Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Album of the Day

Living Colour: Vivid. I have, peppered throughout my CD collection, what I call One Disc Wonders - artists from which I have only one album - even though they've produced more - that I really like, but for some reason have no real desire to explore the rest of their catalog. Living Colour is one of those. In fact, Vivid lived a fairly quiet life on my shelf for years until I did the A-Z thing in 2002. For some reason, it really hit me that time. To say Vivid is unique in my collection would be an understatement. Hard rock fused with funk fused with social commentary? Yeah, a lot of that came out of early 1970s Britain! This album rocks - hard. Which is good enough for me (sometimes).

A Way to Save Howard Stern - How Can We Resist?

A column from today's online version of The Wall Street Journal proposes an interesting solution to most current flare-up in the culture war. The proposal? Leave "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in return for keeping Howard Stern on the air. It's an interesting theory.

What "Privacy" Really Means

Findlaw columnist Michael Dorf today writes about a recent decision of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a lower court's quashing of a subpoena for medical records related to the partial-birth abortion debate. As Dorf points out, not only is the ruling itself important, but so is one of the rationales developed to support it by Judge Richard Posner. Posner basically argues that the patients in these cases have a privacy right to not have their medical info disclosed even if all personal information is blacked out and is circulated only among the parties to the suit and the courts involved.

Busch for Bush

Not only will cold hard cash buy you a vote, but apparently, in Kentucky, some think beer will as well. A man has been charged with "making or receiving expenditures for vote" for allegedly offering a 12-pack of brew to an 18-year old voter in return for the teen's vote against a local property tax increase. It didn't work.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Album of the Day

Krakatoa: We Are the Rowboats. This is part of the treasure trove of discs I bought used back around January. Krakatoa plays quirky instrumental (mostly) prog. The tracks are fairly short, for the most part, and focus on tight instrumental interplay. Keyboard, bass, and drums are prominent, with some tasty guitar in spots and neat woodwind arrangements, too.

I Wonder What the AYSO Thinks About This?

It's not unusual for American youth soccer leagues to officially not keep score. My nephew's league does that. Of course, that doesn't keep the parents and kids from keeping score unofficially. But at least they don't post the scores in the paper, as they do in the UK. There one newspaper reported on a 29-0 drubbing in a junior league match in Sheffield. As a result, the local newspaper is banned from reporting on any further matches. It violated, it seems, the rule to not publish scores worse than 14-0. As if 29-0 is really worse than 14-0?

F1's Darkest Day

Beginning last year, Speed began running a show called "F1 Decade," which chronicled the Formula One season that transpired ten years before, race by race. They've continued this year, which means the next race in the cycle is the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. It was ten years ago this month that F1 suffered its worst weekend in the modern era. The event is most remembered for the death of the legendary Ayrton Senna, but as the linked article makes clear, it was a horrible weekend from beginning to end. Senna was not the only fatality that weekend. Roland Ratzenberger was killed on Saturday, the first death at an F1 race in a dozen years. Other horribles that weekend included a large shunt by Rubens Barrichello, a pit lane accident that injured several crew members, and a start line crash that sent debris into the crowd, injuring four spectators.

I was never a huge fan of Senna. When I started watching F1 he was the top guy with the top team. My fondness for underdogs led me to root for Ferrari, instead (yes, at one time, Ferrari was an underdog). But I gained a lot of respect for Senna in 1993 when he, along with Michael Andretti, struggled with an uncompetative McLaren-Ford. He still managed four wins, including a brilliant drive in the rain at Donnington Park. The morning of the San Marino race I got up early enough to camp out in front of the communal TV in my dorm at WVU. My sleep-deprived brain was jolted awake by the news of Ratzenberger's death. It was immediately obvious that Senna's wreck was serious, if not fatal. Derek Daly (doing commentary for ESPN) desperately tried to convince himself and the viewers that there was movement in the cockpit of Senna's broken Williams, but there was none. Senna was dead on impact. It cast a pall over the rest of the race, the season, and, really, F1 ever since.

Racing is an inherently dangerous and, sometimes, deadly sport. Still, it hits particularly hard when you see it unfold in front of your eyes.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Album of the Day

King Crimson: THRaKaTTaK. One of the major criticisms of progressive rock is that it is "pretentious" or overly "self-indulgent." If that was ever the case, it certainly is with THRaKaTTaK. When the double-trio variant of Crim hit the road, they imrpovised nightly around the title track from THRAK. If the two improvs on the live album from that tour weren't enough (and you know they're not!), you can get this collection of improvs totaling nearly an hour of "explicit live instrumental imrpovisation" (so says the sticker on the cover). Aside from a couple of cool moments and one of the all-time great song titles ("Mother Hold the Candle Steady While I Shave the Chicken's Lip"), this is mostly just a collection of self-indulgent noodling. In the words of one USENET critic, they "have their heads too far up their own arse." Scares the neighbors, tho'.

Another Point of View on the Pledge

As the oral argument in the Pledge of Allegiance case begins to fade into memory, here is an interesting column that asks a good question: why do we need a pledge at all? If the atmosphere of the pledge in school is at all coercive, doesn't that go against the ideal of a free society? In other words, if we must be forced to pledge our allegiance to anything, can that thing really be that great?

Let's Bring Back the Guillotine

Today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that, potentially, presents the issue of whether lethal injection it too cruel and painful a method of execution to survive the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The Court is dealing with a procedural matter at this time, but even if the case gets kicked for that reason the issue will present itself again. I'll be right up front and say that I condemn the death penalty in all its forms. But if we get to the point when the "humanity" of even the most "humane" form of execution is being questioned, maybe it's time to shelve the whole process once and for all.

Paging the Gropenator

The executive power of clemency frequently gets a bad rap. Remember Clinton's numerous pardons as he was on the way out of the Oval Office? But in California there is a case that screams for some executive action, courtesy of Herr Schwarzenegger. Pamela Martinez spent five years in prison - 65 days short of her sentence. She's been out for two and a half years, but the state Supreme Court has ordered her back to prison to serve the rest of her time. If she does, it's almost certain that she will lose her house, job, and every other good thing she's done to turn her life around.

This situation is one that is not really set up for the courts to handle. It calls for a remedy of grace, the kind of thing that traditionally would come from a sovereign. Being a democratic state, the best California can do is a governor. Given all that Martinez has done to turn her life around and the fact that her early release was not her fault, the governor should do whatever is in his power to commute her sentence or otherwise pardon her.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Album of the Day

King Crimson: Discipline. In the late 1970s and early 80s, the biggies of 70s prog were desperately casting about for their place in the rock scene. King Crimson, on the other hand, actually kept making (sorry, Bob) progressive rock. Reconstituted after a seven-year hiatus founder Bob Fripp and drummer Bill Bruford were joined by new members Tony Levin (on bass and Stick) and guitarist Adrian Belew (fresh off of work with Frank Zappa and The Talking Heads). This variant of the band incorporated world music and new age influences, but the core is pure King Crimson. Discipline is one of those albums that everybody should own - it's that good.

Where's the NRA on This One?

Findlaw columnist Elaine Cassel writes today about an outrageous prosecution in the Eastern District of Virginia that may lead to a new term: shooting while Muslim. As Cassel describes it, several Muslim men were prosecuted as terrorists basically because (a) they are Muslim and (b) they liked to shoot perfectly legal firearms off in the woods of Virginia. Doesn't this sound like a job for the NRA? Or are the "people" described in the Second Amendment only Christians?

Lame Duck Bob Gets One Right

Following the last Legislative session of his time as Governor, Bob Wise has stepped up and vetoed a popular but flawed bill in a sign that maybe being a lame duck isn't so bad after all. Wise vetoed the so-called "Laci Peterson Bill", which would have criminalized assaults on fetuses as separate crimes from assaults on the mother. In spite of great opposition from pro-choice groups and medical providers (who won many concessions in last year's session regarding malpractice insurance), the bill passed nearly unanimously in both houses as the session drew to a close. Wise cited, among other reasons, that rushed passage as a reason to veto the bill.

Never Tackle a Naked Man

You're playing in a soccer cup final. You're team is losing 1-0 in the 60th minute when a streaker shoots across the field naked as a jaybird. What do you do? Well, whatever you do, don't tackle him! A player for Witton Albion did just that during the Unibond Cheshire Senior Cup Final against Woodley Sports. For his actions, the defender was red carded because he, in the words of the ref, "brought the game into disrepute." Witton went on to lose the match 2-1, but is protesting the result.

For what it's worth, even with my many years of following English football, I have no idea what the Unibond Cheshire Senior Cup is.

We May Have Colonized Mars

As the Mars rovers continue their siesta by the once salty Martian sea, scientists here on Earth are speculating about finding signs of life there. But one scientist is saying not so fast. It appears that, with the exception of the first two Viking spacecraft, the probes and what not we've sent to the red planet were not sterilized. Therefore, any life we find on Mars may be bacteria or other organisms that those ships brought there from Earth. Now we learn this?!?!

Korn Tells Is Like It Is

To be honest, I've never had much use for the band Korn, but if this description of their new single and video is correct, more power to them. Not that what they're saying is exactly new, but the fact that a popular group is saying it might help the message reach some people.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Album of the Day

Mike Keneally: Nonkertompf. This is 74 minutes worth of pure instrumental Keneally. Mike wrote, arranged, and played every one of the 35 tracks that make up Nonkertompf. Don't let the "all instrumental" tag scare you. It's surprisingly accessible in places and even at its weirdest isn't just strange for the sake of being strange. I read it once described as a sketch book of a trip through Keneally's mind. It's a fun trip.

Never Trust Old People

Just when you thought it was safe to lose sight of your wallet in the nursing home comes this story of geriatric criminality. A 75-year old woman played on her appearance and feigned illness to convince local car dealers to let her purchase new cars with checks - that eventually bounced. Experts do say that senior citizens need to keep active, but I'm not sure crime was what they were contemplating.

Blessed Are The Cheesemakers

Sometimes, good things come to those who wait. Partly as a reaction to Mad Mel's The Passion of the Christ, the brilliant Monty Python flick The Life of Brian will be re-released in theaters later this spring. As the CNN story puts it, the film is "a controversial film about a Jewish guy from Nazareth who is worshiped as the Messiah and crucified by the Romans." Brian has better songs, however.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Album of the Day

Mike Keneally & Beer for Dolphins: Half Alive in Hollywood. This two-disc set is exactly what it says it is - a partly live document of the three-piece Beer for Dolphins, circa 1996. Disc one is "live in a studio", while disc two is "live on a stage." Both discs show Keneally and his minions in fine form, even where circumstances conspire against them (witness "Uglytown (Epstein-Barr variation)"). Mike and the boys are still at it (although under the much less interesting moniker of Mike Keneally Band) and are feverishly putting final touches on DOG, available for preordering right now. Good gods, people, what are you waiting for?!?!

I Hope They Brought Enough for the Whole Class

It's not every day that the news has two stories of elementary school students bringing drugs to school. One kid was caught putting marijuana on his friend's lasagna, while the other boy brought $10,000 worth of crack to his class for show and tell.

C'mon, Is That The Best You Got?

Abercrombie & Fitch, no strangers to controversies, have stepped in it again. They are selling a T-shirt with an outline of the state of West Virginia and the slogan "It's All Relative in West Virginia." predictably, Governor Bob Wise rose to the bait and called on A&F to not only stop selling the shirts, but to burn the stock and provide proof of their destruction. First, lighten up, Bob. We are not the only state singled out for ridicule, apparently. Second, is that the best you can do A&F? Wow, incest jokes - as a West Virginia native I've never heard that one before. As least we haven't tried to purge evolution from our schools, as A&F's native Ohio has done.

Karma Will Hunt You Down

In what is either a case of bad timing or spectacularly bad karma, the band Great White just released a new album called Burning House of Love. Great White, of course, were on stage when a pyrotechnics malfunction sparked a fire that burned down a Rhode Island nightclub last year, killing 100 people - including the band's guitarist. The album is a re-release by an Italian label which, the band contends, does not have the permission to do so.

Still, it pales in comparison to the bad timing that greeted the release of prog-metalists Dream Theater's Live Scenes From New York. Part of the band's visual design for a long time had been a heart engulfed in flames. The cover art for this album had the flaming heart silhouetting several well known NYC landmarks, including the World Trade Center. It was released on September 11, 2001. You can see the cover here.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Album of the Day

Eric Johnson: Tones. Eric Johnson bounced around the Austin music scene for years before his prodigious talents were heard round the country. Tones was the beginning of that. I'm tempted to say it is his best album so far, but maybe that's just because it represents the first I heard of him. The songs here are consistently stronger in a way the later albums aren't, particularly side two of the old LP (from "Desert Song" onward).

Yeah, But What Is "God", If You Follow . . .

This Wednesday, the much ballyhooed pledge of allegiance case is finally argued in front of the Supreme Court. Central to the argument is the meaning and effect of the phrase "under God." This New York Times article discusses the various nuances of that phrase. Personally, if the fundies want to preserve that language so much that they are willing to read any religious meaning out of it, I'm tempted to let them have it. Nothing like selling out your religious beliefs for a political score.

At Least They Don't Call It Easy Listening Anymore

Purely by chance, I stumbled across this article about John Tesh's "adult contemporary" radio show. It supposedly focuses on "nice" music. A slogan of the show: "If a 9-year-old can't listen to it, you won't hear it on this radio station." Just what we need - 9-year-olds already control pop music, do we have to bow and scrape to them with "adult" music now, too? Not that I'd get anywhere near Tesh's new age pap to begin with. Instead, with the room clear of any 9 year olds, I'm off to crack up Catherine Wheel's "Eat My Dust You Ignorant Fuck."

The Gay Bashing Thing? Nevermind.

The commissioners of Rhea County, Tennessee, have backed off their unanimous vote of a few days ago to exclude all homosexuals from the county. The commissioners reversed course, also by unanimous vote, in the face of a pissed off electorate. Speaking for narrow minded seventh graders everywhere, one girl, described as "a Baptist" (shock of shocks) opposed the reversal because homosexuality is "not a Christian thing." Apparently rank discrimination is, however.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Album of the Day

Jethro Tull: Thick as a Brick. OK, so it's not The Wall, but Thick as a Brick is one of the more elaborate concept albums in the history of prog. The lyrics of the 44 minute tune were supposedly written by an 8 year-old kid who caused a public furor after reading it on the BBC. The furor, and the lyrics, are laid out in some detail in a copy of The St. Cleve Chronicle & Linwell Advertiser printed in the liner notes. It even includes a review of the new Tull record! For an album-length track, it holds together very very well.

Only God Can Get You an A

One of the weirder school prayer conflicts is playing out in New Orleans. A middle school teacher there handed out a written prayer to her students before they started taking a standardized test. The local ACLU is, as expected, looking into it. Maybe the school needs help - poor exam results could result in a state takeover of the failing school. Couldn't be the quality of the teachers, tho' - the handed out prayer contained many grammatical errors.

Leeds Is Safe! For Now

According the BBC, the financial takeover of troubled Premier League club Leeds United is a done deal. That means the club's financial future is now secure. Now, if only we can get back to playing good football and stay in the Premiership next season!

Too Much Passion, Apparently

You know how social conservatives go on and on about how violence in movies and TV leads to violence in the real world. Well, apparently that's true. A Georgia couple got into such a passionate dispute after seeing The Passion of the Christ that both were wounded and a hole was punched into the wall of their home.

When Supreme Court Justices Attack

I've said before that when federal judges keep retiring while complaining about the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, those in charge should pay attention. Another voice of concern is that of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Not exactly a flaming bleeding-heart liberal, Kennedy praised those judges who downwardly depart as "courageous." That means something.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Album of the Day

IQ: The Wake. Along with Marillion and Twelfth Night, IQ were one of the original neo-prog bands to come out of the UK in the early 1980s. In IQ's case they never hit the commercial heights Marillion did, but still went on to a lengthy career. The Wake, their second album, refines the Genesis-influenced sound of their first album. Lots and lots of twiddly keyboard bits in this one!

More Dumb Congressman Tricks

Last week is talked briefly about a bill introduced in Congress that would allow a Congressional "veto" of Supreme Court decisions. I opined that it was a tremendously stupid idea. Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick today goes into greater detail about the bill and reaches the same conclusion.

At Least They Left Evolution Alone

Rhea County, Tennessee - famous for being host to the Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1925 - has stepped in it once again. By a unanimous vote, the county commission has voted to request a change in state law to make homosexuality a "crime against nature." They also want the county attorney to look into whether the county could ban homosexuals from even entering the county. What is it in the mindset of some people that leads them to do something they know will be smacked down in court? Another brilliant use of taxpayer resources.

Another Hit to the Coalition of the "Willing"

First the new Spanish government announced it would pull its troops out of Iraq. Now, another one of Dubya's "coalition of the willing" is looking, well, less willing. The president of Poland has said that he was misled about WMDs in Iraq. Well, Mr. President, welcome to the club. There are millions of Americans who know just how you feel.

Two Princes - No Waiting

Overreaction reigns in North Carolina, where parents of an elementary school girl are holding a book hostage. The book in question, King & King, tells the story of two fairy tale princes who fall in love. The girl brought it home from the school library. Her parents, who claim "it is not in our beliefs" (I'm not sure what "it" is, exactly), now have the book. It doesn't appear that the book was required reading for the girl's class or that she was in any way forced to read it. Nevertheless, the parents are holding it hostage and are considering legal action. Where are those right-wing anti-lawsuit hawks when you need them?

True Tales of Torture (Brought to You By Your Tax Dollars!)

Recently, US officials release several prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba who were being held as "enemy combatants" in the war on terror. Three of the men, British citizens, gave detailed interviews about their capture and confinement to the Observer newspaper. Parts one and two of those interviews are now online. The story these men tell is not pretty. Even if one assumes that their claims may be exaggerated in some ways, their plight should at least convince the American people of the need for some sort of legal process to sort out the real terrorists from the falsely accused.

I wonder if the Supreme Court took notice of this?

Glad I Don't Have the Blindfold and Cigarette Contract in Utah

The state of Utah, in a slight nod to the 21st Century, has finally abolished the firing squad as a means of execution. Condemned criminals in Utah now will be forced to endure lethal injection. The firing squad in Utah, of course, was made famous by Gary Gilmore, the first person executed after the Supreme Court reauthorized the death penalty in the 1970s. Five shooters made up the squad, but one man only fired blanks. The shooters didn't know who had the blank, presumably to ensure that nobody would know who fired the fatal shot(s). Which says all you need to know about capital punishment.

Album of Yesterday

However: Calling!. Based purely on the liner notes, However seems less like a band and more like a song writer's collective. The same half-dozen or so musicians appear throughout, but in different combinations and playing different instruments, depending on who wrote what track. This eclectic approach is reflected in the music itself, which ranges from simple direct songs ("What Goes Around Comes Around") to fusion-tinged instrumentals ("Little Ricky (The Next Generation)") to brief bursts of weirdness ("How You Doin'?"). Prominently featured on several tracks is the woodwind work of Bobby Read, who would go on to play with Bruce Hornsby.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Album of the Day

Bruce Hornsby: Harbor Lights. In the Spring of 1993, my freshman year of college, I finished up a couple of final exams, sold the textbooks, went to the local cheapo CD place, and bought a few discs. This was one of them. I went back to the dorm and promptly put it in, only to have my jaw literally dropped as I heard the beginning of "Harbor Lights." This was the beginning of phase two of Bruce's career, one that veered away from the polished pop of The Range's days into jazzier territory, with lots of instrumental workouts and cool collaborators. Bruce's trademark songwriting skill was still evident, but tweaked a notch. Anybody who still thinks of Bruce as only a VH1 one-hit wonder needs to get this album ASAP.

Another Take on the C-Section Murderess

Last week, I briefly discussed the case of a Utah woman who has been charged with murder after she ignored a doctor's advise to have a C-section, thus causing the stillbirth of one of her twins. A Findlaw column today attacks the issue from another perspective, that of equal rights. The argument goes that because charges like this can only be brought against women it violates the ideal of equal rights.

While that may be true, I think the article glosses over a more fundamental point by defining the issue so narrowly. If this prosecution succeeds, where will the distinction be drawn between what this woman did and a person who refuses to give a family member a kidney or bone marrow? The principle is the same in both cases - a medical procedure forced on one person can save the life of another. That's a very dangerous road to start down.

For Sale: One Ohio Town, Lightly Used

Today's cover story in USA Today discusses the strange fate of Cheshire, Ohio. The town is home to a massive power plant that spews various pollutants into the air. It got so bad that the small town banded together to fight back, only to have American Electric Power make an offer the townsfolk couldn't refuse. AEP offered to buy the entire town - from the homes to town hall to the Methodist Church - for $20 million. The residents would get cash for their homes (greater than their plummeting market value, in many cases) and in return would give up their right to sue AEP for damages caused by the plant's discharge.

The town agreed to the offer, but it has not quite worked out as planned. Read the story, it's quite interesting.

Apparently She Didn't See the Super Bowl

Veterinarians in China are beginning to teach sex ed to a panda in hopes that it will mate. Apparently she hasn't figured out how these things work in her four years on the planet. The bear was born in San Diego, which only goes to show that not all American youth are obsessed with sex.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Album of the Day

Hatfield and the North: The Rotter's Club. Hatfield may be the prototypical Canterbury prog band. Although fairly short lived, it's members drifted in and out of each others future bands for years. The music is very jazzy, light and airy, particularly with the very tongue in cheek lyrics that occasionally pop up. Nonetheless, it is very complex stuff, once you get just below the surface.

The Sanctity of Marriage Is Long Dead

In the current debate over gay marriage, many conservatives argue that allowing gays to marry would destroy the "sanctity of marriage." A column on the Wall Street Journal web site makes a different argument, that the sanctity of marriage has been gradually eroded over the past 40 years. It concludes:

"But traditionalists, especially Christian traditionalists (in whose ranks I include myself) need to get a clue about what has really been going on and face the fact that same-sex marriage, if it comes about, will not cause the degeneration of the institution of marriage; it is the result of it."

I don't necessarily agree with the premise, but it's an interesting point of view.

Tony George Is Officially Satan

As the OWRS seasons spins towards collapse before it has even begun, one might think that IRL founder and Indianapolis Motor Speedway head honcho would be content to sit and smile quietly to himself. Of course not. Instead he's off to slay another formerly sacred cow, the 33 car field of the Indy 500. That field size, which has been in effect pretty much since day one at Indy (except for George's 35 car field a few years back) is "just a number." Proving again, as Robin Miller points out, that George just doesn't get it and never has. For all the mistakes the CART powers that be ever made, none had the catastrophic effect of George's arrogant decision to start the IRL in 1996.

In the end, George may rule over the open wheel racing world in the United States. His domain, however, will be a shell of its former self, due largely to his misguided management.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Album of the Day

Steve Hackett: Darktown. After several side projects, Hackett returned to the rock world with Darktown. As you might expect from the title, it is indeed a dark and foreboding album, dealing with such subjects as the abusive English "public" school system ("Darktown") and what people do to survive in the face a real horror ("The Golden Age of Steam"). Musically, Hackett adopts some modern touches, including some thumping drum and bass loops on "Darktown Riot" and "Omega Metalicus." While it doesn't always work, it shows an old dog who is not afraid to try some new tricks, which is always a good thing.

One Nation, Under Many Points of View

As we gear up for the Supreme Court argument in the Pledge of Allegiance case, here is an interesting article about the various religious and secular points of view about the case. Surprisingly, it's not just spilt along religious v. secular people. Some religious folks are worried about breaking down the wall separating church and state, while some secularists think that it's such a small battle that it's not particularly worth fighting. For others, it's just about picking a winner.

When Refusing Medical Treatment Goes Too Far

In Utah, a woman has been charged with murder for failing to have a Caesarean section while carrying twins. When the children were born two days later, one was dead. Utah authorities charge that the woman refused the C-section for purely cosmetic reasons (didn't want the big scar, apparently) and her vanity cost one of her children his or her life.

While the mother in this case doesn't seem to be the most sympathetic person in the world (just look at that picture), this may set a dangerous precedent. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the motivation for refusing the C-section was more substantial. Instead of cosmetic reasons, what if the mother was a Christian Scientist and the operation would violate a basic tenet of her faith. For her, it would be a Hobson's Choice scenario -- let the baby die or perform an act which would damn her soul for eternity. If that was the background of the decision, would a murder charge be proper?

I'm not sure. Murder is traditionally defined as a heinous malicious act. Whatever the motivation behind a decision like this, it's far from heinous and malicious. Negligent, certainly. Reckless, probably. But should that be enough?

Have You Ever Really Considered a Fine Set of Encyclopedias?

This is not a surprise, but in homes across America, the encyclopedia is going the way of the dodo. As someone who once roamed the stacks of the WVU library and is a researcher for a living, I suppose I should lament this passage. Can't say as I do, however. Between CD-ROMs and the 'Net, there's much more information out there that is much easier to find than in the old "look in the book" days. More information at your fingertips is always a good thing in my book.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I Guess He Flunked Civics

Every year, hundreds, of not thousands, of meaningless bills are introduced in Congress. They have no hope of passage, but let the sponsors go back to their constituents with a record of at least proposing something to handle some great national crisis. This is one of the more interesting I've seen in a while. It would give Congress the power to overturn decisions of the Supreme Court.

Now, any of you who paid attention in Junior High civics class should know that the Supreme Court basically makes two kinds of rulings: those dealing with statutes and those dealing with the Constitution. For those dealing with statutes, Congress only needs to change the statute at issue, if the Court gets it wrong in its decision. A Constitutional interpretation, on the other hand, can only be changed by amending the Constitution itself. Either way, we have procedures for those things, so why do we need this meaningless piece of legislation clogging the Congressional Record?

Of course, it's called the "Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004’," so draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Album of the Day

Steve Hackett: Please Don't Touch. Hackett's first solo effort was really a lost Genesis album, very much in their symphonic progressive rock style (that Rutherford and Collins played on it didn't hurt). With Genesis behind him, Please Don't Touch was the first sign of the Hackett versatility that he's cultivated since. The proggier stuff is here, to be sure ("Narnia", the title track), but so is a quasi-folk tune ("How Can I?", with Richie Havens on vocal) and a delicate jazzy ballad ("Hoping Love Will Last"). Hackett's collaborators are top notch, as he imports Frank Zappa's Roxy-era rhythm section of Chester Thompson and Tom Fowler, as well as vocalists such as Havens and Steve Walsh of Kansas.

I Hope Martha's Seen Oz

In a column today on Findlaw, Mark Allenbaugh makes his guess as to what kind of sentence Martha Stewart might be facing. One of my hopes is that the obscene amount of attention heaped upon the Stewart case will lead to a greater public understanding of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Allenbaugh points out how defendants face an almost infinite number of factors that can force their sentences up but almost none that force a sentence down. While I'm not sure that Martha will get hit quite as hard as he does, it's somewhat sobering, nonetheless.

Who Would Ever Think She's Nuts?

In St. Louis, there in controversy swirling around a member of the local school board. Her crime? She "doused [an] administrator with ice water and pledged violence against anyone questioning her mental fitness." This was in response to a "political plot to discredit her" that included drugging her with cocaine. Did I mention that she was committed in 2002?

More on the Iraqi Founding Fathers

A couple days ago I mentioned the new interim Iraqi constitution. This article does a good job of laying out the various sources used to construct Iraq's new government. It's interesting to see, when picking and choosing from the world's menu of constitutions, which items were selected.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Album of the Day

Kevin Gilbert: The Shaming of the True. Shaming is the posthumous masterwork of the supremely talented songwriter-musician-producer Kevin Gilbert. A concept album, it tells the story of an idealistic musician who seeks fame and fortune, only to see his ideals compromised and his soul crushed by the music biz machine. It's not nearly as bleak as it sounds, as it's punctuated with dark humor in places like "Suit Fugue" (a Gentle Giant inspire vocal round sung by sleazy A&R men) and "Certifiable #1 Smash" (a paint-by-numbers exploration of the hit single, complete with video description!). A fitting finale to a talent who left this world far far too soon.

What Role for Foreign Law?

The National Journal has an interesting column today about the role that international law should play in decisions of the Supreme Court. The author seems to argue that the Court's increasing awareness of the state of foreign law is not a good thing. While I can't disagree that a reliance on foreign law would be a bad thing, being aware of it and considering its merits surely has a place in Supreme Court analysis.

Legal authorities generally come in two forms, mandatory and persuasive. Mandatory authority binds lower courts in the system, andincludes decisions of the Supreme Court, which binds every lower court is required to follow. Persuasive authority refers to decisions from other courts, law review articles, and the like that do not require allegiance by the court deciding an issue. The West Virginia Supreme Court, for instance, is required to follow the US Supreme Court decisions about the Fourth Amendment. It is not required to follow the Ohio Supreme Court decisions about the Fourth Amendment, but may give them weight if they have a compelling analysis of the issue.

Unlike every other court in the land, the Supreme Court has no higher court to which is must be obedient. Every authority for the Supreme Court is persuasive. It may even overturn its own prior decisions, as it did this week in the Crawford case. So the Supreme Court is not really bound to follow anything. As that is the case, why not consult foreign law if their is something useful in it?

A Different Perspective on Locke, Sort Of

Recently I opined that the Supreme Court ultimately got it right in deciding Locke v. Davey. Today on Findlaw, Walter Weber takes the opposite view. That's not surprising, given his position as Senior Litigation Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (Pat Robertson's answer to the ACLU). What is surprising is that I generally agree with Weber that the holding in Locke is fairly narrow and shouldn't have great ramifications beyond the current case.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Album of the Day

Gentle Giant: Octopus. One of the great prog cliches is the side-long (from the LP days, kids) epic. Gentle Giant is possibly the exception that proves the cliche. None of the eight tracks on Octopus (get it?) are massive, with only "River" clocking in at over 5 minutes. What they lack in scope they more than make up for in intricate arrangements and stylistic variety. Their medieval influences come through in "Raconteur Troubadour," while tight vocal and instrumental counterpoint powers "Knots," and "Think of Me With Kindness" shows that sometimes less really is more. Brilliant stuff.

I Truly Hope This Works

Though I'm not a fan of Dubya's invasion of Iraq, I've said from the beginning that since we're there we better do things right. In that frame of mind, I really hope that the new interim Iraqi Constitution is a success. Reading through it makes me think it just might have a shot, provided the US doesn't meddle to much to get "its people" in positions of power. However, no government is better than the sum of the people at the helm, and Iraq's recent history (not to mention the rest of the Middle East) makes me somewhat wary.

This Is Why I Love Formula 1!

In the wake of this weekend's season opening Australian Grand Prix, Renault has come forward about how their drivers made such a fabulous start in light of regulations banning launch control. Only a lawyer could love it. :)

Of "Tort Reform" and "Robin Hoods"

USA Today's cover story today is all about the growing push for tort reform across the country. Specifically, the article talks about jurisdictions that are havens for big buck lawsuits which create an "unfriendly" business environment. One of those jurisdictions happens to be West Virginia. I wonder what exactly a "friendly" business environment is? Presumably it's one where businesses and out of state corporations get to do whatever the hell they want while the average citizen gets screwed. That's certainly a fair reading of West Virginia history, I'd argue. In fact, the relative poverty of these "lawsuit hells" is noted with the explanation that poor folks may be more likely to sympathize with the big payday coming to the injured person. I'm sure that's true. If you're family has worked for years in the poverty stricken coal fields of southern WV, where out of state corporations play shell games with their subsidiaries to avoid paying worker's comp dues, ignore environmental dangers and then blame "act of God" when someone is killed because of them (think Buffalo Creek, people), and generally raped the land for the profit of out of staters, then you probably don't have a lot of sympathy for those businesses. And given the fact that most people feel cut off from the electoral system, which has shown a complete reluctance to do anything about said abuses, their one chance for justice (or revenge, if you like) is when they get called for jury duty.

Maybe if businesses were friendlier to the people than the people would be friendlier in return?

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Confronting the Sins of Your Ancestors

A while back in this space I mentioned the Armenian genocide that took place in Turkey during the First World War and how, to this day, the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge it. In today's New York Times is an article about a Turkish professor teaching at the University of Minnesota who is challenging his government and culture to recognize what went on nearly a century ago. The man's certainly got guts.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Album of the Day

Genesis: Three Sides Live. This live album, which contained a few studio cuts when originally released (hence it only had three live sides), basically captures the band as they were just on the verge of mega pop success. "Invisible Touch" and its ilk were still a few years away, but "Turn It On Again" and "Misunderstanding" pointed the way. Still, the band sounds really good, particularly on the older medley.

When To Use Civil Disobedience (and When Not To)

When the whole gay marriage thing broke in San Francisco, I criticized the mayor for not taking the obvious conflict between California statutory and constitutional law to the courts. He should have resolved that conflict before handing out marriage licenses. Turns out I was more right than I knew. Findlaw today has a column about a California constitutional provision that required the mayor to do just that. Article III, section 3.5 of the California Constitution requires an "administrative agency" to enforce a statute until a court says otherwise. That requires any conflicts, like the one being exploited in San Francisco, to be resolved methodically via the legal system. Which is a good thing.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Album of the Day

Genesis: Selling England by the Pound: Probably my favorite album of all time. I discover new artists and old (new to me) artists all the time that strike my fancy, but for favorite I go back to the album I used to listen to on my brother's stereo when I was a kid. An actual LP, then, believe it or not. I won't say any more, and instead point to this review of it I wrote for Ground and Sky a while back.

What Happens When You Die Online?

Remember the first time you got really involved in a video game, playing for hours on end building up your skills and your character until some unforeseen event happens and you die. You get to go back the beginning again and start from scratch. Sucks, don't it? Now, imagine you're paying a monthly fee for the pleasure of getting regularly killed in an online game. What should happen to your character? That issue is explored in this article from today's New York Times. One apparent solution is to create a world where nobody dies. Where's the fun in that? What's next? Online sports games where they don't keep score?

On to Athens!

Shortly after the US men's Olympic team crashed and burned in qualifying, the women's team yesterday stepped up and drilled the host Costa Ricans 4-0 to qualify for the Athens games. Ironically, the other CONCACAF Olympic berth went to Mexico, who upset Canada 2-1.

Marriage Is Not a Panacea

One of the recurring themes of social conservatives in the current gay marriage debate is that marriage itself is the best thing in the world - regardless of the reality of a person's actual relationship to his or her spouse. Not only is it the foundation of civilization, but you can never be truly happy if you're not a part of it (so let's deny it to homosexuals, right? Alas, I digress . . .). A new study concludes that, at least in terms of women's health, no marriage at all is better than being stuck in a miserable marriage.

That's probably just common sense to most people, but since when do the social conservatives deal in common sense?

A Glimpse Inside the Third Branch

Today the voluminous papers of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun became public, five years after his death. Early review of those papers - 1500 boxes of them - contain some fascinating insight into the workings of the Court. Among the tidbits discovered so far, Roe v. Wade was nearly overturned in 1992, but a last minute vote change by Justice Anthony Kennedy in Planned Parenthood v. Casey swung the 5-4 split in favor of letting Roe stand.

The New York Times has an in depth story about Blackmun's papers the covers his entire term on the bench.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Album of the Day

Peter Gabriel: Plays Live. Gabriel's studio work leaves me cold, generally. I'm not sure if it's because it sounds too slick or too technical or what, but his live stuff is completely different. I guess the live band just has more "feel" to it. Nowhere is that more clear than when I listened to Plays Live today back to back with the fourth self titled album (aka Security). Tunes like "I Have the Touch" are stilted and rigid in the studio but are funky and really pop on stage. Such is one of the hallmarks of a true artist, I think.

Rethinking Marriage

There is an interesting article on ReasonOnline about how the furor over gay marriage may prompt a fundamental reexamination of marriage as a legal construct. Basically, it wonders if shifting thinking towards a truly private concept of marriage (it would be like any other contract) is a bad idea. I think it's worth considering, at least.

Welcome Home, Jaime!

One of my saddest moments as a DC United fan was before last season when several key players from the team's glory days sent away to make room under the salary cap. Thankfully, one appears to be on the way back as DC has regained the rights to Bolivian forward Jaime Moreno. Moreno is DC's all-time leading scorer and a vital cog in the three teams that won championships in the 90s. Maybe he can teach young Freddy a thing or two! :)

I Guess She's Never Seen Parenthood

What's worse: going down on someone and getting into an auto accident or using the BJ as a defense in your subsequent manslaughter trial? One defendant in Connecticut has confronted this issue. No further comment, just read the story.

Charleston, Ohio - I Like the Sound of That

In one of the weirdest election results from yesterday, the town of Killington, Vermont has voted to secede from the state of Vermont and join neighboring New Hampshire. Aside from the legal problems (both state legislatures have to agree to the deal), here's a geographic one - Killington is 25 miles west of the Vermont / New Hampshire border! Look at the map in the story - it's right in the middle of the state. What's the logic in that? Why not join New York, which appears to be about the same distance to the west? How would a city in the middle of another state be set up? Berlin during the Cold War, but with better skiing, maybe?

By this logic, I think we should solve Charleston's chronic money problems by seceding from West Virginia and joining Ohio.

More Porn for the Supremes

The US Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in a case challenging the government's latest attempt to regulate Internet porn. The Child Online Protection Act was passed in 1998 after the Communications Decency Act was struck down by the court. COPA seeks to keep kiddies from accessing nasty content on the web, but in the process shuts off adults from a lot of stuff that is perfectly OK for adults to see and read and hear. Hopefully, the Court will follow its precedent from the CDA case that the government can't sanitize the Web just in the name of "protecting the children" and strike down COPA.

For the record, after nearly 10 years online I still don't buy into the "I just accidentally surfed into some porn" stories. You gotta look for it. It's not hard to find, but you pretty much have to make some affirmative effort to get it.

All Hail Saint Martha

OK, I'll admit to not following the Martha Stewart trial all that closely, in spite of it being a big deal media frenzy federal prosecution (which are fairly rare). But when I read about the closing argument presented yesterday by Martha's counsel. In summing up, he pleaded with the jury:

"I ask you to acquit Martha Stewart and allow her to return to improving the quality of life for all of us."

Oh c'mon, let's not overstate things, shall we? I think the republic will be safe for the short time Martha would spend in the pen. It's not like she's gonna be executed if found guilty. And even then . . .

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Album of the Day

The Flower Kings: Flower Power. In this age of bloated overstuffed CDs, there are no worse offenders than Swedish symphonic proggers The Flower Kings. Not content to fill one disc to the brim, they give you two full discs in this effort. Disc one is even so bloated as to contain not only a 60 minute suite, but an extra 10 minute instrumental, too!Between the two there is, probably, one really good 60 minute album wanting to get out. Of course, without the padding I'd miss the opportunity to cringe at "Magic Pie" every year.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Album of the Day

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones: Live Art. This is a different sort of live album, as more than half of the material was new when it came out. Culled from many different performances, it focuses on the trio version of the 'Tones, augmented by numerous guests, from original 'Tone Howard Levy to such diverse as Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis, Bruce Hornsby, Sam Bush, and Edgar Meyer. The band is tight and hits lots of different highlights. Each of the main 'Tones gets a solo spot, including Vic Wooten's magical version of "Amazing Grace." If you own only one Flecktone album, make it this one.

Falling on His Sword

Legal Affairs has a very interesting story by Lawrence Lessig, the attorney who argued a major copyright case before the Supreme Court a few years back. He lost, unfortunately. This piece is a very informative post mortem of the case and what Lessig thinks he did wrong. It very much drives home to me the old appellate cliche that you actually have three oral arguments: the one you planned, the one you do, and the one you should have done. Anybody who wants to know what it's like to appear before an appellate court should read this article.

Let's Give Credit Where It's Due

Much is being made of the fact that one member of the two-driver team that won the GrandAm Daytona Prototype class at Homestead this weekend is a woman, Venezuelan Milka Duno. Stories are hailing her as "became the first woman to win a major North American sports car race." Aside from the obvious shitty retort that no GrandAm pseudo-prototype race is a "major sports car race," I think someone has been overlooked by the press: Lyn St. James.

St. James, so I remembered, had a lot of success in IMSA sports cars back in the 80s. A little quick research in Martin and Wells's Prototypes: The History of the IMSA GTP Series shows that St. James won three races in a row in 1985 in the GTO class, including a solo win at Watkins Glen. Now, GTO was not the top class in the series at that time, but these were, without question, major sports car races. A winner in any class at LeMans or Sebring, for instance, is still a LeMans or Sebring winner.

So, not to take anything away from Ms. Duno (and her co-driver, James Weaver), but let's give credit to the true pioneer here.

Adios to the Golden Goal

Over the weekend, the powers that be in the soccer world officially killed the Golden Goal overtime format in use since Euro 96. Golden Goal is the same as the NFL's sudden death overtime - first to score wins. The idea was to promote attacking play and discourage teams from playing for a draw in overtime to get to penalty kicks. FIFA, I guess, decided it wasn't working. It also killed a variant called the Silver Goal rule, which allow the overtime half period to be played out even if a goal was scored (so the other team has a chance to tie the game up again). It worked pretty well in last year's UEFA Cup final.

Hopefully, this will also spell the end of MLS's experiments with overtime.

666 Is No Longer Alone

Just when you thought the whole fury surrounding Mel Gibson's new movie couldn't get any more bizarre, a theater in Georgia printed and used tickets which included "666" in a code below the movie title. Rather than take ironic note of the numerology, some fundies actually complained. Why am I not surprised?

A Word About Our Sponsors

The fine folks at Google, via the banner ad on top of the page, allow me to publish this blog for free. The way those links are generated is a mystery to me, except that it seems to pick up on key words in my posts for clues. Sometimes, they get a little weird - a link to the Republican National Committee? OK. My point is that your humble narrator neither endorses nor has any control over what appears at the top of the screen. So don't blame me for the content.