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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Good Cop, Bad Cop

I am relieved to see Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, for the same reasons I would have been happier to see her as Commander in Chief. The lady is tough, and is probably perceived as such by those who have little reason to assume the same of our President-Elect.

As my husband, the Hoosier Gadfly, said in an email to a friend: "[H]aving a gimlet-eyed sociopath to intimidate one's adversaries is a big asset. She really is something out of a Nietzchean nightmare - the abyss that gazes back at you." He is looking forward to seeing her effect on Putin.

I also suspect that Obama wants her handy for good cop/bad cop routines. "Respond favorably to my warm smile, or the next meeting will be with Medusa here...."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Unintended Consequences Dept. -- Rebuttal of Victim Impact Videos

I've been reading about the U.S. Supreme Court's recent refusal to hear two challenges to victim impact videos, played for juries in the penalty phase of (usually) murder trials. It strikes me that this will, sooner or later, spawn an unforeseen and very messy response.

The relevance of such videos, presumably, is to show the jury what the family and the community have lost due to the defendant's actions. If I were a defense attorney in (especially) death penalty cases, I would consider it my duty to attempt some rebuttal of this evidence. Enter the private investigator, tasked with finding out whether (fictional example!) the young woman feeding the stray puppy in the video had had a neglected attack dog chained up behind her house, or had been spreading STD's, or was fired from a day care for molesting toddlers, or . . . .

I don't see how one can legally justify admitting the favorable video and excluding the nastier evidence. Of course, with some jurors, this approach could backfire big-time. It'd take a masterful defense attorney to pull it off.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

McCain is a mensch; Obama, maybe not

I wish it weren't so late, and I weren't so tired, and could find and link to all the right examples.

John McCain is one of the few people, of all those who've known and worked with former Senator Udall, who visits him regularly in the veteran's hospital.

Obama's impoverished relatives don't appear to have benefited much from his fame and fortune.

Flaws notwithstanding, my bet is that John McCain is a mensch. My jury's still out on Obama.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Has Palin caught Thompson-itis?

I've been somewhat disturbed by the percentage of empty platitudes and generalities in Palin's recent interviews. I just realized what it reminds me of. Fred Thompson had his own, vigorous voice -- before he became a candidate. Then, suddenly, it was all mail-in politician-speak. Is the same thing happening to Palin? Say it ain't so....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Housing vs. Travel Per Diem

The Washington Post finally scored a point or two against Gov. Palin with its per diem story. It appears plenty of people now believe that Palin charged the state for hotel-type expenses while staying in her home in Wasila (and commuting to Anchorage or Juneau).

WaPo sure didn't try to make clear that Palin didn't take a housing per diem for this time -- just the travel-expenses portion of the per diem. The expense reports show this -- the portion for hotel/housing expense is left blank.

One could get into an interesting discussion about whether it cost the state more for her to commute from Wasila or to stay at the mansion in Juneau, plus what she gained in effectiveness by staying in Wasila -- plus how much latitude a mother in a high-profile position should have to make things easier for herself and her family, while overall spending a lot less than her predecessor. That discussion won't happen while most of those not obsessed with politics have the impression that she sought hotel-type expenses for living at home. The latter would seriously undercut her “reformer” credentials -- the truth, perhaps not so much.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gov. Palin's experience

I thought of it first, I bleat.... One of Instapundit's readers notes Alaska's proximity to the former USSR and calls it "two years of foreign policy experience". I've been talking about this since my husband and I started tossing Gov. Palin's name around. Any governor of Alaska who's good at her job would keep a close eye on what's happening in Russia and surrounding countries -- and Palin is reportedly good at her job. A related point (not yet scooped...) -- a competent governor of a state to whom oil is so important would keep up with what's happening in oil-producing states -- which would entail a fair amount of awareness of developments re Islamic extremism.

So Palin may add some real foreign policy expertise (if not exactly "experience") to her executive experience, toughness, reformer credentials, etc.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It Just Don't Look Right

I watched the Democratic Convention roll call, on and off. Since Hillary had released her delegates, the numbers were far more lopsided in Obama's favor than they would have been had they reflected the actual primary/caucus votes. Then, of course, Hillary moved for Obama's selection by acclamation.

I assume this was all negotiated and considered. I assume Obama and staff thought this would be a helpful way for things to go. But I have my doubts. Though I didn't support either candidate, I watched those accumulating numbers and felt that this drastic understatement of Hillary's real support was somehow disrespectful -- of her and of those who voted for her. It looked like a distortion and even, in some sense, a humiliation. Numbers like that belonged to a race between an overwhelming favorite and a pathetic also-ran with delusions of seriousness. If I were a Hillary supporter having trouble swallowing the current situation, those numbers would REALLY tick me off. And Hillary's being a team player, good sport, etc. would make me angrier, not more reconciled.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Mazel tov!

A red-letter day, a personal and family triumph -- daughter Alissa tried and enjoyed a bagel with lox and cream cheese.

Alissa is quite fond of salmon, but had the notion that she didn't like lox, aka smoked salmon. (Feel free to enlighten me on when smoked salmon is and isn't technically lox.) I am not very picky about my lox, and she may have previously tried a worse-than-average sample of the cheap stuff with which I usually content myself. Paul, with craft and persuasion, managed to get her to try the expensive variety he likes. One small taste, and she admitted with only slight sheepishness that she liked it too. The two of them dined on toasted bagel, cream cheese and lox.

Paul was triumphant that one of his daughters, at least (the other is a vegetarian), would eat this Jewish staple henceforth. I find this somewhat endearing and amusing, given that he's a blond (now gray-blond) Texan ex-Methodist, Jewish by conversion only (via a particularly tolerant rabbi who somehow overlooked agnosticism verging on atheism).

I am also pleased. Tradi-tion!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

McCain campaign needs to tell stories like this

When voters get bored with hearing in general terms about McCain's captivity and fortitude in North Vietnam, they need to hear stories like this (from the Wall Street Journal via Powerline):

"[Colonel Bud Day, a Medal of Honor recipient and America's most highly decorated veteran, shared a cell for some time with McCain.] Day escaped his original detention in North Vietnam, but was recaptured. Upon recapture, the North Vietnamese conveyed a harsh message:
'When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."
'The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.
'But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complimented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.' "

The Wall Street Journal article has other stories as well, including how Cindy McCain brought a dying orphan from Bangladesh to the U.S. for medical treatment and the McCains adopted her.

If the McCain campaign can't find a way to tell stories like these effectively, 527's had better get on the stick!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Su-per Senator passes laws solo!

Not once, but twice! Both of Obama's general election ads have trumpted that he "passed laws" doing thus-and-so. As has been noted elsewhere, no one legislator can pass a law. But since Obama is supposed to be the harbinger of a new kind of politics, maybe Yes He Can....

(I also read an article somewhere claiming that he didn't end up supporting one or more of the laws on which his claims (in the first ad) were based -- but other articles, such as the post I just linked to, seem to disagree.)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Let Uncommitted be Uncommitted

One thing should be easy about the overall-difficult issue of the Florida and Michigan delegates. At whatever strength the Michigan delegates are seated, the proportion derived from the vote for "uncommitted" should get to be -- gee -- uncommitted! That's what people voted for. Like superdelegates, the delegates in the uncommitted group could wait until the convention to announce their preferences, or could let people know (in a nonbinding way) ahead of time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

armchair sociology

I had occasion to see some interesting social patterns in action a couple of weeks ago. (And if I were close to diligent about blogging, I'd have mentioned it then.)

Joshua Bell, world-famous classical violinist, hails from Bloomington, IN, and was gracious enough to give a free concert here last weekend, with a pianist friend of his, Jeremy Denk. Tickets were available as of 11 a.m. on a weekday morning. The line started forming around 8:40 a.m. (I know because an acquaintance of mine was first in line). I arrived around 10:40 a.m. and found a line of people waiting in the cold -- a line that looked surprisingly short, until I saw that most of it was inside the building. The line snaked back and forth through the lobby. The loops were crowded so close together that it was sometimes difficult to keep track of which was which, especially since people kept stepping across to chat with each other. And yet no one, so far as I could see, made any attempt to jump the queue. Nor was there any impatience evident, although those of us in my part of the line ended up waiting for two hours. The line etiquette/ethos may have been bolstered by the presence of auditorium staff, giving occasional updates and reassurances, discreetly keeping an eye on things. And of course, it was reasonably clear what we were supposed to do and where we were supposed to go.

On to the nearby parking garage -- and a very different scene. Cars converged from several directions on the narrow exit. The line of cars with the clearest shot did not, most of the time, take turns with those coming from the side. It took ingenuity and/or recklessness to get one's car out of a spot in the first place, and then to get the heck out. (I had to create a new lane of traffic -- yes, there was room -- in order to get out of my spot, and then play chicken with a driver in the favorably positioned lane.)

And of course, these were pretty much all the same people who'd been following the rules so nicely in the line at the auditorium.

One main difference was that there were rules apparent in the auditorium. Another was the presence of those who might enforce those rules. And finally, as my husband pointed out: people are different in cars.

Snow and the ebbing of the American spirit

Apparently some of the local schools no longer let kids play in the snow at recess. I find that appalling enough. But what's really dispiriting is the collection of letters that were in the paper the other day. It appears that some 6th grade class was given the assignment of writing letters to the editor re whether they approved or disapproved of the no-play policy. (Here's the link, but I don't think it'll work for anyone who doesn't subscribe to the Bloomington Herald-Times.) Given how much the letters resembled each other, the kids may have had a list of pros and cons to choose from. What really makes me wonder where America went and how long it's been gone is that 9 out of 16 kids thought they should not be allowed to play in the snow at recess. Reasons:
--Kids could get wet and cold. (Example: "Just imagine every kid cold and wet from playing in the snow and how fast kids would get sick.") And they might not have snow gear.
--Kids could get hurt. Someone could put a rock in a snowball.
--Whatever will the teachers do with the wet outerwear?...

Risk is the only thing to consider. Any risk is too much. The way to handle the risk of inappropriate behavior is to ban all related activity. Any difficulty is too much to handle.

Is there ANY way to turn this around?!!??...

Woman, the tool-using animal

We had ice raining down the other night, covering pretty much everything. (My daughter described this in, I think, quite amusing terms on her live journal.) One temporary casualty was the flag on our mail box: frozen in the down ("nothing here, guys!") position. So I took a screwdriver out there and chipped away the ice. Presto, functional mailbox flag!

It doesn't take much in the way of technical achievement to make me feel proud of myself....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thompson Blogburst (notwithstanding...)

Despite my reservations about Fred Thompson, noted earlier, I'd like to see him stay in the race, and I may prefer him to the rest of the pack. He is bright and can write. He does not steer by polls. Most important to me, he understands that we are in a real, hot war to preserve a number of things that make humanity a worthwhile accident-or-invention (that's for another post) -- like democracy, scientific method, freedom of conscience, secular thinking, treating women like human beings, treating human beings ditto.

Right Wing Nut House asks bloggers who support Thompson (I refuse to say "Fred") to ask their readers to cough up some money. In the event I have any readers, please consider it....

Friday, January 04, 2008

What Thompson's campaign says about his ability to reshape a bureaucracy

Since Fred Thompson's campaign actually began, I've been quite disappointed in its feel and tone -- cookie cutter EveryPolitician stuff with no individual touch and no appearance of respecting the voter's intelligence. It occurred to me today that the campaign tastes and smells as if it's run by the campaign equivalent of bureaucrats. Which doesn't bode well for how a President Thompson would deal with the entrenched federal bureaucracy. Would he be able to shake it up at all, to reshape it, to exert much control over it? I'd like to think so, but I'm not too optimistic at present.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Some improvs

A few days ago, younger daughter Alissa asked me to give her some improv acting assignments. Here are a few I came up with. Feel free to try these at home....

--Porcupine with an itchy rash
--Extreme fishing
--Game show host with a hangover
--Dracula at a job interview
--Boxer with a phobia about contact
--Underdog at the vet
--Realtor showing a haunted house
--Infomercial for hemorrhoid cream
--Time traveller in ancient Athens looking for the bathroom
--The Queen in Snow White shopping for a new mirror

Does Fred Thompson want my money?

I was excited about Fred Thompson for a while, before he actually got in the race, because I liked his blog posts -- both their content (usually) and their style. I was not thrilled with the style of his campaign -- recycled politician-pap for the most part -- but I am still inclined to prefer him over the other major candidates, so I decided to pony up a bit of money. I tried to contribute $15.00 -- the same amount I've recently sent to ACLU Indiana and to St. Jude's -- to his campaign. However, when I entered that amount at the Donate link on his campaign website, I got a little message in red saying the amount was "inappropriate".

And how inappropriate is it to diss a would-be contributor? (Is that how to spell "diss"?)

I've sent an email, also through the website, asking whether they really don't want my money. I'll update with any response I get.