Thursday, November 17, 2005

Coming Next Week: A Respite from the Exile

   I am heading home next Tuesday to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in Michigan and, for the first time since moving here, The Lady Exile and I are driving the 700 mile route.

   Two countries, three states, twelve hours.

   In planning for this trip, I've learned a lot along the way.

  • Canada allows each person to bring up to 8.5 liters of beer into the country duty free. We should be able to take some local refreshments home without incident. That is, we will as long as we remember our reciept proving we bought said refreshments in Boston.

  • In order to take a rental car into Canada, you have to have special paperwork from the rental company.

  • Unlike when I left Detroit, Americans are now supposed to carry copies of their birth certificates in addition to driver licences in order to get into Canada. (Now, I just need to find mine.)

  • If we leave immediately after work, we can be in Detroit in time to greet our parents when they wake up.

  • I get a sweet discount on the rental with my ABA membership.

  • Gas prices have dropped substantially recently. (When you don't own -- or even usually need -- a car, you don't follow gas prices as closely as you used to.)

   We arrive in Michigan on Wednesday morning, enjoy a few days at home, and start the return trip on Saturday. My parents fly into town Saturday; we arrive Sunday morning; and I get sworn in on Monday.

   Suffice to say, blogging will be light starting next Tuesday through the weekend.

Will in today's WaPo

   A single sentence [in red boldface below] in George Will's column is, by itself, worth the price of admission:

The storm-tossed and rudderless Republican Party should particularly ponder the vote last week in Dover, Pa., where all eight members of the school board seeking reelection were defeated. This expressed the community's wholesome exasperation with the board's campaign to insinuate religion, in the guise of "intelligent design" theory, into high school biology classes, beginning with a required proclamation that evolution "is not a fact."

But it is. And President Bush's straddle on that subject -- "both sides" should be taught -- although intended to be anodyne, probably was inflammatory, emboldening social conservatives. Dover's insurrection occurred as Kansas's Board of Education, which is controlled by the kind of conservatives who make conservatism repulsive to temperate people, voted 6 to 4 to redefine science. The board, opening the way for teaching the supernatural, deleted from the definition of science these words: "a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena."

I really can't add anything to that. Certainly not at this early hour.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

CIA: Castro has Parkinson's


   After all, didn't Pope John Paul II run a world-wide church for about ten years before he ultimately passed?

   The mere suggestion that Castro's end is near is purely speculative. Barring the onset of sudden, acute illness, Cuba is unfortunately stuck with him for the foreseeable future. (And, of far lesser importance, so are we.)

Literary Crushes?

Tinkerty Tonk points us to this piece at Salon, which asked prominient talking heads and others which book had been most influential to them.

For me, I think it was Locke's Second Treatise on Government, closely followed by Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws. These two books were among those that influenced the Framers' view of how government should function, and they were influential to my understanding of politics, laying the groundwork for my own political beliefs. I remember that I absolutely devoured them in college, something that did not often happen given how dry most political theory and academic history writing is.

Now, dear readers, I ask you: Which book has had the most influence on you, and why? Feel free to respond in comments, either in full or with a link to your own blog.

Rich Bloggy Goodness

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles!

Looks like there is a lot of good stuff this week.

MIT: We bring scary stuff to life!

   And cool stuff, too, like this $100 laptop.

A prototype of this computer will be unveiled Wednesday at a U.N. conference in Tunisia. Its designers concede that the prototype is still missing some crucial features, such as a cheap display screen and a hand crank that would provide power.

But high expectations are already standard.

"It will change . . . the way children everywhere think about themselves in relation to the world," said Seymour Papert, a professor emeritus of education and media technology at MIT, believing that the result may be less violence and dissension as kids plug into education and international culture.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Borat: Slanderer?

   The Kazakh Foreign Ministry is not at all happy with British comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays Borat, a Kazakh television journalist.

"We do not rule out that Mr. Cohen is serving someone's political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way," Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev told a news briefing.

"We reserve the right to any legal action to prevent new pranks of the kind." He declined to elaborate.

Of course, there must be a chance that he is working at the behest of Tony Blair, what with there being a British-Kazakh Cold War and all.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Tree-hugging Propaganda

   Whoever did this study purporting to show that New England winters are getting warmer didn't take into account the last couple of years.

Warmer? I wish I had known that during the stretch last winter when we spent over 30 consecutive days without edging about the freezing mark. Or the day when I woke up to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-45 degrees wind chill for the curious northerners in the audience), and was half tempted to get dressed so I could go outside for a minute to see what it felt like. (You can have crazy ideas when you wake-up in a closet studio apartment at 6 a.m.)

Rainier? I wish I had known that when we had about four feet dumped on us in one weekend last year. Or the three feet we got during a nor'easter the year before.

Yes. I now feel much better about winters here.

Linked to Don Surber.

Oh, of course he is...

   Michael Newdow is planning to sue to remove "In God We Trust" from American currency. I can't wait to read this complaint. I so enjoy reading his work.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

RINO Sightings

   This week's edition of RINO Sightings is up at The Strata-Sphere.

Thanks to A.J. for hosting. Check it out.

Jesse Jackson defends T.O., admits irrelevance

   I've seen instances of media-whoring, but this is a new low for even Jesse Jackson. Apparently, maladjusted oppressed millionaires need his help, too.

   A note to Rev. Jackson: You are not Dr. King. You never will be. Accept it.

New Kid in the Neighborhood

   I have been completely remiss in welcoming frequent commenter Kathy to the neighborhood with her new blog, Stone Soup Musings.

   Kathy offers an honest, progressive, Christian perspective on the news of the day. Her point-of-view is always welcome here and elsewhere, and it's nice to see that she has finally relented and decided to share her thoughts with us -- on her own terms.

Will: Three Samples of Sam Alito

   George Will has a characteristicly clever selection of three cases in which Samuel Alito authored the opinion, concluding that he would be a vote against campaign finance laws like McCain-Feingold.

   My favorite synopsis: citing Alito's refusal to recognize a cause of action for an Atlantic City gambler who claimed that the casino was liable for his losses because it provided alcohol:

Writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Alito noted that New Jersey courts have not made servers of alcohol liable beyond injuries resulting from drunken driving or accidents or brawls in a bar. He said that although the state's regulation of casinos is "intense," there was no evidence of a legislative intent to make casinos liable for giving alcohol to gamblers. Alito agreed with a lower court's holding that extending such liability into an area "so fully regulated" would not be a "predictable extension of common law tort principles."

Alito also cited the lower court's opinion that making casinos liable for losses incurred by drunken gamblers "could present almost metaphysical problems of proximate causation, since sober gamblers can play well yet lose big, intoxicated gamblers can still win big, and under the prevailing rules and house odds, 'the house will win and the gamblers will lose' anyway in the typical transaction."

Score one for the principle that courts should not improvise social policy, particularly in areas where legislatures have made detailed pronouncements.

Score one, indeed.

Talking Points

   I hate them.

   Talking points are a symptom (or perhaps a cause) of the dumbing down of American politics.

   Have you ever enountered one that actually contributed something to the debate? I haven't.

   Little points on a checklist of items to get on the record of the Sunday morning talk shows, they are almost never reponsive to the question posed. They never actually engage the other side of the debate. The "what" is deemed as a perfectly adequate to the question, "why?"

   The "why?" never seems come out in any great depth.

   I had dinner last night with a friend from law school, one with decidedly different political leanings from my own. She suggested that she was displeased with the Alito nomination. I asked, "why?"

   "He was the sole dissenting vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey."

   Having heard this single sentence only about a hundred times before from as many different sources, I fired back, "It was a three judge panel; if he'd had one more vote, his opinion would have been the majority." If you want to take issue with his dissent, that's fine by me (and I am actually excited to engage that topic), but casting a dissenting vote on a three-judge panel does not ipso facto render someone an outcast from the judicial mainstream, no matter how many times the opposing interest groups hammer that point to suggest otherwise.

   "Well, he'll overturn Roe v. Wade."

   "That requires an assumption that he would do so. You can no more assume that he will overturn it than I can assume that he won't."

   At this point, the conversation trailed off in another direction. I think she had not quite counted on such quick challenges.

   Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that my friend did not believe these things -- I firmly believe that she does -- and I am not suggesting that my friend is politically disengaged (she is one of the most politically active people I know) -- but I was not getting the "why" I had originally asked for.

   Ninth grade Honors English: A one-sentence answer -- to say nothing of the one-word response typical of thirteen-year-olds -- is nearly always inadequate. That I used to think my teacher was diabolical would overrate the Devil's power. But, that man, who died far too young, taught me a great deal about how to express myself.

   Suffice to say, conservatives are guilty of this, too. If I do read materials I receive from the RNC, I do little more than skim them. I've always been that way. More often, I simply delete them.

   I don't need to be reinforced in my beliefs by bullet points. I usually find them overly simplistic anyway. That, or my similar conclusion arrives via differing (and, to my mind, sounder) logic.

   I guess that's why I took to blogging. Thinking people of all different persuasions offering and developing ideas. There are some parrots out there who toe the party line, but I don't bother reading those.

   Give me the ideas of someone who is truly grappling with issues, not just feigning difficulty because it is politically expedient. Give me those of someone not afraid to be critical of those in his own fold.

   Regardless of ideology, he (or she) is my kindred spirit.

Linked to Don Surber, Stuck on Stupid, bRight & Early, and Wizbang!