Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sad news from Indiana Chemistry

A colleague just showed me that my former colleague Dave Giedroc is in this CNN video. While it is usually cool to see that one of your friends was interviewed, in this case it’s for the sad news that one of the victims in the Malaysia Air plane downing was a grad student in Dave’s department.

James Garner, RIP

Just heard that James Garner was found dead in his home at age 86. From the NYT obit:

Alone among westerns of the 1950s, “Maverick,” which made its debut in 1957, was about an antihero. He didn’t much care for horses or guns, and he was motivated by something much less grand than law and order: money. But you rooted for him because he was on the right side of moral issues, he had a natural affinity for the little guy being pushed by the bully, and he was more fun than anyone else.

“If you look at Maverick and Rockford, they’re pretty much the same guy,” Mr. Garner wrote. “One is a gambler and the other a detective, but their attitudes are identical.”

The Rockford Files was one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Garner’s ex-con private eye combined with an outstanding ensemble of peripheral characters and quirky plots from the team of Roy Huggins, Steven Cannell and Juanita Broderick made it a lot of fun. My friend Chip Morris and I used to talk about how Rockford’s appeal reminded us of the Samurai genre (which of course was influenced by Westerns). Garner’s Rockford was reminiscent of Mifune’s ronin from Yojimbo and Sanjuro, without the body count, but with a healthy dose of bushido.

Although Garner was a lifelong Democrat, we thought Rockford had a libertarian feel based on recurring themes of the dangers of out of control government enabling small and large abuses… even where intentions are arguably good. These ranged from the ongoing minor conflicts with Lt Chapman to the 1976 episode So Help Me God about Grand Jury abuse. 1979’s The Battle-Ax and the Exploding Cigar involves the FBI and CIA working against each other in a plot that anticipates the “Fast and Furious” scandal.

The Times compares Garner to Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart in his everyman appeal, and notes that he was one of the few stars to have success in both TV and movies.

Garner served in Korea, where he was wounded twice. Per wikipedia he described his Army role as being a “scrounger”, similar to his character in The Great Escape.

The missing Hobby Lobby reaction

I haven’t read all of the reactions to this past week’s Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision, so perhaps I missed this, but I haven’t seen much of what I thought would be an obvious reaction when I was much younger. This post is an extension of the comment I left at Althouse when the decision came down on Monday.

One of the saddest things to me about this situation is that the ACLU sided with HHS in the Hobby Lobby case. Growing up, I understood the ACLU as being centered around the idea in a quote from Roger Baldwin cited in this PBS piece on the Constitution:

Indeed, the only thing predictable about giving the government the power to censor speech is that it will use that power unpredictably. The founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, Roger Baldwin, put it well when he said, “In order to defend the people you like, you have to defend the people you hate.”

My approach to applying Baldwin’s big idea is to do the thought experiment based on how a ruling would apply if the politics/beliefs of the situation were reversed. How does this apply in Hobby Lobby? Living in Texas, it doesn’t take much imagination: less than a month ago the Texas GOP endorsed gay conversion therapy in it’s platform. Is it so hard to imagine an HHS mandate from a right-wing administration to include that in all employee health plans?

I expected  to see counter-hypotheticals like this in the coverage of Hobby Lobby, and it’s the kind of thought experiment I would have expected from the ACLU I grew up with back in the days of the Warren Court. Perhaps this argument is being made somewhere and I’ve just missed it. Perhaps progressives are OK with including such therapies in health plans. After all, no one would be forcing employers to make their employees use the conversion therapy; it would just be available for those who wanted it, as the IUDs and Plan B would be available to the subset of Hobby Lobby employees who wanted them. This story shows that people are not indifferent to whether or not others can choose this particular “treatment”.

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear a challenge to a California law that bans “conversion therapy” aimed at changing the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian minors.

The court, in rejecting the case, effectively let stand a federal appeals court ruling issued last August that said that the state’s ban on the practice did not violate the free speech rights of counselors or people seeking treatment. The appeals court had said that the state had an interest in banning professional treatments it considered harmful.

Alternative title for this post: the Parade of Horribles marches both ways. Happy Independence Day!