Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Alito Shuffle

Judge Samuel Alito is expected to be confirmed by the Senate today to the United States Supreme Court, despite the hilarious tirade launched on the Senate floor yesterday by an apparently-drunk Ted Kennedy.

The significance of this can hardly be overstated. For the first time in years, an openly conservative justice has been named to the Court. The Bush administration showed enough fortitude (despite the disasterous Harriet Miers misstep) to nominate a non-stealth candidate. The Democrats' attempts to smear him backfired, and a new era seems to have begun in which liberals will be unable to successfully oppose a conservative nominee based on the abortion issue alone. All of these things represent massive changes for the good.

Nonetheless, conservatives still need to be hoping for a John Paul Stevens or a Ruth Bader Ginsburg to disappear from the court before they can expect consistently constitutional rulings. Anthony Kennedy, who had been a "swing vote" on the Rehnquist Court, fancies himself a balancer, and I believe that he will begin to vote consistently liberal now that conservatives seem to have a reliable fourth vote.

As the wishy-washy swing vote with no discernable constitutional reasoning or philosophy of interpretation, Justice Kennedy now becomes the most powerful man in America, representing the 4-4 tie-breaker on each controversial case as the wind blows him. He will relish his role and give the constant public appearance of great angst and deliberation, since former Court clerks say he's obsessed with appearing "thoughtful" to the media. But rest assured that his desire to please the media will cause him to cast liberal, nothing-to-do-with-the-Constitution votes on all the truly important issues.

He'll be the reigning potentate of America--until conservatives pick up one more seat.

UPDATE-11:19 am: Alito has been confirmed by the Senate 58-42, and will be sworn in shortly. Alito will attend the State of the Union message tonight in the chamber of the House of Representatives as the newest Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. It's enough to make even me smile.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Hello? Is This Thing On?

Well, it looks like a few Democrats are going to try to mount an Alito filibuster after all.

It's been said before, but these goofs are truly the gift that keeps on giving. Evidently they somehow missed the wave of public scorn that was heaped upon them during the hearings, when even their friends in the mainstream media turned on them.

Talk about not being able to read a room. The entire Democratic Party is the Steve Carell character in "The Office." As the show's webpage describes Carell's character "Michael":
With unshaken enthusiasm, Michael believes he is the office funnyman and a fountain of business wisdom. Unaware of how he is perceived by his employees, Michael comes off alternately absurd and pathetic, but always hilarious.
The Dems so desperately want to be popular, but their tone-deaf attempts to appeal to their perceived audience only make them look more foolish and off-putting. Then they're stunned when nobody gets them, and ultimately they blame the crowd. "Hey, c'mon! What's the matter with you people? This is good stuff."

I actually hope they do try to filibuster. Only Democrats are capable of handing such huge victories to an unpopular president.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

End Of The Spear

Four years ago next month, in one of the more memorable experiences my job has afforded me, I drove up to Dunnellon, Florida (near Ocala) and spent a day with Steve Saint and his friend Mincaye.

For those who don't know the story, Steve's father Nate Saint was a missionary to the violent Waodani Indians in Ecuador in the 1950's. Nate was a pilot who, along with four other missionaries (Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian), spent months making contact with the Waodani from the air before finally landing on a small beach along the river for a face to face meeting with the tribe.

Their first contact went well, with gifts being exchanged and Nate even taking one of the Waodani up in the airplane for a ride. But when they returned for a second visit a couple of days later, on January 8, 1956, the Waodani inexplicably attacked, spearing all five men to death. Though the missionaries were armed, they had refused to fire on their attackers. The murders caused an international sensation, appearing on the pages of Life magazine which showed photographs of the missionaries' bodies and told the world of these "Auca" ("savage") Indians.

But some of the widows and families of the murdered missionaries bravely persisted. Steve Saint's aunt Rachel went to live among the Waodani in the jungle for the rest of her life. Through the faithfulness of these brave people, many of the Waodani were converted to Christ. What had been decades of bloodshed (the tribe killed each other with far more frequency than they attacked outsiders) came to an end as the Waodani learned to "walk God's trail."

This story has been a precious to evangelical Christians for over 50 years. Many Christian kids grow up reading about it, in books like Through Gates of Splendor. Jim Elliot's diaries were published, helping to inspire perhaps thousands of Christians to give their lives to missions over the years ("He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose").

One of the Waodani men in the attacking party on the beach that day, the one who thrust a spear through Nate Saint, was Mincaye. Mincaye had been a brutal warrior, but was radically changed by being introduced to Christ.

The reason I bring all this up is because a new dramatic motion picture on this has been released, which my family and I went to see last night. The film is called "End of the Spear," and tells the story from the viewpoint of the young Steve Saint.

It's not without its flaws. The actor cast in the lead role of Nate Saint is evidently a homosexual activist, a casting decision wildly at odds with the perspective of those whom this movie is about. And the Christian blogosphere has been buzzing with deserved criticism for movie's failure to make clear that these missionaries were motivated by one thing and one thing only: the great commission of Jesus Christ to preach the good news of salvation by faith in Him through his life, atoning death on the cross, burial, and resurrection.

These are serious criticisms and they are legitimate. But I hope people will see the movie anyway. Because despite it's flaws, it depicts one of the great stories of the 20th century. Though it fails to properly acknowledge the source, it presents a powerful picture of real redemption. It misses an opportunity to tell the full truth, but even we only consider it as moralism--indeed, even if we only consider it as pure entertainment , wouldn't it still be nicer to see a few more movies at the cineplex with themes like this, and a few less "American Pie" flicks?

Mincaye killed Steve Saint's father. Today, because of the message of the gospel, Steve and Mincaye are close friends. Mincaye has been forgiven. He acts as a beloved and loving grandfather to children whose grandfather he murdered. It really happened. I've seen it. I've eaten with them, talked with them, watched them together. I've seen Mincaye and one of Nate Saint's grandchildren off in a corner wrestling around a playing hacky-sack when they thought nobody was looking. I've seen Mincaye and Steve Saint sharing jokes and praying together.

I've never in my life seen a greater illustration of true redemption and reconciliation than that. No, the movie doesn't capture it perfectly. But it captures some of it. Nobody is under some moral obligation to see it. But I hope you'll at least consider checking it out, because there really is a Mincaye, and he really has been reconciled to his victim's family and to his God.

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The ACLU: Fighting For Your Rights

One of the longstanding illusions about the ACLU is that they are merely the dogged defenders of the crucial civil rights of everyone, regardless of political persuasion. A look through their cases, however, shows this to be far from true. In reality, the ACLU pushes a kook-left agenda, and it manages to find the wrong side of almost any issue, which it then imposes on all of America via the runaway courts.

So while you're under the impression that the ACLU is actually out fighting the Joseph McCarthys of the world and upholding the Bill of Rights as the founders intended it, they're actually doing stuff like this:
A male high school student can wear a skirt to school after the American Civil Liberties Union reached an agreement with school officials.

The ACLU announced the deal Tuesday. It will allow a Hasbrouck Heights [N.J.] School senior to wear a skirt to protest the school's no-shorts policy.

The district's dress code bans shorts between Oct. 1 and April 15, but allows skirts, a policy 17-year-old Michael Coviello believes is discriminatory.

"I'm happy to be able to wear skirts again to bring attention to the fact that the ban on shorts doesn't make sense," Coviello said in a statement.
We can all now sleep the secure sleep of the constitutionally protected, knowing that this school district's unconscionable human rights travesty has ended and justice and humanity have been restored by the brave souls at the ACLU.

The only solace I find is in the hope this little putz will likely be beaten senseless and left for dead by his schoolmates. Go football team!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

One Last Shot, 'Fore We Quit It

As Judge Samuel Alito appears headed to the Supreme Court after being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gene Edward Veith draws our attention to an article outlining the disastrous strategy of the Democrats in the Alito hearings.

According to Newsday's James Pinkerton (who also cites a New York Times piece):
In 2001, 42 of the 50 Democrats then in the Senate - the number is down to 45 now - went on a retreat to "hear experts and discuss ways they could fight a Bush effort to remake the judiciary." The experts were three liberal legal eagles - Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School and Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Center in Washington - who told the Democrats that they could "oppose even nominees with strong credentials on the grounds that the White House was trying to push the courts in a conservative direction."

And now that's the strategy that has failed, leaving Democrats "tilting at windmills," as a rueful Tribe told the Times.
Pinkerton notes that, for the first time in memory, even the media turned on the Democrats during their disgraceful performance, garnering ridicule across the spectrum, from Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" to Newsweek magazine. He then offers a word of advice to the Dems:
First, their long love affair with lefty law professors must come to an end. For decades, the party has let itself be led, at least perceptually, by the avant-garde ideology of such litigation-obsessed outfits as National Organization for Women and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Time will tell whether they take the advice, but it's been clear for years that the national Democratic Party is pushing an agenda shared by few regular Americans, as evidenced by the continual crushing defeats they've experienced at the ballot box.

Moderate law blogger Ann Althouse further illuminates the Dems' disastrous strategy at the Alito hearings, astutely pointing out:
[The Democrat senators] seemed to be making political speeches, which really was consistent with their own bad decision to portray judging as a political enterprise. If we'd believed that portrayal, their expressions of political preferences would have seemed quite relevant. But people aren't buying that portrayal, and they shouldn't. What judges do is different from what Senators do, and they need arguments that make sense as a criticism of judging...If it's political, the winners of the elections should prevail. If you want to say it's not political, then why did you portray it as political, throughout the hearings and as part of a strategy devised years ago at your retreat?
The fact is, liberal Democrats have been judicially imposing a political agenda on the country for years. Their greatest fear (and the reason they fight to the death over these nominations) is that conservatives might abuse the power of the courts in the same way they have.

It's fitting that they should be wetting their pants while their party once again implodes over this, as they've discovered yet a new way to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

In The Air Tonig....Er...About 20 Years Ago

Brian over at Terrible Swift Word has a photographic retrospective, along with some apt observations, on that 80's phenomena "Miami Vice."

I was a huge "Miami Vice" fan in the 80's. I knew a guy who had worked on the show as an extra in the fourth episode (he was about a decade older than me--I was just into high school at this point), and he told me all about it a few months before it ever premiered on NBC.

I still remember the conversation so vividly, because it makes me laugh.

"Who's in it? Anybody I'd know of?" I asked him.

His response, and I couldn't make this up, was:

"Well, it's got Gregory Sierra, the guy who played Chano on 'Barney Miller.' He's really nice."

Sierra, who if I recall correctly also appeared as Lamont's friend Julio on "Sanford and Son," played the lieutenant in the first few episodes of "Vice" (maybe the whole first season?) before Edward James Olmos came on the scene. That was their big star. Don Johnson and the other guy were total unknowns--a status to which the other guy has reverted. I honestly can't even come up with his name at the moment.

So I watched because I wanted to catch a glimpse of my friend (which I eventually did--he was a patron in a disco where they were playing "Jump" by the Pointer Sisters), and I got hooked on it from the start. It was so moody and hip and unlike anything else I'd seen on TV to that point.

So a couple of years ago, I tuned in with excitement when I saw that the Spike network was running "Miami Vice" reruns. I figured I'd relive the thrills. And mere words cannot capture how awful it was. Bad acting, ridiculous hair, silly outfits, lame dialogue....I mean, it was putrid. Unwatchable as anything other than camp. I'm willing to bet that there's never been a successful TV show that aged more poorly. The thought that kept running through my head as they chased around Bruce Willis (or whoever happened to be that week's villian) was "What were we thinking?"

Fortunately creator Michael Mann is currently working on a new movie version of it.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

The Love Comes Tumbling Down

Soul great Wilson Pickett, who died yesterday at 64, wasn't on my "suprised they're still alive" lists. But we did have some fun (at the expense of the then-soon-to-be-room-temperature Tookie Williams) only last month with Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," including in the comments section.

Weird. Well, okay, it's really not that weird. It was a pretty well-known song I guess.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why Does Daddy Smell Like Scotch?

If this turns out to be true, would it be the end of Ted Kennedy's political career?

Nah. If your constituency is willing to allow you to murder a woman, it's not likely to care if you adulterously father an illegitimate child with one. Particularly in the liberal community. Why, when Jesse Jackson (who is an ordained minister) was found to have fathered an illegitimate child, the furor was so great that he had to had to go into seclusion for part of a weekend.

At least now we know why Ted Kennedy is such an ardent abortion advocate. It's called "disposing of evidence."

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

The Golden Globe awards, considered by many to be a precursor to the Oscars, were held last night in Beverly Hills.

"Brokeback Mountain" won four awards (including best drama, best director, and best screenplay). In the acting categories, Philip Seymour Hoffman won best actor in a drama for "Capote," while Felicity Huffman won best actress in a drama for her role in "TransAmerica."

For years, of course, Hollywood has been telling us, "Hey, we aren't leading the culture. We merely hold a mirror up to society and reflect where the culture is already at."

I didn't used to believe them, but now after last night's awards I do. Because who doesn't know at least a few married gay cowboys, flamboyantly homosexual helium-voiced authors, or pre-op transsexual males who find out on their way to becoming women that they unknowingly fathered children in their past?

I mean, aren't those themes pretty much universal?

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Take Away My Shoelaces

Dear Fellow Bloggers,

Finally, after a long search, I've found something in the blogosphere that's even more riveting than blogging about blogging. What is this newfound, incomparable treasure, you may ask? Why, it's blogging about the technical side of blogging. Blogging about the way your blog works.

Sure, it was interesting when you told us about the 14-part series you were planning to post about the role of blogging in the postmodern, deconstructionist world--planning just as soon as you could get a good break from your hectic schedule and really give it the scrupulous attention we've become unable to live without from you.

But wouldn't it be even more interesting to tell us, at length, about how your blog works best on Mozilla Firefox browsers and how you're switching over to Moveabletype 3.2 because you were finding the previous system to be time-consuming and unworkable?

Are you thinking about switching commenting services? I mean, seriously--what could be more fascinating? Wait, I know: A poll! Don't just change the look of your blog willy-nilly. Take a days-long poll on whether you should use 10 or 11 point fonts! Can't decide on whether the shadow behind your blog title should be mauve or coral? Run a survey! Don't let even the tiniest alteration to your template go un-publicly angsted over. Experimenting with a new server or hosting company? Tell us about it! But please--don't be stingy with the details. This stuff is fascinating.

Whatever you do to your blog, never lose sight of the fact that America is interested in every tiny detail. They can't sleep unless they know that your new RSS feed shouldn't cause them any trouble. You are the center of the universe, and you need to start acting like it.

John Rabe
(Comments by Haloscan, hosting provided by Blogger, syndication by Feedburner, browser: Internet Explorer 6.0, color of blog: olive green, gray, and white.)

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Biden His Time

I've noticed that vast majority of analysis of the Alito hearings has taken the form of ridicule. And really that's the only proper response when you watch this nonesense.

From the incomparable Peggy Noonan in today's Wall Street Journal:
This is the authentic sound, though not the authentic words, of Joe Biden, and this is what Judge Alito has to discipline himself not to respond to:

What if a fella--I'm just hypothesizing here, Judge Alito--what if a fella said, "Well I don't want to hire you because I don't like the kind of eyeglasses you wear," or something like that. Follow my thinking here. Or what if he says "I won't hire you because I don't like it that you wear black silk stockings and a garter belt. And your name is Fred." Strike that--just joking, trying to lighten this thing up, we can all be too serious. Every 10 years when you see me at one of these hearings I am different from every other member of Judiciary in that I have more hair than the last time. You know why? It's all the activity in my brain! It breaks through my skull and nourishes my follicles with exciting nutrients! Try to follow me.
But Peggy hastens to point out that she actually likes Senator Biden:
The great thing about Joe Biden during the Alito hearings, the reason he is, to me, actually endearing, is that as he speaks, as he goes on and on and spins his long statements, hypotheticals, and free associations--as he demonstrates yet again, as he did in the Roberts hearings and even the Thomas hearings, that he is incapable of staying on the river of a thought, and is constantly lured down tributaries from which he can never quite work his way back--you can see him batting the little paddles of his mind against the weeds, trying desperately to return to the river but not remembering where it is, or where it was going. I love him. He's human, like a garrulous uncle after a drink.
These hearings are Biden's Howard Dean scream moment. He's ended whatever remaining hopes he had for his party's nomination in one 72-hour period. Even reliably liberal idiot savants like Richard Cohen and Katie Couric are making fun of him.

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Whither Hughes?

I've lately been pondering the career of John Hughes. (And yes, I'm aware of how sad that is.)

My recollections were occasioned by a CNN.com/Entertainment Weekly review of a new DVD version of "Ferris Bueller" that's coming out.

I don't know that there's ever been a bigger seven or eight year streak in the history of movies. From 1983 to 1990, he either wrote or directed (and in some cases both) the following films:
Mr. Mom (1983)
Vacation (1983)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Weird Science (1985)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
She's Having a Baby (1988)
Uncle Buck (1989)
Christmas Vacation (1989)
Home Alone (1990)
I haven't even included some others during that period that stunk, like "European Vacation" and "The Great Outdoors."

Isolate only at the ones he directed. In one six year period as a writer/director, he cranked out:
Sixteen Candles
The Breakfast Club
Weird Science
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
She's Having a Baby
Uncle Buck
I think that's virtually unprecedented. These films might not be to everyone's taste (and with the exception of “Ferris” and “Uncle Buck,” none of them pushed the $80 million box office mark), but for people of my generation, these are seminal pictures. There's not a clunker in the bunch (though I know some might quibble with one here or there). There's not one on there I don't stop to watch when I pass by it flipping through channels.

Who has ever put a list together like that in that amount of time? Granted, he wasn't doing gritty, edgy stuff like Scorsese or something, but this guy was the Frank Capra of his time. "Home Alone" is the highest-grossing live-action comedy of all time, for goodness sakes.

And yet the guy hasn't directed a movie since "Curly Sue" in 1991--15 years ago. It's Jim Brown. It's Barry Sanders. It's Jordan, if he had stayed retired the first time. How do you put together that career in six years and then disappear? Where is he? At IMDB (which is where I got all this info), he appears to only be cranking out lousy, straight-to-video sequels of "Home Alone" and "Beethoven" as a writer anymore. Under a pseudonym, no less.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

You Should Read It Sometime, Senator

This exchange between Judge Alito and Sen. Chuck Shumer at Alito's confirmation hearing has made the whole thing worth it:
Shumer: Does the Constitution protect free speech?

Alito: Yes, Senator, the First Amendment protects free speech.

Shumer: Well, why can you give me a straight answer on that issue but not give me a straight answer on abortion?

Alito: Because the text of the Constitution explicitly includes the term "free speech".
(Hat tip: the evangelical outpost)

Oh, The Humanity

British Prime Minister Tony Blair admits that he spanked some of his kids a few times.

Fortunately, however, the children's right's advocates are on the case:
After his admission, British campaigners against smacking renewed calls Wednesday for children to be protected against all forms of physical discipline.
The children's rights advocates will be redirecting us to the much more effective method you can find on display at any given moment in your local Wal-Mart: "Jeffrey! You'd better stop it! Jeffrey! I'm going to count to three. One....two....Jeffrey! Knock it off! I mean it!"

Monday, January 09, 2006

Morally Neutral

Doug Wilson scripts the Alito hearings:
"Judge Alito, I am afraid that I must come right to the point. If confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, would you allow your personal beliefs and morals to dictate anything with regard to your behavior in office?"

"Senator, thank you for this opportunity to address this important question right away. I have had a lot of time to work through the ramifications of this question as I was preparing for this hearing. And after much meditation and prayer, I am prepared to say that I will not allow my personal beliefs to interfere in any way with my official behavior."

"I have to say that I am gratified to hear that, judge. Would it be too much to extend your remarks to the much debated question of Roe v. Wade?"

"I suppose you could do that, although that was not what I had in mind. I was thinking more of the possibility of taking bribes. There are some cases coming up where the appellant is dripping in money. That, and the fact that I was thinking about a little sexual harassment of some of the law clerks -- I have seen more than a few hotties up there, I can tell you that."

"Um . . . Judge Alito, I think you may have gotten a little, um, off message."

"Not at all, senator."

"So your testimony is that you plan on taking bribes and doing a little groping?"

"Yes, senator."

"You can't be serious."

"Deadly serious, Senator Kennedy. But please make no mistake. Taking bribes and being unfaithful to my wife remain deeply inconsistent with my core values. Nothing about that has changed."
Read the rest at BLOG and MABLOG.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Quote Of The Year

I don't often repeat something here, but one recent quote was so good that I want to make sure it doesn't get lost in the excessive length of last weeks posts on Intelligent Design.

To hear the popular press (and evolutionists) tell it, the battle between Intelligent Design and Darwinian evolution is a battle between obscurantist flat-earthers and paragons of empirical research. Supposedly, the naturalistic worldview (which says that the physical is all that is real and true) is so obvious that only the worst sort of dunderhead could ignore it. Indeed, the judge in the Dover case ruled that this philosophy of naturalism is part of the very definition of science.

Which is what makes this quote from world-renowned physicist (who is a committed naturalist and strenuous opponent of Intelligent Design) Leonard Susskind of Stanford University so stunning. A reporter from New Scientist magazine is asking him about the fact that the universe is so ridiculously fine-tuned to support life, and about the idea that this can perhaps can explained by resorting to theorizing a "landscape" of millions of other unseen, undetected universes, one of which is bound to be tuned just right for life:

Q. If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?

Susskind: I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent - maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation - I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature's fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.
This is a simply amazing quote, which is why I don't want it to be lost. This world-renowned physicist admits that, as it stands now, naturalism is "in a very awkward position" and "hard pressed to answer the ID critics."

A response to this quote needs to be demanded from every joker who tells you that Intelligent Design is "clearly not science" and that the naturalistic scientists are simply "committed to following the evidence wherever it leads."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Still Stayin' Alive

One year ago today, I listed nine celebrities I was amazed were still alive at the time.

Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that a full year later, only two of them (Arthur Miller and Eddie Albert) have dropped off, leaving behind such stalwarts as James Arness, Glenn Ford, and Harry Morgan.

Subsequent lists fared even more poor...er...better, with only Don Adams shedding the mortal coil among the additional 13 entries.

We'll see how many of these geezers can suprise us for yet another year! Good luck to all.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sock It To Me

Since this is the first post of 2006 and will kind of set the tone for the new year, I want to kick things off with something weighty and substantial:

Why do I need my socks to come in a resealable ziplock bag? On the packaging of most athletic socks this now seems to be an actual selling point: "Now in resealable bag!" Will the socks somehow go stale if I take them out and put them in a drawer? Am I supposed to store them back inside the baggie after I've worn them?