Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fly-Over Country

It appears the president made a trip to the Gulf, after all. In Air Force One.
President Bush Wednesday viewed the disaster area hit by Hurricane Katrina from aboard Air Force One as he traveled to Washington from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
As the president passed over one Mississippi town, he remarked, "It's totally wiped out."

The president spent 35 minutes looking out the window as the aircraft passed over Louisiana and Mississippi and clearly saw the damaged roof of the New Orleans Superdome and the city's flooded neighborhoods.

Air Force One flew about 2,500 feet over New Orleans and about 1,700 feet over Mississippi, which suffered severe damage from the storm, according to The Associated Press.

"It's devastating. It's got to be doubly devastating on the ground," Bush said.

Doubly devastating? Ain't that an all-or-nothing concept?

You Have Failed Me for the Last Time . . .

The Post reports that "Michael Sheard, who played Adm. Ozzel in "The Empire Strikes Back" and Adolf Hitler five times, including in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," died Wednesday at the age of 65, his agent said."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Superdome/Home Opener Update

Well, if they're evacuating the Superdome, and they're saying that the city will have to be evacuated for a month, that rules out the Saints' home opener. And since the game is against the Giants, I'm assuming that Giants Stadium in New Jersey is occupied by the Jets that afternoon. Is that the case? I'm too lazy, too demoralized to check.

This is a disaster of biblical proportions. I don't have much to say. I'm a big fan of the Gulf Coast. These people, lots of them poor, got completely wiped out. We haven't been able to talk to the in-laws in the last 24 hours, and we still have a few friends in the area who are unaccounted for.

Zeppelin Said It Best

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break,
When The Levee Breaks I'll have no place to stay.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Tickets Available

The Saints' home opener, vs. the N.Y. "Football" Giants, is September 18 (about three weeks). Now, if the Superdome were in the United States, I'd think they could get it ready by then. But it's in Nawlins. So where will that game be played?

Will people still be living in the Superdome in three weeks? Do you get dibs on those tickets if you've been sleeping in the seats for a week? Btw, I don't know, because Louisiana isn't a common law jurisdiction. Who knows what the Code Napoleon says about hurricanes and squatter rights to football tickets?

I should add: the in-laws are fine, even if a tree fell on their house. It didn't damage the roof, at least it didn't punch through the roof and into the house. It was still more of a storm than they've experienced before. I'm not sure they've quite grasped that they might not have power tomorrow--they don't have it now, even if they have phone service. But they are doing fine.

If Petal is badly damaged--including a church less than a mile from the in-laws' house without a roof tonite--then what does Gulfport look like? My best wishes go out to our friends on the Gulf coast tonight. And my best wishes to Governor Haley Barbour and his staff--they're not going to get much sleep the next few weeks. Let's all hope the news isn't all bad.


I'm a little concerned that the following fact has not received much attention:

The proposed Iraqi constitution takes effect if it is not defeated by a two-thirds majority in at least three of Iraq's eighteen provinces.

Read that again. The constitution automatically takes effect unless two-thirds majorities in three provinces vote it down.

Isn't that backwards? Shouldn't a constitution require supermajorities in order to take effect? This noitutitsnoc doesn't even need a majority to pass; it only needs one-third-plus-one in every province.

Maybe I'm wrong on the facts here. If I am, please correct me.

Riding on the Metro

Film Review: Born into Brothels (dir. Z. Briski & R. Kauffman, 2004)

This is one of those "kick in the gut" films that make you appreciate how bleak the world really is. If the title of the film isn't enough for you, it's a documentary about children born into (and still living in) brothels in the "red light district" of Calcutta. Not to make an obvious point, but these kids live lives of unimaginable (to me, at least, in my pampered existence) deprivation and squalor. The girls are almost certainly doomed to go "into the line," the term used over and over again in the film for prostitution. The boys will probably end up as drug addicts, like the father of one of the boys we see here.

The documentary filmmaker (or one of them) is a British woman (director Zana Briski), a photographer who has been living around and photographing the brothels in Calcutta for years; in doing so, she developed an interest in these children. This interest takes two forms. One, she provides them with cameras and teaches them photography; the children take some amazing pictures of their lives and environs. Two, she makes a great effort to get the children in her photography group enrolled in boarding schools. At the end of the film, we see that two of the six or seven kids is still in school; the others have left, or never gone, for various reasons. But the real sad thing: these are kids, just like any other kids. But kids without much of a chance.

This is an incredibly moving film, but don't watch it if you don't want to be depressed afterward. It will leave you asking: What percentage of the people in the world live in a state similar to this?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Batten Down the Hatches

As many of you know, the better half's parents live about 90 minutes off the Gulf Coast, south of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. And a great part of the in-laws' family live in Baldwin County, AL, one of Alabama's two Gulf counties. So many of our loved ones are in harm's way tonite. (We have a lot of personal connection to the region, too. We honeymooned in Gulf Shores, and have vacationed in Orange Beach a few times, too. Gulf State Park, in Alabama, is my favorite place to camp, in the whole world. How much of it can survive the storm surge, I don't know.)

So Hurricane Katrina is a matter of concern in the household tonite. Batten down the hatches, New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile (did I say that I finished the Mobile Marathon in 2003?). Let's hope the levee holds, the French Quarter is saved, and the thousands of poor people trapped in the Superdome make it. Can the Superdome roof withstand the winds?

BTW, in fairness, Fox News has the best coverage of the storm right now. Good work, Fox.

Let's just hope that things don't turn out as bad as they look right now. But the feds aren't making things look better right now . . .


In today's Times, David Brooks has a column entitled "Winning in Iraq." You have to be kidding me. In it, he proposes a massive troop build-up in Iraq to create "safe havens" in which to reconstruct the country and win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese, er, I mean Iraqis. But why should we listen to a guy who has been wrong so many times about so much, when it comes to the war? (Brooks says that this strategy has worked in the past--for the Brits in Malaya in the 1950s. Hmm. That's probably a viable analogy . . .) And doesn't the same Bill O'Reilly "shut up" go far all the war hawks, as Harold Meyerson argues in this recent piece?

Meyerson's conclusion:

The point here is not just that the pundits’ predictions were wrong -- or, in the case, of Friedman, right, but he chose to ignore them -- or their post-facto justifications pathetic. The point is that in the sway of ideology, or historical imperative, or loyalty to the administration’s hawks, they misrepresented supposition as fact, excused the misconduct of administration officials, and neglected to consider the predictable consequences of the war they promoted. If we truly lived in the culture of consequences that conservatives profess to support, the role of these pundits in our national conversation would be greatly, and justly, diminished.

I'm just tired of hearing these guys--Kristol, Friedman, Krauthammer, Brooks. (Meyerson also mentions Hitchens--but really, hasn't that guy just lost his mind?) They sold this war, and now they've been making excuses for it for years. But as Iraq drifts into a civil war, any person with a semblance of human decency would stop already. Editors would say, "Look, we can't run this crap any more."

While I'm at it, the Democrats in Washington have some work to do, too. Frank Rich makes the excellent point that:

As another politician from the Vietnam era, Gary Hart, observed last week, the Democrats are too cowardly to admit they made a mistake three years ago, when fear of midterm elections drove them to surrender to the administration's rushed and manipulative Iraq-war sales pitch. So now they are compounding the original error as the same hucksters frantically try to repackage the old damaged goods.

Indeed--"too cowardly to admit they made a mistake." The irony here is that they made the mistake because they were cowardly then, too.

At this point, the only folks with credibility on this war are those who didn't buy the snake oil in the first place. And it doesn't matter why you bought the snake oil.

Mid-day update: Wolcott has a great post on the chickenhawks.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Film Review: The Croupier (dir. M. Hodges, 1998)

This Clive Owen film is one of those elaborate set-up movies where you know the lead character is being set up, all along, but you don't know by whom and for what purpose. The clues are all there, but, even in the end, I'm not sure that I understand the set-up, and I'm pretty sure that Jack, the Owen character, doesn't get it, either.

"Jack" is a writer suffering from writer's block; he needs money so he takes a job in a casino as a dealer ("croupier"), which he knows how to do based on a misspent youth following around his gambler father in South Africa. Indeed, it's his father who calls to tell him that he's set up the job at the casino. Jack takes the job after demonstrating his crazy card skillz for Mr. Reynolds, the casino manager. Jack's girlfriend Marion, former police detective and now store detective, dislikes his new job. Many things happen at the casino: He meets other dealers, all of whom have problems of various sorts. Jack also meets a beautiful South African named Jani (the beautiful Alex Kingston) at his table. He later runs into her outside the casino, and she asks him if he would like to have a drink. That is, of course, against the rules, but he agrees. Later, Jani asks him to help her "creditors" rob the casino. Jack initially refuses, but the offer of ten thousand pounds, in advance, overcomes his resistance. When Jani calls to tell jack when the deal is going down, Marion deletes the message from the answering machine. (BTW--who leaves such a message on a machine, anyway? Amateurs.) Jack is confused when the robbery starts--although his part in the events is minimal, anyway--and the plot fails; all the robbers are caught by Mr. Reynolds and his henchmen. Marion turns up dead a few days later; Jack is informed by a former colleague of Marion's that Marion told him that she was on to a robbery at the casino. Jack gets a bonus at work, from Mr. Reynolds, and never gets caught.

In the meantime, Jack has been writing a book about being a croupier, from the perspective of a character named "Jake." There is some confusion between Jack and Jake, and Jack himself is never sure if he's himself or the character he's describing in the novel he's writing. In the end, Jack anonymously publishes a book, "I, Croupier," which becomes a bestseller. But he realizes he's a one-book writer and stays on at the casino, where he admits he's hooked--on watching the "punters" lose.

Also in the end, Jack gets a call from Jani, who's returned to South Africa and is going to get married--to Jack's father.

My theory of the film: Jack's shady father, Jani, and Mr. Reynolds are all in the plot. They don't want to actually rob the casino; they want to get rid of someone or another who would like to rob the casino. The best way to get rid of these other people--who they are, I have no idea--is to set them up. But to do that, they need a patsy. Jack's father thinks Jack would be the perfect straight man for this operation and plays him like the proverbial violin. When Marion catches on, she has to be eliminated.

Not an altogether unsatisfying caper movie, if a bit complex for about 90 minutes running time. I'm also not 100% sure about the end, when we see Jack with former croupier Bella. Their relationship strikes me as inexplicable. But, then again, I don't get any of the male-female relationships in this movie. So, not bad, but not great, either.

Film Review: The Dead Zone (dir. D. Cronenberg, 1983)

This movie is really the cinematic version of the classic question, "If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?" I like two things the screenplay (and probably the novel, which if I have read, it's been 20 years) do with the question. First, the movie only gives one answer: an emphatic yes (maybe not the best for drama, but really, is there a "dilemma" here?). But even better, second, the movie actually says you don't have to kill Hitler; you only have to ruin his career.

This post is really backwards. Let me set up: Christopher Walken plays John Smith, a boring, whitebread high school English teacher who is seriously injured in a car crash (he hits an overturned milk truck on a rainy road in his VW beetle--really) and awakens from a five year coma to find his life turned upside down (1) by the loss of his fiance (who's married someone else), job, and ability to walk without crutches, but, more importantly, (2) by his new "second sight," the power, when touching someone, to see either their past or their future. This, of course, freaks him out, as only Walken can really be freaked out. (BTW, as much as I love the premise of this movie, it would not be the same movie without Walken's creepy performance.)

There are some subplots, but the action really gets kicking when Walken shakes hands with demagogic, Hitlerian politician Greg Stillson, played by the intense Martin Sheen. (A movie with both Walken and Sheen playing over-the-top characters--what more could you want?) Walken-Smith sees that in the future, Sheen-Stillson will become president and launch an unnecessary (preemptive?) nuclear assault on the Soviet Union. Sheen-Stillson will tell the V.P. and secretary of defense, "The missiles are flying . . . hallelulah, hallelulah."

Walken-Smith determines to assassinate Sheen-Stillson at a political rally. But his shot goes astray. Sheen-Stillson, in a panic, seizes a toddler from a nearby supporter (Walken-Smith's former fiance, but that's a whole other story) and shields himself with him. This is the act that ruins Sheen-Stillson's career. Walken-Smith is shot dead, but before he dies, Sheen-Stillson roughs him up--which lets Walken-Smith see a changed future--in which, career ruined, Sheen-Stillson takes his own life.

See, you don't have to kill Hitler. Just ruin his career.

A few additional points. Cronenberg's direction is creepy as always. He insists on shooting a lot of the movie from a low angle, looking up at the actors' faces, which I think creates a strange effect. The whole movie takes place in the winter, making it cold; the camera work makes you feel even more distant from the characters, kind of like you're seeing them from the other side of a psychic vision. The movie is also delightfully free of too many special effects--it was released in 1983. If it were released today, I have no idea how cluttered the psychic visions would be with flashing lights, etc. (I've never watched the television series loosely based on the movie, so I have no idea how they do things on the tube.)

Certainly better than most horror film options today.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Living Dead

I've been thinking about Dahlia Lithwick's challenge to adherents of the "living Constitution" to put up or shut up. So here goes.

Lithwick raises two separate but closely related questions: (1) whether there is anything principled to say in favor of the living Constitution, as opposed to originalism, and (2) if so, why don't adherents/proponents speak up in favor of it, more often.

The answer to the second question is, I think, much more straightforward than that to the first, so I'll start there. The "living Constitution" has become more of a shibboleth for the Right than an actual term adherents to the view actually use; indeed, with the exception of Justice Brennan, I'm not sure that the term has really been used that much by those on the Left or even by conservative adherents of the view. Without getting into theories of interpretation, I think it's safe to say that the term "living Constitution" covers a great number of particular theories, so proponents of particular approaches don't use a term that's broader than what they are pushing. Even if the Constitution continues to develop in meaning, how it develops is another question, and reasonable people can disagree on that. For example, just how democratic should we interpret the Constitution today? The Framers were not democrats, but republicans. And so on. Plus, my sense is that most people, including most judges, don't stick to a consistent theory or approach to questions of constitutional interpretation. Originalism might make sense to them in some areas, but in other areas, other theories--plain meaning, even some kind of "living" doctrinal development--make more sense, to most people, most of the time. For example, I think that arguing for an "original understanding" of the place of the administrative state in our system makes no sense at all, because there would be nothing to talk about. Does that mean that the administrative state is unconstitutional? Hmm. There might be some constitution in exile types who would argue so, but even Justice Scalia doesn't go there.

So the reasons that there aren't ringing defenses of a "living Constitution" are (a) most of the view's alleged adherents hold views that they wouldn't describe in those terms (just as, for example, they wouldn't describe themselves as "soft on crime"); and (b) that most people don't worry themselves with a single, all-encompassing theory of constitutional (or statutory) interpretation. Instead, most people are something akin to what Rawls calls intuitionists, meaning that, in this kind of reasoning, they tend to go with intuitions rather than fully fleshed out, articulated reasons.

Is there anything principled to say in favor of the "living Constitution"? Yes, but it will take me awhile to get there.

First, let me start by saying that the Constitution does not come with a set of second-order instructions on how we should interpret it. Indeed, all theories of constitutional interpretation are themselves extra-constitutional. Some of the Framers, including James Madison, were reluctant to publish their notes on the convention debates because they didn't want their views to dominate later thinking on the meaning of the text. So, my first point is that there's no reason, a priori, to privilege originalism.

With that said, however, we run smack into the counter-majoritarian difficulty. Most of the time, when we're talking about this stuff, we're talking about cases in which the Court strikes down laws that have either local/state or national majoritarian support. The question then is whether the Court is justified in doing so, based on the Constitution. The originalists' best argument is that, without the support of something in the Constitution itself, the Court cannot legitimately override majority wishes. If the Court cannot rely on something other than their own policy preferences to strike down these majoritarian laws, then the Court should defer to the systems of self-government recognized in the Constitution. (Note that I say "systems," because the states get to play by very different rules than the federal government, at least from an originalist understanding.) But then the originalists import an important assumption--they assume that the only thing "in the Constitution" that the Court could rely on would be the original meaning. In other words, they assume that the only thing that could be "in" the Constitution that would justify overriding majority wishes is something closely resembling "the will of the legislators," i.e., those who drafted and then ratified the Constitution.

But, again, nothing in the Constitution says this. Not in so many words, not even by allusion. Indeed, the power of the Court (and lower courts) to actually override laws is not found in the Constitution. All we get is that the courts get "the judicial power," an incredibly difficult term to define. (If you don't believe me, try to define it. And do so in a way that is consistent with the existence of Article I courts. But that's for another post.)

So, in short, originalism suffers from the problem that its key move is itself extra-constitutional. But that's not to say that the adherents of the dead-hand Constitution don't have a pretty good argument with the counter-majoritarian difficulty. (BTW, my conservative readers can throw in "judicial tyranny" for counter-majoritarian difficulty, if they like.)

Second, there is a case to be made that, if we are willing to grant judicial review, then the Constitution probably means more than it says on issues outside of Article III as well as more than it says in Article III. It seems to me that, if Article III means that the courts have the power to strike down unconstitutional laws, then other parts of the Constitution imply similar, additional limits on the majoritarian branches of government, beyond what's explicitly stated there.

How much more? I don't know. And neither did James Madison. Or John Marshall. Or Earl Warren.

Here we can bring the republican-democratic self-government theme back in. The Framers established a system of self-government. But in doing so, they made sure that the "self" that governs is not always a small-d democratic majority. Think the Electoral College and the Senate. Both are important institutions in the Madisonian design, but neither is majoritarian. No one would argue, though, that the Framers didn't intend for the winner of the Electoral College vote to be president, even if some other candidate won a majority of the popular vote. No one would argue that the laws enacted by the Senate are unconstitutional simply because they reflect the will of a minority of the population, at least part of the time.

Is the Supreme Court that different? It's not a democratic institution, but . . . the Framers didn't establish a small-d, democratic constitution. They created a republic (I'm not a Bircher, really), in which self-government by "the People" often involved decisions being made by small numbers of individuals who might not necessarily reflect majoritarian wishes.

Another way of saying this is that originalism errs in privileging small-d democratic decision-making over all other forms of decision-making, with the sole exception of clear constitutional prohibitions. The Constitution actually establishes a range of decision-making procedures, from those in which a minority can make decisions to those requiring a supermajority.

With that said, one could still object that nothing says that five justices on the Court are empowered to impose a different decision than a small-d democratic majority. Exactly. If you want to go all the way, here, I think you have to throw out judicial review. If you want to keep judicial review, then you have to accept that there is more to the Constitution than what can be gleaned from its bare text.

Again, how much more? That depends on context and the Court's membership, which depends on the political process. That justices are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate guarantees that the Court never strays too far from the small-d democratic majority, for too long. For example, there's no doubting that the country moved to the Right following 1968. Thus, the Court moved to the Right, and the meaning of the Constitution moved to the Right, as well. Did it move all the way back to a pre-Warren Court position? No. But it did move. The Court moved to the Left after 1937. Why? Because FDR won a second term, and then the Democrats managed to control the federal government into the 1950s. Did the Constitution move "all the way to the Left"? No. But its meaning shifted as the composition of the Court and the issue environment shifted in a way that benefited liberal positions on the size and scope of government. Never forget that the growth of the administrative state happened roughly at the same constitutional moment as the growth of the national security state, largely because of the Second World War. If the Great Depression had not been followed by WWII, the American administrative state would be much smaller today.

So, in a nutshell, here's the principled argument for a "living Constitution." The Framers did not set up a government wholly sufficient for every eventuality. They couldn't do that. So, what they did was establish a self-governing system (containing within itself constituent self-governing systems) that could adapt to its surroundings based on a wide range of decision-making processes. One of those, it turns out, was judicial review, whether they knew that or not. As a self-governing system, the republic must be able to adapt to changing circumstances, and the Supreme Court, among other entities, has the power to make decisions based on those changed circumstances. This "living" is simply the process of adapting to changing circumstances, and nothing says that the Court is any different from other parts of the system.

Does that mean that the Court is always right? Of course not. But even if one disagrees with particular adaptations to changing circumstances, one's disagreements are with those particular adaptations and not with the ability and need to adapt, per se.

This is an over-long post. If I have time later, I'll write another post on why the dead-hand Constitution view is just silly.

Thoughts on Box Office

This article suggests that the summer box office take will be down 9% from last year. Now, that may be a lot of money, but I think last year was an up-year, so a 9% decline may not be that big a deal. Plus, even the article mentions that studio revenues are up because of DVD sales and other sources besides box office.

But the article hits the nail on the head (in the mouth of a studio executive): "We just need a few more good movies."

The big summer movies, even the "good" ones, generally lack originality. So many movies based on old tv shows (even shows that weren't that good . . . I mean, Bewitched as a movie? why?), remakes of classic movies, and mishmashes of old movies. Think The Island, which I didn't see, but which seems like a combo of Minority Report (a recent exception to the trend), Blade Runner, and Logan's Run, but with supermodel-hot leads. Why see this? I know this movie by heart, without seeing it. And don't get me started on Top Gun Meets 2001, er, Stealth.

DVD sales are also down. What's the explanation here? Well, anyone who pays attention to these things knows that there are new technologies coming out and that DVD is an obsolete technology. Personally, I'm not buying any more DVDs until the new Blueray stuff comes out. You can't expect consumers to keep buying obsolete disks when the next big thing is coming down the pike.

Anyway, no deep point to make here. Just general fatigue with the complaints of the movie industry.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gas Prices and Utopia (or Not)

I've been thinking a lot about gas prices lately. I guess a lot of people have been. And there's an article in the next NYT Magazine about "peak oil" production and then its decline and the potentially devastating effect on the world economy. Some people believe in dire predictions; others reject the doom-and-gloomers out-of-hand.

But here's my thinking on this. Go back fifty, sixty years. Think first of the utopias constructed by social theorists and novelists. What do they have in common? (1) Some version of world peace, a peaceful world, a world without war; probably with some kind of rational world government. (2) The elimination of the other traditional scourges of mankind: hunger/famine; disease; drought. The conquest of these natural scourges through science is a key utopian thought (at least mid-century). (3) The elimination of scarcity, more generally, and with it scarcity's natural consequence: poverty. And while we're at it, the elimination of ignorance, racism, all forms of irrationality. (4) I know from watching those movies that the world of the future is bright and clean; that the people are well-groomed and well-educated. Frankly, people in the future are just better than you and me.

Now think of the dystopias. They have in common: (1) Some form of government oppression, if not panoptic tyranny. Think of a boot stomping on a human face, forever. (2) Scarcity, rampant disease and warfare. (3) Ignorance, irrational hatred(s), even some cultivated by the State. (3) The future is dirty, dysfunctional--unless it's too clean, too antiseptic, that is. Maybe even a manmade apocalypse, triggering the following: Some versions would through in (4) sedation of the population (soma, THX 1168, and television, even), and, mostly later, (5) overpopulation, crime, hunger, and Soylent Green. And, yes, you know what's next:

It's people! Soylent Green . . . is people!

Now, to a great extent, these visions magnify what their creators saw in the world around them. Some saw progress toward a better world, the seeds of which were visible in the 1920s, 1950s, whenever. Others saw horrifying prospects around them, and imagined a chain of events to make those prospects realities. So some of this reflects on the times. But here I want to reflect on how well utopias and dystopias tend to work as predictions.

The world I live in is not a utopia. Washington, D.C., has plenty of crime, and ignorance--and that's just Congress. Duh-dum-duh. But seriously, the city is part a city of the utopian future, and part a city of the dystopian future, from the past perspective. Parts of the city are clean and bright, with well-groomed, well-educated people. Other parts, though, look like sets of the upcoming Kurt Russell movie, Escape from the District of Columbia (working title). The rest of the world is largely the same story. There's disease, and famine, and ignorance, and war. But then there's science, democratization, and so on.

The point I'm trying to make, I guess, is that the future is never as good as the utopias we can currently imagine might be, and never as bad as the nightmare, worst-case dystopias we can imagine, either. What's strange is that some parts of the predictions of both genres come true, at the same time. Or, maybe that's just another way of saying that there's nothing new under the sun. There are reasons to be hopeful for the future, and reasons to be pessimistic.

With that said, I find myself becoming increasingly pessimistic about things like climate change and our dependence on oil. I don't believe worst-case scenarios, but neither do I believe that things are just going to work themselves out. To avoid some particularly bad scenarios, if not worst cases, I think that we need some concerted action, and fast. But with the way things are right now, I don't see that happening any time soon.

Check It Out

The Library of Congress has this amazing searchable on-line collection of old photographs and prints. This is from the Matthew Brady collection--it's Brigham Young, of course. Really amazing pictures in there, and many of them are in the public domain.

Signs in the Law Library

I'm used to the "No Cell Phone Use in the Library" sign. But I'm not sure what to make of the "No Portable TV Use in the Library" sign. Is that a portable DVD player sign? (I would ask the librarian, but I don't think she likes me.)

And if you use headphones, why not portable DVD viewing in the library?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Light Posting

Sorry for the light posting over the weekend. Friends from out of town visiting, keeping me from the keyboard (but look at the great picture of Great Falls!). Tomorrow night, we're going to Baltimore for a baseball game, so it's unlikely that there will be much posting at all on Tuesday. Things should get back to normal next weekend; after all, Friday is my "regular day off." On the compressed schedule I'm on, I work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day per pay period, and get the tenth day off.

I should probably post a review of The Sandstorm, a play we saw this weekend in Alexandria. It was on the Iraq war. BTW, what are we calling "the Iraq war" nowadays? I almost wrote "the Iraq War," but should one capitalize the "w"?

Washing the SmarTrip Card

Just so you don't have to find out yourself: You can forget and leave your SmarTrip card in your shirt pocket (with over forty dollars in value on it, still) and wash it, and it will still work. Not that I recommend doing this.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Great Falls [of the Potomac], Maryland

Familiar Landmark

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Washington, District of Confusion

As a new resident of the District of Columbia, I've been reading a bit on how the court system in D.C. works and the history of the D.C. courts. (Isn't that what everyone does when they move to a new jurisdiction?) One thing that I read today that struck me as interesting is that Congress did not create the Metropolitan police until the Civil War period. Before that, D.C. was under-policed. And back then, there wasn't really a municipal code or code of statutory laws enacted by Congress to govern the District; instead, D.C. courts applied the laws of Maryland in the part of D.C. ceded by Maryland ("the county of Washington") and the laws of Virginia in Alexandria county (ceded back to Virginia in the 1840s). That means that District residents were subject to different civil and criminal laws depending on which side of the Potomac they happened to be on, despite the fact that both Washington county and Alexandria county had a common government. A common government, but two sets of law--that must have caused some "choice of laws" headaches.

Here's a citation, for those of you who like that sort of thing, Erwin C. Surrency, History of the Federal Courts 427 (2d ed. 2001).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

New Word Joins the English Language

OK, freebloggers. Here's your chance to be on the ground floor of something big. The better half is writing a party about party voting in Congress, and I've come to the conclusion that the English language needs, badly, an antonym for "partisan," as a noun meaning a member of a particular party. For example, I can have "co-partisans," but what about members of the other party? Are they "anti-partisans"?

My suggestion: "versisan(s)," n., denoting members of the opposing or other party.

Sentence: "Although I saw many fellow partisans at the meeting, there was nary a versisan."

Compare to: "Although I saw many fellow partisans at the meeting, there was nary a member of the other party."

Look, my word saves you four words, without loss of meaning. Imagine, you would no longer have to use the clunky phrase, "members of the opposing [opposite; other] party."

Strangest Section in the U.S. Code?

48 U.S.C. s. 1411, Guano districts; claim by United States

Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States.

Of course, guano is bird shit. So if you find a big deposit of bird shit, outside of the lawful jurisdiction of other countries, it's yours--er, the U.S.'s.

Film Review: Yojimbo (dir. A. Kurosawa, 1961)

This is the film that For a Few Dollars More, the classic spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, is based on. Tishoro Mifune plays a mid-19th century out-of-work samurai who stumbles into a village split between rival factions. Historically, this was a period of great instability, lots of gang- and gambling-related violence. But the Mifune character--we never learn his real name--is a master swordsman who can slash his way through any number of the henchmen of these petty thugs. So he finds his skillz in demand.

Bored, broke, and misanthropic (quite a combination), Mifune decides to have some fun. He starts a bidding war ("for a few ryos more") between the rival gangleaders, first siding with one, then the other, to serve as a leader's bodyguard. That's what "yojimbo" means--the title of the film is "The Bodyguard." (But trust me, the Kevin Costner-Whitney Houston movie is not an American remake.) But he's really trying to instigate an all-out clash between the two groups. Why? In a sense he's trying to rid the town of the gangs, but it's hard to say that he's a "good guy," at least at first. He is, instead, misanthropic, an anarchic particle adrift in a chaotic world. Really, think Clint Eastwood in most of his better movies. he's not looking for trouble, but he's not not looking for trouble, either, and God help anyone who actually causes him trouble. But there's a plot, here, too: about halfway through film, he becomes soft and helps out a "pathetic" man (a man who makes him sick), whose wife has been forced into sex slavery by one of the gangs--a move that eventually puts Mifune into a difficult place (never stick your neck out for anybody). He's beaten badly by one of leader's henchmen, but not quite badly enough. He escapes (in a very suspenseful scene) and eventually causes the destruction of the gangs.

This is not one of Kurosawa's more "serious" films. A great deal of the film is straightforward action, not really different from standard Western fare. The score is very lighthearted, as well. But one can see why other filmmakers would borrow heavily from this one, if not steal it, entirely.

Speaking of which, the more Kurosawa samurai movies you see, the more you realize just how much of the "Jedi" is stolen from Kurosawa's samurai. Indeed, even the terms "Jedi" and "samurai" are similar, to some extent. For the Mifune character, here, think Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Mos Eisley cantina. The attitude: "I don't want to have to cut your arm off, but if I have to, I won't hesitate."

Film review: The Aristocrats (2005)

This documentary about "the dirtiest joke I've ever heard" is not really as funny as I had hoped it would be. If you haven't seen the movie, you probably don't know the joke. It's supposed to be a joke that comedians tell each other, after hours, to entertain and show off for one another. That makes some sense, because the joke itself is not funny. I mean, the punchline is, "The Aristocrats," and it's a bit of an inside the showbiz world joke: "A man goes into a talent agent's office and says, 'Do I havfe an act for you.'" But anyway, the nature of the joke itself means that it takes some effort to make the joke work, which means that it is the sort of thing where one can show one's mad skillz. But many of the tellings of the joke go straight for the scatological, which is funny, but not quite funny enough to support an 80 minute documentary.

The film is still worth seeing, though, because some of the individual performances--snippets, really--are quite good. The Bob Saget telling has received a lot of attention, primarily, I think, because he's got such a squeaky-clean image. I really liked the mime version--my God, did I just write that?--and the card trick version, not to mention the "South Park" cartoon. Oh, and the Sarah Silverman telling. (What have I seen her in? She looks so familiar.) I was disappointed that the film did not include Chevy Chase, given that he's mentioned by others for his famous joke-telling parties where the idea was to tell the joke for 30 whole minutes. I guess that would have eaten up too much of the running time. (What was the last thing Chevy was in? What happened to him?) I also liked the "inside baseball" nature of the film, in the sense that it was comics explaining how they do what they do and how they understand what they do. The film also has a little of a historical angle, with older comedians (including Phyllis Diller and Don Rickles) talking about older comedians yet (one should probably say, dead comedians), and some discussion of the history of comedy as well as the history of the joke.

BTW, the theater was quite crowded, if not sold out. (Living in the big city is a little different. The same theater, not the same auditorium, was also full-ish for March of the Penguins a couple weeks ago.) But the strange thing was that the couple sitting next to us walked out after about ten minutes. I mean, the language in the film is really over the top, but still, I wonder, why? Because everything you read about the film says, "It's obscene." So you have to know what you're getting yourself into, right? Did they not know what they were getting themselves in for?

The Enduring Appeal of Scarface

I've been interested for a few years in the popularity of the film Scarface in contemporary youth culture. Every few days, I see a kid wearing a Scarface t-shirt on the Metro; another kid this morning triggered this post. Last year, I made a Scarface reference in class--naming one of the characters in my drug-trafficking hypothetical "Tony Montana"--and pretty much the whole class got the joke. These students, born in the Reagan years, actually got a joke about a movie made in the 1980's. They wouldn't get a joke about All the Right Moves or Risky Business. (Why did I pick two Tom Cruise movies?) Or another Pacino movie from the 1980's, or even from Carlito's Way--in my opinion, an underrated film.

And, of course, who hasn't said, "Say hello to my little friend" in Pacino's cheesy Cuban accent?

Why is this film so popular, still today? I've watched in recently (within the last year), and I'm not sure why it's so popular. Of course, the popularity of the Scarface image is not dependent on the film itself . . . so maybe one shouldn't over-analyze here. Any ideas out there?

It's not because the Cuban drug lord lifestyle has such enduring appeal.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sorry for the Lack of Posts

Nothing personal. I just haven't felt very inspired lately. I should note that our marathon training progressed to 12 miles on Sunday, and it was hot as blazes, again. So the 12-miler knocked me out a bit on Sunday, and then Monday was Monday.

I'll try to post some things in the next few days. We saw The Aristocrats last weekend, and that definitely deserves a review. But tonight I think I'm going to watch Yojimbo--I'm in a Kurosawa kind of mood lately.

Have a great night, freebloggers.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ohio Politics Update

Wilson says that retired Case (CWRU) economics prof Bill Peirce is entering the Ohio gubernatorial race as a Libertarian candidate. I never met Bill Peirce (I don't think), so I don't have much to add, except this, about economists in general. It's the economists and economics-influenced political scientists who are always saying that it's (instrumentally) irrational to vote, given that the chances that one's vote will be decisive is so miniscule compared to the costs of voting. So why would an economist run for office as a third-party candidate, given that the chances of his winning are negligible? (By negligible, I mean "so small that one could ignore them without risk.")

The answer . . . there are other reasons to run for office than a reasonable chance of victory. My favorite example: The Reverend Al Sharpton in 2004. The good reverend knew that he couldn't win the nomination, let alone the general election. (The Nation may or may not (probably not) be ready for a black president; but I'm sure it's not ready for Sharpton.) But he ran to make sure that other candidates discussed issues of interest to his constituency and to voice a certain perspective in the debates, and so on.

Now, I don't know if that's why Peirce is running--as Wilson says, it's unlikely he will get much press coverage--but the point is still a valid one. There are more reasons to run than simply a reasonable chance of winning.

It's This Hot Here Today

Just a little car fire on the way to the grocery store. (Not my car.) But really, it's hot as blazes here.

Film Review: The Battle of Algiers (dir. G. Pontecorvo, 1965)

The Bush Administration is remaking this classic film as "The Battle of Baghdad," or maybe as "The Global Struggle Against Common Sense" (alternate working title), but the original is still very much worth seeing. (Those remakes are never quite as good as the originals, and don't even get me started on what they did to Rollerball.)

The scary thing here is how much of the film seems relevant. The press conferences with Colonel Mathieu, the commander of the special forces in Algiers are eerily familiar. Consider the following quote (not from a press conference):

Col. Mathieu: We need to have the Kasbah at our disposal. We have to sift through it and interrogate everyone. And that's where we find ourselves hindered by a conspiracy of laws and regulations that continue to operate as if Algiers were a holiday resort and not a battleground. We've requested a carte blanche, but that's very difficult to obtain. Therefore, it's necessary to find an excuse to legitimize our intervention and make it possible. It's necessary to create this for ourselves, this excuse. Unless our adversaries think of it themselves, which seems to be what they're doing.

How many times have you heard similar "hindered by a conspiracy of laws and regulations that continue to operate as if [this] were a holiday resort" arguments from the executive branch and its supporter since TGSACS started? (That's pronounced "tag sacks.") The Pentagon has less requested "a carte blanche" than just assumed one.

Oh, I could go on and on about the eerie parallels, but I'm sure you can find that somewhere else on the web. In terms of the filmmaking, the style here is French New Wave, a style that I like, in moderate doses, mixed with documentary style footage. It is also a bit of a "crime caper" movie, in that we see the planting of bombs and the like; the terrorists are, first, if not foremost, criminals--although that will get me in trouble with the TGACS warriors, won't it? Well, here's Colonel Mathieu:

Col. Mathieu: To know them means to eliminate them. Consequently, the military aspect is secondary to the police method.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The General's Statue in the Circle Named Logan

Missing Review: The Clean House

Saw this play at the Woolly Mammoth Theater last weekend. It's an interesting play, although in the end I don't think it quite works. The transition from farce to melodrama is a bit quick, and the reconciliations are a bit too easy. I also don't get how the housekeeper's quest for the "perfect joke" plot fits into the estranged couple-love triangle plot; I'm not sure what the author thinks the "joke" is, at the end--life, or death, or both? That's a really cryptic sentence. I owe the blog a better review, but I'm not sure I have the energy to write it today.

Film Review: Rashomon (dir. A. Kurosawa, 1950)

This film is justly famous for its dismantling of objective reality. As you probably know, the story is told through flashbacks and secondhand reports of a rape and murder in twelfth century Japan. The story is told from the perspective of the woodcutter, the alleged murderer (played by Toshiro Mifune), the rape victim, and the murder victim (speaking through a medium in what must be one of the creepiest sequences in film history), and then the woodcutter, again, with a second version. The rape victim's and murder victim's stories are further mediated through their court testimony. Each version of the story differs in fundamental ways from the others; indeed, each version essentially identifies a different killer (maybe a stretch for the woodcutter, but the case can be made). An incredibly dark film, Kurosawa the optimist inserts a hopeful ending with the serendipitous discovery of an abandoned baby in the temple, and the breaking of the clouds at the end. The plot defies my descriptive ability, though, as the key question in the film is, can we ever know what really happened?

If you haven't seen this movie, rent it tonite. It's truly a masterpiece.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Vetting Supreme Court Nominees

I've been reading John Dean's Rehnquist Choice (2002) in my spare time, and I'll offer this observation on the John Roberts nomination. From Dean's account, it's clear that Nixon settled on Rehnquist late in the process, only a matter of hours before the nomination was announced. Nixon seized on Rehnquist after other options had fallen through; he needed someone with great credentials, and Rehnquist was the man. But, as a result, the current Chief was not thoroughly vetted back in 1971. This did not stop his nomination, despite things in the record that might have caused problems, like the [credible] allegations of his challenging black voters at the polls, 1958-68, and the infamous Brown v. Board memo that Rehnquist wrote as a Supreme Court clerk in 1952 that allegedly included, ahem, Justice Jackson's view that Plessy should be affirmed. But that's another story. (Although Dean's take on that story is interesting.)

My point here is that the Roberts papers probably include similar choice nuggets. I don't think (it doesn't seem to me) that this nomination was thoroughly vetted; it seems to me that the administration and president seized on Roberts in a bad week for them. The thinking: he is eminently qualified, so put him out there, change the subject from the Rove-Plame grand jury . . . don't worry about those memos . . . what could be in there, anyway? Really?

It's strange that the past repeats itself. Roberts will almost certainly be confirmed. Maybe he'll be nominated to be Chief some day. And then we'll be talking about . . . whatever comes out in the next few weeks, perhaps.

Fun with the Camera Phone

As you may have noticed, I've been using the camera phone lately to record images from my daily walks around the District. The images are really low resolution, but this is a blog, for Pete's sake.

"Momma, Why Is That Water Green?"

The water in the Columbus fountain, in front of Union Station, is really green. The darker water is really dark green.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Witchhunts, My Beeyatches

Check out this article in today's Post on belief in (and torture of suspected) witches in rural India. Really interesting discussion of superstition, gender, and class. But I especially wondered about this:

"I never name a witch. I only give villagers some clues to find her," said Leena Oraon, who is known as a witch doctor in Aragate village and who says she studies rice grains to ascertain the presence of a witch in the village. "Today's doctors cannot cure ailments that are caused by a witch's curse. That is why people come to me."

Exactly. "See, judge, I just give 'em some clues . . . ." And those damned fancypants doctors can't heal a . . . curse. 'Course not. But wait--it gets worse:

Only two Indian states, Jharkhand and Bihar, have outlawed witch-hunting. Last year, one of India's northeastern states, Tripura, conducted a discussion in the legislative assembly about the need to ban the practice of witch-hunting. After a day-long debate, the assembly unanimously decided that killing of people for practicing witchcraft should be prevented.

However, members failed to reach a consensus on whether witchcraft was a science or superstition.

Of course, the killing of people, period, should be prevented, so I'm a bit confused by the substance of this "day-long debate." I guess they debated outlawing witchhunting, per se, but if witchhunts regularly end with violence, shouldn't a general conspiracy to commit [felonious battery or equivalent] statute do the trick? (Plus, probably conspiracy (?) to commit second degree murder in a common law jurisdiction, if the article is accurate.) I mean, I'm not an Indian lawyer, but their law and ours have to share some similarities; English roots and all. I think I could figure out how to charge these cases so the perpetrators would do some serious time, even with a plea deal. (Honest offer: A crisp dollar bill to the first person who can get me a transcript of the record; including a web link.) But, really, a science or a superstition? Of course it's a science. I mean, there's that Hogwarts Academy that teaches the witchcraft, and that Harry Potter.


Speaking of witchcraft, I've been feeling a little tired lately. Which of you is the witch which has afflicted me? I'm looking at you, Curatasaurus--lookin' at you with me peepstone.


Film Review: The Dukes of Hazzard (dir. J. Chandrasekhar, 2005)

OK, so I broke down and went to see the Dukes movie. I have to say, it's not as bad as it could be. It's not a non-stop hoochie coochie show, either. It's more of an almost non-stop car chase, punctuated by interludes of hoochie-coo.

No one who's ever seen the tv show needs a plot synopsis. Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) has a plan to lie, cheat, and steal the good people of Hazzard county, and only those "two modern day Robin Hoods," Bo and Luke Duke, can thwart him. Along the way, the Duke boys commit so many crimes (and torts) that this movie should be a law school final exam question. The car chase scenes are pretty amazing--I'm not sure I've seen a movie with better car stunts. There are arrows with explosives, car crashes, and quite a bit of Jackass-style physical comedy. Johnny Knoxville as Luke has a kind of charisma. But Seann William Scott's Bo is a crazy man in love with the General Lee. Really, the screenplay makes Bo the gay Duke, because he is always clear that the car is a he and that he (Bo) loves it, even wants to make love to it. (I'm not kidding.)

In short, this screenplay takes the basic story and "updates" it by making the characters ridiculous parodies of the characters in the tv show. To the extent that that works, the movie is watchable.

The two characters who suffer the most in this retelling: Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, who is too evil and thus no longer comic relief, and Daisy. Jessica Simpson is kind of a parody of a beautiful woman--or, perhaps more properly, a farce, in the sense that it's a story of ridiculous body parts in an impossible situation. In the original series, Catherine Bach was sexy but smart. This Daisy is supposed to be smart, but Simpson can't play smart. It's more like if you taught your puppy to imitate human speech, but the puppy has no idea what the words say. Sure, the puppy can say the words, and then she expects her treat. But there's nothing going on other than saying the words.

I won't ruin the Confederate battle flag joke, but it's in there.

Lost Post: The Backslapper in Chief Meets Raw Emotions

Well, I wrote what I thought was a pretty good post on the media story about the mother of the fallen soldier camped outside the president's Crawford ranch, but Blogger ate it. That happens once in awhile (not too often). Check out this insightful piece on the story.

The section of the article I found interesting was Sheehan's account of the president's meetings with the families of fallen soldiers. It's clear from that account that Bush is extremely uncomfortable in these settings. That's understandable. But it's also an interesting side of Bush's personality. I've thought for awhile that Bush's physical isolation from protesters, opponents during last year's campaign parallels his emotional isolation and distance. This article suggests that that is indeed the case:

As the mother of an Army specialist who was killed at age 24 in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on April 4, 2004, Ms. Sheehan's story is certainly compelling. She is also articulate, aggressive in delivering her message and has information that most White House reporters have not heard before: how Mr. Bush handles himself when he meets behind closed doors with the families of soldiers killed in Iraq.

The White House has released few details of such sessions, which Mr. Bush holds regularly as he travels the country, but generally portrays them as emotional and an opportunity for the president to share the grief of the families. In Ms. Sheehan's telling, though, Mr. Bush did not know her son's name when she and her family met with him in June 2004 at Fort Lewis. Mr. Bush, she said, acted as if he were at a party and behaved disrespectfully toward her by referring to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting.

By Ms. Sheehan's account, Mr. Bush said to her that he could not imagine losing a loved one like an aunt or uncle or cousin. Ms. Sheehan said she broke in and told Mr. Bush that Casey was her son, and that she thought he could imagine what it would be like since he has two daughters and that he should think about what it would be like sending them off to war.

"I said, 'Trust me, you don't want to go there'," Ms. Sheehan said, recounting her exchange with the president. "He said, 'You're right, I don't.' I said, 'Well, thanks for putting me there.' "

Bush's supporters and detractors alike say that he's no Bill Clinton. And it's become almost a punchline, but there are times when being able to feel other people's pain is a useful political skill. One that Bush doesn't seem to have.

Update: According to this website:

UPDATE: Priceless quote by Cindy She was telling Hadley and Hagin about Bu$h meeting with her and several other families who had lost loved ones. His behavior was horribly inappropriate! Among many other things, Bu$h would not look at Casey's pictures, would not call him by his name and called her "Mom." She said, "If I were his mom, he would behave a lot better!"

Wouldn't look at the pictures? Huh? Or use his name? I guess "Noble Sacrifice" is his name now.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hide! It's the Vacuum Cleaner!

Friday, August 05, 2005

New Sidebar Link

Maybe Wilson will start posting (?) at A Freeman's Perspective now that there's a link on the sidebar.

For those of you who don't know Wilson, he was student of mine, and my research assistant, and is also a good friend of mine. He's sharp as a tack, and worth reading, I'm sure, once he starts posting regularly, even if you don't agree with him. But maybe he'll stick with pop culture and lower forms of entertainment as opposed to analyses of Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

BTW, my former student now clerking for a certain federal judge was also a libertarian, and a big fan, several years ago, at least, of Frank Meyers. As another F.O.E. once said, libertarians are right at least half the time, regardless of your political perspective. (Or, almost. If you're a communitarian/populist, not so. Then, they're wrong on everything. But as one student once asked, really, in my American Government class, "There's no such thing as a communitarian, is there?" No, Virginia. There's no such thing. Now go back to sleep.)

The point is, I guess, that my best students at Case tended to be on the libertarian/conserative side of things, and they tend to stay in touch. Maybe I should list this as a fair and balanced blog?


Now that's a court with power:

"The Hindustan Times newspaper said Friday the Delhi High Court had passed an order instructing city authorities to offer money to rid the Indian capital of the cattle menace."

I'm not an expert on Indian law--and as regular readers know, I'm always one to admit my limitations--but can you imagine even a state court with full common law powers in the U.S. instructing state officials to offer money to deal with a public nuisance? I mean, state courts may issue orders, and even money awards, against public nuisances, but to pro-actively order cash awards for private action against . . . roaming cows. Not even in "Cowlorado."

But, a wise man once told me, it's not the courts, even the High Courts, that get you in the end, but the hordes of monkeys:

"An estimated 35,000 cows and buffaloes roam free in the capital, sharing space with hordes of monkeys, camels and stray dogs. Traffic routinely comes to a halt to allow animals to amble across highways, leading to accidents and sometimes deaths."

Don't even get me started on stray dog stories.

Now That's a Bad Picture

Or maybe I really am that unattractive.

Take my advice, folks. Pay for the professional headshot.

Historical Trivia (Middle District of Tennessee Edition)

What would happen if, say, a state seceded from the Union but its federal judges refused to resign? They'd still be federal judges, right? Actually, this happened once:

"When Tennessee seceded on May 7, 1861, the Confederate Congress approved Jefferson Davis' nomination of [federal District Judge] Humphreys to be judge of [the] Confederate court for Tennessee. However, unlike the other 13 Federal judges in the South, who joined the Confederacy, Judge Humphreys failed to resign from his position as Federal district judge. This presented the Union government with the thorny problem of how to deal with Judge Humphreys. Because President Lincoln was operating on the assumption that the Union was indestructible, it was necessary to impeach Humphreys before another judge could be appointed to the position. He was impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate on six counts that included advocating and helping to organize rebellion against the United States; refusing to hold Federal court sessions after July 1861; and, while acting as judge, arresting certain U.S. citizens, including William G. Brownlow, who later became Governor of Tennessee during Reconstruction. After conviction by the Senate, Judge Humphreys was removed from office and disqualified from holding future office in the United States Government."

Thought this was interesting . . . .

View from the New Office

OK folks, check out the view from my new office. Yes, that's the U.S. Capitol dome that you can see (center), peeking out from behind the Senate office buildings (Hart office building on the left, not too visible). (BTW, the camera phone doesn't do so well with distance shots, so I should add that the Capitol is actually a lot closer than it looks in this photo. I'm not sure exactly how the lens is configured in the camera phone, but it tends to do this to "landscapes.")

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Wild Bunch

Not really a full review, but I wanted to mention a few things about this classic 1969 Peckinpah western. First, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine were never better than in this movie. Holden, especially. (I've never been much of a Borgnine fan. Not sure why . . . .)

Second, the opening scenes with the children watching the fire ants killing the scorpions in the pens in the railyard. Oh, man. The ants stinging the scorpions, the scorpions fighting back but unable to fight off the ants with their stingers . . . has there ever been a better opening image in a movie? The Wild Bunchers, of course, are the scorpions; but they are getting killed off by "ants"--bounty hunters, soldiers, etc., by 1913.

Of course, in the end, all the scorpions die. But one. One scorpion survives, to ride on the frog's back, halfway across the river--but that's a different story.

Here's to the last of the scorpions . . .

I'm Not One to Complain

But. There's one socially defined sexual difference that is definitely in women's favor. That's dress clothes for men and women. I know pantyhose are uncomfortable. But wear a suit and tie on a hot, humid 90º-plus day in D.C. And then watch women in skirts, blouses without "collars"--try wearing a shirt without a collar to the office as a man. And it's not like many women are wearing pantyhose when it's that hot.

Not that I'm one to complain.

Daisy Dukes

There was an article in the Express today about the "costumes" designed for Jessica Simpson in the upcoming Dukes of Hazzard movie. All I can say is, I saw the new "These Boots Are Made for Walking" video on MTV the other day; Jessica Simpson covering the Nancy Sinatra song. The video is, er, a non-stop hoochie coochie show.

So maybe Cooter was on to something.

Key quotes:

". . . Jessica Simpson's denim cutoffs in the new "Dukes of Hazzard" movie are even cheekier than Catherine Bach's were in the old CBS series."

. . . .

"'When they're hanging on a hanger, they're miniscule. All her wardrobe fits into one box because everything is miniscule."

Let me say it again: hoochie coochie. Anyone going to see the movie?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Is There Anybody Out There?

Hey freebloggers, sorry for the lack of posts. But the new job has cut into my "leisure time," and I don't even have a computer in my office--yet. I'm hoping that means I get a new-ish computer, but it probably means that FEDGOV has to send out for old, crappy equipment for newbies like me. My soon-to-be computer is probably under a mountain in Penna., buffered against a Soviet nucular attack.

Today I sat in on a day of hearings on proposed revisions to the bankruptcy rules. The hearings were fascinating. Really.

I don't really have much to say. I will note that a former student of mine just accepted a clerkship with Janice Rogers Brown on the D.C. Circuit, so I'm connected to the constitution in exile people now. Was Lochner really so bad? Really?

I mean, baking isn't so-o-o unhealthy, no matter what Karl says.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Light Posting Apology

Sorry for the light posting. Today was the first day at the new job, so I basically filled out paperwork--lots and lots of paperwork--and tried to figure out where everything is. Yesterday, I don't know, I just wasn't inspired. The long Sunday runs have been taking a lot out of me; and yesterday it was just nine miles. Must be getting old. Or maybe it's just the heat. Plus my left knee is not doing the greatest. In baseball terms: Not really time for the DL, but no day game after a night game, if you get my drift.

I have a few key posts upcoming, including a review of Sam Peckinpah's classic western shoot'em up, The Wild Bunch (1969), which I highly recommend. Highly. And Ryne Sandberg's speech at the Cooperstown induction ceremony deserves a few comments, too. But probably light posting for a few more days until I figure out/get accustomed to the new schedule.