Saturday, December 17, 2005

In the latest issue of GQ, Terrell Owens wonders if the media's out to get him:

The things that I’ve done in the past, like celebrate in the end zone—they’re making a fanfare out of it now with [Bengals wide receiver] Chad Johnson, with all the celebrations that he’s done, they’re like congratulating him for it. But if it was me? They’d be like, "Oh, we don’t need this in football, this is not good for football." Not that Chad is doing something wrong—it’s not his fault—but you kind of wonder, Do they have it out for me?
To an extent, he's got a point. Some of his celebrations have been great: the Sharpie was genius, and the Ray Lewis dance was clever. But there are two very important differences between T.O. from Chad Johnson. The first is that Chad Johnson seems to be a pretty nice guy, whereas T.O. is kind of a dick. The second is that Chad Johnson's celebrations are invariably meant to amuse (the snow-covered sign ["Dear NFL: Please don't fine me again. Merry Christmas."] is still the best touchdown celebration I've ever seen), whereas Owens's celebrations often seemed designed to belittle. Do people have a different standard for T.O. than they have to Chad Johnson? Absolutely. But he brought it on himself. If he wasn't such a jerk all the time, people wouldn't be so quick to criticize.

Leo McGarry has shuffled off this mortal coil. I didn't know John Spencer, obviously, but he played a great character (most of the time) on a (once-) great TV show, and for that, I will miss him.

As far as I can tell, this leaves the producers of The West Wing with three options for the upcoming election: (1) Alan Alda wins, moving depressingly toward reality and sending the show spiraling even further down the dark hole of crap into which it's been digging itself since Aaron Sorkin left; (2) Jimmy Smits replaces Leo with a new vice presidential candidate, but still somehow manages to win, abandoning any pretense of reality and sending the show spiraling even further down the dark hole of crap into which it's been digging itself since Aaron Sorkin left; or (3) the season seven finale, in which Bartlet leaves office, is The West Wing's last hurrah.

I hope I made it clear which one I vote for.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bono and Jesse Helms clasp hands in friendship. Or maybe arm wrestle. Either way, it's a bummer, because it means we've entered some sort of parallel universe, and those are never good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Former gang leader Tookie Williams was executed this morning over the course of thirty-four "frustrating" minutes ("Hello, San Quentin? Hi, this is the Eighth Amendment. Yeah. Yeah, we've got some concerns.").

Now, I don't like the death penalty, so I'm obviously pretty biased, but it seems that even if I wasn't morally opposed to capital punishment, it wouldn't be a very good choice in this particular case. See here:1

We use the death penalty to (A) punish, (B) comfort, and (C) deter.

(A) is surely met. We wanted to punish Tookie Williams, and we punished Tookie Williams. Whether or not that punishment is just is irrelevent for determining whether or not the death penalty served to punish. It did.

(B) is probably met, as well. The family of the victims was happy with the decision to allow the execution, and as they're the only people that the death penalty is really meant (on legal grounds, I believe, though certainly not public policy ones) to comfort, I suppose that is sufficient.

But then you get to (C). And (C) is a mess. (A) applies to the malfeasor; (B) applies to the malfeasee2; (C) applies to everyone else. The application of the death penalty in a given case is not meant to deter the wrongdoer from further wrongdoing; the judicial system trusts that he'll be plenty deterred by the life-in-prison that he'll be awarded if the death penalty is denied. Instead, the application of capital punishment is meant to deter future criminals from wrongdoing, and in light of that, the death penalty - as applies to Tookie Williams - is asinine.

To put it crassly, which is the more valuable commodity?

  • 1. A former gang leader who very publicly encourages young people to avoid gangs, or
  • 2. A former gang leader who is dead.

    It reminds me of a quote from an episode of West Wing (from the days when it was great):
    Leo: And you think ratcheting up the body count's gonna act as a deterrant?
    Bartlet: You're damn right I-
    Leo: Then you are just as stupid as these guys who think capital punishment is going to be a deterrant for drug kingpins. As if drug kingpins didn't live their day to day lives under the possibility of execution, and their executions are a lot less dainty than ours and tend to take place without the bother and expense of due process.
    Honestly, what's the deterrent effect here? By and large, the people who join gangs are not people with a lot of other opportunites. At best, Williams's execution makes Joe Tough hesitate slightly before making a decision that he's going to make anyway; at worst, it creates a perverse incentive for those on death row not to bother with the effort of reforming themselves (or at least publicly preaching a reformation message to others), since it won't lead to any tangible benefit.

    I know Tookie Williams wasn't going to save the world. But he would have saved more kids as an anti-gang advocate than he'll save as a death penalty statistic. The California judicial system has made a unfortunate mistake.
    1 - And note that this is written entirely without research, and entirely within thirty minutes, so I wouldn't vouch for it as anything other than an illustration of my own personal reasoning.
    2 - Not a word.

  • Reps. Marty Meehan and Richard Neal apparently split the rent on a cheerful, swingin' party pad in the District:

    "We don't have a kitchen table," said Rep. Marty Meehan, a Lowell Democrat who sleeps in a 1970s-era bed in the one-bedroom apartment he shares with Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield. "The refrigerator is empty."

    Meehan, purported to be the neat one who occupies the bedroom, emphasized that Neal sleeps in a different and perhaps older hand-me-down bed in the living room. "It's kind of a bed," explained Meehan, noting that it once lurked in former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill's Washington pad decades ago.
    Neal is older and more senior than Meehan; how come he gets stuck being The Guy on the Couch?

    Seriously, though: can we please pay these people more?

    Why are terrorists bad? According to Michigan State Senator and noted tolerance advocate Alan Cropsey, it's because they're "less likely to celebrate Christmas."

    "Integrity" heads up a list of the most-looked-up words of 2005. Not on the list: irony.

    Ralph Whitehead, a journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts, said it might indicate the continuing discussion about American values and morality, or perhaps that integrity itself is becoming scarce so its definition is unfamiliar. "You hope integrity is a word everyone understands," he said.
    You heard it here first,* folks: integrity has become so scarce that no one knows what it is anymore. Go Bob Ney!

    * - Unless you count the Associated Press.

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Bill Richardson takes time out of his busy schedule of being drafted to lobby for a New Mexican NFL franchise:

    Richardson and league Commissioner Paul Tagliabue have scheduled a meeting Tuesday - a day after Richardson plans to attend a Democratic Governors Association holiday reception in Washington, D.C.

    "It's a very preliminary meeting," said Gilbert Gallegos, a Richardson spokesman. "He wants to discuss the RFP process that's ongoing and to get suggestions from [Tagliabue] about getting a team for New Mexico."
    For reference, the only way to make this idea worse: if the franchise designated to become Albuquerque's NFL team was the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Interesting fact: Barack Obama didn't graduate from law school until he was 30.