Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Confession

Regular readers will no doubt have noted that I tend to be more negative than positive here, ripping the rich, famous and politicians (who also tend to be in the first two categories – see, I can’t resist).

But, the people I rip have some things I don’t have.

They seem to have zeal, a zest, for whatever it is they are doing of which on a particular day I disapprove. That perhaps explains their energy to do. I tend not to be a doer. I react. And, it’s the easy course to react negatively, to make fun of what the doers do.

In a way, I envy the doers, but I am not one of them. It strikes me as arrogant to be so sure of “the way.” You may be shaking your head and remembering some strident posts that I’ve written, where I told you “the way” as I saw it. But remember that this is a little blog in a sea of blogs. A conceit if you will. You wouldn’t read it if it didn’t have a point of view, as muddled as my view can sometimes be. (And I suppose there are those that are no longer reading here who were driven away by my views.)

Stepping back from the issues I write about, I’d be terrified to actually have a say in, God forbid an obligation, resolving the weighty matters I write about.

So as we say on the Internet, a tip of the hat to the doers, however misguided they may be.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just how far will the Justice as baseball umpire take you?

When current Chief Justice Roberts was being questioned by Senators in his confirmation hearings a few years back, he famously likened himself to a baseball umpire, “call[ing] balls and strikes” not “pitch[ing] or bat[ting].”

At some point this week, Elena Kagan is going to be asked if she is an umpire, just there to ensure a fair game; or, will she become a player, inserting herself into the game.

The automaton umpire doesn’t exist in reality and its analogue as a Supreme Court justice doesn’t exist in real life, something Roberts, Kagan and their inquisitors in the Senate know full well.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the rule:

Rule 2.00 - The Strike Zone
The Strike Zone is defined as that area over homeplate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

Now go watch a game. Umpires have their individual “interpretations” of the rule even though it is quite precise. Throw a ball at the “letters” and you have only a small chance of getting a called strike. Most umpires use the player’s belt as the upper limit of a strike. The rule of course says otherwise, but there you are.

So Dave, just what does this have to do with Judges? I’ll tell you. Law is made at the margins. To go back to baseball, judges, especially at the appellate level, are called on to decide just where the upper, lower, left and right limits under the rule/statute/Constitution are. Judges spend little time considering pitches that are right down the middle. Think about it, if a legal issue is obvious, it usually isn’t the subject of an appeal.

Though Roberts said he would just apply the rules – regulations, statutes and the Constitution – he brings his personal baggage, good and bad, to the process. So does every other justice. So will Kagan, if she is confirmed. Both Roberts and Kagan can explain, quite elegantly, why the letter high pitch isn’t a strike. Law at the Constitutional level is mostly normative. The best we can hope for, just like batters in the box, is that they are consistent in their calls.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Different President, Different General, Same Afghanistan, Same Result

Bush started it and Obama has continued the Bush doctrine of converting Afghanistan to a western-style country.  The new General, Petreaus, is one of the architects of the strategy that the old General was implementing before he was stupid and talked to a reporter.

Remember the “we’ll be out of the country in 2011” vows?  It’s six months away.  We are adding troops.  Heard anything positive about our efforts lately, or ever?

I’m betting you won’t be hearing any warm fuzzy stuff; and, I think Obama has trapped himself in his now very own foreign folly.  By comparison, Iraq having more of the basics of modern society, is a success, though, again in my view, it won’t be in the end.

I really wish someone would tell me what the goal is and what it is that we are doing that will get us there.  Anyone?  Bueller?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Of Yachts, Baseball and Golf

We have news of the BP guy jetting off to the Isle of Wight to watch his yacht in a race around the island.

Today, I saw a piece that didn’t reference criticism, but I assume there was some, where the White House press people were defending Obama going to a baseball game Friday night with his daughters and playing golf on Saturday afternoon.

My totally objectively indefensible take is that the BP guy is stupid. With all of the bad PR BP has had, self-inflicted much of it, you don’t get onto a private jet and fly across the Atlantic to watch a yacht race, especially when you own a piece of one of the yachts.

Obama? Again, objectively, maybe he shouldn’t; but, he can’t go to a night game to watch the new amazing Nationals pitcher with his kids and then grab an afternoon hitting balls? Baseball, mom and apple pie. Golf, just a touch upper middle class.

White House PR? Probably not a good idea to have Rahm Emmanuel ripping the BP guy on the Sunday morning shows just after his boss was recreating rather than studying up on deep sea drilling and capping technology.

Friday, June 18, 2010

143.667 Hours

That’s about the major league career time of Billy Wagner.  I’m watching the Braves play the Royals, it’s the ninth inning and Billy Wagner is closing as the Braves are only two runs ahead.

The announcer just said that Wagner had something just over 1100 strikeouts in 862 innings of pitching in his career.  Allowing an average of ten minutes per inning, Wagner has pitched (breaking news, we just won, Wagner’s part taking about five minutes) just a touch over the number of hours in the title.

I’m not going to figure out his hourly rate.

Family Values

Robert Rector, a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has written a paper which reviews a number of studies with some interesting findings. Read it for yourself. (I've found the link doesn't work, I suck at them - here's the URL - http://www.blogger.com/%20http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/06/Married-Fathers-Americas-Greatest-Weapon-Against-Child-Poverty)

But, the main scientific conclusion* is that factoring out race, education and income, two parent households have kids with less problems than do kids in a one parent household. Put differently, black, white or Hispanic, high or low income, high or no education, a couple puts out a better kid than does a single parent.

Rector doesn’t talk about gay households; rather, he assumes single parent households are led by the mother (which is probably mostly the case) and that the presence of the father in the home is the catalyst for well adjusted kids not living in poverty.

If there’s a negative difference in outcome if the two resident parents are gay, it would seem to me to be the first and only valid argument against gay marriage. But, and I really like this but, if there is no difference (and I'll bet there isn't) in outcome, as one of the main purposes of marriage, according to those opposing gay marriage, is to provide stable environments for children, shouldn’t gay marriage be promoted along side traditional heterosexual marriage?

2012 Republican slogan:  The Party of Family Values, Two Parents, Straight or Gay, for Every Kid

*Being with the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Rector concludes without much evidence or analysis that the problem is caused by liberals, forgetting that the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, GHW Bush and GW Bush administrations ran the country for 28 of the last 40 years.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Momentary Right Turn From My Usual Jaundiced View

I’m too lazy to link to a news piece; but, why is everyone really, really pissed at the Government and BP about response, I stress response to, not causation of, the oil spill?

Is there someone that expects Obama or any other politician, and Hayward or any other BP exec to say they were criminally culpable causing the problem and continue to be totally incompetent in their responses to it?

From what I’ve read, BP really screwed up drilling the well.  I’ve not read anything that is overly damning about its response, nothing at all that would indicate that it was or is grossly negligent or reckless in how it is dealing with stopping the oil and dealing with the oil that is spreading.  Bad PR?  Yes, in spades.

But, it has spent billions and it’s committed to spending tens of billions going on.  Has the government made mistakes?  Yep.  BP?  Yep.  Are they doing the best they know how to do?  With some blips, I think so.

As a bit of a return to my normal liberal, commie, pinko approach to life, shouldn’t this disaster put to rest the Tea Party/Libertarian/pseudo-Reagan GOP approach to live and let live when it comes to regulating business? It seems very obvious that private industry has no incentive and no desire to do anymore than it has to in the way of safety and environmental responsibility.  So too, government, with probably inadequate regulations and woefully inadequate oversight of compliance with those regulations, has dropped the ball (the ball being dropped long before Obama came to the fore, and since fumbled on his watch).

Something I’ve said here before – people are basically cussed.  Religion is one approach to mitigation of our nature.  Government, effective government that is, is another.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Dinosaur Importunes Me

I just opened a piece of mail from Comcast and it's fitting that it used a dying means of communication to tell me about another, I thought almost dead, product it wants me to have.

I may be stepping on some of your toes with this; but, who in the world would pay $39.95 a month plus about $10.00 a month in junk fees and taxes for a home phone? A phone that you can't carry in you pocket. A phone that doesn't go with you when you leave the house. You know, like a cellphone that's also a baby computer.

Given this offer, who knows, maybe airmail is going to make a comeback.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We would never increase taxes, we're Republicans!

That’s what the Georgia Legislature said during its session earlier this year. And they didn’t, or kinda didn’t.

We in the legal business have found out about the kinda part. Filing a lawsuit used to require about an $80 fee. It’s now over $200. Want to file a motion in a pending case? Give the clerk a dollar. Want to file an appeal? Need the case record? That’ll be ten bucks a page. That one created a big howl from members of the Bar and kinda got fixed by the parties’ lawyers having to come to an agreement as to what the record “is” and if they can’t, have a hearing where the Judge decides what the record “is,” all at an hourly rate of course that will edge up towards the cost of the extortionate clerks’ fee.

Does the money go to the court? That would be a big no - it goes straight to the state government.

That’s the stuff I know about in my little corner of the state. I wonder what other “non-taxes” they’ve imposed.

So how are your states not increasing taxes?

I should wait a few minutes to get it over the century mark, boys and girls, this isn't dry heat

99 °F
Humidity: 38%
Dew Point: 69 °F
Wind: 2.3 mph from the SSW
Wind Gust: 2.3 mph
Pressure: 29.92 in (Falling)
Heat Index: 106 °F

Monday, June 14, 2010

A coming train wreck to behold

With a round of primaries over around the country, media is agog at all the Republicans poised to replace Democrats in Congress and state houses.

Laying aside social mischief, it will be interesting to watch the GOP sort out the economy at state and federal levels over the next two years if predictions are correct.

Georgia’s approach to federal love/hate is instructive. The Republican Governor, Sonny Perdue, is about to sign a budget, crafted by a Republican majority legislature, that “balances” by using money from the feds:

“In the upcoming fiscal year, the state will spend $38.5 billion, of which $12.88 billion will come from the federal government. The portion of the budget paid out of state taxes will be $17.9 billion. [The rest of the budget comes from “user fee” type revenue.]

“The percentage of the budget coming from federal taxpayers has gone from 23 percent at the beginning of fiscal 2003 to 33 percent today.”


Where’s the thirteen billion dollars coming from? The stimulus package that the GOP and Tea Party rail about and will run against in this fall’s elections. They don’t have the chutzpah to do that, do they?

“Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) called the stimulus package a ‘bogus loan program.’ When the Senate passed the fiscal 2010 budget, Rogers said, ‘While Washington, D.C., saddles us with over $1 trillion in debt, the assembly worked together and passed this budget without a single ‘pork barrel’ project.’

The budget he referred to contained $13 billion in federal funding.

‘We all know the politicians in Washington and career bureaucrats are the problem,’ Gwinnett County Republican state Rep. Clay Cox, who is running for Congress, said in a recent TV ad. ‘They spend money we don’t have, mortgaging our families’ futures.’ He vowed to ‘stop out-of-control spending and debt.’

Cox voted for the fiscal 2011 state budget with almost $13 billion in federal funding.”


Bash the free-spending liberals in Washington; but, love their money.

So, if GOP and Tea Party candidates sweep into office this fall, just what is it they are going to do? That’s the train wreck I want to watch.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Good Looking Old People

Everyone has preferences as to attractiveness.

There’s drop dead gorgeous that most of us can agree about. Some recent and current beautiful women are Paz Vega, Brooklyn Decker, ah, pick your own.

What started this post is a PBS Carole King/James Taylor concert that’s playing as I type. Both are in their sixties. Neither was ever a sex symbol. Both look as good as they ever did, with a bit more character adding to the mix.

I’ll deal with the women, you can fill in the guys if you want to.

There’s a certain classical look. Candice Bergan comes to mind. Then there’s a face that isn’t beautiful by any popular measure that’s lit up by what’s inside. Whoopie Goldberg comes to mind.

I’m always struck, and I think I’ve written here about this before, by what I call alive eyes. A lot of kids have them, and lose them as they grow older, the fire burning out. James Taylor and Carole King have alive eyes.

I want to think that an old lady I saw a couple of weeks ago has them. Why don’t I know? I was driving home, coming up on a driveway from a church doing about 45 m.p.h. When I was maybe a couple of hundred yards away, I saw a white convertible with the top down, old, probably a mid or late seventies Thunderbird – whenever Thunderbirds were boats. It edged out into the right lane that I was traveling in. I hit the brakes, this wasn’t a close encounter, as I came to a stop, the Thunderbird was already in reverse and was safely out of the road.

Here’s the part that’s pertinent. Being a city driver, I raised both arms in a mild “what the hell are you doing?” gesture. The lady driving the boat raised her arms in the same gesture and smiled at me. She was wearing a white blouse with a poofy collar and a pink floppy hat. I really don’t remember her face.

I’m betting she had alive eyes, and I’m hoping she had either a Candice Bergen or Whoopie Goldberg face. And, I want to talk to her.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Which do you click?

You’re looking for whatever, a camera, a vacation, a business location.

You type your search into the box (since I only use Google, I’ll just assume the following is approximately accurate with Yahoo, Bing and others) and you see what you are looking for in the top couple of results and in the shaded, top, paid result.

Which do you click? I go with the natural result and I’m not really sure why other than an innate sense of “why make the company pay for me when I was looking for it?” Why shouldn’t I give Google some money? By any measure, I use its free services more than I use almost any other company, paid or not, probably more than most of the other companies I use added together.

I was though tempted to serially click on the paid BP ads for “oil spill” and so on that were in the news this week. I didn’t. But, I really wanted to.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I haven’t bought gas at a Citgo station in years because Citgo is owned by a company that is owned by Argentina and what’s-his-name, Chavez who runs the place is crazy and just a touch anti-U.S.

I’ve heard radio advertisements for Citgo stressing that the stations are “locally owned.”  I wasn’t swayed.

I just read an article at AJC.com that says BP stations around town are down significantly in customers, apparently as the result of an unorganized boycott of BP.  The article stresses that the stations are not owned by BP and the employees, our neighbors, are going to be hurt.

These days, I buy gas based on low price at either QuickTrip or Sam’s Club, depending on where I am and how low the gas gauge is reading.  So, by any meaningful measurement, I’m not boycotting anyone.

But, I don’t buy the “local connection” or “think of the employees” arguments against boycotting companies.  There are lots of places I don’t patronize, for a variety of reasons, and by doing so I harm their employees a tiny little bit.

I harm the employees of Fox News each and everyday because they work for a company that I think puts out a lousy product.  I’m taking milk from the babies of E! employees because they work for a company that has a vapid product.  Starbucks employees work for a company that puts out pretty good coffee at stupid prices.  McDonalds employees also pour a pretty good cup of coffee accompanied by pretty poor food, at pretty good prices (with lousy service – sorry employees – this is meant to be an attack against companies not people).

If you work for a company and it sucks, I’m sorry, move on down the road.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

NASCAR's going to have a fit

For the couple of you that are into racing, General Motors has just re-branded its biggest line of cars. Chevy is now a cuss word, Chevrolet is what they sell:


The article points out a lot of the silliness of the move; but, it’s going to be fun hearing NASCAR announcers and drivers trip all over the change.

“So Jeff Gordon what are your thoughts about being knocked out the race so early?”

“Darrell, it’s just a gosh darn shame! The Hendricks, Dupont, Pepsi, Quaker State, GMAC, Haas, Bosch, Georgia Pacific Chevy………oh heck, the Hendricks, Dupont……”

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Aspirations of Being a Foursquare Mayor

In no particular order:  Keith, Jim, Kvatch, Ryan and Doc, blog writers I’ve read have given it up.

Debo, Pos, Hedy, Lifehiker, and Fermi write a lot less than they did.

Thomas and Curmudgeon work in spurts.  Sonja and her Mom seem to be monthly events, Sonja really quarterly.

Jeni sets the standard, cranking out post after post.

I’m somewhere in the middle, though my output and reader numbers are declining.

Vinyl, reel-to-reel, cassette, eight-track, CD, mp3, streaming.

Books, magazines, newspapers, online versions of them, blogs, Facebook, Twitter.  Is the future Foursquare and Buzz?  “I’m here, doing this, see the picture, join me if you will.”  Is Facebook the new long-form literature?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Betext and Between

So, Georgia just passed a no texting law.  That's a good idea, you just can't do it and drive.  Indeed, the competence of Metro Atlanta drivers is challenged to begin with.

You've followed someone on a road going five miles below the speed limit and using "all" of the lane, passed them and saw that they had a cellphone at their ear?  Escalate that distraction by them tapping into their phone and you have a big problem.

But I just read an article summarizing the provisions of our new law.  I'm allowed to tap numbers in to make a phone call, and the phone conversation itself with its distractions is quite legal.  And, I can use my cell phone as a "navigational device" while driving with no penalty.  Ever try to use Google Navigation, the input part, while driving?  Not a good idea.

And how's a cop supposed to know what kind of tapping you are doing?

I guess prosecutors are going to start issuing subpoenas for cellphone records for traffic citations.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

There's just no pleasing me (or, if I ruled the Internet....) With a CREEPY UPDATE

I skim Google News several times a day and have iGoogle for a homepage on my laptop. I just went to GN and they changed it all around, my settings were gone and I was invited to “personalize” the page. The page WAS personalized. I don’t want this change, I want what I had back. CREEPY UPDATE: Google took a different approach with Google News accessed from my iGoogle homepage on the laptop. It added a "Metro Atlanta" news section. I guess I'll venture into the innards and turn some stuff off. Irony: I bitched about Google News asking me to "re-personalize" my page; and, now I'm bitching about iGoogle/Google News doing it for me.

I also skim AJC.com several times a day, sometimes from my phone. The default setting is “mobile view” which is really clunky and aesthetically unpleasing; so, I reset it to go to the “real” AJC.com. It does; but, if you click away to an article and go back, it sends you to the mobile page with no way to avoid it that I can find. I want it changed.

I read Leonard Pitts on the Miami Herald website. This morning it told me I have to register to read him (registering requiring me to input fake contact information). I haven’t done it yet, we’ll see.

A lot of sites, every now and again, interpose a “quick survey” pop up. Why can’t they put something in the cookie that tells them you’ve clicked no for the seventh time and it’s unlikely that you are going to click yes in the future? (Yes, NYTimes.com, I’m talking about you, quit it!)

Every week or so, Blogger forgets who I am, even though I’ve clicked “Remember me on this Computer.” (Sitemeter.com never remembers me.) Facebook tracks you everywhere you go even though you’ve told it not to (you believe the new privacy changes are real? I’ve got a bridge….). Maybe they could trade “keeping track of” personnel.

And while I’m ranting about Blogger, and yes, I know it’s free, why does it have the worst word processing program in the Universe? One of the reasons I’ve never been interested in trying Google Docs rather than the Office suite that I use is the Blogger interface. A plea to some kind-hearted Google engineer: please spend a couple of weeks of your 20% “free time” to fix Blogger. Thank you.

And thanks to any or all above the above-mentioned companies that hear and respond to my rants.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Be careful about what you don't say

From Miranda v. The United States:

“...The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent her or him.”

Hence, the thousands of police movie and TV show scenes with the policeman reading from a little card to a suspect.

Let me repeat part of the talismanic sentence. “[H]e or she has the right to remain silent….” As of today, not quite. The Supreme Court ruled today that a suspect having been told his or her rights can’t rely on them until they verbally invoke them. Think about that one. The police office tells you don’t have to talk but you now can’t invoke your right not to talk unless you talk.

The Defendant in today’s case was interrogated for three hours, following him being read his rights, while he remained silent, occasionally responding to a question (nothing that incriminated him) until he slipped up and gave an incriminating answer to a question.

This is wrong on a number of levels. There’s obviously the fact that it throws Miranda and its following cases in the gutter. But, it also completely reverses centuries of law on waiver and consent. You have rights until you affirmatively waive them or consent to something that contravenes your rights. Silence isn’t waiver nor is it consent. Except now it is.

I know too much legalistic jargon; but, this just pisses me off.