58 minutes ago
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
As I mentioned last week, I attended the 1st and 2nd rounds of NCAA tournament. I experienced too much to give the full impression but here are some tidbits to give a taste of what my March Madness was like.
Watching the Murray State vs Vanderbilt game at the Atlanta airport while on the phone with my brother who was watching the same game. I was standing outside a bar with 100 other people because we could the big screen TVs. My brother's TV was 5 seconds faster and I knew before it happened that Murray State would hit a buzzer beater.
Playing with the Gus Johnson Soundboard.
Seeing media personalities Brent Beaird, Clark Kellogg, Jim Nantz, Stephen A Smith, and John Feinstein.
The fans in the arena always pull for the underdog if they are hanging tough and have a chance to win. This happened twice; When Wofford almost upset Wisconsin and when Cornell upset Wisconsin to go to the Sweet 16.
A Cornell fan had a sign that said Cornell: Our other fans are studying.
The University of Arkansas Pine Bluff had a 16 seeded basketball team but a 1 seed pep band.
Pine Bluff's players got everything out of the experience. The gave fist bumps to their teammates, the players and coaches from Duke, and the officials.
Coaching legends Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino both coached in Jacksonville and used the benches closest to my seat so I could easily watch what they were doing.
I saw Christian Lattner come to support his alma mater and for reasons that probably defy explanation he wore a shirt that had his jersey number and last name.
Over the course of two days I saw a cinderella in Cornell. I saw a great game in Wofford and Wisconsin that Wisconsin won with 17 seconds left and I saw Duke look good and advance to the Sweet 16. All in all a great weekend and I am ready for another opportunity to go again.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
President Obama and the Democrats scored a big victory this week with the passage of the healthcare bill. Other people(Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn are my go to people) can talk about the substance of the bill better than I can but I want to focus on some of the political aspects.
The passage of this bill means the Democrats will maintain their majority in 2010. Various historic and political trends will mean Republicans gain congressional seats but since they did not defeat Obama and congressional Democrats then they will not gain the majority. Unlike in 94, Democrats have a success to blunt the Republican criticism and popular items they can use to attack Republicans for opposing.
Republicans know this and know the magnitude of this defeat. They also know they lost to an African-American and a woman and many conservatives can't stand that fact either. The world is changing and the old guard is giving way to the new. The healthcare bill demonstrates that the new guard can do what they said they were going to do and that they will be around for a while.
So, Kudos to President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Sen Harry Reid(who may well have sacrificed his seat) and every Democrat who voted for the bill for achieving the biggest legislative advancement since the Great Society and hopefully ushering an area of more progressive governance.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Backbencher is headed for Florida for a weekend of NCAA basketball. Every few years I go with my dad and my brother to the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament. I like college basketball and I love the tournament, and I would hate to see anything change greatest three weeks on the sports calendar.
Sadly, the NCAA is thinking of increasing the field of the tournament from 65 to 96. The reason is money but this is a bad idea.
Due to the NCAA and conference tournaments, the regular season contains very little meaning. Increasing the field would render the regular meaningless and the lack of meaning would cause people to spend less money on regular season games. I also fail to see how increasing the field would increase interest. Since the top teams would get a bye, the interest generated by possible upsets would be non-existent and without the interest in upsets I think the money would gradually shrink.
Many coaches support this idea because they think that more coaches will keep their job by making tournament. Just as many coaches would be fired within and expanded tournament as they today. Just like SEC football coaches can fired if they don't play in New Years Day or BCS bowl games even if they play in bowl games, basketball coaches would be fired if they don't get enough byes.
Sometimes you just shouldn't mess with a good thing, and I am afraid the NCAA is doing just that.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
So, Glenn Beck wants people to leave their churches if the church preaches a message of "social justice. Well, for once, I am glad to say that I agree with Beck. Instead of attending a church preaching "social justice" I want to attend a church that preaches the message of the Bible.
To that end I will only attend a church where "no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything the owned was held in common(Acts 4:32)." Any church I attend will also follow only the Bible and not "social justice" because "there was not a needy person among them for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to each as they had need(Acts 4:34-35)."
That is my kind of church and I expect to see Glenn Beck sitting beside me in the pew on Sunday.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
This week we honor a Senator from the Pacific Northwest. Sen Maria Cantwell(D-WA) is recognized for her work cracking down on Wall Street.
Since her election in 2000, Sen Cantwell has focused much of her attention on making sure Americans get a a fair deal from Wall Street corporations. In her first term, she cracked down on Enron and other energy companies that gamed the market at the expense of consumers. Now in her second term, Sen. Cantwell is going after derivatives and other Wall Street practices that have contributed to the country's economic problems. This stance puts her at odds not just with Republicans but also with leading Democrats in the administration and Congress.
The Backbencher is not the only one to recognize Sen. Cantwell's work. Read a detailed account of her efforts to curb Wall Street abuses in The American Prospect and The Nation named her Most Valuable Senator.
The Backbencher is pleased to join the chorus recognizing the work of Maria Cantwell.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I am trying to expand my understanding of the American system of government and the area that I understand the least is Federal Judiciary; especially the Supreme Court. The beginning of my quest to understand the Court, it's justices, and the Constitution is with Linda Geenhouse's study of Justice Harry Blackmun titled Becoming Justice Blackmun.
Greenhouse did not try to write a comprehensive biography of Blackmun but used the release of his papers to study the man and the Court during his time of service. Blackmun is best known as the author of the opinion in Roe vs Wade. The decision, which came early in Blackmun's term as a justice, is the fulcrum for understanding Blackmun's jurisprudence.
Even though Blackmun initially viewed Roe as a means for preserving doctor's ability to treat women, the case began to expand Blackmun's view of justice. He slowly began to expand his conception of justice to include the poor, victims of sex discrimination, and those who have no voice in our legal system.
Greenhouse won a Pulitzer for her coverage of the Supreme Court and it appears it was well deserved. She explains constitutional issues well and makes the world of the Court very accessible. Greenhouse is helped by having the good fortune to chronicle a jurist whose thinking evolved towards a more inclusive understanding of the law.
White House news this week was dominated by two major stories. The first was a series of articles that all praised Rahm Emanuel, and blaming Obama's difficulties on not listening to Rahm's more conservative advice. The other story is Washington Post's story about Obama getting ready to reverse course and try 9/11 plotters in a military tribunal.
Ezra Klein has the best take on the Rahm story and what it all means. I have been interested in Rahm ever since the Michele Norris gold star incident. My opinion is that Emanuel is a ruthless genius when it comes to gaining power but he seems to have little concern for what he wants to use the power for.
As for the decision to use military tribunals, Glenzilla, Josh Marshall, and Yglesias all say what needs to said. I will add that what I have noticed that President Obama seems to be able to find the exact limit of what is politically possible(in this case closing Gitmo but keeping miltary tribunals) and then doing what is possible but he does not seem to be able to expand what is politically possible. I find this sad because one of the reasons I supported Obama was I thought he would be able to expand what is politically possible.
Tying these threads together, I would say that the disappointment that exists with Obama comes from his being a President who doesn't know what he will uncompromisingly fight for who is served by aides who don't know what they want power for.