Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Samuel Alito Associated with the Death of Civil Rights Icons

For the second time, news about Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Samuel Alito coincides with the news cycle containing reports of the death of a major civil rights icon. Coretta Scott King died last night, the same day that the Senate refused to extend debate (by a vote of 72-25!) on the nomination of Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court. A few days after the death of Rosa Parks (October 25, 2005) President George W. Bush nominated Alito to the court (on Halloween!) Hmmm, is this coincidence or foreshadowing?

OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 36/40 Accuracy!

The Academy has spoken: The full list of Oscar nominations is available at http://www.oscars.com/nominees/list.html

The Mad Professah had an amazing 90% accuracy in predicting the Oscar nominations in the Big Eight categories of Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay. That is 35 (or 36) out of 40. The only things I had wrong were 1) Munich's Best Picture nomination, William Hurt's Supporting nomination for A History of Violence; 2) Amy Adams Supporting nomination for Junebug (come on now, has anyone actually seen this movie or did she beat out Maria Bello on buzz alone??); 3) In Screenplay I didn't realize Syriana was original--the movie says it is based upon material from the book See No Evil by former CIA operative Robert Baer. So, I did predict Syriana would be nominated, but I had the wrong category! 4) I thought the Academy would throw a bone to Cinderella Man over A History of Violence, Happily I was wrong. But only four times out of forty nominations :-).

Prediction: Brokeback Mountain (10), Walk The Line(8), Capote(7), Crash(7), Good Night, and Good Luck. (6).

ACTUAL: Brokeback Mountain (8), Crash(6), Good Night, and Good Luck. (6)Walk The Line(5), Capote(5) .

Brokeback Mountain
• Crash
• Good Night, and Good Luck.
• The Constant Gardener
Walk the Line Munich
• Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain
• Bennett Miller - Capote
• Paul Haggis - Crash
• George Clooney - Good Night, and Good Luck.
• Steven Spielberg - Munich
• Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote
• Terence Howard - Hustle & Flow
• Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
• Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line
• David Strathairn - Good Night, and Good Luck.
• Judi Dench - Mrs. Henderson Presents
• Felicity Huffman - Transamerica
• Keira Knightley - Pride and Prejudice
• Charlize Theron - North Country
• Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line
• George Clooney - Syriana
• Matt Dillon - Crash
• Paul Giamatti - Cinderella Man
• Jake Gyllenhaal - Brokeback Mountain
Frank Langella - Good Night, and Good Luck. William Hurt - A History of Violence
Maria Bello - A History of Violence Amy Adams - Junebug
• Catherine Keener - Capote
• Frances McDormand - North Country
• Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardener
• Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain
• Capote
• The Constant Gardener
• Munich
A History of Violence
Cinderella Man Syriana
• Crash
• Good Night, and Good Luck.
• Match Point
• The Squid and the Whale

Monday, January 30, 2006

WA: Gay civil rights bill set to become law

The Washington State legislature has finally passed legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation after nearly 30 years. Last year, openly gay State Representative Ed Murray's bill failed by a single vote. This year it passed on a vote of 25-23. Governor Christine Gregoire has said she will sign the measure into law on Tuesday January 31st, making Washington State the 17th state in the country with an equal rights law which includes sexual orientation. Of cours, now the homophobes want "the people" to vote on the question of whether discrimination against some people should be okay.

Anand wins record 5th Corus Chess title; passes 2800 FIDE

Viswanathan Anand, the world's second best chess player, won the Super Grandmaster tournament called Corus 2006 for the record 5th time by defeating GM Boris Gelfand in the 13th and final round to catch up to World Champion Veselin Topalov with 9 points out of a possible 13. On the tiebreak system Anand was awarded the title. Probably more important to the Indian chess hero is that his FIDE rating already at a stratospheric 2792 will rise 10 points to break the 2800 rating, only the fourth person in history to do so.(Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Topalov are the others to have reached the 2800 barrier. Regular grandmasters have ratings in the 2550-2700 range.)

Roger That: Seven and counting...

Roger Federer won his seventh straight Grand Slam final on Sunday in Australia, halfway to Pete Sampras' all-time record of 14 and ahead of lengendary players like Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg. Federer defeated unseeded Cypriot 20-year-old Marcos Baghdatis 5-7 7-5 6-0 6-2. If Federer wins the 2006 French Open at Roland Garros he will complete the "Roger slam," by becoming the reigning champion of all 4-major championships simultaneously.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Amelie Wins!!

Amélie Mauresmo won her first Grand Slam title, the 2006 Australian Open tennis championship by defeating 4-time major champ Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-1, 2-0 (ret). Although most commentators gave bad reviews to the Belgian player's decision to quit the match due to a "sick stomach." She called for the trainer at 0-2 in the second set, but then after telling the doctor that she "had no energy" she played two more points and then retired. Although the fans were disappointed, it was clear from the very start of the match that Mauresmo was the better player today, and the much vaunted "battle of the backhands" became a blow out. Vive La France!

Friday, January 27, 2006

The perfidy of banks

I have had some very unpleasant interactions with banks, and the "general financial services industry" in the last 18 months or so since I bought my house. Apparently I'm not the only one.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times has a horror story in the Sunday January 1 edition about one consumer's (his own) run-in with a bank that shall remain nameless after an incident of identity theft involving his ATM/debit card.

Many progressive bloggers, like David Sirota and myself, have commented about the evil mosnstrosity that is The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

There have been numerous mergers in the banking industry in the last few years. Just last week, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Marketplace commentator blasted Bank of America's "sneaky banking practices." Basically, the banks don't let you access your money (for up to two weeks, i.e. 7-10 business days) when you deposit funds, but when you write checks they will withdraw funds rapidly (in 1-2 business days) in order to maximize "overdraft" fees.

Why can't banks be more like Google, whose corporate motto is "Don't be evil"?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Strange Bedfellows: The U.S. Votes With The Bad Guys at The U.N.

The United States has joined some of the most repressive governments in the world including a card carrying member of the so-called "Axis of Evil" to prevent the International Lesbian and Gay Association and the Danish Gay and Lesbian Federation (Landsforeningen for Bosser og Lesbiske) from having observer status at the United Nations Economics and Social Council (ECOSOC). As reported by Cathy Young and others, gay rights activists in the United States are not happy:

"It is an absolute outrage
that the United States has
chosen to align itself with
tyrants — all in a sickening
effort to smother the
voices of lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender
people around the world,"
said Matt Foreman,
executive director of the
National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force. "Apparently
Iran, which President
Bush has deemed part
of the 'Axis of Evil,' is a
suitable partner when it
comes to discriminating
against gay people."


[Monday]'s vote to summarily
dismiss the applications of
ILGA and LBL was as follows,
according to ILGA:
Yes: Cameroon, China, Cuba,
Iran, Pakistan,
Russian Federation, Senegal,
Sudan, United States of
America, Zimbabwe;
No: Chile, France, Germany,
Peru, Romania;
Abstention: Colombia,
India, Turkey;
Not present: Ivory Coast;

Zing! I (Heart) Matt Foreman. Even the (expletives deleted) at HRC had something to say about this latest outrage by the Bush administration. And we thought Canada's foreign policy towards gays and lesbians was going to move to the right...


Henin-Hardenne vs Mauresmo!
Justine Henin-Hardenne celebrates Amelie Mauresmo celebrates

Well, my predictions in the Australian Open women's semi-finals were 100% accurate, unlike other prognosticators. Justine Henin-Hardenne(8) is playing her now familiar brand of powerful, accurate tennis bolstered by shot making from all sections of the court. The Belgian outlasted the even more powerful, but less acurate Maria Sharapova(4) and the more powerful but less mobile Lindsay Davenport(1) in the semifinal and quarterfinal rounds.

Amélie Mauresmo(3) has had an incredibly lucky tournament. Two of her six opponents have retired hurt (Michaela Krajicek after 1 set in the blistering heat, Kim Clijsters(2) in the 3rd set soon after rolling over her ankle). It's true that Mauresmo was leading in both of those matches, but these retirements have spared Mauresmo facing what is often the weakest part of her game: finishing off matches. She has been playing well (she has far fewer total unforced errors than Henin-Hardenne in the tournament so far) but the Frenchwoman's mental fortitude has not been tested.

I think if Mauresmo wins the first set of the final on Friday 6:30pm PST on ESPN2 then I think she has a good chance of calming down and really going for her shots in order to subdue her mentally ferocious opponent who will not be going down without giving her all. Similarly, if Henin-Hardenne wins the first set it's likely that Mauresmo will be able to rally back to win the middle set, but then I doubt that she will be able to maintain focus long enough to win a 3-set final. Head-to-head Henin-Hardenne leads 4-3, but the Belgian has won most of the big matches (the anomaly being Mauresmo's victory at the 2004 Athen Olympics).

PREDICTION: Mauresmo in straight sets or Henin-Hardenne in three sets.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Semi-final Preview

Justine Henin-Hardenne FRA (8) vs. Maria Sharapova RUS (4) . Henin-Hardenne has been playing the most consistently accurate tennis of all of the top players. She served better and returned better than the #1 Player in the World who also happens to be 8 inches taller than her. She will not be afraid of playing someone even taller in her next match. Sharapova basically got through her match against Nadia Petrova by sheer will and with a lot of help from the mentally erratic lower ranked Russian. Her mental toughness and sheer determination to fight to win every single point combined with her ability to scramble and hit offensive shots from defensive court positions make her incredibly fun to watch and a formidable opponent. However, Sharapova will be facing a 4-time Grand slam winner in Justine Henin-Hardenne, who through some nefarious, Faustian pact has maximized the tennis playing power from her diminutive frame. PREDICTION: Henin Hardenne in 3 sets.

Amélie Mauresmo FRA (3) vs. Kim Clijsters (2) BEL. Although reports of Clijsters fragile state have been greatly exaggerated, she still has been averaging well over 45 unforced errors per match in the last few rounds. In her quarterfinal match against Hingis which the Summer 2005 Kim Clijsters would have won easily in straight sets, the Winter 2006 edition blew a 2-0, triple break point lead to lose six consecutive games and the middle set. It was only her blistering, Williams sister-hardened forehand which kept her in contention as she repeatedly shanked her usually dependent backhand. However, she did pull it out in the end. Mauresmo had just 2 unforced errors in her Round of 16 match and was on the court when Patty Schnyder handed the Frenchwoman a ticket to her second Australian Open semifinal. As Brad Gilbert says, "spin to win." Mauresmo's artistic game will provide her the right tools to exploit Clijster's reduced capacity. PREDICTION: Mauresmo in 3 sets.

I'll have a prediction on the Women's Final later in the week.

Canada Steps Slightly Right

As expected, Canadian voters decided to change their government yesterday. The Liberal Party, who had ruled for more than 12 years and had enacted legislation opening marriage to same sex couples, lost their plurality of seats in the 308-member Parliament. In the latest tally, the Liberals have 103 seats, to the Conservatives 124. The Bloc Québécois won in 51 ridings and the NDP in 29. It's not clear what this will mean for the future of gay rights in Canada.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Should the Senate Democrats Filibuster Alito? Yes.

There are numerous complaints among progressive bloggers about the Democratic reluctance to filibuster the Alito nomination. The vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee is on Tuesday January 24th with a full Senate floor vote set to start the following day. Already, DINO (Democrat in Name Only) Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) has said he will vote for Alito's confirmation to the United States Supreme Court.

It's a very interesting question, well phrased by mcjoan of Dailykos.com:
First, the final filibuster will
not be the final successful filibuster,
according to this thinking, because
the Republicans will trigger the
nuclear option. Which undermines
their entire point. What they are
saying is that the filibuster is
meaningless because even a
"successful" one will be nuked.
Save it for Stevens's retirement?
When the Republicans will override
it anyway? What sense does that make?
This argument in fact undermines the
thinking of those who applauded the
Gang of 14 compromise. Better to
have fought the fight then if in fact
you believed the actual use of the
filibuster would be ineffective.
Why "save" the filibuster now
when it will be a toothless tiger
anyway? If we can not use and
defend a filibuster against Alito,
who will we be able to use it
against? So it really comes down
to the political ramifications of
filibustering Alito. I would argue
that there is no better time to risk
this fight than now, with this nominee.

Exactly. Can Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) count to 41? (It takes 41 votes to sustain a filibuster in the United States Senate).

Sunday, January 22, 2006


On The Baseline blog's predictions for the round of 16 are up. So far, they are correct in that Davenport(1), Sharapova(4), Henin-Hardenne(8) and Petrova(6) have all advanced to the quarterfinals in straight sets.

Tomorrow, Mauresmo(3) and Clijsters(2) as well as Myskina(12)/Schnyder(7) and Hingis qill try and join them.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

CA: HIV Names Reporting On The Fast Track

The California state LGBT Legislative Caucus has capitulated to pressure from the Bush administration and has co-sponsored legislation to start allow the state (and federal government) to start names-based HIV surveillance.

In a stunning legislative development, the State Senate has unanimously passed legislation to start tracking HIV cases by name. The vote tally on SB 699 was 33-0. You know something is up when the Democrats and the Republicans are agreeing on anything.

I think this is horrendous public policy. Do people really think that we will be decreasing the number of HIV infections by telling people that if they test HIV+ their name will be sent to the county, state and federal officials? Will that decrease or increase the number of people who take an HIV test? If the number of people who will get tested decreases doesn't that increase the number of people who don't know their HIV status and thus the number of infections?

Why do you think the State Legislative LGBT Caucus, AIDS Project Los Angeles, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation all support this legislation?


Serena Williams was ousted from the Australian Open in her third round match. She lost to Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 7-6(5). Her sister Venus Williams had previously lost her first round match in a shocking upset. The 2006 Australian Open will be the first Grand Slam tournament where both Williams sisters entered that neither Venus or Serena reached the second week. Meanwhile, Martina Hingis rolled on, beating Iveta Benesova (who took out Mary Pierce) 6-4, 6-1.

In addition, James Blake lost in straight sets to Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, who had an incredibly low 14 unforced errors to the American's 46.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Canada: Gay rights at risk in upcoming election

Canada has a parliamentary election on Monday January 23 and a change of government from the Liberals to the Conservatives is likely. In response, gays and lesbians are rushing to take advantage of their nation's current marriage laws, which allow same-sex couples to wed.

Paul Harper, the man who will probably become the next Prime Minister of Canada as leader of the"Tories," has stated that he will ask the new Parliament to immediately consider legislation to restrict marriage between one man and one woman.

UPDATE: Nevermind, now Mr. Harper says stripping marriage rights from same-sex couples will not be a "Top 5 priority" of his administration.

Signs of the Apocalypse

Oh. My. Gawd. The New York Times is reporting that there will be a Trader Joe's store opening in Manhattan in the near future. Surely, this is one of the signs of the imminent end of the world? Trader Joe's is one of the most important reasons to live in Southern California.
Am I the only one who thinks of their day in terms of chunks of time where Trader Joe's is open (9am to 9pm) and closed? Well, I guess we still have the sea, sun and sand!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 4: Youngsters Lose

Thursday at the Australian Open in Melbourne was a pretty bad day to be a promising, young player on the WTA Tour. Sania Mirza(32), Ana Ivanovic(21), Anna-Lena Groenefeld(22) and Dinara Safina(19) all lost second round matches. However, Nicole Vaidisova(16), Michaella Krajicek and Iveta Benesova all won. The latter producing the upset of the tournament so far by defeating Mary Pierce(5) in straight sets 6-3,7-5. Pierce had 3 set points at 5-3 in the second set but had 41 unforced errors, three of which happened on those all important points to even the match.

In other news, Martina Hingis easily won her second round match 6-1, 6-1 and will now play Benesova instead of Pierce in the next round. That section of the draw contains a Kim Clijsters(2) playing at "forty percent," Amèlie Mauresmo, Patty Schnyder(7) and Anastasia Myskina(12). Myskina struggled past African-American Jamea Jackson 7-6(4), 0-6, 6-3 in an ugly slugfest occurring in dangerously hot temperatures which led to both players being treated on court and afterwards for heat exhaustion.

Tomorrow's featured matches are Serena Williams(13) versus Daniela Hantuchova(17), Lindsay Davenport(1) versus Maria Kirilenko(25) and Benesova versus Hingis. I also suspect Clijsters versus Roberta Vinci could be close.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


No real upsets on Day 3 of the Australian Open. Davenport, Sharapova, Henin-Hardenne, Kuznetsova, Hantuchova, Serena Williams and Petrova are all seeded players in the top half of the draw who made it through in straight sets (except for Kuznetsova who lost a 2nd set tiebreak but then easily won the third). Of the elite players, Serena actually had the easiest match of the day, beating Camille Pin of France 6-1, 6-3 in under an hour.

The lower half of the draw with Clijsters, Pierce, Mauresmo, Schnyder as well as Hingis and the "youngsters" (Ivanovic, Vinci, Groenefeld, Safina, Vaidisova, Mirza et al ) plays later today.

Top 10 Movies of 2005

So, I finally got around to finishing off my must-see list of movies by seeing King Kong this week. Here is my (alphabetical) list of the Top 10 Movies of 2005

A History of Violence.
Batman Begins.
Brokeback Mountain.

The Constant Gardener.
Hustle & Flow.
King Kong.
Walk The Line.
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
War of the Worlds.

Honorable mentions: Capote, Pride and Prejudice, Brother to Brother, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


On Day 2 of the Australian Open two tennis players fans love to hate, Lleyton Hewitt and Martina Hingis,won their first-round matches. Despite retiring at age 22(!) three years ago, Hingis has decided to attempt to make an unprobable comeback, with pretty surprising results and generally encouraging comments. On Tuesday, she beat (30)Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-2 pretty convincingly.

Lleyton Hewitt did not have such an easy time of it. The Aussie favorite and #3 seed almost lost to unheralded Robert Vik in 4 sets, but prevailed in a 5-set marathon 6-4, 2-6, 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3.

Hingis and Hewitt have made pretty "dodgy" statements in the past tinged with prejudice ("[Mauresmo] is half a man" referring to the Frenchwoman's sexuality and "Look at him! And look at him!" referring to the skin color of a line judge in a match with James Blake).

In addition to these two "baddies" getting through, fan favorites (and mine) (1)Roger Federer and (2)Kim Clijsters also won easily, though Clijsters has a thigh injurty which is hampering her movement and Federer is still wearing an ankle brace.

Domestic Spying Program Was Not Only Illegal But Ineffective

Gee, of course we knew that the President's claim that his secret order to allow the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless searches of the electronic communications of American residents is illegal, but in today's New York Times we also find out that it was also ineffective and extensive.

Wal-Mart Loses Another Location Battle

Hmmm, it looks like the realization that there is "a high cost for the low prices" at Wal-Mart is growing: in today's Los Angeles Times comes word that Wal-Mart has given up on its plans for opening a 150,000 square foot "supercenter" at the corner of Nordhoff and Tampa in Northridge. According to the article, Wal-Mart did not want to conduct "a lengthy evironmental impact report" as required by local city ordinances because it would be too costly and delay the opening of the store by several months. Despite this loss, Wal-Mart still has several stores in Southern California, in fact Wal-Mart has three within several miles of the disputed location, in Porter Ranch, West Hills and Van Nuys.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Australian Open Update: Venus Loses, Serena Wins

Venus Williams losesVenus Williams loses


In a stunning upset at this year's Australian Open, Venus Williams lost her first round match to 94th-ranked, 18-year old Bulgarian Tszvetana Pironkova 2-6 6-0 9-7 in 2 hours, 28 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champion had 65 unforced errors (to 32 winners with 1 ace to 4 double faults) in her third ever first-round Grand Slam loss (1997 Wimbledon and 2001 French) and first in nearly six years. The tenth seeded Williams was down 3-5 in the final set when she came back to serve for the match at 6-5 but was broken after being two points away from winning the match. Pironkova won the match on her first match point at 9-7 when Venus netted a backhand.

Serena Williams avoided a Williams family Australian Open first-round shut out by defeating Na Li 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-2. Serena is the defending champion but the 13th seed and was serving for the match at 5-4 when she was broken and then overpowered in the resulting tie-break. However, Serena easily won the final set and the match, although she still had 45 unforced errors to 21 winners. She's still on track for a fourth round match with Maria Sharapova who won her opening round match in straight sets.

James Blake won his first round match against Jose Acasuso in four tough sets 6-2, 6-3, 4-6,7-6(4).

Saturday, January 14, 2006


The Australian Open draw was released today Friday the 13th. Defending champions are Serena Williams and Marat Safin. The current seed lists are available. Here is my preview of this year's Australian Open.

(1) Lindsay Davenport. Last year's finalist is seeded #1 for the second consecutive year, playing for her first Grand Slam title since the 2000 Australian Open. She is in a tough section of the draw, with three other previous Grand Slam champs Svetlana Kuznetsova, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and Venus Williams in the same quarter of the draw. If she gets through all of those hard-hitters her reward is either Serena or Sharapova.
(2) Kim Clijsters. After facing a sudden injury scare and pulling out of the warm-up tournament in Sydney last week, the winner of the previous Grand Slam is looking at the easier half of the draw, with a possible showdown with the resurgent Miss Mary Pierce in the quarterfinal and possibly Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinal.
(3) Amelie Mauresmo. Has she finally had her breakthrough year with her win of the WTA Tour championship over her compatriot at the end of last season? It's not clear. She lost her first match of the year to a player who will be giving a lot of Top 10 players trouble this year, the pulchritudinous Ana Ivanovic.
(4) Maria Sharapova. She has a beautiful draw, with only defending champion Serena Williams a possible bump on the road in the 4th round(!). Last year, those two met in the best match of the tournament (and one of the best women's matches all year) in the semifinals.
(5) Mary Pierce. Which of the French femme fatales will be higher ranked at the end of the year? I'm not sure I would count out, the older, wiser player. I think their AO results will be indicative of how the year goes, since both Frenchwomen have played well in Australia in the past.
(6) Nadia Petrova. Has never really done well at the Grand Slams, but since the elimination of quality points effective from ranking calculations January 1 2006, she has soared to #6.
(7) Patty Schnyder. The crafty leftie has never made much of a splash down-under but is also playing her best and approaching her career-best ranking. Will probably be roadkill in the half of the draw chock full of ex-grand grand slam champions.
(8) Justine Henin-Hardenne. After coming back from a set and 1-4 down against soon-to-be-Top 10 Francesca Schiavone to win the Sydney International, the 2004 AO champion may be getting ready to make some noise. But can her body really last for the full two weeks through the previously mentioned "draw of death"? I doubt it.
(9) Elena Dementieva. If she has a serve, there's no reason this amazing athlete shouldn't make another Grand Slam final this year, though Australia is unlikely to be the venue.
(10)Venus Williams. It is unlikely she is really ready for this tournament, and the Williams sisters in general do not play well in Australia.

Defending champion (13)Serena Williams is in Sharapova's section of the draw, and has a tough first round opponent in Na Li followed by a possible matchup with (17)Daniela Hantuchova in the third round and Sharapova in the 4th. If she gets through those she should have no problem reaching the semifinal against whoever gets through the "draw of death" top quarter.

Shenay Perry has a tough first round match against (21)Ana Ivanovic. Jamea Jackson has a first round against a qualifier. Mashona Washington plays Jelena Kostanic and should get through that.

James Blake came back from a break down in the third set to win his fourth title of his career, and his 3rd in the last 6 months. He beat Igor Andreev 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(3) in the final of the Sydney International, the warm-up before the Australian Open. Blake has usually played well at the AO and will hopefully better his 2005 US Open results.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Evil That Is Wal-Mart

There were two notable mentions of Wal-mart in the news recently, and both are disturbing.
The first report was the unfortunate incident where Wal-mart's website was grouping search results about the Planet of the Apes movies with nonfiction films of Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches and African-American documentaries. Racist, much?

Then, if that was not enough to confirm that Wal-mart is indeed evil, albeit possibly unintenionally, firedoglake reported that they are now being intentionally evil:

January 6, 2006: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
the nation's largest food retailer, said
Thursday it will no longer donate
nearly-expired or expired food to
local groups feeding the hungry.

Instead, that food will be thrown away,
a move several Sacramento charities
consider wasteful. Olan James, a
Wal-Mart spokesman, said the policy,
which applies to all 1,224 Wal-Marts,
1,929 Supercenters and 558 Sam's Clubs,
is an attempt to protect the corporation
from liability in case someone who eats
the donated food gets sick.
"We can't guarantee the safety of
the merchandise, and consumer
safety is our top priority," said
James in a telephone interview from
Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas.


[...]Wal-Mart's concerns about
liability seem misplaced in light
of the Good Samaritan Food
Donation Act, a federal law
passed in 1996 offering food
donors wide-ranging protections
from civil lawsuits or criminal
prosecution. The law states that
donors can be held liable only in
instances of "gross negligence.
""Lord, we get millions and
millions of pounds from Raley's
and Bel-Air and Albertson's, and
they don't have a problem
understanding the law," Brown said.
"Why don't Wal-Mart and Sam's Club
understand the law?"James said he
is not aware of anybody suing
Wal-Mart aftergetting sick from
donated food.

I really don't think this story needs any further comment, does it? Good grief.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Are Things Bigger In Texas?

Did you know that San Antonio, Texas is the eighth largest city in the United States? I'll be visiting there January 11 through the 15th for the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings of the largest national mathematics associations in the United States.

So, yes, I am going off to a red state. Presumably, I don't need a visa. Yet.

I am curious to find out if "everything's bigger in Texas." A further report next week.

California's Three Strikes Law To Be Reformed?

Finally! Despite opposing Proposition 66 on the November 2004 statewide ballot which would have amended California's draconian three-strikes law, now District Attorney Steve Cooley (and Sherriff Lee Baca) are getting behind a proposed November 2006 initiative statute to remove non-violent repeat felons from the purview of the law. This is the first news I have heard of a progressive measure on the 2006 ballot. This is a good thing!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Something to respect New Jersey for...

Via MyDD comes the news that the New Jersey legislature has enacted a bill to suspend executions in that state, joining already enacted death penalty moratoriums in Illinois and Maryland. Kudos to New Jersey!

Perhaps California will be the next blue state to join the list of moratorium states?

The Popularization of Homosexual Vernacular

The ineffably amusing James Wolcott has a great post alluding to a certain "cable news anchorman whose name will go unmentioned" as a power bottom. What I find interesting about this is not only the superfluous outing of *cough* Anderson Cooper *cough* but also how the jargon often used in gay-only circles such as "top" and "bottom" is entering the mainstream.

For example, there are numerous media reports about Brokeback Mountain which use some language about "Heath Ledger on Top." Of course this is an obvious reference to the first sexual encounter between the two lead characters played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in the award-winning movie.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Don't Mess With The Dyke With The Flowers!

The most powerful person in New York City politics is the Mayor (Mike Bloomberg, who was just re-elected and promptly endorsed gay marriage.) The second most powerful person in New York City politics is the Speaker of the 51-member New York City Council. That position is now held by openly lesbian Christine Quinn, making her the most prominet openly gay or lesbian elected official in the United States. Last week I told you about the fact that in 2007 we currently have two openly gay Black mayors of culturally significant cities in the United States. The elevation of Christine Quinn, is also as milestone, as the always eloquent Matt Foreman reminds us: "This has extraordinary significance in its own right: [she] will be the second most powerful person in the largest city in America."

Alito's America Augurs Adversity

Today, Monday January 9 is the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on the nomination of Samuel J. Alito to the United States Supreme Court. There's a grassroots campaign to prevent him from joining the Court, called "Alito's America" which highlights how life would be different in America if Alito's judicial opinion become the Supreme law of the land.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Are You Quare?

Rod 2.0 informs his readers of a new anthology devoted to Black Queer Studies where the neologism "quare" is posited as a replacement for the "queer" construct. African Americans in particular have generally been perceived as rejecting queer for other non-White identified terms of non-heterosexuality like "same-gender loving" (often abbreviated "SGL") or "down-low." Don't get me started on the clinical "men who have sex with men" (MSM) term!

Anyway, I have no problem whatsoever with Queer. My initial reaction to "quare" is decidedly negative. Apparently it comes from a Southern drawl-affected pronunciation of "queer" by E. Patrick Johnson's grandmother! Interestingly, quare is also an alternate spelling for queer used in Ireland meaning "slightly off-kilter." I actually don't have much against Johnson for finding a word that resonates for him more genuinely than "queer" to define his identity and I applaud his project of promoting its use (fairly successfully, it seems in some LGBTQ studies circles) but I find it hard to believe it would achieve a common colloquial usage. But then again, who thought "crunk" would reach the masses? English, she is a strange beast!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

But Ya Are, Blanche, Ya Are!

Kevin Spacey has been officially designated as a famous homosexual member of the artist community by the British Government's Department of Education, 365gay.com reports.

Pam agrees with me that this should be news to no one. I find it interesting that the two most prominently closeted actors in the world today have two Oscars each and still are loathe to come out of the closet. What do they think they will lose? The chance for a 3rd Oscar? Only real Hollywood royalty like Jack Nicholson and Katharine Hepburn have ever done that. Come on, now!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sci-Fi Friday is Back!

Our long national nightmare is now over. No, not the Bush Administration, silly. The absence of Sci Fri Friday. Thankfully, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis return with new episodes tonight! Fresh off being named as "The Best Show on Television" by TIME Magazine television critic JAMES PONIEWOZIK last month, Battlestar Galactica is back!

Mariah Gets Best Selling Album of 2005

As I mentioned previously, Mariah Carey was in a close fight with 50 Cent for the title of best-selling album of 2005. The results are now in, and Mariah's The Emancipation of Mimi has won, with 4.97 million copies, compared to 4.85 million copies of The Massacre.

The predictions for the Febraury 8 Grammy Awards are starting to come in and they don't look good for Mariah. Chris Wilman of Entertainment Weekly thnks she will win Record of the Year for "We Belong Together" but lose Song of the Year and Album of the Year to U2. That would be a truly tragic result...., after all U2 has won Album of the Year only once before, for 1987's seminal The Joshua Tree. It has also been nominated for 1992's Achtung Baby (also an amazing album), 2001's All That You Can't Leave Behind and now last year's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb for a total of 4 album of the year Grammy nominations. Interestingly, Mariah has been nominated for album of the year 3 times: Mariah Carey, Daydream and The Emancipation of Mimi. The category is notoriously fickle, if not random. With Radiohead losing twice to lesser works by old geezers (Bob Dylan's Time Out Of Mind beat OK Computer and Steely Dan's Two Against Nature beat Kid A and Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP). Are U2 themselves now the old geezers? Or will Sir Paul McCartney cause a riot by absconding with the most prestigious prize in the recording industry ahead of newbies Kanye West and Gwen Stefani? In my mind the only acceptable choices are Kanye or Mariah, so we shall see.

UPDATE 09:29AM: The New York Times confirms Mariah's win today, and then Jon Pareles whines about the shallow taste of pop music consumers. Pop music. Shallow? Shocking!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

2006 Bloggies...

Hey you. The nominations for the 2006 Weblog Awards, i.e. the Bloggies are now up! The Mad Professah Lectures is eligible for Best New Weblog, and Best LGBT Weblog. Hint!

Previewing Ahnuld's State of the State

Dan Weintraub has a useful article in Sunday's Sacramento Bee describing his 5th annual Quality-of-Life Index or "stats of the state" to interested readers. Governor Schwarzenegger's State of the State address is today. The Governor's office has leaked that he will:
  • support a $1 increase in the minimum wage as long as it is not tied to an automatic cost-of-living increase every year
  • propose a $4 billion increase for public education, about $1.7 billion more than the minimum Prop. 98 guarantee (though still not completely making up for reneging on his deal with his 2004 deal with the CTA)
  • call for a massive 25-30 billion dollar bond to improve the state's infrastructure (levees, roads, bridges, modernize schools, emergency preparedness)
  • repeal the previously announced fee increase at the UC and CSU
  • call for a trucks only lane on the 710 freeway
  • call for a change to the legislative redistricting process

Clearly, Ahnuld is scurrying to the left prior to his re-election date with the voters on November 7. But, to my mind, most of these things he is calling for he is doing so to forestall even more liberal legislation by the Democratic majority in the Legislature. For example, not having a cost-of-living increase with the minimum wage proposal is just cruel. California's minimum wage is currently $6.75 per hour. In August, Ahnuld vetoed a bill by Assemblymember Lieber which would have raised the minimum wage by $1 over two years (and index it for inflation).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Black Tennis Report for 2005

Most Improved Black Player of 2005.

James Blake. Coming back from a parent's death and a series of freak injuries and illnesses which brought his ranking down as far as #210 in the world in April 2005 to win two titles in (New Haven, Stockholm) and end the year at #23, the first time he's finished in the Top 25. He had a thrilling run at this year's U.S. Open, losing to eventual finalist Andre Agassi an amazing late-night 5-set match after taking out World #2 Rafael Nadal early in the tournament. 2006 should bring great things for James Blake!

Black Player to Watch in 2006.

Donald Young. The 16-year-old leftie phenom won the 2005 Australian Open Junior title and ended the year as the 2005 ITF Junior World champion, accomplishing both feats at a record young age.

Most Successful Black Player of 2005.

Venus Williams. The older Williams sister earned her 5th major title (and 3rd Wimbledon) by defeating Lindsay Davenport in the longest women's championship match ever (4-6, 7-6(4), 9-7 in the third set!) and one of the best matches of the year on the WTA Tour.

Latest News.
African American leftie Donald Young became the youngest ITF World Junior Champion at age 16 years, 5 months by clinching a quarterfinal berth of the Orange Bowl International. Other Amercican World #1 Junior Champions have been Andy Roddick (2000) and Brian Dunn (1992).

James Blake re-signs with Prince to use their racquets.

Monday, January 02, 2006

AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2006: Hawk-eye to be tested

News from On The Baseline: Paul McNamee, who is the tournament director of the 2006 Australian Open which starts on January 16, has said that the Hawk-eye electronic line calling system currently being used in the mixed doubles international team tennis competition called the Hopman Cup will also be tested at the first Grand Slam of the year.

EUROPE: Backlash Against Gay Marriage Widens

Last week, Latvia amended its constitution to limit marriage to between "one man and one woman." Now, this week comes news that the neighboring Baltic nation of Lithuania is making moves to follow Latvia in discriminating against same-sex couples who want to be married. These countries were recently added to the European Union, which generally has been very acceptive of equal rights for LGBT folks (far ahead of the United States). The first country in the world to provide comprehensive rights for same-sex partners (way back in 1989) was Denmark, an EU nation. Currently, EU nations The Netherlands, Spain and Belgium all allow marriage between same-sex couples. In the United States, by contrast, only Massachusetts offers marriage for same-sex couples. Other EU nations like France, Germany, Sweden, Finland and, most recently, the United Kingdom, all offer some nationwide state recognition with rights and responsibility of registered same-sex partnerships. How the EU willl deal with differing views on equal treatment of LGBT individuals by member states will be a crucial indicator of future progress and integration.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Been In Arizona..

Hey, y'all, I drove to Mesa, AZ with the dog and the husband...Just got back today...more blogging tomorrow.


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