A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Judiciary

A rash of decisions have been handed down over the course of the last week, as the Supreme Court's term winds down. Some of the more notable decisions involved the overturning of Death Penalty Laws for child rape in Louisiana (and 5 other states), a $2 billion reduction in the amount of punitive damages against Exxon for the Valdez oil spill, allowing enemy combatants to challenge their detentions before civilian judges in the United States, and the first conclusive interpretation of the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791, wherein the Court declared the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

I've have always been greatly interested in the many issues surrounding the Judicial Branch, and am curious as to how closely the rest of you track these decisions as well as your feelings on them.

Perhaps the most central debate surrounding the Judiciary, as you all well know, is the battle between the so-called "Originalist," wing of the Court, who stand for the proposition that the Constitution has a fixed and knowable meaning, which was established at the time of its drafting, (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas) and those who believe in the idea of a Living Constitution, ie the idea that the Constitution was written in flexible, dynamic terms (Breyer, Ginsburg).

After wracking my brain to try and come up with a succinct yet eloquent way to describe originalism, I decided to steal the best summary I could find from some dude who has a blog on philosophy and martial arts:

"Originalism is a theory of Constitutional interpretation that focuses upon the text of the Constitution in seeking it's original meaning at the time it was promulgated. Thus, an originalist jurist would seek to obtain the Constitution's original meaning through historical analysis and then apply that meaning to contempory issues that come before the Court. Originalists argue that if the Constitution does not speak on the contemporary issue, then the Court has no business in rendering a decision that usurps the legislative branch.

In contrast to originalism is the "Living Constitution" view of interpretation. According to this view, the Constitution is a living and ever evolving document that needs to be flexible to the changing values and needs of an ever evolving society. It's meaning is not fixed. It is dynamic."


This tension is the basis of so much of the controversy surrounding the Federal Judiciary.

I have framed the basic debate in the simplest and crudest terms possible. There are obviously nuances in this battle, but this is the Cliffs Notes version.

Using the above description as a starting point, I was kind of curious to get y'all's opinion on the major debate between these schools of thought. For me, its a fascinating dichotomy, and both sides have potent arguments. I am really eager to know how you guys view the role of the judiciary, and which side of the great divide you find yourselves. Take a side, and tell me why.

Monday, June 23, 2008

fantasy bb trade advice

So here's the trade somebody just proposed to me for fantasy bb:

Edinson Vólquez (theirs)


Lance Berkman (mine)

Lance is the #1 ranked player, Volquez is #8. And I'm currently fair to middlin' in terms of wins and K's (but doing very well in every other category). Do you think Volquez will continue to pitch well? Berkman had a TORRID start, but I don't see him keeping up the pace for the rest of the season...


But...I also have Pujols on the sidelines (currently DL) who could take up Berkman's slack. And Adam Wainwright (and Shawn Marcum) are on the DL for me right now. But Volquez is such a beast...I'm just wondering if his arm will hold up. Still it's a kinda cool blockbuster trade...

I know some of y'all are quite knowledgeable about sports so please suggest away...the trade was just proposed today. I'm kind of inclined to just accept it and let the chips fall where they may. And here's my league if you want to check out what's going on:


(I'm From a Motel 6)

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Friday, June 20, 2008

SNL All-Star Team

Because of how shitty its been over the course of the past decade and a half, its easy to forget that Saturday Night Live was at one point the most consistently amusing and cutting edge show on television. And it wasn't even close.

I got to thinking about some of the sketches that really reverberated with me (especially when the show was at its peak, from 1976-'82, eps that I caught in reruns, and again from '88-'95) and I laid down a challenge to myself.

If someone put a gun to my head and forced me to pick a 5 person SNL cast member All Star Team, who would I select?

Its a hell of a lot tougher than you'd think. Pick 5 individuals, who, based on 1) their signature sketches/characters from SNL and to a lesser extent, 2) their post-SNL career you would select as the best. I wracked my brain trying to narrow down my list. It may have been easier if I just limited the criteria to the cast members' career on the show itself, but so many movie and TV stars were made by that show, I didn't want to limit it.

My top 5:

1. Phil Hartman - You wouldn't think it, but he is easily the MVP of the series. Created consistently hilarious characters, was an incredibly funny supporting player in whatever sketch he was in (and he was in a lot of them), and his impressions of people ranging from Ronald Reagan to Frank Sinatra to Bill Clinton, Johnny Cash and Charlton Heston were sublime.

2. Eddie Murphy - Remember Buckwheat, Gumby, Black Mr. Rogers, his impressions of Stevie Wonder and James Brown? Guy was on fucking fire. And he was only 20 years old. And then he did 48 hrs, Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. No matter what shit he's done since then (and he's done a lot), his run in TV and films from 1981 to about 1987 was perfection.

3. Will Ferrell - I doubt I would get any arguments on this one.

4. John Belushi - Granted, he had a slight movie career, but the ones he did (Blues Brothers
, Animal House) were just about perfect. And his skethes. Remember Samurai Futaba? Jake Blues? His impressions of Babe Ruth, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis and Jack Nicholson?

5. Bill Murray - This was the toughest because I was choosing between him and Chris Farley. Both were pretty consistent, but I have to give Murray the edge because his film career was more interesting (Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Ed Wood, Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums, Lost in Translation) and because his character Nick the Lounge Singer was really, really funny.

Honorable mention to: Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, and Chris Farley.

Who has the balls/interest/time to dispute me on this?

News and Notes from the Sporting World

A. Interleague play doesn't really bother me as a concept. Neither does the Wild Card. I don't think either of these things dilute the purity of the game. I think they make watching the games more exciting.

B. I, too, am excited about the Cross Town Classic, and predict the White Sox to take 2 of 3 this weekend. The other team just has too many fucking injuries.

C. Check out this Slate article detailing how batshit insane Kevin Garnett is. It shows video of him breaking down and weeping during a 2005 interview while talking about how much he hates losing
as well as his delirious/inexplicable postgame interview after the Celtics won Tuesday:


D. The Sports Guy wrote a column for ESPN The Magazine talking about how he doesn't care about tennis anymore and why:

"Once a successful mainstream sport, tennis now matters twice a year—during Wimbledon and the U.S. Open—and even then it's not like America shakes with Racket Fever or anything. The mainstream media still cover tennis, and the ratings for majors are still okay. But when was the last time you watched a big match from start to finish? When was the last time you attended one? When did you last have an argument about something tennis-related that didn't boil down to "Who do you think is hotter?"

Unlike golf, another time-sucking sport that appeals to a specific audience, tennis lacks a Tiger to keep it relevant. When tennis develops its own version of Tiger—first Pete Sampras, then Roger Federer—the guys do almost more damage than good. We see the best tennis stars as the Ping-Pong player at a family gathering who destroys all the uncles and cousins, and eventually kills everyone's interest in playing Ping-Pong for the day. Golf is a sport that hinges on luck and timing, streaks and slumps, and the quirks of different courses. So it's almost inconceivable for a golfer to dominate as Tiger has. But for Federer to dominate, it's completely conceivable. And boring.

Beyond that, a transcendent golfer may stick around for 40 years, and we're aware of this, so it's only natural for us to get more attached to him. We've known Tiger since he was crushing kids as a little guy, we knew him when his father passed away, and we'll know him when he's wearing a bad hairpiece and obliterating the Champions Tour in 2033. By contrast, a great tennis career always unfolds the same way: Guy kills himself for a few years getting to the top and staying there; guy gets bored; guy starts sleeping with actresses/models; guy drops in the rankings; guy makes a brief resurgence; guy loses hair and retires; guy disappears forever. This has to have happened 47 times since I was 10. I'd argue that we haven't attached ourselves to Federer because we know another Federer will eventually come off the assembly line. Because one always does."

A fair point. I still, however, may be one of the few die hards left in this country and am genuinely excited about the start of Wimbledon. Am I strange for still getting worked up about this sport?

Thursday, June 19, 2008


The Frontline episode this week on China and under 35 people in China is really good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tough on Crime

There's a lot to love about this story, which describes how a team of cops drove around at 95 MPH through crowded downtown streets and highways in order to arrest a man who had exposed himself to a 10 y.o. boy in a Wal-Mart, and was then working part-time at a hardware store.

I'm not soft on pedophilia. But there's pedophilia, and then there's pedophilia. I, personally, don't think it's worth risking the lives of hundreds of innocent bystanders in a cheap excuse for Officer Friendly to peel out in his Crown Vic unless the original crime involved some manner of insertion.

Be that as it may, the last paragraph kills me:

The police kept close tabs on the six different teams' arrests, an internal competition to see who could bag more wanted felons. Team Vulture beat out Team Osprey with 147 arrests to 132.

At the end of the operation, about 80 officers crowded into a large conference room and were briefed on the final results. "You prevented a lot of victims this week," Booker told them.

Law enforcement studies, he said, indicate the typical fugitive commits an average of 13 crimes while they're on the run. If that's true, more than 15,000 potential victims have been spared.

"These people can't commit crimes against other people while they're locked up," Booker said.
I'd like to invite you, the reader, to sit back and consider -- in the assumption that you, like me, are not a professional law enforcement official (or, not Police, as they say in Bodymore, Murdaland) -- the gaping Canyon of Logic that separates the reality that the original statistics describe with the Bizarro Retard Sensationalist fiction that the journalist came up with for the piece.

To wit: in the real world, a guy carrying an firearm without a permit (1) robs a liquor store (2), killing the night clerk (3) in the process. He then steals a tank full of gas (4), illegally merges back onto the highway (5), speeding (6) and crossing state lines with said illegal firearm (7). The chase, firefight in which one pursuing officer is injured (8) ends with a self-inflicted wound (9) from an illegally discharged weapon (10).

In Bizarro World, a guy exposes himself in a Wal-Mart bathroom (1) to an underage child (2). He then leaves Wal-Mart and pulls into the parking lot at Target, where he exposes himself to a series of other children (2-12) and, perhaps, shoplifts a Pokemon deck on the way out.

I fucking hate CNN.

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Top Gear US

Consider my current position on Top Gear US intrigued but slightly cautious.



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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pretty Persuasion

News and Notes, in Roughly Negative Chronological Order:

The National Car Rental "Emerald Club" Tent, Honolulu Int'l Airport: Really? The best you can do for me as an Executive Baller is a choice between a Grand Prix and a Malibu? Really? Grade: D

2007 Chevy Malibu (Rental Version): The actual retail Malibu has won all sorts of words en route to becoming the Great White Hope for GM finding its way out of this mess. Unfortunately, they continued to manufacture the Old Malibu for rental fleets. Grade: C

Sucks. I'm not kidding. Grade: C-

2007 Chevy Cobalt:
This was the first rental car I got in Honolulu, with the choice between that and the Pontiac G5. Reasoning that I liked the G5 except for its shitastic interior, and hoping that the Cobalt would improve on that score, I went for the Chevy. BZZZT!! WRONG ANSWER!!! Grade: D+

R.E.M. and Modest Mouse, United Center, Chicago, IL:
Modest Mouse was terrible. I'd like to believe that this was just due to their unfamiliarity with the arena concert-going audience, but... it was more than that. There was distinct contempt for their fans. How is Modest Mouse going to play that large a show and not play "Float On?" Are you fucking high? This was a Walkman-level performance (see archives for details).

Luckily, REM fucking delivered. I've had this discussion in meatspace with Steve at least a half dozen times -- REM is extremely underrated, and need to be in the discussion of finest bands of our era. Next time, I will spring for the good seats instead of settling for the upper rafters, parallel to the band, that still cost $45 a head. Grade: B

2007 Dodge Magnum:
Surprisingly driveable. Not offensive. I know, I was surprised as hell too. Grade: B

2007 Pontiac G5:
A lot of sportiness for a car that you could buy new for like $14K. Not my first choice, but it handled the curving highways into and around Knoxville, TN with aplomb. Grade: B

Lynyrd Skynyrd:
Forget your lust for the rich man's gold / what you need is in your soul / And you can do this, if you try / All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied. Grade: A

The Throwback Mark Grace Jersey I'm Going to Wear to the Cubs / Sox Game at Wrigley Next Weekend:
Oh man, this is going to be fucking sweet. Fuck the Sox. Grade: A+++

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Overthinking Things

Maybe its just because, with the nominations wrapped up and all, things are moving pretty slow, news-wise. But the more I think about it, this VP speculation frenzy may not mean all that much in the long run. I'm just not certain that anyone really gives a shit who the Vice Presidential nominees are. Its probably important for the first 3 weeks or so after the initial announcement, then people stop caring.

There was such a big fuss about what a great pick John Edwards was in 2004, and how he would help mobilize southern votes, but if I recall correctly, he couldn't even deliver his home state. Kerry would have been just as well off picking Dick Gephardt, someone he was personally comfortable with, instead of overthinking the whole thing. I think people don't really think about VP candidates when they are in the ballot box.

I think recent history has shown that if nominees can be elected with people like Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle on the ticket, it really doesn't matter. Political calculations shouldn't figure too much into this. Nominees should aim for a candidate who would generate a minimum of negative publicity, but also someone who is competent, relatively experienced and credible to step into the office of President at any time. Just pick someone you're personally comfortable with. Don't make too much of it. Jesus.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Real Question in the NBA

...will any short white guys who used to play in the NBA be left that aren't GMs or coaches in the NBA? We are very close to disaster.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

No way

There's no way that Obama will take Hillary as VP, is there? It would be a complete fucking disaster.