Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Monday, October 31, 2005

Court TV?

One reason that oral arguments in the Supreme Court should not be televised is that they are exceedingly boring. That is true even if one has an understanding of what a particular case is about. And the general public would have no idea what any particular case is about. The Court on television would be unbearably dull. I haven't heard anyone else say so. But it would be. (My guess is that many people think it unseemly to speak this truth. Not me. I revel in the unseemly.)

I went to oral arguments today, and I was actually interested in the two cases argued. The first was a price discrimination case under the Robinson-Patman Act (I can see you eyes glazing over now), the second an Eleventh Amendment state sovereign immunity versus the Bankruptcy powers of Congress. (As I like to say, when federalism and bankruptcy clash, everyone is bored.) I know a little ant-trust law, so I was interested in the first case. And the second case involves a line of significant cases going back to Seminole Tribe. (I'm going to continue typing, even though I know that no one is still reading this. You would have switched channels before now, too.) But mid-way through the second case, it was clear to me that the justices were bored, the audience was bored (the security detail's primary task seems to be to tell people that they can't close their eyes or lay their heads down in the courtroom), and even the lawyers seemed, well, bored.

But then, something interesting happened. A lightbulb in the ceiling of the courtroom exploded. POP. That was the excitement. Then, back to . . . whether the State of Virginia waived its sovereign immunity defense when VMI, a state institution, filed a proof of claim in the underlying bankruptcy case. And whether . . . the State could waive its defense where Congress has stated, in the Bankruptcy Code, that state sovereign immunity is abrogated in bankruptcy cases. And whether . . . VMI's waiver bound . . . three other state institutions in Virginia, or whether . . . said waiver was effective with respect to VMI alone.



Every now and then, in editing a document or reading some kind of publication, I'll run across an almost empty page with the phrase "This Page Intentionally Left Blank" placed in the middle of it.

Now, this strikes me as rather strange. Clearly, the phrase is supposed to tell the reader that the author(s)/editor(s) of the text intended to leave this page blank. So, one should not interpret the blank page as a mistake of some kind. No, it's on purpose. But at the same time that the author(s)/editor(s) intended to leave the page blank, they also intended to insert this phrase, prominently, in the middle of the page. As a result, the page is not what it declares itself to be, blank. Instead, it is emblazoned with a false statement, not blank at all.

Happy Halloween

Lots of thoughts, but not enough energy for multiple posts.

We ran our second 20-miler yesterday. It was a beautiful day, out on the C & O towpath--almost a perfect day for running, cool and sunny, the leaves just starting to turn, not many people on the towpath because of the Marine Corps Marathon, which was yesterday. I felt pretty good and probably could have pushed on to finish the complete 26.2 miles. The Philadelphia Marathon is now less than three weeks away (November 20). Now: "Taper, do your magic."

Watched The Shining over the weekend. Is this the greatest horror movie of all time? (And I'm talking about the one with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, not the horrible television mini-series.) Also one of the most unforgettable performances in film history, by Danny Lloyd. No, seriously, Nicholson is just over the top.

If there's a Supreme Court pick today, and there is an expectation that there will be an announcement today, my money's on Judge Alito of the Third Circuit. I know that this is hardly original and has been widely rumored. But I think that the rumors have some merit. Alito would be a good pick. But really, who knows what this Administration is going to do next? Few people saw that Miers thing coming, or going, for that matter.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Film Review: Sanjuro (dir. A. Kurosawa, 1962)

And you thought I was done with Kurosawa movies? Not likely. Last weekend we went to "Samurai Cinema" at the AFI Silver and saw Hidden Fortress (1958). As some may know, George Lucas borrowed very liberally from Hidden Fortress. If you think about it, Star Wars is all about the location of a hidden fortress. Plus, there's a princess and a brave samurai protecting her . . . but most importantly, there's the idea of telling the story from the point of view of two bickering secondary players (think R2-D2 and C3PO).

Well, the elements of Star Wars not "borrowed" from Hidden Fortress are "borrowed" from Sanjuro, which is kind of a sequel of Yojimbo. The masterless samurai ("ronin") depicted here is clearly the model for the Jedi, at least in the original trilogy. "Sanjuro" (the samurai is really "The Man with No Name," but here he calls himself "Sanjuro") is a sword-master (why do the Jedi use light sabers? because samurai use swords) who throws his lot in with a rather hapless bunch of young men fighting corruption in their prefecture. There are plots within plots, counter-plots, and a lot of deception. Think how Obi-Wan Kenobi disguises himself and moves with stealth; how he and Darth Vader play cat and mouse, and then . . . there's even a final swordfight.

There's even one shot--of those young men being helped by Sanjuro, hiding from the bad guys under the floor boards of a house--that Lucas just stole. (Millenium Falcon!)

This movie is faster-paced than many Kurosawa films, with a running time of 96 minutes. It has plenty of action and lots of plot. Fun, but not one of Kurosawa's more serious efforts. I would recommend it, however, to Star Wars fans, interested in the origins of the Jedi.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Crack Smokin'

I actually use this phrase, in conversations with the better half, when I hear someone say something that demonstrates that they have been, er, smoking crack. At least figuratively. (I should also add that I sing the phrase. To the melody of the Beastie Boys' Brass Monkey.)

Well, this week's crack smoker is David Brooks (a previous award-winner). This is from his column yesterday, which was on GWB's second term-itis. He argued that the President, like Reagan, can turn these things around, and thus focus on "the key challenges that face the country." Are you ready for his list of said challenges? OK. Prepare your mind. . . . . Here it is: "keeping up with China, rebalancing the fiscal situation, rebuilding confidence in the war on terror."

OMG. "[K]eeping up with China," number one. OK, a "key challenge," indeed. I'd be the last to disagree. But. But number one? Second, "rebalancing the fiscal situation." Dave, Dave, Dave . . . it's called a budget. Not a "situation." Sudden moment of realization . . . if you think a budget is a . . . situation . . . then it's not a deficit . . . it's a situation. Finally, "rebuilding confidence in the war on terror." Now, assuming, for the moment that there is something called "the war on terror," I would agree that winning this war would be a "key challenge." But merely rebuilding public confidence in it? Does that mean that the third key challenge facing the Administration and the country is a frackin' public relations problem? It is, if you are . . . crack smokin'.

But the worst part. In the entire column, Brooks doesn't use a certain four-letter word. I-R-A-Q.

If anyone out there thinks that Bush's second-term problems aren't primarily about the Iraq war (not some generalized war against terror), I'd like to hear it.

Thought on Fitzgerald

I'm sure that many right-leaning talkers will crow that Fitzgerald only indicted one person, "Scooter" Libby (one indictment, not a big deal, says David Brooks). And I'm sure many, many lefties will be (somewhat) glum that Rove seems to have escaped, at least temporarily. (But, really, probably permanently. I doubt we'll see another indictment in this matter.)

The missing storyline: Fitzgerald went with his strongest case, and declined to push to indict as many parties as possible. The grand jury might have gone further, had it been pushed. But this guy did his job, thoroughly, and well. Some may have wanted more, but that's not a special prosecutor's job, "to want more."

So I'm declaring it, right now: Fitzgerald for Attorney General. Or, hell, Supreme Court justice. I hear there's a seat open.

Fun with Court History

The Lochner era Court was not always hostile to state uses of the police power. Here are a few of the more amusing decisions from the early twentieth century, in which the Court rejected a 14th Amendment due process challenge to a "silly" (or objectionable) state law.

Murphy v. California, 225 U.S. 623 (1912) (opinion by Justice Lamar), upheld a South Pasadena ordinance outlawing billiard halls. This case includes what must be one of the best quotes in the entire U.S. Reports, and it's on bowling (!):

For Lord Hale in 1672 upheld a municipal bylaw against keeping bowling alleys because of the known and demoralizing tendency of such places.

Quick, someone call Robert Putnam and tell him that bowling has "known and demoralizing tendenc[ies]." And I thought it was a good way to build social capital. But seriously, Murphy is probably still good law, because it deals with a recreational activity, and only recreational activities involving at least one person's nether regions get protected by the due process clause, people. Indeed, there must be some cities that still outlaw billiards. I don't know if anyplace actually outlaws bowling, but there wouldn't be a viable constitutional challenge to such an ordinance. Especially now that that ardent and allegedly skilled bowler, Harriet Miers, has withdrawn her nomination. Seriously, do you think Souter or (Heavens forbid!) Breyer is going to stick his jurisprudence out for bowling?

Waugh v. Board of Trustees, Univ. of Mississippi, 237 U.S. 589 (1915) (opinion by Justice McKenna), upheld a state law prohibiting "Greek letter fraternities and societies in the state's educational institutions." Waugh is probably not good law, given development of freedom of association doctrine.

But my favorite is Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328 (1916) (opinion by Justice McReynolds (!)), which upheld a Florida statute requiring able-bodied men to work on the state's highways for sixty hours a year, if required by local authorities, against both a 13th Amendment involuntary servitude challenge and a 14th Amendment due process challenge. (Btw, you could pay for a replacement to get out of the work, which somehow doesn't make the law any better, does it?)

Is Butler still good law? It's never been overruled, and it is occasionally cited for its limitation of the 13th Amendment to servitude "akin to African slavery." So, yes, it's good law. This means that the state of Ohio, for example, could require able-bodied men (and it could probably get away with limiting this to men) to work on the state highways for a limited number of hours a year . . . think of the money the state could save. Now, admittedly, those state legislators would never get reelected, and they might have to flee the jurisdiction, but fiscally, a promising idea.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Very, Very Tired

This sad, short post will have to do for today. Just came in the door, and I'm completely exhausted. Had an interesting evening . . . at a homeless shelter. Really. Interesting. But no energy remains. Just thank your lucky stars you have a place to sleep tonight.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New Word

I learned a new word today, administrivia. Its origin, of course (and I'm insulting your intelligence by telling you this, but here goes, and besides, how long has it been since your intelligence was insulted . . . OK, strike that), is a blend of administrative and trivia. PC Magazine provides a definition here. A quick Google search indicates that it's used in IT contexts to describe software documentation. But I just ran across a use in Patrick Lencioni's Death by Meeting (2004), which seems to be broader and encompass any discussion of administrative minutiae.

So I'm declaring this an official word. I'm sure all of you will find contexts in which to use it.

George Packer at Politics and Prose Bookstore

We went to see Packer speak about his new book, The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq, last night. The better half is reading the book (I get it next), and based on what she says and what I've read, in reviews, and what Packer himself read last night, it sounds like a great book. I've noticed that the book has received less attention than it probably deserves. Packer was asked about this (not in exactly those terms), and he said that the problem is that this book does not have a simple message that fits on a bumper sticker. It's not "Stay the Course," nor is it "Pull Out." Packer himself is a "liberal hawk," and he supported the war. He still does, kind of. He takes what I have taken to calling the "responsibility" position: even if the war was a mistake, we are responsible for the state of Iraq, and we can't just leave.

This is a difficult issue, and it was interesting to see a smart person, who has been to Iraq and reported from there, wrestle with these complexities. Many people in the audience wanted "red meat," and Packer provides that in criticizing how the Administration got us into the war (if I hadn't lived through it, I would find this story incredible, even impossible). But he wouldn't offer any simple answers about where to go from here.

My one complaint, about the presentation. Packer easily falls into the false dichotomy between liberal internationalism and isolationism and voices the concern that failure in Iraq will lead the Democrats, especially, to retreat to an isolationist position. I think that this is the neo-conservative frame, and to adopt it, wholesale, guarantees that the neo-cons win almost every debate of foreign policy ideas. In reality, there are few actual isolationists in U.S. politics, and they are really marginal(ized). There are many varieties of liberal internationalism, and neo-con hawkishness is just one of those. I understand that the current Administration tries to wrap itself in the Wilsonian flag (at least some of the time, when it's convenient and might shut up Democratic criticism). But the debate that needs to take place, and probably is, is one within liberal internationalism, and not between a monolithic liberal internationalism and some archaic notion of "isolationism."

(Realism will play a role in that debate, but the actual number of "true" realists in the U.S. foreign policy debate today is small, and it's even smaller if one only counts those under sixty years of age. Speaking of old realists, the Brent Scowcroft profile in the latest issue of The New Yorker, by Jeffrey Goldberg, is definitely worth reading. Scariest quotation in the piece, Condoleezza Rice to Scowcroft: "The world is a messy place, and someone has to clean it up.")

Btw, Packer said that most of Iraq is now completely "off-limits" to Americans, except heavily armed troops. That, as a result, no one--not reporters, not the military, not the U.S. government--has any idea what is happening in most of the country.

A very sober, serious gathering. And a packed house, too. Packer made a comment about how it was great to have such a big crowd in a town where he didn't have many friends or any family. But this is D.C. People here, if nowhere else, read books about politics.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Swofford's Jarhead

I'm reading this Marine Corps memoir about the Gulf War. The film version will be released soon (November 4), and the commercials and trailer look pretty good. A stellar cast, including Jamie Foxx. (Did I just write that?) The book is pretty good, if you like this sort of thing. There's a lot of profanity and other "adult themes." But Swofford is an engaging writer, with a great sense for the language of Marines. Before CL asks how I'd know what Marines sound like, let me just say that the guys in this book are just like the guys on the wrestling team I knew in high school. In fact, several members of the team went into the Marine Corps, including my cousin, Fred. In fact, Fred could be a character in this book (not an insult to Fred).

Here's a passage I liked (and think is basically true):

There is talk that many Vietnam films are antiwar, that the message is war is inhumane and look what happens when you train young men to fight and kill, they turn their fighting and killing everywhere, they ignore their targets and desecrate the entire country, shooting fully automatic, forgetting they were trained to aim. But actually, Vietnam war films are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in Omaha or San Francisco or Manhattan will watch the films and weep and decide once and for all that war is inhumane and terrible . . . but Corporal Johnson at Camp Pendleton and Sergeant Johnson at Coronado Naval Station . . . and Lance Corporal Swofford at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base watch the same films and are excited by them, because the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of their fighting skills. Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man . . . .

That will give you a sense of the book. We'll see what the film is like.

Al Roker and Other Footage

I hope that everyone has seen the hilarious footage of Al Roker getting knocked off his feet by Wilma yesterday morning. The best part: the guy (his producer?) holding onto his leg, before the fall. I wouldn't want to have that job.

No video, but the story.

Now, on a completely different subject, much more serious. The footage of the three bombs at or near the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad was really striking. That was clearly an attack that was meant to create dramatic television footage.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Check out the fall foliage

Celine has an awesome digital camera.

You Ask, I (Try to) Answer

Gentle Readers,

If you have questions, I'll try to find answers. Call-sign "Ivy," in comments, writes: So my question is this: Is it really so crystal clear that Fitzgerald won't indict the leak as illegal? Seems to me, that the first thing he should have done was to determine whether Plame/Wilson was covered by the law and if he now says she wasn't, then he should have ended the investigation long ago.

Even if the underlying leak was not illegal--because the statute in question is very technical, drafted for a particular situation and thus hard to break--there is the question of the cover-up. There's that old saying: The cover-up is always worse than the crime. Federal law includes a whole host of statutes that criminalize false statements to federal investigators. My personal favorite is 18 U.S.C. s. 1001, which makes it a federal crime to make a false statement to a federal official, even if the one making the statement is not under oath. There is also perjury, of course, which covers false statements under oath. Even if the underlying revelation--and we still have no idea what happened there, let's be honest--was not illegal, it's still possible that someone committed an offense in the course of the investigation.

If Fitzgerald encountered such conduct in the course of his investigation, should he have ignored it (verb tense might be wrong there, but hang with me)? Well, he certainly had discretion to do so. One thing not fully understood by "lay people" in our system is just how much discretion prosecutors have. But Fitzgerald seems like the kind of guy who really cares about the rules of the game. If certain persons tried to fudge their way out of trouble, and they lied or shifted their testimony in the process . . . he might bring charges. And, in the abstract, one can understand that.

Should he have stopped, if he determined that there was no underlying offense? He was authorized to pursue obstruction and similar crimes.

So he's been authorized to prosecute to the full extent of the law. Should he? That's a question on which reasonable minds can disagree. In one sense, that's why we use this ancient grand jury procedure, which involves discretion on the part of 23 ordinary citizens. In the end, in one sense, 12 of those ordinary people must vote to indict. If this really is a nothing offense, then 12 people can stop this process in its tracks. Or Fitzgerald can.

We'll see what happens.

Btw, nothing here precludes an indictment on the underlying leak. But I have no idea what will happen.

There's Nothing Unique About This Post

One of my hobbyhorses is the overuse/misuse of the word unique. I understand that many dictionaries now include an "informal" definition of "unusual"; but there's simply no reason on God's green earth to use the word unique to mean unusual. We already have a word for unusual. (It's unusual, for my slower readers.) Unique has a rather specific meaning: one of a kind. But there it is, I see it all the time, being used for unusual or special or important. Here it is, this morning: "Class actions demand that judges play a unique role." I have no idea what that means. I understand that judges play a special role in class actions. But unique? How? Is it unique in every last cotton-pickin' class action? There are literally thousands of them.

Really, this is just lazy, sloppy writing. People (must) think that unique is fancy and dresses up their rather mundane sentences. It adds pizzazz to one's writing. Stop it.

That is all.

Or not quite all: Sam, in comments, is trying to stir the pot. He points out that if unique means unusual, then one can speak of events as more unique or very unique, which one cannot do if the term means "one of a kind." Don't get me started here. A certain person I know prefaces every single one of his stories by saying, "One of the more unique things that ever happened . . . ." Impossible!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Son Volt and Fruit Bats, 9:30 Club, Friday Night

Saw Son Volt and the Fruit Bats (opening act) at the 9:30 Club Friday night. It was a good show, but I'm a little old for shows that start at 10:15 on a Friday night. Son Volt definitely put on a good show.

The crowd: Not an young crowd. Let me put it this way. They didn't need to i.d. at the door. There wasn't a soul under 25 in the house.

Oh, for CWRU Law alums, I will mention that I attended with, among others, a certain Mr. Holton. I think you will remember him.

Perjury and Obstruction . . . Not a Big Deal

Anybody else see Sen. Hutchison, on Meet the Press, say that there was more to the Clinton impeachment than perjury and obstruction of justice? Hmm. The House passed two articles of impeachment, one for perjury and one for . . . obstruction of justice. This is strange. Why does the good senator now think that these impeachable offenses are "technical," not real offenses? I don't get it . . . oh, wait. Rove and Libby are Republicans. Ouch. It must hurt to be hoist on your own petard.

Now, I agree with those, including Bill Kristol, that the criminalization of politics has reached a dangerous level, although that level was reached . . . back in 1998 . . . maybe Bill and I just disagree on verb tense? As in, "was reached"?

Waiting on the grand jury. Maybe there won't be indictments. But I wouldn't bet on that.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Film Review: Good Night, and Good Luck. (dir. G. Clooney, 2005)

Well, this film will get at least three Oscar nominations, so it's worth seeing for that reason alone. (I would predict Best Actor, David Straitharn (amazing as Edward R. Murrow), Best Original Screenplay (Clooney, co-author), and Best Picture, although this is the iff-iest of the three. It will probably get nominated in some other category, so three is still probably a safe bet.) But it's also a great film, timely, and very engaging, even though the ostensible subject is McCarthyism, circa 1953-54.

The film works because it's not too preachy. It escapes preachiness and didacticism (the latter being the worst offense of film) by focusing on Murrow. The film is really a character study of Murrow--a real straight arrow, but someone who is serious and "responsible" in the sense that everything he says is, well, motivated by a concern for things greater than himself. Indeed, responsibility is one of the themes of the film, with McCarthy as the anti-Murrow, spewing irresponsible charges for his own ends. Straitharn as Murrow, somehow avoids caricature, achieves something sublime. An amazing performance.

Clooney, as Fred Friendly, Murrow's producer, is also quite good. I'm a fan of Clooney's. Not because he's a Democrat, although that doesn't count against him. Not because he's the most handsome man on the planet. I'm a fan because here's a Hollywood star who actually says things that make me think he's a smart guy; that if, through some bizarre circumstance, I was seated next to him at a dinner, I would not find talking to him boring. This film is his statement, and it's not a bad statement.

This is one of those message pictures, emphasizing that television (and by extension, film) has a role to play, socially, other than mere entertainment, insulation, and distraction. This film achieves this end, by raising questions about current practice. Really quite an achievement. It says a lot more than McCarthyism is bad, although that probably could use saying, again, now that McCarthyism has found some new defenders.

Also, a film that achieves the beautiful. Luminous black and white.

Go see this one.

(I wrote a much better review, which Blogger ate.)

You're Doin' a Heckuva Job, Hurricane Karen

Karen Hughes was in Indonesia, in her new role at State, selling the U.S. to the Muslim world, defending the Iraq invasion to Indonesian students. In doing so she, er, got her facts wrong. Here's what she said:

"The consensus of the world intelligence community was that Saddam was a very dangerous threat," she said. "After all, he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He had murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people using poison gas."

Now, of course, Saddam (probably) did gas the Kurds back in the 1980s. But he didn't murder hundreds of thousands of people with the gas. Most of those people were probably shot, stabbed, etc.--killed by non-WMD means. What we have here is a blending of two separate rationalizations for the war: (1) Saddam was a mass murdered; and (2) Saddam used WMD on his own people. The best part of the story is that it's not clear, to me, that Hughes simply misspoke. It looks to me like she didn't know the facts:

Hours later, Hughes was asked twice for the basis for her numbers during a meeting with journalists from foreign news organizations.

"It's something that our U.S. government has said a number of times in the past. It's information that was used very widely after his attack on the Kurds. I believe it was close to 300,000," Hughes said when questioned the first time. She added, "That's something I said every day in the course of the campaign. That's information that we talked about a great deal in America."

When asked again several minutes later, she said, "I think it was almost 300,000. It's my recollection. They were put in mass graves."

Here, we see that Hurricane Karen (that was one of GWB's nicknames for Hughes, although I'm sure it's not used any more) admits that she made erroneous, false, and misleading statements of fact every day in the course of the campaign. Well, I certainly thought so, but this pretty much cinches it.

Finally, someone had to "clear things up":

By late in the day, Hughes's aide, Gordon D. Johndroe, offered a correction.

"She was referring to Saddam Hussein having killed hundreds of thousands of people. The gassing part of that was a fraction," said Johndroe, director of strategic communications and planning in the State Department's public affairs bureau. "She was combining two numbers and two situations. She wasn't trying to rewrite the story or make a new claim."

But, if Hughes really said this, every day during the campaign, then that story has already been rewritten, Gord.



Sorry that I didn't post yesterday. It was even a day off from work work. I was working, though, even somewhat busy writing an encyclopedia entry on "the Fuller Court" (1888-1910), which is actually a tricky task. Melville Weston Fuller was Chief Justice for twenty-two years (longer than Rehnquist, but not as long as Marshall or Taney), at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This was the Lochner Court, the Plessy Court, the Court that limited the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in the E.C. Knight case, struck down the individual income tax in Pollock, and upheld injunctions against labor strikes in In re Debs--the last three, in one year, 1895. Other than property rights, this was not a Court particularly concerned with civil liberties, but this is an entry for a civil liberties encyclopedia. So I have to find some way to address the substantive due process issues, which are important for the history of civil liberties, but still address a handful of criminal procedure cases, First Amendment cases (two involving Mormons, yes!), and the Takings clause, as well as the issue of Incorporation.

The limit is 1,000 words. So, I guess you can see the tricky part. It's necessary to condense a lot of cases into sentences or clauses in sentences, which takes a great deal of care. And if youv'e ever read any nineteenth-century Court cases, you know that they are, um, difficult. The conventions used today had not been developed, so it's often difficult to say, in just a few words, why the Court ruled as it did.

As I said recently, I find this sort of thing engaging and even entertaining--both the challenge of condensing information into an entry of 1,000 words (I'm also writing two case entryies, which are only 250 words, which is also quite a challenge) and getting the history of 1888-1910 right. It was a very different time in so many ways.

But not in every way.

I recently read this, in Rotunda and Nowak's Treatise on Constitutional Law, sec. 15.7, and I thought that it was about right:

Despite claims to the contrary, there has never been a period of time wherein the Court did not actively enforce values which a majority of the Justices felt were essential in our society even though they had no specific textual basis on the Constitution.

More thoughts later.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ed Rollins

Ed Rollins, on Hardball, just said that people don't go to jail for stupidity (the discussion was the Plamegate case, of course). In my (limited) experience, the number one reason people go to jail is stupidity. Indeed, the top three reasons would be stupidity, mental illness, and substance abuse. Then would come more "conventional" explanations.

Btw, if I'm right, then deterence theories are doomed. (Incapacitation arguments may be helped, however.)

Astros-White Sox World Series 2005

This is probably not the Fox Network's ideal Series, but it is a great one for baseball fans. The White Sox were probably the best American League team this year, certainly were the best for the first half of the regular season. They haven't been in a Series since 1959 (amazing), and they haven't won since 1917. The Astros have been around for 44 years, never been to the Series. They started out as the Colt .45's, became the Astros (actually, their full name is the Astronauts, but to my knowledge they've never used that), wore terrific orange uniforms in the 1970's. We shouldn't hold it against them that they play in Texas.

I was an Astros fan as a small child. Or, to be clear, I was a big fan of the orange Astros hats when I was a child. I even had one of those orange plastic batting helmets that kids used to wear, in that less-cool era, the kind that your parents bought for you when you actually got to go to a ballgame. I loved it. And then I lost it on a family vacation to King's Island. But that's another story . . . .

Both teams have great pitching and exciting offenses. Not Albert Pujols, but lots of firepower in those line-ups. This one should be fun.

I'm pulling for the White Sox. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe AL Central-Midwstern loyalty.

Film Idea: The Man With No Name, Corporate Edition

As some of you may know, I'm a big fan of formalism, if not the formulaic. I really like to identify the rules of the game, whatever that game may be, and then try to replicate the form that the rules dictate. So, for example, I'm one of those people who actually enjoys writing 250 word encyclopedia entries on Supreme Court cases. It's really hard to cram the facts, holding, vote, and significance of a case, even a minor case, into that many words. But I like that sort of thing.

Same thing with watching movies. The Scream movies proved that horror movies follow rules. The same with Westerns. One kind of Western takes the form: (1) The film has to start with a shoot-out, usually a pretty dramatic shoot-out, maybe a brazen daylight robbery (even Serenity followed this rule); (2) there is a problem--sometimes someone in pursuit of the protagonists, sometimes the opening scene was a trap, some difficulty arises, anyway; (3) the protagonists roam about, trying to solve the problem (vague, I know) or escape to Mexico/Texas/the frontier; and then (4) big shoot-out/showdown at the end. Someone gets killed, if not everyone.

In some ways, The Wild Bunch is the perfect Western, in formalistic terms.

Anyway . . . think that form in a corporate setting. Where do shoot-outs occur? Meetings. Think of it like this: There's a big meeting, a battle of wills. The protagonists get outgunned by the higher-ups. Action, action, problem-solving . . . and a big shoot-out at the end, at a climactic meeting and showdown of wills.

I'm working on it. Just a thought. (In my new job, there are meetings almost everyday. So I've been thinking about how meetings work, at an interpersonal level.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


OK, some comments on the superpower question (I would like more). Now, the inverse: which superpower would you reject out-of-hand, in a superpower lottery?

Disclosure: I wouldn't want Christopher Walken's power in The Dead Zone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Just One Superpower?

Here, I mean actual superpowers, as in superheroes. Like Superman. Spider Man. Aqua Man. Batman. (Actually, Batman has no superpowers, only a utility belt and a kick-ass car/plane/submarine/Boy Wonder.) If you could have just one superpower, which would you choose? Only one: so keep the powers well defined. Superhuman strength is one power, but superhuman abilities encompasses superhuman strength and other powers. Omnipotence is clearly out.

I'll go first. If I could have just one superpower, it would be the power to fly. To keep this fairly specific and well-defined, I would want the power to fly through the air, at a speed of up to sixty miles per hour, and with the ability to carry 150 pounds in addition to my own body weight.

One guy at work today said he'd want precognition. When pressed on the timeframe for precognition, he settled on two days into the future. He also said that there was some study in the past that found personality differences between people who want the power to turn invisible and people who want to be able to fly. This makes sense to me. People who want the power to turn invisible are clearly just pervs. But don't not answer that, if that's the power you want. (Perv.)

Stray Saddam Hussein Trial Thought

One question bandied about is whether Saddam Hussein can receive a "fair trial." In my book, this is a nonsensical question. To make a strained analogy, it's like asking whether Primo Levi's books on Auschwitz "capture the horrors of the Holocaust." How could they? Language can't do that. There are certain things, so far beyond the pale of ordinary human experience, that our usual way of talking about them or "doing them" stop making sense. I think that trials like this one are an example of this.

We are normally concerned with fair trials, in criminal cases (and "we" here clearly excludes CL), when either (1) the facts are disputed or must be established, or (2) the defendant has a defense that may trump the criminal charges. In addition, we worry about "fair trials" when (3) the underlying justice is somehow doubtful, kind of a "let justice be done catch-all."

But when Saddam is tried for the 1982 massacre and torture of a whole village (more or less) because of an assassination attempt against his life . . . neither (1) or (2) will be in play. The facts are pretty well established. Indeed, that is why the Iraqi court is trying that case first--the facts are clear and relatively easy to establish; there are eyewitnesses, etc. For the life of me, I can't think of a defense that might apply--not unless Saddam's lawyers have evidence that everyone in the village was a coconspirator. Not likely.

So, a "fair trial"? I can't see how any proceeding wouldn't be "fair" in this case. I don't even see why there has to be a hearing. Really, I don't. Saddam's lawyers get an opportunity to offer a defense? That can only be a mockery.

This is not some ordinary criminal defendant, whose guilt must be established. So the ordinary rules really don't apply.

Change in the Weather

OK, so I know I've been less than chatty lately, but I've been keeping pretty busy. There's so much going on right now, what with the Miers nomination, the Plame leak investigation, the Iraqi referendum, the pending trial of Saddam Hussein, etc., and I don't have anything particularly original or interesting to say about any of it.

What I do have something to say about is the changing weather. It's fall--or autumn, for readers in the British Isles. Here in D.C., We've had our first cool days, and the evening temps are dipping to around 50 degrees F (no idea what that is in C; sorry). The funny thing is how people in D.C. treat the arrival of cool nights and warm days. They start dressing for cold weather. I've seen more than one person wearing gloves/mittens on the Metro. It's in the fifties or low sixties during my commute, and some people are wearing parkas. I'm serious. Parkas with fur-lined hoods. Plenty of scarves, used as more than a fashion accessory. Lots of fall/light-winter jackets. (I'm still in shirt sleeves, suit jacket on a hanger on the back of the office door.)

This weekend on the C & O tow path, I saw a number of people running in tights, long-sleeve shirts, even sweatshirts. Multiple layers. It was in the mid-sixties.

Two points:

(1) Lots of people dress by the calendar rather than by the temperature. So it's October 18, time to break out the turtleneck sweater. Even though the high this afternoon will be 78 degrees F. The same with running gear. OK, it's October, time to break out the long-sleeve running tops, the tights.

This is a strange (to me) phenomenon, but it's pretty common.

(2) Growing up in Michigan (granted, it was southern Michigan, but it's still north of most places; still, it's not the Twin Cities or anything) and having lived for seven years in Cleveland, I'm used to cold weather. I recognize that many people were not blessed with a Michigan childhood during the late 1970s, during some of the coldest/snowiest winters in U.S. history. They didn't ice skate, and sled, and build snow forts. They've never been ice fishing, which for my money is the number one coldest activity, other than diving in Antarctic lakes (which people actually do, btw; I read about it once; brrr). They haven't trained for a marathon during a Cleveland winter; they've never finished a 20-mile run in a driving blizzard (now that was fun).

So, many people are much more cold-sensitive than I am. And that's OK. I just feel sorry for these people when it actually gets cold.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Twenty Miler #1 Done

As some of you may know, we are planning to run the Philadelphia Marathon November 20th. That means two twenty-mile runs. The first one was today. I have to say, I felt better than I expected to, and I was able to complete the run in about the time I had hoped. Now, my past experience is that the first twenty feels a lot worse than the second, so today's relatively painless run is a good sign, I think.

This will be my fifth marathon, barring an injury or illness in the next five weeks. I won't set a PR this time--I'm not in that kind of shape--but I will increase my career totals.

In other news, the Browns stink. But that's not really news.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Just Making Sure

Liner notes of The Doobie Brothers Greatest Hits:

As just about everyone knows, the Doobies are not actual siblings . . . .

Well, that clears that up. I was wondering whether Doobie was an English or Irish (or Arabic) last name.

Deep Impact

Watch the movie. I thought that, in the film version, the comet crashed into us. Oh, well, it's all relative.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Little Late, But . . .

The Tigers fired Alan Trammell. Un-frackin'-believable. Next year: same results, new manager (Jim Leyland--now there's a bold move).

Tram, if I ever have a team, you can manage it, as long as you want.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

He Said It, Not Me

David Brooks in today's NYT, criticizing Harriet Miers's "essays" in the state law journal as president of the Texas Bar Association:

I don't know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid abstractions that mark Miers's prose. Nearly every idea is vague and depersonalized. Nearly every debatable point is elided. It's not that Miers didn't . . . tackle interesting subjects. . . . But she presents no arguments or ideas, except the repetition of the bromide that bad things can be eliminated if people of goodwill will come together to eliminate bad things.

Scary moment of realization. I know why Miers got the nomination. Isn't the highlighted section of that quotation . . . Bush's entire public philosophy? No need for government, except to rid the world of evildoers. Because if government just got out of the way of people of goodwill, then . . . ah, happy days.

Stop this ride, I want to get off.

Whosa Whassa?

A dollar to anyone who can make this sentence make sense*:

"[The conservative judicial philosophy] defers to the judgment of elected officials at the state and national levels, preserves federalism and the separation of powers, and empowers individuals to use their property free from arbitrary regulation. "

How can a court both defer to the judgment of state and national elected officials and protect individuals and their property from "arbitrary regulation"? Doesn't the latter mean that the courts will judge the "reasonableness" of legislation? How is that deferential?

Sounds to me like this much bally-hooed conservative judicial philosophy can have its cake and eat it too.


*This statement is not an offer for a unilateral contract.

This Week on Playmakers

Remember that short-lived ESPN original series, Playmakers? The series that was cancelled, despite (more or less)positive reviews and solid ratings, because the NFL didn't like ESPN running a series about the seedier side of the NFL, not when ESPN broadcasts NFL games . . . .

The real problem with the show, if you watched it (and I did), was that reality was always outstripping the player misbehavior on the show. Drug scandal? Got that. Cheating on drug tests? Got that. The NFL should have gone after the sports pages, not the tv show. (Or after the players, but . . . huh? Why don't they do that? Oh, I know, it's the money.)

Why this stroll down memory lane? Well, check this out. The Minnesota Vikings are much worse than the fictional team in Playmakers. Coach fined for scalping Super Bowl tickets. Player caught, at the airport, with a fake penis used for cheating on urine tests. Really. Randy Moss.

Now, a "three-hour cruise" that went, well, south. Strike that. Seems like some players decided that only thing that makes a boat cruise on lake Minnetonka more fun is lap dances.

According to reports by several Twin Cities media outlets, about 20 players were among the approximately 90 people on two boats for last Thursday's chartered cruise on Lake Minnetonka. Crew members on the boats alleged that the cruise was cut short because nude women were performing lap dances and sexual acts with male cruise participants, including some of the players.

My favorite part of the article is this "non-denial denial":

Running back Mewelde Moore told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he was onboard one boat but said reports that characterized the trip as a sex party "got it all wrong, I guess."

Moore said he "didn't see anything," including sex acts. "Sex? What are you talking about?" Moore said. "That's crazy. Sex? Come on. Look, I'm engaged. So none of that. That will put me in trouble."

I'm using that one, next time I don't want to answer questions. "No, that's not right, I guess."

Next week, on Playmakers. Later, Players.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What Are the Iraqis Voting on on Saturday?

So last minute changes to the proposed constitution, which Iraqis are voting on on Saturday, October 15. Having glanced at a few stories about these changes to the charter, I just have to ask: What, exactly, are Iraqis voting on, in three days? Is it the draft that has been widely circulated, or that draft supplemented by these new agreements, or do these new agreements completely supplant the draft . . . in which case, the vote is on, what? An agreement to substantially revise the charter after December. Is that a constitution? Really?

I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to this question (re: what the Iraqis are voting on). Given the rules of the game, the constitution is sure to pass (remember, it takes 2/3 votes against in three provinces to defeat the constitution!). But what, exactly, will that mean? That the whole framework has to be renegotiated, again.

Then why vote? Oh, wait, I think I get it . . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Osama Earthquake Story

I'm actually interested in the answer to this question: "Did the horrible Pakistani earthquake get Osama bin Laden?"

In Credible Hoax

The NY Subway hoax was clearly a hoax, people. Why did I know that, days ago? Because the Iraqi informant said that the subway would be attacked . . . on a . . . Sunday. I'm not in the business of giving advice to terrorist bombers. But no one who could carry out such an operation would plan it for a weekend day.

That is all.

Movies Versus Books

I've been thinking about this for a while now, thought I'd post on it. I have set myself a goal of reading a book a week, and I try to make that weekly read something edifying, serious, literary, or at least noteworthy. (I'm way behind this week, btw. I started The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem, but it isn't really doing very much for me.) But I also watch two or three movies a week, and I don't particularly set high standards for those. Indeed, if you read this blog, you know that I have a soft spot for sci-fi and cheesy horror movies. And thrillers, crime capers, Westerns . . . Middle- to low-brow, for the most part, with a few "arty" pix thrown in, now and then. (But even then, are Kurosawa samurai movies "high brow"? They're like Westerns with swords.) I will pretty much watch any old movie, so long as it's not a romantic comedy.

So does that mean I'm a book snob? Probably. Reading a book takes much more time and effort than watching a movie, so I guess I try to make the effort "worthwhile." Movies are more about entertainment. In addition, I'm a pretty visual person, so I like to just look at movies. But books, they have to keep me engaged on a more intellectual level. That must be why I can stand George Lucas dialogue in a movie--I'm sure I could never read that in print.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Film Review: Serenity (dir. J. Whedon, 2005)

As promised, I made my way down to the Regal Stadium 14 this afternoon to catch the latest installment in the Firefly franchise, Serenity. Disclaimers up front: I've never watched an entire episode of Buffy or Angel, and I had never seen the television series (all 11 of 14 episodes that actually aired). (Not a bias against these programs; as some of you may know, I have rules about episodic television. Rule # 1: Limit the number of episodic television programs you watch. Currently, I'm down to zero.) So I don't know how this compares to Whedon's other work, or how the characters in this film have developed in the show.

This is a pretty solid sci-fi movie. It was a fun ride, and some of the shots were pretty creative. (I liked the fade from live action to hologram in the early going; the dead planet "Miranda" was creepy.) Good dialogue, for the most part, and good acting and direction. Definitely worth a look. But . . .

Complaints: I have actually been down, lately, on the stylized martial arts fighting, so that kind of turned me off here. (I think that that sort of thing is standard in Whedon's work(?).) And there was a lot of it. Why does that kind of fighting turn me off? Because of my preference for cinematic realism, at least when it comes to the endurance of the human body (I don't mind a little fantasy when it comes, say, to space travel). Try this (thought) experiment: Have a friend hit you as hard as he can in the face. Repeat. Have him hit you in the gut as hard as he can. Again. How many such blows can you take? Not very many. But here, the Operative basically beats Mal like an old carpet, twice. There's a point beyond which I just lose interest. (Btw, don't really try that experiment. It'll hurt.) It's like a cartoon, and I can never get emotionally involved in animation.

Then there's the plot. Somehow, this Simon Tam character gets into a top-secret government facility and steals away his sister, R2-D2, a top-secret government psychic weapon (Drew Barrymore in Firestarter) . . . and then the Operative (Darth Vader Lite) hunts her down, killing huge swathes of the galaxy in the process . . . because she has some kind of secret in her memory banks, er, I mean, subconscious. There's something about an all-intrusive super-nanny State, but haven't we seen this before? Not just Star Wars, but several episodes of Star Trek, Logan's Run, Brave New World . . . isn't "pax" aerated soma?

Not to say that I expected themes that I'd never seen before. But . . .

The print I watched seemed kind of blurry around the edges. Was that intended? If so, to what effect?

Don't let these comments deter you. Go see this movie.

Other views.

American Indian Museum

Went to the new-ish Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), down on the Mall, yesterday. The building itself is very impressive, and the collection of artifacts is pretty amazing. But this museum will divide the romantics from the rationalists right down the middle, in terms of reactions to the concept of the museum.

The idea was to give the Native peoples control over the presentation, to let the Indians speak for themselves. So the museum is very strong in terms of Indian self-understanding, today. Lots of mystical talk about harmony with nature. (It's almost like Rousseau's noble savage had gone to college and become a museum curator. Even though that's kind of a paradox.) Lots of "we are one People" stuff about the Native peoples of the American continent; the museum includes the South and Central American native histories as well as Canada and the far North. So the museum is not organized by region, nations, or by any other rational scheme. There's just displays of various parts of the massive collection, from all regions and even all times (including contemporary works included in displays of priceless artifacts), many without labels. It's hard to find things you're interested in, and it's impossible, a large part of the time, to know what it is you're looking at.

A little too much romanticization of the Indians for my taste.

The museum does remind one of what a cruel, cruel world this still is. If there were really 120 million Native peoples in 1492, and there are 4.4 million today . . . that's exhibit A. Disease, war, disasters take their toll. Whole civilizations wiped out by smallpox and gunpowder. It's really a second holocaust museum in D.C.

With that, have a Happy Columbus Day.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Will on a Tancredo Candidacy

George Will's coumn in today's WP is mostly positive about a Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) run for the presidency. I say mostly positive, because the last sentence would seem to be positive, on first read, but at the same time compares Tancredo to Al Sharpton, which strikes me as a bit odd.


But, as always, Will's over-the-top style drives me nuts. Some are "incandescent with anger"? That must hurt. And I really hope that Bay Buchanan doesn't want to be Sancho Panza to Tancredo's Don Quixote. Because that would mean that she thinks he's crazy. Not to mention that, if Will really means to describe Tancredo's quest as quixotic, then that means that Will doesn't really think (illegal) immigration is a real problem. But that doesn't seem to be what he means, at all, from the rest of the column. "Quixotic," like Catch-22, is one of those terms almost never used correctly.

OK, enough. I should just avoid reading these things.

Domino Trailer and Article

So I saw the trailer for this new action movie, Domino, while watching either college football or the baseball playoffs (target demographic, confirmed). It looked like your standard Hollywood shoot-'em-up, with a beautiful actor as one of the shooters. In this case, the beautiful actor is Keira Knightley.

But this article in the Times says that the film is based, at least in part, on a real person, Domino Harvey. The article is interesting, but makes a point that should be emphasized. The Tony Scott movie plays up Domino's adventures (and sexuality) while downplaying her dark saide. In this case, her drug addiction:

Throughout it all Ms. Harvey was haunted by drug addiction. She had started using various drugs as a teenager. As a bounty hunter, rubbing shoulders with criminals, she had colleagues who did not disparage her drug use, and if drugs were found at the scene of an arrest, Mr. Scott said, they would often be kept, considered part of the reward.

This is standard Hollywood. Instead of giving us a complex portrayal of an interesting, if flawed person, we get a cartoon with lots of explosions and Keira Knightley giving lap dances (read the article). But I guess that that's what the target demographic wants.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Warren Burger. Mmmmm. Burger.

There's a story circulating around the Internets that when Senator Leahy asked nominee Harriet Miers her favorite justice, she answered "Warren," and then, when prompted for more info, answered, "Warren Burger."

Now, if true (and this is just an Internet story, so, let's face it, it's probably not), this would be a first. I mean, I've never met anyone whose favorite justice is Burger. Favorite? Unless you're Mrs. Burger, a Burger child, or maybe a former Burger clerk, answering that Warren Burger is your favorite justice is just plain weird.

The purported reason: Burger's administrative skills. Now it's true that Burger did a great deal in terms of court administration, inlcuding taking the initiative in pushing for the National Center for State Courts. So it's not like this is a stupid or laughable answer. It's just . . . weird.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees of the Bronx

So I'm up "late" watching this great post-season game, which is currently 9-6, Angels. An inning or so ago, the Yankees pitcher hit Benji Molina, the Angels catcher, in the elbow, and he had to come out of the game. In-game strategy memo to Mike Scioscia (Angels' manager): The Yankees started Flaherty as catcher (for Randy Johnson), but replaced Flaherty with Posada when Johnson left the game. So, unless the Yankees are carrying three catchers on their post-season roster . . . plunk Posada. Then the Yankees don't have a catcher.

Posada is up right now. Live blogging the at-bat.

Escobar struck out Posada. No beanball. No fastball to the elbow, or knee, or striding foot. Oh well.

Update: Angels win, 11-7. The Chisox won their first "post-season series" in 88 years earlier in the day. So anyone else looking forward to that Angels-White Sox series? (Assuming that the Yankees don't win two in a row.)

Btw, "post-season series" is a non-category category. There was a time when the World Series was the only post-season series. Then the league championship series were added with divisional play. Then the divisional series with the addition of a third division, per league, and the wild card. This category is just as useless as "post-season" RBI, HR, wins, etc. It should be no surprise that a Braves pitcher (Smoltz) has the record for most post-season wins.

It's said all the time that baseball is a game of numbers. But the numbers today are really meaningless. Regular season numbers are tainted by steroids. Post-season numbers by the proliferation of post-season games.

Light Posting

The in-laws are visiting, so not much posting this weekend. Sorry.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Battlestar Galactica miniseries

I've broken down and started watching the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries, for starters. (Blame it on Mike.) So far, all I can say is wow. Even the better half likes it, and she's not really a sci-fi fan. (LOTR, yes. Sci-fi generally, no.) At least the first 90 minutes: an update that feels fresh, with amazing production values. Oh, and Tricia Helfer. She has a future as a key actor in many an adolescent boy's fantasies . . . but we don't need to go in that direction here. (I will note that Helfer played Farrah Fawcett in the 2004 movie about Charlie's Angels. Farrah played a similar part . . . .)

I haven't seen many of the religious themes, yet. But I'm on the look-out. Always on the look-out for religious themes. And I will post more thoughts on the show, when I've seen more.

Volokh is Nuts

No, not for the reasons you might think. OK, maybe that too. But this post from today, on law blogging says the typical blog post might take an hour to write. Huh? An hour? Maybe I'm not doing this right.

The Penguin Strikes

The local news is reporting that the mansion used as Wayne Manor in "Batman" has burned to the ground, outside of Pasadena. I wonder how the firefighters coped with the hazardous materials in Batman's lab in the basement?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oral Arguments

I got to attend the Gonzales v. Oregon arguments today. No commentary on the case here. Sorry. I just wanted to say that the lawyer for Oregon was just bad. He didn't have answers for pretty obvious questions. He was easily led astray by hypotheticals. He couldn't seize on an easy, even helpful question, when one was offered. Now, I'm sure that arguing before the Court is stressful, but it was like he didn't have a plan.

Based on the questions, my sense is that Oregon loses. (That's not too much of a stretch, predicting that the Ninth Circuit will get reversed.)

Finished Confessions of Nat Turner

This is an excellent read. As I mentioned before, this William Styron novel won the 1967 Pulitzer Prize. Right after that, it became very controversial. Styron, after all, was a white Southerner, writing a novel from the point of view of a black slave. Black critics were especially bothered by the character Nat Turner's feelings toward a young white woman and the less-than-hagiographic portrait of a man sometimes thought of as a folk hero. But the white woman plays such a central role in the plot, I can't see leaving her out. All these details are fictional, of course, because very little is actually known about Turner's personal life.

The portrayal of Turner as a prophet who receives visions from God . . . well, you know how that fits into my current interest in religious history.

Styron is also an amazing writer. I don't want to go on at too-great a length. I'm tired. But this is one to read.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Worth a Read (Judicial Ethics Edition)

So, apparently, this 81-year-old district judge took over a bankruptcy case from the bankruptcy judge to shield this, ahem, younger woman from a landlord looking to evict her. When the landlord's attorney asked why, the judge reportedly responded: "Because I said it." There appears to have been an ex parte communication between the debtor and the judge. Ahem. And the judicial council declined to impose sanctions. Check it out. Check out Judge Kozinski's scathing dissent.


Judge Kozinski: "[Real] offered nothing at all to justify his actions--not a case, not a statute, not a bankruptcy treatise, not a law review article . . . not even a [blog]." Not even a blog?

Too. Much. Happening . . .

Here's a (partial) list:

War in Iraq.

Iraqi referendum (Oct. 15).

Miers nomination.

DeLay indictments.

Frist SEC investigation.


Baseball playoffs.

Things not making this list: Afghanistan. Brad-Angelina-Jennifer. Natalie Holloway.

Mormonstar Galactica

I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago about my interest in Mormon history and theology. This friend (who I hope is reading the blog now?) is also a big fan of Battlestar Galactica, in its modern version. I pointed out that Glen Larson, the creator of the original series, was LDS, and that the series had a lot of Mormon themes, with the lost tribe of humanity (lost tribe of Israel), just for starters.

Check out this article for a few more parallels.

Btw, we're reading The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844, by John L. Brooke. More on this dense work in future posts. The point I want to make here is that Commander Adama's name strikes me as pointing toward the Adamic-hermetic tradition, which would be another linkage.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What a Day!

OK, so a few comments on the investiture and reception for the new Chief in a few minutes. First, I want to say that the Harriet Miers pick is so delicious, I don't know where to start.

Is she qualified? By historical standards, she is, clearly. That she has never been a judge, some of our best justices have not been judges before nomination. Pick either Rehnquist or Warren. Or White, or Powell, or Frankfurter, or Douglas, or Black, or Melville W. Fuller, or John friggin' Marshall, for goodness sake. That she is not an expert on constitutional law, consider that many, many cases of a non-con law nature come before the Court. That she was chair of the Texas Lottery Commission, this sounds like a pretty major position to me. White House Counsel. President of a 200-lawyer law firm in Dallas. She's no slouch.

Now, I'll say she's no Breyer. Or Roberts. (I met Roberts today, and I have to say, he's a very personable guy. Likeable, indeed.) But unqualified? Surely you jest.

Many conservatives, including David "Axis of Evil" Frum, complain that there are many qualified judges on the conservative bench, and that Bush should have picked one of them. But wasn't the argument during the Roberts hearings that this was Bush's pick to make, because he won the election? Well, Bush won, and he has made his pick. The Frums (and Buchanans, etc.) have to live with that. Just like they said. Boo-hoo.

(But I am sorry that Judge Batchelder didn't get it. 'Cause I know someone would have put in a good word on my clerkship application. I can write 'em anyway you want, Judge.)

Are the Dems happy? I think that they are probably happy that they don't have to argue against a Luttig or Janice Rogers Brown. (Btw, JRB is reportedly a great boss. So if you're, say, a conservative student looking for a clerkship, she might be worth an application.) Are they crazy about Miers? Probably not. But . . . these things are all relative, people.

I also got to talk to Justice Stevens today. (I can be kind of pushy at these events.) Justice Stevens was very friendly, and he warmed up to my story that a former colleague of mine studied American hotel history (that's true), and that I wondered what the justice remembered about the hotel (once the Stevens Hotel, now the Chicago Hilton) his family once owned, but lost in the Depression. Of course, he told a great story about when Charles Lindbergh stayed at the hotel after his transatlantic flight--in 1927, people. Lindy apparently had a suite full of gifts, and he gave the young John Paul Stevens a white dove, which was later named "Lindy" but then escaped. True story.

So I talked to a guy today who . . . talked to Charles Lindbergh.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Indians' Season Over

Well, they made a valiant effort, far exceeding what I thought they could do, but the Indians are officially out of the play-offs with their 3-1 loss to the White Sox today. Ninety-two wins isn't too shabby.

Let's see how they build on the second half of this year next year. Lots of young talent, some pitching. I guess Wickman is a free agent, and he'll demand some money on the market, after a 45 save season, 0-4, 2.51 ERA. I'm not sure who else on the roster is a free agent next year. Maybe an upcoming post.

Light Posts

Sorry, but I've been reading an excellent book and haven't been able to put it down: The Confessions of Nat Turner, by William Styron, which won the Pulitzer in 1966 or 1967.

So my reading time has cut into my blogging time.