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John Yoo on Sotomayor

May 27, 2009 Leave a comment

sotomayor

I’m sure that at some point in the not too distant future, no one will understand why John Yoo gets to have a public voice on the issues of the day. The greatest mystery in this regard is why the Philadelphia Inquirer hired him recently to write a monthly column. Ideological balance? Okay, but aren’t conservatives available who aren’t war criminals? Aren’t lawyers available who don’t deserve to be disbarred for writing memos justifying torture?

Isn’t it amazing then that his thoughts on Sonia Sotomayor should see the light of day? But then, we do have the American Enterprise Institute to thank for this. In his post at their blog yesterday, we learn that “President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor shows that empathy has won out over excellence in the White House. … Obama had some truly outstanding legal intellectuals and judges to choose from—Cass Sunstein, Elena Kagan, and Diane Wood come immediately to mind. The White House chose a judge distinguished from the other members of that list only by her race. Obama may say he wants to put someone on the Court with a rags-to-riches background, but locking in the political support of Hispanics must sit higher in his priorities. Sotomayor’s record on the bench, at first glance, appears undistinguished.”

My oh my. As Andrew Sullivan wrote yesterday, “This is the same man whose own legal memos were of such poor quality they forced an investigation from the Justice Department’s internal watchdog. How painful is it when they remove these people’s sense of shame?” Or as hilzoy noted today, after quoting other commentary on the selection of Sotomayor, “Of course, none of these responses really compares to John ‘No law can prevent the President from crushing the testicles of a terrorist’s child’ Yoo informing us of the real meaning of the Sotomayor nomination: that despite his best efforts, empathy has triumphed — and that this is a bad thing.”

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Categories: Politics, Today's News

Stellar At Last

May 26, 2009 Leave a comment

stellar

Last December, the day after Christmas, I wrote a post about an outing Gail, Joel, and I took to the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. It came about because FedEx was days late with a delivery of Christmas presents, due to the snow, and I decided we would drive to their delivery center to pick up the packages. As I explained, going there would have an added bonus, because:

the FedEx facility, on Alaska Street just off Airport Way in Georgetown, was near Stellar Pizza. Georgetown, I should explain, is a commercial/industrial neighborhood south of downtown, along I-5 just above Boeing Field. I have had little reason to go there over the years. But two Augusts ago, I drove down to Stellar from work to join a party in honor of our carpenter and friend Bert, given by Toth Construction for his 10th anniversary with the firm. Almost the entire Toth crew were there, plus Gail, and eventually me. They had all but finished the many pizzas they were sharing, but there was a little for me. And I grabbed a menu to learn more about the place, thereby discovering their extremely tempting sandwiches. I’m always on the lookout for a great meatball hero, and this sure sounded good: “Open-faced hot hero, topped with marinara, parmesean cheese, Mama Lil’s kick-butt peppers, red onions, and mozzarella cheese on a demi-baguette.” Since Joel loves meatball heroes too, I figured it wouldn’t be long before we’d make the journey down there to try it.

Just as we were about to leave the house to get our packages, which I had arranged for FedEx to hold at their facility, a truck drove up with them. Saved. No need to stand on line forever only to learn that the boxes were out for delivery. But what about Stellar? We decided to go anyway, taking “local roads all the way south, through the snow and slush and mess, hitting Pioneer Square, driving past Qwest Field and Safeco Field, and then getting a tour of all the industrial enterprises along Airport Way. Finally, we came to the long viaduct that takes cars over the dozen or more train tracks, came down to ground level, and were at Stellar, squeezed in between the tracks and I-5. And it was closed. Closed December 24, 25, 26. Sigh.” We waited 17 months, and now we would have to wait still longer.

Well, here we are, five months later to the day, and for the first time since that disappointing day, we had business in Georgetown. Bert and Toth Construction are back in our lives, thanks to our latest remodel, just starting its third month. And we arranged to meet Todd, our architect, at Pental Granite & Marble in Georgetown this morning to look at slabs for our bathroom countertop. From Pental we went to another stone place nearby, and then back to Pental to make our final selection. We were done a little after 11, with Stellar nearby. We didn’t even realize how close we were. Three short blocks, then the far side of a small city park, and there it was, just the other side of the train tracks, squeezed between the tracks and Airport Way. They open at 11:00 and we weren’t even the first ones there for lunch. I looked at the menu to make sure the meatball sandwich was still there, which it was, and so I ordered it, with a side salad.

The verdict? Simple. It’s the best meatball sandwich I have ever had in Seattle. I’ve tried quite a few. None compare. Joel, I’m sorry you missed out. Come back home and we’ll go again.

Categories: Today's News

Suu Kyi Arrested

May 14, 2009 Leave a comment

suukyi

I would have missed this article in the back of the World section of today’s NYT had the New Yorker’s George Packer not posted a note about the issue at his blog today. The gist of the story is that Aung San Suu Kyi, the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been arrested, thanks to the bizarre behavior of an American named John William Yettaw, who swam across a lake to the Kyi’s home, where she is under house arrest, eluded guards, and insisted that she let him in. She pleaded with him to leave, so she would not be in violation of the terms of her house arrest, but he insisted on coming in, and spent the night. He was picked up the next day as he was swimming back across the lake, and now she has been arrested, just weeks before her house arrest was supposed to come to an end.

George Packer is as familiar as any American journalist with life in Burma today. He visited last June and wrote a superb piece in last August about the trip. Here’s what he wrote today about the incident and Suu Kyi’s arrest:
Read more…

Categories: Today's News

Missed Opportunity

April 20, 2009 Leave a comment
Saidah Arrika Ekulona, left, and Russell Gebert Jones in Ruined

Saidah Arrika Ekulona, left, and Russell Gebert Jones in Ruined

When we went to Chicago last November, we had one free evening, a Saturday, which I hoped we could use to see the Chicago Symphony. But they weren’t playing that night. Instead, Orchestra Hall was home to a special concert by the Chinese pianist Lang Lang and friends. Given all the time I spent at Orchestra Hall when I lived in Chicago during the 1980-1981 academic year, I was eager to return. But I was also eager to attend a play at the Goodman Theater, and that same evening we had the option of seeing a new play, Ruined, by the playwright Lynn Nottage, who received a MacArthur Award in 2007. From what I read at the Goodman website, the play sounded interesting, though also perhaps painful, dealing with Congolese women who were rape victims. No doubt this is a simplistic description, but it’s what stayed with me, and I thought I might just rather go to a concert. Gail was content to let me decide, so that’s what we did.

I wrote about our evening with Lang Lang here. In February, Ruined opened in New York at the Manhattan Theater Club and received some good reviews, such as Ben Brantley’s in the NYT and Hilton Als’ in the New Yorker. When I read them, I wondered if we had made the wrong choice. But we did enjoy Lang Lang, and you can’t do everything.

The point of all this is that Ruined was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Drama today. The citation reads:

Awarded to “Ruined,” by Lynn Nottage, a searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness.

Oh well.

Categories: Theater, Today's News

Where’s George

April 5, 2009 Leave a comment

wheresgeorge1

On Friday, I noticed that a dollar bill in my wallet had a website written on it along the top margin. Looking more closely, I saw that it said www.wheresgeorge.com. I got curious, typed in the URL, and was taken to the website. Once there, I realized I had read about this years ago. Along the top of the page is the banner UNITED STATES CURRENCY TRACKING PROJECT. I learned that if I typed in the denomination, bill series, and serial number, I could find out where the bill had been before it circulated to me. How could I resist? Of course, this only works provided previous holders of the bill have entered it at the site. And obviously someone had done so, whoever wrote the URL on the bill itself, which I realized is a good way to increase the odds that some later bill holder will discover the site and enter the bill, as I was doing.

To my astonishment, once I entered the bill, I discovered that it had been entered only once before, presumably by the person who wrote the URL on it, and this was way back on March 16, 2003. Somehow, despite the presence of the URL, it took over 6 years for someone to get curious enough to go to the website, figure out how it works, and enter the bill. The person who introduced the bill is from Chesapeake, Virginia but picked up the bill in Blanco, Texas.

I entered two more ones, both of which had histories. One was passed on by someone in Pasco, Washington last month and then passed through Blaine, Washington. The other was entered in Ypsilanti, Michigan on June 1, 2007 and then ignored until I tagged it on Friday.

I need to post more bills, but I realized that it’s best to do so when you can add in the comments section a statement about where you got the bill, and I have no idea where I got the bills currently in my wallet. So I’m waiting until I get some more bills as change.

I don’t know how much time I’ll invest in this. It’s not a high priority. But I’m looking forward to finding out where the bills I’ve entered end up. Oh, that’s another thing about how the site works — you can enter bills and learn their history, but if you want to be kept informed about future hits on bills you enter, you need to register and set up an account (for free), which I’ve done. Consider doing so yourself. It might be fun.

Categories: Today's News

Torture and the Courts

March 29, 2009 Leave a comment
Baltasar Garzón

Baltasar Garzón

In case you missed it, Scott Horton wrote at Harper’s yesterday about actions taken by a Spanish national security court with regard to Bush administration lawyers who approved torture at Guantánamo:

Spain’s national newspapers, El País and Público reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo. … Público identifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.

The Spanish criminal court now may seek the arrest of any of the targets if they travel to Spain or any of the 24 nations that participate in the European extraditions convention (it would have to follow a more formal extradition process in other countries beyond the 24). The Bush lawyers will therefore run a serious risk of being apprehended if they travel outside of the United States.

Judge Baltasar Garzón is involved in the investigation, according to the El País report. Garzón is Europe’s best known counterterrorism magistrate, responsible for hundreds of cases targeting the activities of ETA and related Basque terrorist organizations. He also spearheaded the successful investigation of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations operating in the Maghreb region, including Spanish enclaves in Morocco. But Garzón is best known for his prosecution of a criminal investigation against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet that resulted in the issuance of an arrest warrant for Pinochet while he was visiting England.

I don’t imagine Yoo and his colleagues will be traveling much. Perhaps our own courts could follow suit.

Categories: Politics, Today's News

Border Fence

March 29, 2009 Leave a comment

borderfence

The photo accompanied a NYT story three days ago on Secretary of State Clinton’s arrival in Mexico City, during which she acknowledged that “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.” She also announced a new initiative to deploy 450 more law enforcement officers at the border.

But I include the photo simply for its own sake, since it is so stunning. The caption describes it as “a recently completed section of the fence the United States is building along the Mexican border crosses desert sands between Yuma, Ariz., and Calexico, Calif.” I was tipped off to it in a blog post by David Gibson at the Commonweal blog. Gibson notes that “at first I thought it might be a new installation by the artist Richard Serra.” I thought instead of Christo. For example, here is a shot of Valley Curtain in Colorado, 1970-1972.

christo

Categories: Arts, Politics, Today's News