Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Venus Ends Losing Streak To Serena

Venus Williams ended her losing streak to her sister at six in a row by beating Serena 6-1, 7-6(10-8) in a well-played quarterfinal match at the Nasdaq 100 Open in Florida Tuesday night. It was the first time since the 2001 U.S. Open Final that Venus had beaten her sister, and (maybe not coincidently!) the first time in nearly two years they had not met in a final. The losing streak had begun at the 2002 Nasdaq Open where Serena won easily (6-2, 6-2) and then went on to completely dominate women's tennis for the next 15 months. The sisters faced each other in four consecutive Grand Slam finals (French Open 2002, Wimbledon 2002, U.S. Open 2002, Australian Open 2003) with Serena winning all four matches in straight sets (becoming the 5th woman in history to simultaneously hold all four major titles). Then Serena won again in the 2003 Wimbledon final, which was a 3-set match against an injured Venus. The Nasdaq 100 Open, which some tennis buffs call 'the fifth Slam' because it is another two-week tennis tournament with men and women competing in large 128-player draws, has been won by Venus (1998, 1999, 2001), Martina Hingis (2000) and Serena (2002, 2003, 2004). Could finally beating her sister jumpstart Venus' tennis results? Only time will tell!

In the first set Serena was not serving with her customary power and Venus was very sharp, having 7 winners to Serena's 2 at one point. She had points to win the set 6-0 which Serena was clearly upset about. Serena came up with some of her best serves on breakpoint against her serve. After she lost the set 6-1, Serena destroyed her racket by smashing it to the ground. The second set was much closer with both players having chances to win. Venus broke first and had points for 4-2 but Serena broke back to 3-3 and soon a tiebreak seemed inevitable. In the tiebreak Venus had a match point on Serena's serve at 5-6 and Serena had a set point at 8-7 but lost the point on an amazing backhand winner from Venus which (barely) caught the line. Serena came up with a huge serve at 8-8 which Venus returned, was pulled wide by Serena, scrambled to also return and then Serena dumped the ball into the net instead of the wide open court. That set up match point for Venus on her serve at 9-8 which ended when Serena sent a forehand long. This was the first time in a long time where Venus had more winners than errors (31 to 30) though Serena did not play badly (18 winners, 21 errors). Venus next faces current Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova in a semifinal match on Thursday.

In non-tennis Williams news, both Venus and Serena will appear on Oprah next week to promote their new book Venus and Serena -- Serving from the Hip: 10 Rules for Living, Loving and Winning and their newly announced reality TV show which will start airing on ABC Family in July 2005.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

White Boys Can Dance!

This video is hysterically funny! (Brief blogging for the next week or so since I have a big deadline at the end of the month.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Life For Me But Death For Thee

Matthew Yglesias praises this excellent article on the l'affaire Schiavo by Mark Kleinman which contrasts the media frenzy over the Schiavo case with the lack of coverage of the Sun Hudson and Spiro Nikolouzos cases.

Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a
fatal congenital disease, died Thursday
after a Texas hospital, over his mother's
objections, withdrew his feeding tube.

[...] The hospital simply decided that it
had better things to do than keeping the
child alive, and the Texas courts upheld
that decision after the penniless mother
failed, during the 10-day window
provided for by Texas law, to find another
institution willing to take the child.

Sun Hudson is dead, but 68-year-old Spiro
Nikolouzos is still alive
, thanks to an
emergency appeals court order issued
yesterday. However, his life support
could be cut off at any moment.

Both of these cases took places in Texas, where Governor George W. Bush signed the Texas Futile Care Law into effect in 1999. This law gives the medical institution the right to end "futile care."

As Markos points out today on the front page of, "Bush's rhetoric on the 'culture of life' and 'erring on the side of life' have galvanized anti death penalty activists, who are reminding people of Bush's record of death in Texas.

"In cases like this one, where there are
serious questions and substantial doubts,
our society, our laws and our courts
should have a presumption in favor of life,"
said Bush, who has spoken often of creating
a "culture of life" by limiting such things as
abortion and stem cell research.

Death penalty opponents said Bush did not
give the same presumption to death row
inmates in Texas, where he used his power
to grant an execution stay only once while
governor from 1995 to 2000.

In 2000, the state set a U.S. record with 40
executions, including that of Gary Graham,
whose guilt was hotly contested and became
an international controversy.
The stench of the hypocrisy is overwhelming. First, right wing Christian conservatives like Bush and Delay are perfectly happy to talk about the sanctity of life except when it concerns the State executing someone. Second, the same Republican Senators who voted to pass "Terry's Law" to put the Schiavo case before a federal judge previously had voted to slash Medicaid spending and make bankruptcies more difficult for families faced with the huge financial bills a catastrophic medical emergency (like in theTerry Schiavo, Sun Hudson and Spiro Nikolouzos cases) can produce. Third, after professing for years the desire to limit the scale and reach of the federal government until it is "small enough to drown in the bathtub" (Grover Norquist), the Republican majority passed a federal law explicitly limited to the rights of a single individual to get a feeding tube inserted in a particular Florida hospital room. Absolutely Orwellian, as billmon notes: "All patients on life support are equal, some are less equal than others."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Place Ad Here (On My Skin)

The Los Angeles Times has this very fun article about "the forehead guy" (handsome 20-year old Andrew Fischer of Omaha, Nebraska) who auctioned off the space on his forehead as advertising on eBay for over 35 thousand dollars and the mini-industry he has created.
As you can see from his media page, this is not a shy guy (though, interestingly, he claims that he was once, and consciously took classes to get over it. Wallflowers of the world, take heed!) and the media have gone completely ga-ga over the story. It's easy to see why. It's fun, silly and clever.
A thought, though. Would the media have gone so strongly for the story if it wasn't smart, attractive white guy who was hawking advertising on his person? (Set aside the practical considerations of whether advertising would be effective on darker hued skin.) Anyway, others who have tried to copy his brilliant idea are not faring as well. I predict this is not the last we will be seeing or hearing of Andrew Fischer.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Right To Die

The current media circus about the Terry Schiavo case and relevant blog posts (by me and others) have goaded me into thinking about "the right to die" debate. To me, there really is no debate. Any reasonable definition of personal autonomy should include the right to determine the time and manner of one's death. One thought is, how many people feel the way I do? Well, there is polling data available on this question:
If you were [in a persistent vegetative state like Terry Schiavo] would you want your [life to be ended or not]?
                   Kept    Not
Alive Kept Alive Unsure

ABC News, 3/2005 8% 87% 4%
Fox News, 3/2005 15% 74% 11%
Fox News, 10/2003 16% 74% 10%

For the record, place me firmly with the 87%. If I am in persistent vegetative state with a less than 33% chance of survival, pull the plug! (I hope an online advanced directive will be dispositive upon any court that would have to review my intentions.) Clearly the vast majority of the public agrees with my position, but yet Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate have used any and all legislative means at their disposal to thwart the actions of Schiavo's legal guardian to let Terry Schiavo die.

I don't mean to suggest that because the majority opinion is in favor of something that means it's the right thing to do. The vast majority of the American public is in favor of the death penalty, while I am unalterably opposed to it, in all cases. What I am trying to point out is how political leaders respond to public opinion. It's not all public opinion that matters, just the opinions of (some of) their political base.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Tennis Saturday

Today's Pacific Life Open women's final between Davenport and Clijsters is a repeat of the 2003 final which Clijsters won (6-4, 7-5). Lindsay is the current #1 player in the world, 3-time Grand Slam Champion (2000 Australian, 1999 Wimbledon, 1998 U.S. Open), months away from her 29th birthday and imminent retirement but yesterday she humiliated 2004 Wimbledon champion, 17 year old Maria Sharapova 6-0,6-0 in 49 minutes. I witnessed the match from the nosebleed seats of the "Indian Wells Tennis Garden" (also known as "Prime Loge" by the event organizers--ha!) and it was an awesome display of powerful and professional work from the World's Number 1. Yes, the conditions were not ideal (about 60 degrees and somewhat windy) and the match started at least two hours early, thanks to Andre Agassi's swollen big toe, but it is unprecedented for a current Grand Slam champion (and current #3 in the world) to be shellacked in such a convincing fashion. I would have loved to see if anyone in the tennis world called the boycotting Serena Williams for a comment on the match. Clijsters is the former #1 who is a 4-time Grand Slam finalist (no wins) who is coming back from a career-threatening wrist injury and is currently ranked #133. Interestingly, Clijsters has won 8 of 14 matches with Davenport, including the last 5 times they played (in 2003). Prediction: Davenport (in 3 sets).

UPDATE 3/19/05 4:56pm: Clijsters comes back from being one point away from being down 0-5 in the first set to win that game and 6 others in a row and eventually win the match 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Clijsters is now 5-0 in WTA finals against Davenport and has won the last 6 times they have played!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Best Show On TV Will Be Back!

The Best Show On Television? Yes, it's on HBO. NO, it's not Six Feet Under. NO, it's not the fucking Sopranos. It's no Real Time with Bill Maher. It's The Wire, muthafucka! HBO announced yesterday they are renewing the show for a fourth season to air in 2006. Other bloggers are also reasonably ecstatic.

Tennis Friday

No real post today as I go off to Indian Wells, CA to attend the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament for the women's semifinal matches (Davenport-Sharapova and Clijsters-Dementieva). Oh and there some men's quarterfinal matches I may watch in between the women's matches (Agassi-Hewitt and Roddick-Moya).

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Senate Dems Stand Firm Against Nuclear Option

Senator Harry Reid sent a letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist on Tuesday and delivered a speech (video stream using RealPlayer) with the entire Demorcatic caucus standing behind him on the Capitol steps on the topic of eliminating the filibuster rule on the confirmation of federal judges. The netroots loved it! As I have mentioned earlier, there is an imminent opening on the U.S. Supreme Court and it is good to see that Democrats are stepping up early to stop any shenanigans from the Republicans to pack the courts with right wing ideologues.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Analyzing Exit Polls in LA Mayoral Race

There's been a lot of data to analyze following last week's Mayoral Primary election. Here are some interesting features in the exit poll conducted on March 8, 2005 by the Los Angeles Times (2789 voters with a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points):

  • Hahn got 59% of the Asian American vote
  • Villaraigosa got 64% of the Latino vote
  • Parks got 54% of the African American vote
  • 8% of the respondents said they were gay or lesbian
  • Villaraigosa got 43% of the gay/lesbian vote
  • 51% of respondents said they were liberal, 25% conservative, 24% moderate
  • The gender split was 50-50 (unusual since women usually make up the voting majority)
  • Villaraigosa had a +4 "gender gap" (35-31 male-female split), Hahn had a -2 (23-25)
  • Villaraigosa won 825 precincts, Hertzberg 474 , Parks 185 and Hahn a mere 102 (but he placed second in more than all of the other three)

Loyola Marymount University also conducted their own exit poll and also found some interesting results (as highlighted by Jerome over at MyDD and Antonio's blog):
1200 Primary voters were asked as they left the polls:
If no candidate wins 51 % today, and there is a runoff election who would you vote for?

                Hahn      Villaraigosa    Don't know
City Total 29.7% 57.5% 12.8%
White 30.4% 56.5% 13.0%
Black 33.3% 49.0% 17.6%
Latino 19.9% 74.2% 6.0%
Asian 51.1% 29.8% 19.1%
The margin of error is +/2.8 percentage points. The numbers indicate precisely
what a deep hole Hahn is in. He started off the campaign to the May 17 run-off election down 28 points! His only chance is to depress turnout so that his advantage with absentee voters can have a bigger impact on the final result. In the primary election, there were 408,069 votes cast (26% of the 1,474,186 registered voters in the City of Los Angeles), 104, 959 (25.72%) were absentee ballots. These votes were reported first and led to much consternation since Hahn led with 30%, Hertzberg had 26% and Villaraigosa trailed with 23%.

In the 2001 race, turnout was 33% in the primary and barely increased to 36% in the run-off. If we get the same effect this year we could expect a 28% voter turnout on May 17. Being generous and giving the Mayor a 15 point lead among absentee voters, Hahn would have to limit Villaraigosa's lead among election day voters to 5 percentage points to have any chance of peventing Antonio from becoming El Alcalde.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Bush's Budget Backs Bad Behavior

The Bush Administration released it's 2005-06 2.5 trillion dollar budget plan on February 7. As noted earlier from statements in his State of the Union, Bush is intending on cutting a lot of very popular and vital programs. This week the Senate is taking up the budget resolution (which according to Senate rules is filibuster proof) but the Republicans have plans to attach lesgislation to allow drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). It will be a close call in the Senate. Four anti-drilling Democratic Senators were replaced by four pro-drilling Republican senators in the 2004 elections so the Republicans think they might have 51 votes to include raping and pillaging of the environment included in the Bush Budget.

However, now comes word from the "other body" that the chairman of the budget committee will not allow ANWR drilling legislation attached to the House budget resolution which means that during budget reconciliation it will take 60 votes, not 51 votes to have legislation authorizing ANWR drilling included in the final budget reconciliation act that Bush must sign into law to keep the federal budget operating.

Monday, March 14, 2005

UPDATE: CA Marriage Law Ruled Unconstitutional

BREAKING NEWS! The State of California lost its argument that marriage can be restricted to opposite sex couples at the trial court level today in Woo vs Lockyer when San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. This is now the fourth time in a row (and second this year), opponents of same-sex marriage have lost at the trial court level with two other cases pending in Connecticutt and Maryland. Just last week oral argument was heard before the Washington State Supreme Court in another same-sex marriage case.

The Next Supreme Court Justice: #114

On May 16 1994, Stephen G. Breyer was nominated by President William Jefferson Clinton to become the 113th person to be a member of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) . The nomination was approved by the U.S. Senate July 29 on an 87-9 vote and Breyer was sworn in as an Associate Justice 4 daMcys later.

Since then, there have been no vacancies on the court, the longest nomination gap in over a century, and all sides agree the next Supreme Court confirmation battle will be tremendous. DavidNYC at DailyKos has initiated a discussion of the following "usual suspects" of potential nominees for the next incipient Supreme Court vacancy:

Samuel A. Alito Jr., a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia who has been nicknamed "Scalito" because he has views similar to those of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Janice Rogers Brown, the first black woman to serve on California's Supreme Court. Her nomination to a federal appeals court has been blocked by Senate Democrats.

Miguel Estrada, a native of Honduras whose nomination to an appeals court was also blocked by Democrats. He's a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Emilio Miller Garza, judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Bush's father, the first President Bush, considered the Hispanic judge a Supreme Court prospect.

Alberto R. Gonzales, [Attorney General, about whom little else need be said at this point].

Edith Jones, a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and former general counsel for the Texas Republican Party. Bush's father considered her for the high court.

J. Michael Luttig, put on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., by President Bush's father. Clerked for Scalia when Scalia was an appeals court judge.

Michael W. McConnell, young (50 years old) appointed to the 10th Circuit by Bush in 2003, clerked for Brennan and is admired by both sides of the aisle.

Theodore B. Olson, who was Bush's solicitor general until this summer and represented him in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case. Olson's wife, Barbara, was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

John Roberts, a former Rehnquist clerk named by President Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Larry Thompson, who was deputy attorney general and the Bush administration's highest-ranking black law-enforcement official until he quit in 2003 to join a think tank, the Brookings Institution. He is a longtime friend of Justice Clarence Thomas.

James Harvie Wilkinson III, judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and author of a decision that gave the government broad authority to hold U.S. citizens as enemy combatants without constitutional protections. The ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court.

I think Bush will pick Ted Olson, the man most responsible for Bush actually being (s)elected President of the United States. Olson has a media-ready story soaked with 9/11 overtones and potential Democratic senators who would support him. This pick is contingent on whether Majority Leader Frist is able to convince his colleagues to enact the so-called "nuclear option" (coined by Sen. Byrd). The odious Dick Morris argues today that Bush/Rove has put pressure on Frist to not annihilate the filibuster rule on judicial nominations. Recall that in Bush's first term Ted Olson was only approved by the slim vote of 51-47 to become Solictor-General (the position Thurgood Marshall held prior to his nomination, and who is often known as the "tenth Justice" because of their regular appearance arguing the legal position of the United States before the Court). If Morris is right (which would truly be shocking) that would mean that Bush has given up on forcing Olson (or Gonzales, for that matter) on to SCOTUS, and that the new frontrunner may be someone NOT on the above list.

UPDATED TUE MAR 15: In response to comments to this post at MyDD, I added Michael McConnell to the shortlist of "usual suspects" to be nominated by Bush to SCOTUS.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Two Black U.S. Senators?

Democrat Paul Sarbanes of Maryland is announcing that he is retiring from the Senate and will not seek re-election in 2006. Maryland is nearly 27% African American and this is an excellent opportunity for former Congressman and NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, Congressman Elijah Cummings or some other black elected official to join Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in 2007. Even before the Sarbanes announcement on Friday, there were polls showing Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley 26%, Mfume 24% and Congressman Benjamin Cardin (20%) in a crowded Democratic field. O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan both said on Friday that they would skip the 2006 Senate race to concentrate on unseating Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

They Shoot Dogs, Don't They?

Was anyone in L.A. very surprised to learn that the LAPD had shot and killed another unarmed Black person last month? Sickened, shocked and pissed off, yes, but not really surprised. However, I was surprised when the Los Angeles Times reported that in the midst of the ongoing furor over the Devin Brown shooting, some LAPD officers shot and killed a beloved canine member of the community. However, today comes a follow-up story by reporters Matt Lait, Scott Glover and Doug Smith headlined "Shootings of Dogs by Police Not Unusual":
One out of every four times Los Angeles police
officers intentionally fired their guns during
the last 20 years, the target was not a man; it
was man's best friend.

Though the killing of a pit bull by an officer
three weeks ago sparked anger among animal
rights activists, LAPD data show that shooting
incidents involving dogs are commonplace.

Since 1985, police have shot at more than 465
dogs, killing at least 200 and wounding at least
140, according to incident reports.

And it's not just the LAPD which is trigger happy. According to the article, the NYPD (which is four times as large as the LAPD serving a population twice as large) has shot at 803 dogs since 1990. The LA Sheriff's Department fires at approximately 36 dogs per year, compared to the LAPD's 26 dogs per year and the NYPD's 53 dogs per year. Interestingly, if one looks at the rate of dog shootings per year per officer, the LAPD and NYPD have roughly the same number which is actually lower than the sheriff's statistic. However, asking how many pet shootings per year is acceptable is like asking how many Devin Brown shootings is acceptable, isn't it?

A Proposal To End Gerrymandering

Posted this as a diary on MyDD:

Matthew Yglesias comments on Atrios' response to a Wall Street Journal editorial endorsing Arnold's attempted power grab in California by proposing that Democrats should change the terrain of the debate on redistricting and gerrymandering and consider multi-district elections. Of course it was this extremely reasonable idea of abolishing or combining voting districts and having multi-candidate at-large elections was exactly what got now Harvard Law Professor Lani Guinier called "Quota Queen" and "borked" by the Republicans when Clinton nominated her to be Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in 1993.

I agree with Yglesias that a more nuanced position then "not all gerrymandering is bad" needs to be taken by Democrats as we respond to Republican attempts to build a permanent majority in the House of Representative through unconstitutional mid-decade redistricting.

I would call for consideration of a proposal that all states with less than 5 electoral votes (i.e. 3 House seats) run at-large elections where the top 3 vote finishers are elected to the House. Of course, this would have the unintended consequence of blurring the distinction between running statewide for a House seat as opposed to running statewide for a Senate seat. But in states with small delegations (ND, SD, MT, VT, DE, WY, AK, ID, RI, HI, NH, WV, NV, NM, UT all would fall under this proposal) running for a house seat is tantamount to running statewide.

There are other considerations, like should voters have 3 votes which they could distribute among 1, 2 or 3 candidates. It was this proposal that got Professor Guinier into hot water (it could be argued the proposal violates the "one man, one vote" principle of Baker v Carr).
Other drawbacks are that while candidates who had a strong following among a plurality of the state's population (say, in an urban setting) would still have reasonable opportunities to be elected. Rich candidates who could run strong statewide campaigns would be privileged, but no more so than they are under the current system. Comments?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Kasparov Retiring at the Top

Garry Kasparov, the world's highest rated chess player since 1984, announced today that he was retiring from high-level professional chess. Kasparov had just tied for first (winning on tiebreaks) at Linares 2005, one of the strongest chess tournaments of the year. His mom was in the audience of his final press conference, which began with this:
"I would like to make a short statement
before the press conference. It could come
as a surprise to many of you. But before this
tournament I made a conscious decision that
Linares 2005 will be my last professional
tournament, and today I played my last
professional game. I hoped I could do better in
my last game, but unfortunately the last
two games were very difficult for me, to play
under such pressure, because I knew it was the
end of a career which I could be proud of. I may
play some chess for fun, but it will no longer be
professional competitive chess."

As someone who at age fourteen used to fill-out travel forms with "Occupation: Professional Chess Player" I can say that I am stunned by this news. There's no doubt in my mind that Garry Kasparov is the greatest chess player of all time, it has been an amazing experience being able to witness his brilliance on the chessboard in real time. Thanks, Garry!

Diversity In Black America

The one downside of being a person of Caribbean origin (i.e. Afro-Caribbean) is the lack of decent West Indian/Caribbean restaurants in the Southland. Now a study which analyzes census data reveals the extent of the diversity among "Black" populations in the USA and explains why this unhappy result. Look at the Top 10 Metropolitan areas with Afro-Caribbean populations:

Metropolitan      Afro-Caribbean Population
Area 1990 2000
New York, NY 403,198 566,770
Miami, FL 105,477 153,255
Fort Lauderdale,FL 55,197 150,476
Boston, MA 40,825 62,950
Nassau-Sufolk, NY 32,210 60,412
Newark, NJ 29,818 55,345
W. Palm Beach, FL 20,441 49,402
Washington, DC 32,440 48,900
Orlando, FL 14,872 42,531
Atlanta, GA 8,342 35,308
Notice there are no west coast cities on the list. I have been to excellent West Indian/Caribbean restaurants in New York (Brooklyn!), Newark, DC, Atlanta and Miami (mostly cuban--which is NOT the same thing).

Here are some other interesting facts from the report "Black Diversity in Metropolitan America":
  • In 2000 there were over 1.5 million Afro-Caribbean and 0.6 million African people in the USA (compared to 33 million African American).
  • Over two-thirds of the Afro-Caribbean and nearly 80 percent of the African population is foreign-born. The percent foreign-born of these groups is higher than that of Asians.
  • Educational attainment of Africans (14.0 years) is higher than Afro-Caribbeans (12.6 years) or African Americans (12.4 years) – indeed, it is higher even than whites and Asians. This suggests that black Africans immigrate selectively to the U.S. based on their educational attainment or plans for higher education.
The impact of Afro Caribbean and African immigrants on African American culture has become more noticeable in recent years as one tracks the increasing occurrence of other non-American international influences such as dub, dancehall, bhangra et cetera in contemporary urban (read: Black/African American) pop culture. But really the most important question is: why can't I get a good roti or curry chicken with rice and peas in this town?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Senate Bill 256: Usury and Misery

The Bible has many imprecations against usury. However, the bankruptcy bill which has just passed the Senate explcitly allows rates of 30 percent and higher! What has the netroots pissed off is the cloture roll call vote by "moderate" Senators to end debate on the bill. This was basically the last chance the minority party had to try and stop this trainwreck piece of legislation. And this is how the "moderates" voted:

"Moderate" Democrats
  • Biden-DE
  • Byrd-WV
  • Carper-DE
  • Conrad-ND
  • Johnson-SD
  • Kohl-WI
  • Landrieu-LA
  • Lieberman-CT
  • Lincoln-AR
  • Nelson-FL
  • Nelson-NE
  • Pryor-AR
  • Salazar-CO
  • Stabenow-MI
"Moderate" Republicans
  • Allen-VA
  • Chafee-RI
  • Collins-ME
  • Hagel-NE
  • McCain-AZ
  • Snowe-ME
  • Specter-PA
  • Voinovich-OH
The Los AngelesTimes has had good coverage of the issue for quite awhile, culminating with an editorial entitled "Bankrupt of Compassion":
The proposed Bankruptcy and Abuse Prevention
and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, despite
rhetoric served up by credit card companies,
banks and retailers, does a poor job of
distinguishing between deadbeats and people like
[Ruth M. Owens of Cleveland, who, according to a
Times report by Peter Gosselin, paid Discover
Bank $3,492 over six years on a $1,963 debt, only to
end up with a balance of $5,564 because of late fees
and finance charges], who are overwhelmed
primarily by two things: high healthcare costs
and credit card interest rates that can be as much
as 30% for those with poor credit.


Further, credit card companies have reported
steadily increasing profits even as bankruptcy
filings have risen. [$30 billion in 2004--TMP.]
They have done this by eagerly offering credit
cards to people with poor credit histories, and
charging fees and interest rates high enough to
offset the risk. Except, of course, the risk that
people will drown in spiraling interest costs.

The real spirit of the bill was made brutally clear
in a series of votes that culminated on Tuesday.
Senators have embraced what critics call the
"millionaire loophole," which would let rich
Americans establish trusts to keep their assets
safe from creditors. As for the ordinary Joes? The
lawmakers would make it harder for them to get
free and clear, meaning they're more likely to be
saddled with debts beyond their means. And the
senators also rejected an amendment to help old
people keep their homes.

This is very nice to see from a mainstream media outlet! This change in bankruptcy rules will hurt a lot of people who could be successful if given more time and will lead to a lot more misery in the red states where (as Atrios notes) bankruptcy rates are the highest.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Los Angeles Mayoral Election Results

Phew! After the vote-by-mail absentee results were the only news being reported for about 2 1/2 hours after the polls closed (fog in Los Angeles prevented helicopters from flying the ballots to a central counting location--thus delaying the results from being released) I had a vision of the worst case scenario: Hahn versus Hertzberg in the run-off. Fortunately, the later results as well as a Los Angeles Times exit poll indicated that Villaraigosa would place first, with Hahn and Hertzberg duking it out for the second, final run-off spot.

Here is the latest (99% of precincts reporting):
Candidate         Votes   Percentage   Prediction
Villaraigosa 124,561 33.07 31 (-2.07)
James Hahn 89,189 23.68 22 (-1.68)
Bob Hertzberg 83,420 22.15 21 (-1.15)
Bernard Parks 50,341 13.37 14 (+0.63)
Richard Alarcon 13,515 3.59 6 (+2.41)

Note the margin of error between our vote prediction and the actual vote count, others have!
There are still some 24,000 absentee votes to be counted but Hahn was generally doing better than Hertzberg (and Villaraigosa) in those ballots, so I think his margin of 5769 votes will probably hold, and so as predicted yesterday(!), there will be a Hahn vs Villaraigosa rematch (which Villaraigosa will win easily).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

WA Supreme Court Hears Marriage Case Today

The Washington State Supreme Court is hearing arguments in two same-sex marriage cases Andersen et al. v. King County and Castle v. the State of Washington at 1:30pm on Tuesday March 8 (today!) The Seattle Weekly has published a very informative article on the case by George Howland, Jr. The case is being litigated in a state in which, for the first time in history, the top three statewide elected officials are all women (Governor Christine Gregoire, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and U.S. Senator Patty Murray) and until recently had a majority-female state supreme court. There are nine members of the Court elected to 6 year terms, at staggered 2 year intervals. The current total of 4 female members (44%) is still much higher than the average percentage of female members on the "court of last resort" nationwide (23%), and the United States Supreme Court (O'Connor and Ginsburg, 22%). (A female justice, Faith Ireland, retired from the State Supreme Court and was replaced in the 2004 election by Jim Johnson.) State Supreme Court elections in Washington state are non-partisan.

Previously, highest courts in Hawaii (1993), Vermont (1999) and Massachusetts (2003) have agreed with lawyers for same-sex couples that the opposite sex restriction in state-issued civil marriage licences is unconstitutional. In the last year trial courts in Washington (2004) and New York (2005) have issued similar rulings recognizing the obvious: the state, in limiting civil marriage to opposite sex couples, is discrimination on the basis of sex and sex orientation in the application of a fundamental right, the right to marry. The statutes fail on both equal protection and due process (liberty) grounds, among others.

The public appears to be making its mind up about this issue. On Sunday March 6, there was a very public rally of support of same-sex marriage in downtown Seattle. In Connecticut, the Republican Governor has said she(!) will sign a civil union bill into law if it passes the state legislature. In New York, a recent poll of City residents showed support for same sex marriage at 51%. We'll just have to wait to see if the Justices of the Washington State Supreme Court agree with their "brethren" in Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts....

L.A. Mayoral Primary Today!

Tuesday is Mayoral Primary Day in Los Angeles!
I have been blogging about this race for quite awhile now. The fatal shooting on February 6 of an African-American 13-year old boy named Devin Brown by the LAPD has been reverberating throughout the campaign and the city as a whole.
The main contenders are the incumbent, Mayor Jim Hahn, (my) City Councilperson Antonio Villaraigosa, former State Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, former LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks and State Senator Richard Alarcon.
Get out and VOTE!
The latest poll data in the Los Angeles Mayoral race was released yesterday, as well as a local television station's online poll:

Who gets your vote for Mayor of Los Angeles?
Choice Votes % of 3806 votes
James Hahn 992 26%
Bernard Parks 325 9%
Antonio Villaraigosa 978 26%
Richard Alarcon 184 5%
Bob Hertzberg 834 22%
None of the above 493 13%

On MyDD, I posted the following response to Jerome Armstrong's call for predictions:

Candidate                 Prediction
James Hahn 22%
Bernard Parks 14%
Antonio Villaraigosa 31%
Richard Alarcon 6%
Bob Hertzberg 21%
Other 6%
I'll be monitoring blogs and other media outlets during the day to see
if there are any exit polls or early indications of which way the vote is going is available.
Turnout will be key. Unlike other media outlets, The Mad Professah Lectures will provide you a follow-up story on how the predictions matched reality.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Blogging of the President

That loud sucking sound you hear is the air going out of the mainstream media's ego. Today, for the first time ever, there was live blogging from the White House Press room by an actual blogger, Garrett Graff at FishbowlDC. Of course, he had to go through far more hoops than a partisan, exhibitionist, inexperienced male prostitute did to join the white house press corps.

Smoking is a Nasty Filthy Habit, Like Voting Republican

I'll just start by saying that I am a rabid anti-smoker. I think it's obnoxious to engage in a habit which harms people proximal but not particpatory to the activity in question. On March 1 a law banning smoking in most indoor public places went into effect in Rhode Island. Governor Christine Gregoire said that she supports similar legislation in Washington. There are now nine states that ban smoking in public places: California, Maine, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, Florida and Rhode Island. SmokeFreeUSA has the deets on smoking bans in the other states. What do these states all have in common? John Kerry carried them all easily in the 2004 Presidential Election. Interesting, eh?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Devin Brown Shooting Impacts Public Opinion

The Los Angeles Times released a poll on March 3 (5 days before the Mayoral Primary) which measures the impact of the Devin Brown shooting on police-community relations among registered voters in Los Angeles:
A majority of registered voters, 52%, said incidents
of LAPD brutality were common; 42% disagreed.
And pluralities of whites and Latinos, along with
a large majority of blacks, said officers were
"tougher on blacks" than on other residents. Among
whites, 43% said officers were tougher on blacks
and 40% said police treat everyone equally. Among
Latinos, 36% said blacks received the toughest
treatment; 32% said everyone was treated equally
and 22% said Latinos were treated the toughest.

The gap between the attitudes of blacks and
non-blacks toward the department was at a record
before the DevinBrown shooting. It has expanded
since. In the poll taken before the shooting, 40% of
black voters said they approved of the LAPD. That
has fallen to 28%, with 65% saying they disapprove
of the force.
The police chief (Bill Bratton, formerly of the NYPD) had an approval-disapproval rating of 48%-27% on his handling of the shooting. There were more specific polling results on the public's thoughts on the shooting itself:

A majority of Los Angeles voters, 56%, said the
shooting was an overreaction by officers and 31%
said the officers acted reasonably. Thirteen percent
were unsure.

Four of five black voters and nearly two of three
Latino voters saw an overreaction. Among whites,
45% said the officers overreacted and 38% said they
reacted reasonably.


Similarly, a 53% majority of voters overall said
police would have handled the incident differently
"if Devin Brown had been a white teenager driving
in a middle-class neighborhood."Again, white
voters were the most closely divided, with 42%
saying that a white teenager would have been
treated differently and 45% saying that police
would have handled the incident the same way.
Black and Latino voters overwhelmingly said
police would have handled the incident differently
if a white teenager had been involved.

This article was paired with another one which demonstrated how each of the mayoral candidates opportunistically uses different aspects of crime data to make the case to the voters that they should pick him to be the next Mayor. The interesting question that the media is trying to answer (in advance) is what will be the most important issue in the mayoral election? Well, we just have 3 more days before we get the answer....

Friday, March 04, 2005

NFL Says Gay Is O.K.

After a website for LGB sports enthusiasts, publicized the fact
(first reported by Rex Wockner)
that the NFL was refusing
to allow personalized jerseys with
"Gay" emblazoned on the
rear view an uproar ensued. The NFL has now backed down:
The league reversed itself and will now allow
personalized jerseys to have “GAY” on the back.
This decision came one day after Outsports printed
an article about the policy (see below). Previously,
a person trying to buy such a jersey had it rejected
with the words: "This field should not contain a
naughty word." (this wording was changed in
response to our story to "The personalization
entered cannot be accepted.").

A league spokesman told Outsports that
“there was no message there” to having “gay”
on a
list of 1,121 banned words. After being made
aware of the issue, the
NFL Shop will now allow “gay”
jerseys, said the spokesman, who asked that his
name not be used. “It should have not been in the
[naughty words] filter,” he said. (Buying a "Gay"
jersey was prohibited more than 24 hours after
we were told it would be accepted).

This decision seems to have less to do with any
sexual orientation statement by the league and
more with the fact that there is a player in the
league with the last name Gay, New England
Patriots rookie defensive back Randall Gay.
Randall is the first Gay in the NFL since Ben Gay
played for the Cleveland Browns in 2001.

Hmmm. All I can is that I very much doubt that Randall and Ben are the only "gays" to have played in the NFL!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The End of Political Blogging?

The blogosphere is buzzing with commentary in response to this quote from Federal Elections Commission member Bradley Smith: "The freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over." he goes on further to say:

In just a few months, he warns,
bloggers and news organizations
could risk the wrath of the
federal government if they
improperly link to a campaign's
Web site. Even forwarding a
political candidate's press
release to a mailing list,
depending on the details, could
be punished by fines.

Smith, one of the three Republican members of the commission is referring to one possible effect of applying provisions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) to the Internet. Needless, to say, political bloggers are quite upset. What's particularly annoying about this is that it is the Democratic members of the commission who primarily seem to want to go along with this abridgement of the free speech of the Internet community. *sigh*, we have had to show policymakers before that the First Amendment applies to the Internet by taking them all the way to the Supreme Court, so I suppose we can do it again. (Disclosure: I was a co-plaintiff in a Supreme Court case which struck down the Communications Decency Act of 1996.)

Ignorance Wins in Montana

Ignoring David Nieweurt's brilliant defense of hate crimes legislation and my promotion of his piece, the evenly-divided Montana House has, for the seventh time in seven legislative sessions rejected a hate crimes bill which would include sexual orientation in the list of protected classes in that state's hate crimes law. The vote was 54-46 despite partisan parity and Democrats' usual propensity to support civil rights measures. Even though they have a newly elected Democratic governor, this is Montana after all!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Kennedy Prevails, Scalia Throws Fit (Again)

BREAKING NEWS: The United States Supreme Court ruled today (Tuesday March 1) that imposing the death penalty on individuals for crimes committed while they were juveniles (under 18) is unconstitutional! As a long stand opponent of the death penalty (member of Amnesty International since 1989) I am thrilled by this news. I'm also thrilled that it was a 5-4 majority opinion written for the Court by (soon-to-be-Chief?) Justice Kennedy with a scathing dissent by Scalia (joined by Thomas and Rehnquist), which he read from the bench. O'Connor dissented separately. What's important about this is two-fold: 1) Scalia could not (or would not) regulate his feeling about the case and thus pissed off O'Connor enough to have her not join his dissent written for the "Troglodyte Trio" (RehnquistScaliaThomas--a 3-headed beast, like Cerberus of yore) and 2) when Scalia reads his dissents from the bench he is inevitably ostentatiously wrong (see Romer vs Evans and Lawrence vs Texas).

Villaraigosa for L.A. Mayor

Mad Professah is endorsing Antonio Villaraigosa's bid for Mayor of Los Angeles. Mayor James Hahn is clearly not the right person for the job. Although Bob Hertzberg is a very bright guy, I'm troubled by his close association with business owners (particularly Republicans). Villaraigosa is the more progressive of the two, and electing him would give Los Angeles its first Latino mayor in modern history. Election day is next Tuesday March 8: VOTE!

Yo! Wear a hat, bruh!

At the 12th Annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections being held in Boston last week there was a whole bunch of scary news: the HIV rate among African Americans has doubled in the last decade while remaining steady in whites. To me this is quite simply a failure of "AIDS, Inc." to proffer a message of prevention that is effective among non-white populations. It has been my experience that many Black guys don't like to wear condoms (and shut up with that foolishness about "can't wear condoms"--I'm sure it's big, brotha, but it's not THAT big!). When the rate of HIV infection among urban African American males is rivalling that of certain sub-Saharan countries the solution is simple: "Wear a hat (condom), bruh!"


Blog Widget by LinkWithin