Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
I think I can understand the court's reluctance here, but the argument on the other side is that now that we know how valuable DNA testing can be, it's time to consider such testing part of "due process," which has never been an evolving concept as technology has increased, and the constitution guarantees due process. It wouldn't have been that much of a stretch. The government is rushing to collect DNA from as many people as possible, including in some states people arrested but never charged. It's virtually a standard part of the criminal justice process already. Yet the court shrinks from letting a convict (OK, he was already out on the rape and murder charge and had committed another crime, so he wasn't too sympathetic a character, but the court is supposed abjure sympathy) order and pay for his own test and mandate that the state provide the material with DNA.
This Register editorial, I think, deals with the issue fairly but comes down on the side of as wide a use of DNA as practical in the criminal justice system.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
If the police charged with enforcing the law misunderstand it so profoundly, we've got a lot of educating to do. I'll work a bit on my book tonight too. Thought the one I already wrote dealt with all these issues years ago.
I suspect I still have, in a cupboard somewhere, the version of this piece I had on vinyl, acquired probably in the mid-60s, with the Budapest String Quartet, but I haven't listened to it in years. (Besides, my favorite was the 9th.) But I did recognize parts of the original in this version. Four instruments make for a much lighter sound (although Beethoven worked the lower register of the cello profitably to enhance sonority in the quartet). This richer version might not be for everybody who knows the original, but I like it. Perahia also plays the Piano Sonata No. 28 (A Major, Op. 101) in a new revision he did. The man knows how to tickle the ivories soulfully!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Anyway, yesterday we had a little party to wish her well in her next adventure in life. She's been hired by the Wall Street Journal editorial page to be (I'm pretty sure this is right) an assistant OpinionJournal.com editor. So it's off to New York City Sunday for her. We had cake from Zov's and wished her well. I hope she has a great time and takes the place by storm.
Given our new connection to the WSJ (see next post) I compared and thought our editorial did a much better job than theirs did of explaining the hideousness of the bill. You decide.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
These seven were charged with aiding a terrorist organization in 2001 and the government stayed after them despite twists and turns until now they face the possibility of 20 years in the pen -- they hope to win on appeal. Anyway, my phone message system was full of effusive thanks from people with Iranian names caling me an avatar of truth and integrity, a rare beacon of light in a dim journalistic landscape and so on. A few more called during the day today. That love might last a week.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
What he has introduced is a Medical Marijuana Patients Protection Act, which would change federal law to make it clear that patients in states with medical marijuana laws were also not violating federal law --and move to marijuana to Schedule II, which might be de facto national medicalization. A good proposal but not legalization. I'll pass on what else I learn Monday.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
But the Obama proposal is fairly typical of government, where nothing succeeds like failure. Has a government agency with a mission made a little progress toward fulfilling it? Give it more money and power as a reward and incentive to finish the job (sometime in the next milennium). Has it failed utterly? Obviously it needs more money and power (see war on drugs). Of the two rationales, failure is the more effective and the more often used.
In a sane world the Fed would be seen as an inherently destabilizing institution with a buiilt-in bias for creating inflation (when I was in high school a candy bar that costs 75 cents now was a nickel) and abolished forthwith. In Washingtonworld is creates a crisis and is rewarded with more power, the true currency in the Imperial City.
Why does this have to decided by the EU and made a decree, the defiance of which becomes a crime?
I love wine and I think I understand the traditionalists. Proper Rose is made by allowing the grape skins to be in the juice for just a precise, brief moment or two of time, then letting the fermentation process proceed. Blending an acceptable whjite with an acceptable red is cheaper, but it doesn't produce the same clarity, the same delicate color. The EU agricultural poohbahs had been ready to permit it so the cheaper product could be marketed so as to compete with down-market roses from Australia and South Africa.
Since the Europeans have such long traditions about how wines can be named, what would have been wrong with creating a category labeled honestly as something like "blended Rose." But mainly, why does the EU have to make the decision for all of Europe. Couldn't cooperatives or associations have handled the problem. Or is the French disease so advanced that the folks think you can only settle things by having the State, or a Megastate, decide?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
There are links to helpful sites with constant updates, reflections on Twitter, and an acknowledgment that we know less about the situation than we probably think we do, with links to various interpretations.
I also worked on my Sunday Commentary cover piece, which laments the plight of seven Iranian-Americans facing prison terms for donating to the Mujahedin-e Khalq Iranian resistance movement, which has absurdly been designated a terroriast organization by the U.S. State Dept.
I would like to hope that this is a pre-revolutionary moment, but it's worth remembering that more often than not revolutions bring in regimes that are in some ways worse than those they replaced.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Now we have figures released by the U.S. Customs and Border Control reporting that nabbing of illegals, generally an indicator of the larger phenomenon of illegal immigration, was down 17% in 2008, to the lowest level in 36 years. The attribute it to better technology and more people (hmm, wouldn't that lead to more arrests?), but grudgingly acknowledge the recession as a contributory factor. Trust me,. it's the biggest factor. I'm sure the figure for 2009 will be lower yet.
Too many imponderables and unknowns for me, but what is happening now has the feel of a sustained pre-revolutionary period, with the people testing out their strength. Here's a post from the Register's Orange Punch blog suggesting Obama's approach isn't bad, with some updates and links to analysis. They haven't brought the Revolutionary Guards out yet and they're probably hoping they won't have to. But the ability of the protesters to sustain the movement -- though with 17% admitted unemployment and realistically probably higher -- plenty of people have time on their hands -- is genuinely impressive. A lot of pent-up resentment there.
Here's the Register's response to Obama's speech to the AMA on Monday. It points out that the rising cost of health care in the U.S. has proceeded in lockstep with increasing government involvement, beginning with Medicare in the 1960s (when health care accounted for 5% of GDP, not 16-18%).
Politically I don't think it's exactly a slam-dunk for Obama either.
Monday, June 15, 2009
As I noted in this post over at the Register's Orange Juice blog, the MSM (at least broadcast) were mostly terrible in their coverage over the weekend. The regime in Iran, a country of reasonably serious interest to the U.S., is undergoing what may be an existential crisis and Carrie Prejean gets more airtime. The blogosphere (see links in the post) did a much better job, with special kudos to Andrew Sullivan.
I do think these things run in cycles, however, and the market (or people in companies making decisions through a market process) is even now correcting some of the excesses. As this Register editorial notes, average CEO compensation fell 25% between 2007 and 2008. It's probably the only comment on the current situation that notes the Adolf Berle pegged part of the problem in the 1930s, noting that managers at publicly-held companies have incentives to operate in their own interests rather than the interests of shareholders. The former chairman of Avis, Robert Townsend, Mr. "We Try Harder," author of "Up the Organization," nailed it about 40 years ago.
None of this means I'm remotely sympathetic to government efforts to control executive compensation. The government certainly has the power at companies that have taken bailouts. Otherwise, the only thing worse than boards stacked with CEO cronies setting CEO pay would be having the government set it.
I don't think Obama is a socialist; he's not a systematic enough thinker for that. He's more like a European-style social democrat with a deep distrust of ecopnomic freedom (people might misuse it!) and inordinate faith in government to get it right.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Mousavi has suggested his battle for an honest election might include taking to the streets. Stratfor.com is concerned enough that it has put out a Red Alert suggesting that serious civil unrest is possible. I have no inside information -- didn't even have a chance to call Iran experts Friday -- but I'll be checking the news pretty often this weekend.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Good news. San Francisco state Sen. Mark Leno, who's been pretty good on marijuana issues, introduced a resolution asking the federal government formally to end marijuana dispensary raids. Eric Holder has said there won't be more, but he hasn't issued a formal guideline yet. And in Michigan, the owner of a hydroponics store who is offering free instruction in medical marijuana growing says with the demise of the auto industry Michigan needs a new identity and medical marijuana would be a good choice. It would sure beat those lame commercials the state runs now with that washed-up actor (is it Jeff Daniels?) lying about what a friendly business environment Michigan has.
Stratfor.com also tries to puzzle through what it views as a major change in U.S. policy -- actually pushing Israel on West Bank settlements rather then the empty formal criticisms previous administrations have made. It thinks it will somehow enhance Obama's ability to deal with Muslim countries no matter how it turns out, but I find myself still puzzled about just what sort of concrete gains Obama thinks he will reap. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a little hubris of the sort that develops when people have an inflated sense of their own capacities and very little knowledge of the situation they're getting themselves into in operation there
I put a post on the Register's blog the other day suggesting that Cheney et. al. should be calling for the torture of the abortion doc killer since he had made some sort of a comment about how people were going to rise up, and maybe this was an imminent-danger situation in which we ought to torture him to find out if he has co-conspirators out there with nasty plans. It was mostly tongue-in-cheek, though it sought to make a point about torture advocate hypocrites. But there's another point to be made about possible conspiracy.
I wouldn't be surprised to see more right-wing violence with Obama in office. After all, a number of ostensibly respectable (or at least in-the-public-eye) commentators have been making a living playing to the lowest common denominator of populist ignorance and resentment, painting him as the devil incarnate leading us down tha path to socialism, and there are plenty of haters in this country. I wouldn't indict them or censor them, but I do sort of wish they would shut up. Though there are haters who don't need stirring up.
Political violence in this media-saturated age is often spread more by contagion than by outright conspiracy -- and the media are oftenb unwitting (or not) accomplices by publicizing the crazies so extensively. It's a Catch-22. You can't avoid covering a shooting or murder story, but what is the point at which overcoverage leads to imitation.
When I wrote "Ambush at Ruby Ridge" I had some fairly extensive contact with the militia movement in the Northwest in the mid-1990s. Some were just patriots (though a bit twisted) concerned about the country but some were pretty scary. Notice that the movement pretty much disappeared after the Oklahoma City bombing, as the bulk of people figured, in essence, sure it's fun to talk tough about the Zionist Occupation Government and being prepared to resist, but that's not really what we had in mind. With a Democrat in the White House (though the Weaver situation happened under Bush I) we'll see more right-wing crazies. Wish I had an answer. Suggestions welcome
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
The notion that deepening government involvement will lead to saving money, as the administration and its lackeys keep trying to make us believe (and maybe to convince themselves) is chimerical. But they seem determined and savvy, and resistanbce is less at this point than in 1993. I think Mike Cannon at Cato is doing some of the best work being done on health care issues, including this paper just released delineating the failures of the Massachusettsmodel, and a steady rain of articles and blog posts. If reasoned argument cold do it more nationalized health care would be dead in the water. I suspect if the administration falters, however, it will be due to divisions in the Democratic party rather than reasoned argument.
Here's a review of the NSO's first concert on the tour, in Macau.
Of course classical music in both countries is a symbol of wealth. If the current recession gets worse -- and considering the hair-of-the-dog approach the administration has taken that seems likely-- it will be interesting to see if classical music suffers seriously or has the resiliency to make it through hard times.
Monday, June 08, 2009
Since reviewing books is a small part of the writing I do, I seldom review books in order to pan them. I enjoy reading reviews that are pans and have decided on the basis of some that I'd just as soon no spend my time on that particular book, so they serve a purpose (though I have decided the same thing on the basis of raves too). If I did a book review every day or even every week I would probably slip in a few I hated to warn readers away from them, and to have a little fun. But since I do fewer -- maybe 15-20 reviews a year -- I prefer to use that opportunity to introduce readers to books I think are genuinely worthwhile. So it's not that I'm uncritical, or that I don't read books that don't especially impress me. I just usually don't write about them.
This is an interesting irony. Although I would make a case that what we call classical music is universal in appeal, it is (despite some signal contributions from elsewhere) quintessentially a Western European art form. But it went global long ago, and it sometimes seems as if Asians respond to it with more skill and artistry than almost anybody else (especially if you include Asian-Americans). Apparently Asian parents are more inclined to pressure children into learning to play traditional classical instruments. Among prominent virtuosi, think of Yo Yo Ma, Midori, Sarah Chang, Lang Lang, Young-Dae Park and others. I have CDs played by symphony orchestras from Shanghai, Taipei, Seoul and Singapore, and all are excellent technically and artistically.
Friday, June 05, 2009
The White House has attempted to finesse Sonia Sotormayor’s 32 words about a “wise Latina woman” etc. etc. by saying she would probably have chosen different words if she had a chance at a redo. But the release by the White House of a collection of her speeches and opinions (and her 173-page completed questionnaire) suggests that this wasn’t a case of careless use of words one time, but part of a fairly standard stump speech that she used a number of times between 1994 and 2001 and beyond. John Dickinson at Slate, hardly a right-wing crazy, thinks the White House may have misfired by suggesting that Republicans didn’t complain about a similar phrase (without the “Latina”) in a 1994 speech when she was up for the 2nd Circuit job, so why are they whining now? But the fact that she seems to have had that opinion for many years and expressed it in public may be a bigger problem in the confirmation hearings.
Looking at the speeches also suggests a keen awareness on Judge Sotormayor’s part of her ethnic background and how it sometimes made her feel like a “stranger in a strange land” (beginning at Princeton in the 1980s, which wouldn’t be a surprise) even as she was rising to the top of her profession. “The Latina in me is an ember that will burn forever,” she told Hofstra students in 1996. Her awareness seems coupled with a determination to be a good role model and urge other Hispanics to apply themselves seriously to advancement.
In my view, none of this makes her a “racist” as Rush Limbaugh wants to insist, nor does it disqualify her for confirmation. Her record in discrimination cases also suggests that she wasn’t automatically sympathetic to claims of discrimination. Still, I regret (though I think I understand) the gender/ethnic tribalism in which she chose to participate.
I still think the talk-radio mob — recognizing that the medium thrives on controversy and outrage even if it has to be self-manufactured — made a big mistake by attacking her so relentlessly. She’s going to be confirmed anyway and she won’t affect the balance on the court (she might even be more conservative than Souter on some criminal-justice issues, arising from her experience as a prosecutor). While acquiescing in her inevitability, Senate Republicans could have presented themselves as thoughtful critics of her approach to judging without emphasizing her gender or ethnic background. But it’s probably too late for that now.
To be sure, Obama has taken over entire industries, in ways that do not bode well for a successful return to the private sector, and put in place an immense amount of deficit spending. But I suspect he will prove to be more disappointing thasn advertised to the hard left and less utterly disastrous than feared to the right.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
I was impressed from the beginning with the businesslike sense of mission the Lakers showed from the outset. Kobe was the key, of course, and took the game into his own hands in a sterling 3rd quarter. But everybody came to play and to win. I have been impressed with Stan Van Gundy during these playoffs and I think he'll be able to make some adjustments and have his team ready to be competitive Sunday. But tonight it was all Lakers.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I think the key will be how well Andrew Bynum can defend Dwight Howard. If he can keep him farther from the paint, make him change shots and the like, I( think the Lakers will come through pretty handily. In six. I think.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
The administration says it just wants to nurture GM back to profitability, but as I also pointed out yesterday, decisions will inevitably be politicized in ways that undermine much hope of profitability. Ah, what wonders there are in this Brave New World.
The court action had asked Iowa to legalize medicinal marijuana because 13 other states had done so. One board member even recalled the old chestnut everybody claims to remember about their teenage years, claiming she asked her father as a teenager about staying out late because all the other kids were allowed to and being asked, "If your friends jumped off a bridge would that mean you had to jump off a bridge?" I'll leave it to you to suss out the kind of mind that would come up with such an inapt analogy, starting with the idea that these bureaucrats view free American adults as adolescents who can be allowed to do only what our in loco parentis types (loco parents?) -- them -- allow us to do.
But the news wasn't all negative. A proposal to legalize medical marijuana squeaked through the Illinois state senate; it gos to the House next. The state senate in New Jersey has passed a medical marijuana bill and it goes before an Assembly committee Thursday, after which presumably the full Assembly can vote on it. It may seem slow but progress is being made.
Monday, June 01, 2009
It is difficult to believe that the use of torture got anything very useful or saved lives. As this Stratfor piece explains, the only real rationale for torture (except perhaps for purposes of humiliation or punishment or sadism) is the ticking-time-bomb hypothesis everybody invokes but has never happened in real life. What the U.S. needed after 9/11 was basic information about al-Qaida, which it was sorely lacking (and the Bushies ignored the people like Michael Shcheuer who did know something), not operational stuff (which changes almost immediately in a reasonably competent organization once they know somebody with certain info has been captured). They got some with conventional interrogation techniques and would undoubtedly have gotten more if they hadn't turned to torture. Not only a moral outrage but a strategic mistake.
It isn't just the big three, but the parts-makers that supply them that are hurting, and many are in the Midwest where Obama and other Democrats will want to keep noisy interest groups happy. Some in Congress will see government ownership of GM as a jobs program; others will see it as an opportunity to make sure GM makes the cutest little fuel-sipping (switchgrass of course), green and eco-friendly cars imaginable, imagining it will have an impact on climate change. Neither is the path to profitability unless gas price go through the roof again soon.
Sorry, GM. You brought it on yourself, but it's still sad. Check my prophecy in a couple of years.