work badge, my downtown parking pass, my school parking pass, and all the insurance, etc. info from my glove compartment. It looks as if they were simply rummaging for some cash. They did take a handful of CDs - but anyone who is so desperate as to take off with an Uncle Tupelo, Pearl Jam, Damnations, Slobberbone, and Wilco CDs probably needs them a whole lot worse than I. Frankly, I can only hope they are of good use to the individual. She or he was kind enough to leave my boy's Disney and Veggie Tales CDs sitting on the front seat - I guess that just wasn't their style.

Not exactly a scintilating story for my first crime experienced living in downtown Houston - but hey, I'd prefer to never have another one if I can help it.

I'm still a lot more bitter about those criminals at Enron...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Do you think this is effective foreign policy?

From Jurist-Paper Chase:

Report of Koran desecration at Gitmo prompts Afghan riots; 4 killed

Riots erupted across Afghanistan Wednesday in response to a recent report by Newsweek magazine that in an effort to infuriate Muslim prisoners US troops at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Koran by placing copies on toilets and in one case had even flushed a copy down a latrine. Insulting the Koran is blasphemy to Muslims and is currently punished by the death penalty in Pakistan and Afghanistan itself. In the conservative Muslim city of Jalalabad Afghan security forces were unable to contain thousands of rioters [Reuters report] and opened fire, killing four and wounding 52. Rioters set Afghan government officials on fire, destroyed UN buildings, ransacked businesses, and burned US flags along with pictures of George Bush and US-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai. On a visit to NATO [official website] headquarters in Brussels Wednesday, Karzai praised progress made in Afghanistan, but told reporters later that the riots were evidence that Afghan security forces were still unable to handle protests without the assistance of foreign troops. Reuters has more.

When the Bush administration authorizes or turns a blind eye to the abuse of prisoners this is a natural result. Not only do the citizens of muslim nations rise up in opposition to the United States, but the very terrorist organizations that this administration is purportedly fighting use these very things to recruit new members. This type of policy is a failure, and this administration should be held accountable.

Friday, May 06, 2005

In honor of Mothers

This is a great article - and very timely with Mother's Day coming up on Sunday. I am a very blessed man - I am the son of maybe the greatest mom a boy could have, am married to the greatest wife a man could have, who is also the greatest mom our boy could have. I've had incredible women in my life - and I am much the person I am because of them.

Moms at the Office
by Martha Burk, Ph.D. for (excerpts)

Every year on Mother’s Day we stop to thank our moms with gifts and adoration. As individuals, we love our mothers dearly, but as a society we don’t give much of a flip for motherhood.

Close to three-quarters of all moms with children between the ages of 6 and 18 are in the labor force. ... Too much of corporate America is still operating on the “organization man” model, with the built-in assumption that someone else will take care of the kids and household so dad can work unlimited hours. It’s the same old mindset—men own the jobs, women own the kids.

When President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act in back in 1993, the United States lost the distinction of being one of the only two industrialized countries in the world without some form of leave for emergency care of sick children or elderly parents.

In purely economic terms, if someone has to miss work to care for a sick child, it’s going to be the lower earning parent—usually the mother. That further depresses her earnings and promotion potential, and further entrenches the inequality both at work and at home. And recent polls show the public believes employers don’t promote young women because they think these workers will leave their jobs to have children—but the vast majority do not.

Corporations claiming to favor fairness in the workplace should be glad to take an honest look at their pay practices and correct disparities. ... This kind of common-sense disclosure won’t bring down capitalism. Ben & Jerry’s does it every year, and they’re pretty successful, thank you.

Companies must not wait for Congress to mandate so-called “family-friendly” policies like paid leave, flextime and job sharing, either. They can do it themselves, and they can do it now. If fathers are encouraged to take advantage of these policies so that it becomes “normal” for both parents, mothers won’t be singled out as “less serious workers” and punished with lower pay or lack of opportunities for promotion. That would be a real gift for Mother’s Day.

This mother's day, let's be thankful for the moms in our lives; and let's commit ourselves to building an America where all their contributions are appreciated.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Addition to NY Skyline put on Hold

Freedom Tower to be redesigned

I had not kept up with the commissioning of the tower and complex which will be built on the location of the former World Trade Center site. It appears today, however, that the plans have hit a snag and redesign will take several months or up to a year.

As I got to reading more about this project today, it has seen it's fair share of controversy and debate over the past year plus since the original "compromise" proposal was unveiled in December of 2003. There are two architects who are having to work together on the project, but they seem to have somewhat divergent visions. The architect who "won" the WTC site redesign project, Daniel Libeskind, proposed a tower 1776 feet high (to symbolize the founding of the United States) and an asymmetrical spire invoking outstretched arm of the Statute of Liberty. David Childs, an architecht co-commissioned on the project, has not been as sold on the off-centered-ness of the spire, and has included a "lattice" like cabled top, in homage to the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, including windmills which hope to harness the power of the winds to provide up to 20% of the building's power needs. The relationship between the two has been stormy, and it will be interesting to see what comes out of the new redesign project.

You can find more information on the Freedom Tower at:
The City Review
and a slideshow of artist renderings of the "compromise" tower at CNN.

That slideshow contains this picture - which to me breathtakingly captures the tower's intended reference to the Statute of Liberty.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Something is rotten in ... PBS ?!?

Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases
(site above from NY Times - link to non-register version here)

Without the knowledge of his board, the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the guests' political leanings on one program, "Now With Bill Moyers."
In late March, on the recommendation of administration officials, Mr. Tomlinson hired the director of the White House Office of Global Communications as a senior staff member, corporation officials said. While she was still on the White House staff, she helped draft guidelines governing the work of two ombudsmen whom the corporation recently appointed to review the content of public radio and television broadcasts.

Last November, members of the Association of Public Television Stations met in Baltimore along with officials from the corporation and PBS. Mr. Tomlinson told them they should make sure their programming better reflected the Republican mandate.

This type of exercise from the Bush administration should not come as a huge surprise - this is the same White House that was paying political pundits to write and speak promoting various pieces of legislation. But infringing upon the long-established independence of PBS is still quite a low blow. There seem to be no depths beyond which Bush and the radical right are willing to dive.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Software Models Capital Punishment Outcomes

Found this nugget at the American Constitution Society blog here.

Using Software to Model Death Row Outcomes
by Susan Llwewlyn Leach for The Christian Science Monitor

What some observers find alarming about the outcome is that the 19 points of data supplied on each death-row inmate contained no details of the case. Only facts such as age, race, sex, and marital status were included, along with the date and type of offense.

"That's what makes this important," Dr. Harper says. "We didn't look at the crime itself. We didn't look at whether the defendant had received a fair or unfair representation. We simply looked at characteristics of the inmate."

Wow, without looking at the legal features of the case, this group was able to build software that could predict (with over 90% accuracy) who would and would not be executed. That is a very scary thought, and suggests that demographic and socio-economic factors are as important or more important in capital cases than the facts surrounding the crime itself.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Democrat's Problem...

This is a direct quote from a Josh Marshall/Talking Points Memo blog post from a couple of weeks ago. I found it telling - and I very much agree with it. Thought others would might too...

From TPM: (April 18, 2005 -- 12:43 AM EDT)
I spent way more time than I should have this weekend trying to distill my thoughts about the strategies and tactics Democrats should use to advance their agenda and unseat the Republican majority on Capitol Hill. Though my point was fairly straightforward -- forget about strategic and tactics, in so many words -- for some some reason I couldn't pull it together in a couple thousand words.
So let me, a bit more briefly, address how it applies to Social Security -- the issue that's on the table right now.
For starters, you may have seen this AP story that ran over the weekend, which read: "House Democrats have decided to quit emphasizing that they will not negotiate changes to Social Security until President Bush drops his idea for private accounts. The switch in strategy comes after Democrats learned from focus groups that people frown on the lawmakers for being obstinate."
Where to start?
The problem Democrats have is not bad tactics or bad strategies or poor framing. The problem is an over-reliance, even an addiction, to tactics and strategies.
For years I've argued that the Democrats' problem on national security issues is not so much that they aren't 'tough enough' or that they lack new ideas. The problem is a now-deeply-ingrained habit of approaching national security issues not so much as policy questions to be wrestled with but as a political problem to be dealt with and moved on from.
That has a host of damaging consequences, the most serious of which is that if you chart your policy course so as to avoid political damage, always casting about for the sweet spot of political safety, you tend to lack any greater programmatic consistency. And that tells voters (as it probably should) that you’re inconstant and unserious. It also muddles effective communication by confusing the communicators themselves about just what it is they are trying to say or accomplish.
What the last year has taught me -- both in good ways and bad -- is that this malady isn't limited to the national security domain but applies to Democrats pretty much across the board.
We hear a lot today about framing or being tougher or being united or dumping the failed consultants. But while each of these prescriptions has some element of merit, each also recapitulates the existing problem -- only dressing it up in clothes -- because each mistakes the disease for the cure.
When it comes to strategy and tactics, the current Democratic party is like a drunk in the early stages of recovery or a man or woman who keeps ending up in the same bad relationship again and again with different people. For folks like that, strong medicine is required. Indeed, they usually require steps, correctives, lists of dos-and-don'ts more drastic than anybody would ever need who didn't have a problem.
Today we hear Democrats asking whether they should take a hard line on Social Security or a soft line, stand in opposition or come up with a contending plan. Here's what I propose whenever Democrats have a question about just what stance to take on the Social Security debate.
One question ...
What is the actual policy outcome that would be most preferable on Social Security (to protect, preserve or augment it -- whatever) and how important is it that it take place in this Congress?
That's the first, second and third question.
That answer should drive everything else.
If add-on accounts are important to preserve Social Security or expand opportunities for middle class families to save for retirement, and if it’s important enough on the merits to make it a priority in this Congress, then let’s do it. Otherwise, I’d say forget it. Stick with opposing phase-out and take it to the voters. End of story.
If the demon rum of optics or tactical too-clever-by-halfism tries to slither its way back even into second or third, slap your wrist and get back with the program.
I'm not saying that the Democrats need to get in touch with their political or ideological roots or hold to orthodoxies. Nor is this an argument for political purism. My point is entirely agnostic on what the policy should be -- only that it should drive the politics.
Nor do I pretend that this will always generate the most effective political approach or the most supplely played tactical game. What I think is that we are dealing with a sick patient, one whose reasoning and judgment are often untrustworthy and one apt to slide back into the same old destructive habits without some firm and concrete correctives in place.
For a party so quick to get lost in the fog, this should be the compass. -- Josh Marshall

It's interesting to do some reading about "macro-politics." (That is my word - I'm not sure if it is real or not...I'm refering to looking at high-level strategies and trends in politics as opposed to looking at individual issues or elections.) If you go back about 40 years, well, let's start further back. If you go futher back - to the depression, the Democrats took political control through FDR and was in the Executive Branch for a long time - 1932 thru 1952. Eisenhower broke that string, but Dems went back in through JFK in '60. That time was a pretty exceptional time for American in general, but specifically, if you look at the 60s, there was a wave of progressive actions embodied in the Civil Rights Acts and the New Society programs. The Republicans were being beaten, and they were vigorously opposed to this progressive wave. So what did they do? ... They organized ... Beginning in the mid-sixties, Republican leaders began pouring money into organizational entities. Think-tanks to promote conservative policy. Educational and scholarship programs to identify young conservative leaders and enable them to be put into high-exposure positions. Foundations which were tasked with raising the money to fuel these other organizations. Public relation organizations to present unified and targeted messages to the media. Etc., etc., etc. If you go back and look at it, it is an utterly amazing and almost awe-inspring effort. There were very insightful, very forward thinking. It is analogous to an investment in infrastructure - you simply are not going to fully reap the benefits of, say, an investment in a mass transit rail system for a decade or more, but if you make the investment, those benefits will be huge down the road. Well, here, the conservative, republican leaders (generally not the politicians, but the money-men in the background) were patient enough to realize that they were sowing seeds that would be harvested over decades - not the next election. And they were actually successful quite quickly - most of this started in the early 60s, and by 1968 the conservative think-tanks had come up with Nixon's "Southern Strategy", which was a WHOLLY RADICAL way for the Republican’s to run an election. We look back from our perspective now, and it’s just, “ho-hum, the south goes to the Republicans” – but prior to the 70s, the “solid-south” was the democratic strong-hold. These new conservative think-tanks were able to, very early on, identify that the civil rights movement was terribly unpopular in the south, and those voters were wary and distrustful of the democratic party for advancing that legislation. So the initial pay-off came very quickly.

And since then, well, the results speak for themselves. The Republican party, and the conservative agenda has dominated the American political landscape for close to 40 years now. There have been blips – Watergate hurt and brought Carter into office, and Clinton being conservative-lite meant the Dems had the white house in the 90s, but other than that, the Reps have dominated. And they have dominated because of the insightful investments back in the early 60s. It gave the conservative movement a singular voice. It enabled them to identify objectives, develop a battle plan to advance objectives, and speak with a single voice to accomplish those objectives. Disciplined, rigorous, determined. They give no quarter. They do not bend. They do not waver. They have an agenda, and they advance that agenda. They spend wild amounts of money paying intelligent people within their think-tanks to come up with the next steps, to identify their next targets, to stay organized. They spend wild amounts of money keeping a stangle-hold on the mainstream media, they are so advanced at it, and have done if for so long, that it is natural that the media frames the “news” using the language that the conservative public relations gurus have created. They spend wild amounts of money identifying young leaders, and putting them in positions of success – and targeting specific offices to challenge for and put their people in place. It has worked, and it is working.

And all this time, the Democrats never changed their game. Historically - they didn’t have think-tanks; they didn’t identify young leaders; they didn’t build PR machines to manipulate the media. It was almost contrary to the progressive spirit to spend money on a think-tank, when that money could go to a grass-roots activist organization. Instead of identifying young progressives to lift to prominence, the liberal-mindset was to put them in the trenches to work on feeding people, or educating people, etc. Instead of a savvy understanding of the media, the progressive movement believed that the detailed principles and policies and programs would eventually win out amongst the public. Now, any and all of this individually (and, frankly, collectively) is not and was not bad. But it inherently prevents unified vision. It prevents a single voice. It does not promote the identification of specific objectives, a plan to advance those objectives, or working with a single purpose to accomplish those objectives. There are an infinite number of objectives – and each tiny little group isn’t able to be heard amongst the din of voices.

And so they lose. They lose consistently, and they lose pretty much across the board. They don’t lose because they don’t frame the issue right. They don’t lose because they don’t have a think-tank. They don’t lose because they don’t have young leaders. Just like Josh Marshall said above - they lose because they don’t have an objective. Or more specifically, they don’t have a specific objective. They keep trying to make everyone happy – instead of saying let’s just do the right thing.

Now, fortunately (for the things I believe at least), the progressive movement is starting to “get itself together” a bit. Over the past three or four years there has been some investment in some think-tanks such as the Center for American Progress. There has become a new sensitivity to PR and the media philosophy’s of guys like George Lakoff. There have been some (still very limited) attempts to counter groups like the Federalist Society that identify young conservative leaders with groups like the American Constitution Society. There has been an effort to invest in groups like to start presenting a unified presence in the media, and advance a more organized agenda. But it’s still 40 years behind the curve. I think Marshall’s post is incisive because he’s cutting though the “fluff” to get to the substance. None of the peripheral things are the end – they are the means to an end. But in order to be successful, one has to be able to identify where you want to go and then with discipline, with rigorous preparation, and with a determined plan go there. That is my opinion at least.

'188 Nations Sit Down Together' or 'No Hope of Constructive Progress'

The 2005 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference began today at UN headquarters in New York. This conference will last through the month of May with the hope of bringing the 1970 treaty up to date.

Don't bet your retirement on that getting done.

In the midst of dramatic nuclear tension in recent days (which is garnering little to no press from the mainstream-media) from the likes of North Korea and Iran, I would not expect a lot of dramatic improvements...especially in light of whom our President has chosen to represent the U.S. in this conference: Stephen Rademaker, a close ally of John Bolton - the Bush-nominated UN ambassador and outspoken UN opponent (yes, that's correct).

The timing of this conference is apropos considering that, at the pointed questioning of Senator Hillary Clinton, the Defense Intelligence Agency Director admitted before a committe last week that North Korea has the capacity not only to produce a nuclear weapon, but also missle and launch capacity. Wow...and yet we invaded Iraq? Right. In addition, Iran is now threatening to walk out of talks with European powers over the advancement of their nuclear programs. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN, opened the conference today appropriately calling for dramatic reduction in nuclear arsenal's of the US and Russia. That would be a small price to pay - and would give the US much more credibility in dealing with N. Korea, Iran, and other rogue nations.

The 1970 non-prolif treaty was a monument, unfortunately times have passed it by. There are too many loopholes allowing the procurement of "non-military" nuclear technologies, which invariably lead to development of weapons of mass destruction. And we're not just talking about Iran and North Korea here - other nations are on the road, including Brazil and other nations more often viewed as "peaceful." Let's hope that the 188 nations that sit down together keep their eyes on the big-picture, as doubtful as that may be.

More from Jurist Paper Chase, Democracy Arsenal, and CNN.

A bit of Reading...

A few of the more interesting pieces of web reading I've done recently:

Legal Education as a Training for Hierarchy
by Duncan Kennedy

Duncan Kennedy is the Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School. Kennedy clerked for Justice Potter Stewart at the Supreme Court for a year and has since been at Harvard. Kennedy is at the forefront of the Critical Legal Studies movement. CLS is a no longer popular theory of law as simply rules and institutions tilted toward protection of the interests of wealth, property and power, thus biased against the poor, working classes, women, and minorities. This particular piece is less concerned with the overarching details of CLS. It is an essay on how the field of law hierarchal, and that law schools perpetuate, and indeed force that hierarchy with they way that they structure legal education.

Hugo Chavez and Petro Populism
by Christian Parenti for The Nation

Opinions vary wildly about Hugo Chavez and what he is doing in Venezuela. The general reaction by United States is one of distain (the US allegedly participated in the coup against him in 2002). As a military leader, Chavez led a failed military coup in 1992 and spent two years in prison. Chavez came back as a politician, organizing a new party and was elected President in 1998. The coup of 2002 proved unsuccessful and he regained power, and survived a removal referendum in 2003. Now, Chavez is embarking upon, "building a socialism for the twenty-first century" in Venezuela through Land and Oil initiatives. This article chronicles some of those political reforms.

The Brains Behind Blackmun
David J. Garrow for Legal Affairs

David Garrow is professor of law at Emory University. In this scathing article, Garrow accuses Justice Harry Blackmun of a "scandalous abdication of judicial responsibility." This article is the culimination of Garrow's examination of Blackmun's papers, made public since his death. This article pulls no punches - but to me it seems unpersuasive. The anecdotes and 'memo notes' that Garrow relies upon to make his extreme accusations seem much less than advertised - you have to do a tremendous amount of 'reading-into' the words/stories to make it as extreme as Garrow does. It is, however, an engaging piece, and it is stirring a lot of feathers. In addition, opposing responses from the Chairman of Legal Affairs and two of Blackmun's clerks can be found here.

Psst, Wanna Buy My Skyscraper?
by Daniel Gross for Slate

Interesting piece about how many large corporations have recently been divesting thier skyscraper corporate headquarters buildings. In such a time of booming real estate markets, that seems an odd coincidence. Is this an advanced warning of the burstsing of the real estate bubble? Or simply company's capitalizing on the current market and taking their gains while they can?

The Unregulated Offensive (pay)
by Jeffrey Rosen for The New York Times

Jeffrey Rosen is a law professor at George Washington University. This piece examines the "Constitution-in-Exile" movement. This is a movement of conservatives who (in a synopsis) believe that the US Constitution has been in exile since 1937 when the Supreme Court began approving the New Deal programs. Essentially, they promote a return to pre-1937 Constitutional Law - which of course is a return to Freedom of Conract, Segregation, etc. There is an interesting debate going on as to whether there really is a Constitution-in-Exile movement, or if it is simply a framing by left leading academians to negatively portray the reactionary right. An interesting debate will be going on at the Legal Affairs Debate Club this week about Constitution-in-Exile.