Very Brief Post Supreme Court Rant

The Supreme Court ruled on health care today. Have you turned on the news? There’s just as much sniping and arguing as there was yesterday.

Stop it!

I was an active union member. I negotiated contracts where management was dead set against everything we wanted. In turn there was lots they did want, but nothing we’d give up! We still reached agreement and worked together.

Republicans, this is now settled law. It’s over. Move on. Oops.

Remember Bush v. Gore? You owe the Democrats this and a little more.

If you win the next election, fine. I get it. That’s what elections are far.

Right now, enough.

Justice Ginsburg: Stand-up Comic

As widely reported in the ‘nerd press,’ Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bade Ginsburg auditioned for a spot on Comedy Central’s next celebrity roast a few nights ago.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal‘s take:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg got props for her routine Friday night, when she contested her reputation as the least funny member of the Supreme Court with a quip-filled address to the American Constitution Society, a liberal legal organization holding its convention in Washington.

One pending Supreme Court case, concerning profane words spoken by minor celebrities on television, “asks whether the FCC’s current indecency policy violates the First or Fifth Amendment. ‘The Paris Hiltons of the world,’ my law clerks told me, ‘eagerly await the decision,’” Justice Ginsburg said. “‘It is beyond my comprehension,’ I told the clerks, ‘how the FCC can claim jurisdiction to ban words spoken in a hotel on French soil.’”

So I bit him.

Here’s To The Supremes

I’m not sure most people understand, this court operates differently from all others. Cases aren’t tried in the conventional sense. By the time the Supreme Court weighs in that’s been done.

There are a lot of people looking toward the Supreme Court this week. The Supremes are reviewing the Affordable Health Care Act, aka-Obamacare. There’s a lot on the line and both sides would probably admit the outcome isn’t a slam dunk.

I love the Supreme Court. Seriously.

No, I don’t want to date Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Sonia Sotomayor. It’s not that kind of love. I love the Supreme Court for how it operates and the (mainly) wise jurists who sit on its bench.

I’m not sure most people understand, this court operates differently from all others. Cases aren’t tried in the conventional sense. By the time the Supreme Court weighs in that’s been done. Instead oral arguments are presented and the justices question the attorneys representing the parties.

The Supreme Court doesn’t decide guilt or innocence as such, but looks at the constitutionality of the underlying laws. There are a few other jurisdictions for the court, but constitutionality is the meat of the job.

There are no cameras in the court. That’s a damn shame. I’ve listened to audio recordings. Very impressive. I’d still like to see body language and physical nuance.

I knew next to nothing about the court until I watched Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia have a discussion a few years ago.

Justices Antonin Scalia & Stephen Breyer spoke at the University of Arizona Law School in Tucson and justices traded their views on the interpretation of the Constitution in a changing society, covering topics such as the right to privacy, cruel and unusual punishment, and segregation in schools.

It was tough not to feel proud to be an American and proud of our system. No matter how much I disagree with Scalia his brilliance and the brilliance of Justice Breyer cut through. Breathtaking.

In recent years there has been more-and-more talk of the court becoming politicized. It’s tough to look back at Bush v Gore (and the potential result on this case) and not agree. Yet I am willing to depend on this court to do right by us.

I am not confident this decision will go the way I want. My love for the court will survive.

Apple And HTC: Let The Suits Begin

By keeping programs like Dragon Dictation separated from other functions Apple has made a powerful feature nearly worthless. I love the app. I never use it!

apple-iphone-3g.jpgAs a geek these are exciting times. Smart phones like the iPhone, Androids and Microsoft’s still-to-be-seen efforts are putting major computing in your pocket. They’re powerful enough that I’ve sometimes been guilty of disregarding my dinner companions as I work the phone (actually everything but the phone).

Of course nothing like this happens in a vacuum. Everyone tries to protect their territory. There’s so much my iPhone can do, if only Steve Jobs would say yes!

Seriously, my phone is purposely crippled in many ways.

An example is the Dragon Dictation app. It does an amazing job of translating spoken words to text. Unfortunately Apple says it can’t speak directly to the email or SMS programs. In order to use DD you have to cut and paste.

Though approved by Apple this applet is hidden from the iPhone’s most powerful features. It’s not that the software can’t perform this task, it’s been prohibited from performing it!

By keeping programs like Dragon Dictation separated from other functions Apple has made a powerful feature nearly worthless. I love the app. I never use it!

This is totally Apple’s choice. They could let it happen tomorrow and I’m sure Dragon would have the updated software waiting.
This is just one in a series of arbitrary or puzzling decisions.

Some friends say I should just ‘jailbreak’ the phone–remove Apple’s grip with a simple unauthorized software download. Good idea, though jailbreaking alone will not make this particular software work as it should.

Maybe I own the iPhone, but only under a strict license which says what I can and can’t do, what I can and can’t load into it. It’s as if your Ford was only allowed to use Ford gasoline and could only be repaired with Ford parts. Maybe you should only be able to chill GE water in your GE refrigerator.

Don’t get me wrong, this phone is killer. I love it. I am frustrated though because I can see what is being done to keep Apple as gatekeeper.

Now Apple is reaching out to keep competitors from competing. Yesterday they sued HTC, who makes smartphones under their own name and for others. This has to do with HTC’s phone that use Google’s Android operating system.

“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” – Steve Jobs

Apple is enforcing its software patents. That itself is pretty controversial as software patents are a recent ‘innovation’ seemingly granted broadly and with little scrutiny. A software patent case is on its way to the Supreme Court right now.
Though companies with these patents say they are (and probably are) just protecting their investments in research and development, others say patents on software limit innovation.

It’s interesting to hear organizations perceived as liberal, like the Electronic Freedom Foundation use concepts normally reserved for the right.

Software innovation happens without government intervention. Virtually all of the technologies you use now were developed before software was widely viewed as patentable. The Web, email, your word processor and spreadsheet program, instant messaging, or even more technical features like the psychoacoustic encoding and Huffman compression underlying the MP3 standard—all of it was originally developed by enthusiastic programmers, many of whom have formed successful business around such software, none of whom asked the government for a monopoly. So if software authors have a proven track-record of innovation without patents, why force them to use patents? What is the gain from billions of dollars in patent litigation? –

None of this seems to be happening for our (my) benefit.

To My New Facebook Friends

You are all the shades in the rainbow, both sexes, married and single. You are widely scattered in age. You are more often heavy than light. Right back ‘atcha.

Earlier today I had around 350 friend requests pending on Facebook. That wasn’t good. Guilt was taking over my online life.

Tonight I friended the lot of them, trying to undo the damage. Some were waiting since early summer. I was definitely not worth the wait!

This is a subject that came up before when I ‘ignored’ a boatload of people. It seemed the only option for me at the time, but I didn’t like it.

I have a strategy so I don’t go nuts with over 700 on my list now. That’s a bit daunting. I suspect you’ll be a chatty bunch.

I’ve read your bios and checked your photos. You are all the shades in the rainbow, both sexes, married and single. You are widely scattered in age. You are more often heavy than light. Right back ‘atcha.

A word of warning. I hate those games and tests that float through Facebook. “Geoff knows which Supreme Court Justice he’s most like! Are you Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Samuel Alito? Maybe you’re the late Earl Warren. Play Sequestered Supremes.”

Don’t. Just don’t.

Don’t poke me either… whatever that means. I really don’t know. Anyway, my life has enough poking already.

After all the clicking I was surprised not to see any obviously “self-shot’ portraits. You know what I mean? These are shots taken at the end of an outstretched arm. It’s a shot that didn’t exist until the advent of digital photography!

Are there too many permanent connections now? Is it to easy to find or be found? Is Facebook a force for good or evil?

If you’re reading this and I blew you off on Facebook once upon a time, please try again with my apologies.

Sandra Day O’Connor

Even justices whose judicial decisions totally evade me (I’m talking about you Antonin Scalia) are remarkably intellectual.

I am watching Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on with David Letterman.

“Well, I like to shoot gophers” – Justice O’Connor

He has wisely chosen to sit back and let her speak. She is full of stories. She is no shrinking violet.

Wow–she blows me away. She is 79, but there’s no way you’d know that without Wikipedia.

I have only seen a handful of “The Supremes” appear in public. I’ve been incredibly impressed each time. Even justices whose judicial decisions totally evade me (I’m talking about you, Antonin Scalia) are remarkably intellectual.

The Supreme Court is by no means infallible. Separate but equal was equal w-a-y too long. Still, the court might be the most consistently good thing in our government.

I look forward some day to arguments before the court being seen on TV. It’s too important an institution to keep hidden from public view.

Justice Scalia

There’s not a lot he and I agree on. However, he is astoundingly smart, smug and charming.

I’ve just pressed pause while watching the 60 Minutes interview with Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court justice.

There’s not a lot he and I agree on. However, he is astoundingly smart, smug and charming.

You don’t see a lot of “The Supremes” on TV. I saw Scalia once before, probably on C-SPAN, debating Justice Breyer. I was in awe of their collective brilliance and collegial sparring.

How they could they both possess such amazing minds and opposing viewpoints?

On 60 Minutes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was used to provide the same contrast. She and Scalia are close friends, though they seldom vote the same way.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m writing.

I watched the interview and all I could think of was, he will be played by Nathan Lane.


Note: I swear I didn’t look for the photos until after I’d written the entry.

Strange Bedfellows

Jerry Falwell passed away today. This is not the news. I’m not going to neatly summarize his life.

On the other hand, one truth was revealed with his death which struck me as very odd. Just in case you haven’t seen it already, I’ll repeat it here.

Back in the early 80s, Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine published a satirical story about Falwell’s first sexual experience. It was crude. No, it was beyond crude. It was disgusting.

Something disgusting coming from Larry Flynt should be no surprise. It’s pretty much his stock in trade.

It was also protected speech. Though Jerry Falwell was obviously upset and probably hurt by what was written, the words Flynt published were beyond his control.

After a battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court, Larry Flynt and Hustler won, Fallwell lost.

It’s that history between Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt that made today’s comments by Flynt so tantalizing. How would Larry Flynt eulogize Jerry Falwell?

From Access Hollywood: “My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.”

That’s just one of the weirdest match-ups ever. Who brought them together? Who could have thought, after all that vitriol, they would be civil? What were their first words to each other?

What will stick with me is Flynt’s closing… the acknowledgment they both were selling something. It’s weird beyond words.

The Good Story From The Libby Trial

I want to make comment about the Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby trial. This will have nothing to do with the verdict.

I wasn’t there. I don’t have all the facts. The trial was incredibly politicized, These are all things I’ve worked to keep out of my blog.

There was, however, one part of the procedure which struck me when I read an article in Editor and Publisher.

(Juror Denis) Collins, a journalist who has written for The Washington Post and other newspapers — and is author of the 2004 book, “Spying: The Secret History of History”– described the jury’s painstaking deliberations. He said there were several “managerial types” on the jury and they spent many days just assembling post-it notes in some kind or “buildings blocks” fashion. They did not take an immediately straw vote.

If I ever go to court, that’s what I want to hear – the jury was involved and thorough. It’s something I think we often feel isn’t there.

A few years ago, while tuning past C-Span on a boring Sunday night I had audio tapes of Supreme Court proceedings. It was a similar feeling.

I had no idea what the particulars of the case were, but I heard intelligent men and women pondering the facts with well thought questions and comments.

Cousin Michael, who reads the blog and who clerked in the US Circuit Court might write otherwise, but these comments from the Libby trial and my ‘eavesdropping’ on the Supremes, gives me optimism our republic is built on a solid foundation.

Or maybe I’m just naive. I hope not.

Why Play Up The Bloggers

I am a blogger. This is my blog. No one asked me to do this. It was my decision. The world wasn’t clamoring for my opinion… and I’m not sure how valuable it is on any given topic.

The difference between bloggers and everyone else is we’re willing to waste the time to do this. We think people might want to hear what we say. Mostly, they don’t.

We’re opinionated, we’re bores, we’re self important.

With this in mind, I am disappointed to have just seen a segment on CNN where two political bloggers were asked to speak their mind, as if they had some sort of expert qualification to make their opinion important.

Both bloggers were conservative, but that is not my point. The question being pondered, about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, called out for a conservative’s response. Conservative, liberal, middle-of-the-road, it makes no difference.

Are bloggers worthy of being called upon as experts or spokepersons just because they blog?

I quickly jotted down the names of the bloggers and their blogs. Lorie Byrd writes on says today is the 48,576th most popular site on the web!

Erick-Woods Erickson’s is today’s 15,401st most popular website. Alexa also finds 35 sites that link back to ( does). CNN on the other hand has over 19,000 sites linked back to it!

It should be noted, both of these sites are way more popular than mine.

Lorie Byrd and Erick-Woods Erickson are probably very nice, thoughtful people. Maybe they have sage wisdom we should all listen to. But isn’t it a bit ironic that these two self selected voices are being called upon to express the conservative concern that, not enough is known about Harriet Miers.

What about them? Without CNN, I wouldn’t have even known they exist. I now know their opinions, but without context. Why are their opinions important enough to receive this lightly filtered national exposure?

I don’t know.

Sunday With The Supremes

I still have to write yesterday’s entry about Florida and my trip back. I was just just mentally exhausted yesterday and couldn’t.

This early afternoon, as I was laying in bed, I popped the TV on and began to channel surf. I stopped at C-Span.

I make no claims as an intellectual and C-Span is something I seldom watch longer than 20 seconds. Mostly C-Span is deadly – boring beyond words. It is the worst of TV talking heads.

The guests or people giving talks and speeches are ten miles deep and two inches wide. In other words, they know a whole lot about a very narrow subject. Normally it is a subject that has no draw for me.

Today it was the opposite and it was one of the most revealing, uplifting discussions I have ever seen. I watched a moderated conversation between Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Steven Breyer.

If you’re not a Supreme Court watcher, these two are polar opposites. Scalia sits on the far right and Breyer is equidistant to the left. On top of that, Supreme Court justics are seldom seen ‘in the wild,’ and never seen debating.

It is obvious these men are brilliant scholars who understand the weight of their charge. They are fond of each other – respectful of each other’s different opinion.

To hear them speak and weigh their points is to understand the power and beauty of our Supreme Court. Though it would be impossible to agree with both of them, it is important we have both of them. The Supreme Court needs a diversity of opinion, though its collective leaning will shift with shifting political tides.

Not to cheapen the Supreme Court, but isn’t this kind of discussion that Crossfire &#185 should have been? The more people who hear this kind of repartee, the stronger a country we’ll be. Of course you’ve got to get them to stop at C-Span for a few minutes.

&#185 – Crossfire, a CNN mainstay for decades, has recently been canceled.