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October 31, 2005

The Alito files

UPDATE: Alito talks about Roe.

Previous strips:

John Roberts (update)

Harriet Miers

Harriet Miers and the Dems

Condi Rice

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October 30, 2005

Time running out

The Iranians need to stop being so smug. Time is running out on Iran.

Original photo at Atlas Shrugs

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Taxation without misrepresentation

So Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington, D.C., has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of failing to file his tax returns in 2000, but at least he didn't lie about his taxes:

Investigators found no evidence of tax evasion, the prosecutors said. Tax evasion -- a felony charge -- is the deliberate misrepresentation of income records in an effort to lower the amount of taxes owed.
That's the new motto for the District: Taxation Without Misrepresentation. Personally, I liked "Bitch Set Me Up" much better.

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October 28, 2005


Henrik Ibsen? I'd say not. I'd say it's more like Harry and Lesli Zamora (no obvious relation to the former Cubs relief pitcher Oscar Zamora).

Think of it. The Houston Astros just lost four straight World Series games, and now there are ghosts running around a suburban Houston house.

According to a New York Times article this morning, the Zamoras are convinced their house is haunted.

"It's real to us, it's not make-believe," said Mr. Zamora, 45, a patrol lieutenant and veteran motorcycle officer with the Houston Police Department.

Since buying the modest beige brick house on Skyway Street in 2003 in an estate sale a year after the former owner died there, the Zamoras say, they have been tormented by mysterious presences, ghostly visions including a fluffy white dog, disembodied touches, moving orbs of light, a door that locks itself, and appliances, lights and water faucets that turn themselves on.

"He's searched the house so many times with his weapon drawn," said Mrs. Zamora, 30, a Web designer.
Strange things have happened.
One of the strangest episodes, they say, occurred early this year when Mrs. Zamora was on the telephone with Leslie Henderson, a police bicycle patrol instructor and member of the Phenomena Police. Suddenly, both recounted, Mrs. Zamora shouted that she saw a small white dog with a pink collar streak through the apartment.

"But Lesli," Officer Henderson said she protested, "you don't have a dog."

"I know!" Mrs. Zamora wailed.

The dead owner, she said later, seemed to have had a dog - the house was full of white dog hair when they moved in.
Even their kids have seen things, though considering what they've seen, you have to wonder whether the kids are teenaged boys.
Their children from previous marriages were too terrorized to sleep alone on their weekend visits, Mr. Zamora said. Some told of seeing a woman in a white Victorian dress. Once, Mrs. Zamora said, "the kids came down screaming they saw a lady with yellow eyes and huge breasts."
Yeah, I can just imagine teenaged boys thinking, "Huge breasts, cool! Yellow eyes, homina, homina, homina!"

Mr. Zamora's fellow police officers are helping him try to document the ghosts, and there's going to be a TV series based on the Zamoras' experiences. And while the Zamoras seem to be honest and not trying to perpetrate a hoax, the Times reporter found nothing:
A reporter for The New York Times who spent several hours in the house experienced nothing amiss, except perhaps for a brief chill and photos by the Zamoras that showed orbs all around him. No orbs showed up on a Times photographer's digital camera.
Maybe it's time to post that reporter to the White House.

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October 27, 2005

Just thought I'd say this


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Power to the people

You know, the next time my power goes out, I'm not going to call PEPCO.

No, I'm going to get right on the horn and call the White House. I'm going to call and demand to speak to the President. Because, damn it, he's the frickin' President of the United States, and it's his responsibility to make sure we have power.

Oh, yeah. And we've run out of eggs, so I'll ask him to bring along a dozen or so.

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No Sox please, we're British

OK, it turns out it's his son he's kissing. But still . . . .

The commenters at Fark are having a good time with this one. Best comment so far:

He should have expressed his elation the old-fashioned heterosexual American way: by adjusting his genitals furiously, smacking his buddies' asses gauntlet-style, and then roughhousing nude in the shower and shouting "WOOOOO."

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Take the "methane train"

The Swedes have announced the start of the first train run on biogas, made of organic waste from cows. (What's a "bioga"? Anything like a bialy? Only kidding, I think.)

The world's first train to run on biogas, a renewable energy source made up of organic waste from cows, has been inaugurated in Sweden according to AFP and BBC News. This train will make a daily trip between Linköping, just south of Stockholm, and Västervik, 80 kilometers away on the Baltic coast. It can seat 60 passengers in a single car and could run for 600 kilometers at a maximum speed of 130 kilometers an hour. Svensk Biogas, which developed the train for a cost of 10 million kronor (the equivalent of €1.05 million or US $1.26 million), replaced the diesel engines of an old Fiat locomotive by two Volvo gas engines.
The methane extraction process is delightful, as the BBC reports:
Inside the abattoir at Swedish Meats in Linkoping, the cows stood patiently, occasionally nuzzling the lens of our camera.

From there, it was a short walk past the white-walled butchery, down the steps to the basement where the raw material for biogas, slid greasily down a chute.

Still bubbling and burping, and carpeting you with an acrid stench, came the organs and the fat and the guts. Enough, from one cow, to get you about 4km (2.5 miles) on the train.

A tanker collects the organic sludge and makes the short journey to the biogas factory, where the stinking fuel is stewed gently for a month, before the methane can be drawn off.
There are photos at both links.

What I don't understand is why you can't just fit cows with a methane-collecting diapers, the way we do with politicians in Washington. It's an inexhaustible source of pungent gas.

(Hat tip: fee simple)

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Quotation of the day

From Best of the Web Today:

Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Tribune has a wonderful quote from First Lt. Bruce Bishop, a 31-year-old fireman, who explains that he plans to re-enlist in the Utah National Guard "because as I look around at the state of this nation and see all of the weak little pampered candy-asses that are whining about this or protesting that, I'd be afraid to leave the fate of this nation entirely up to them."

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October 26, 2005

Weapons of mass obstruction

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Stability at the Fed

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Anagram time (main art game)

Harriet Miers = air her merits

Scooter Libby = core lobbyist

Dr. Bernanke = nerd banker

Karl Rove = lark over

Dick Cheney = chicken dye

Arlen Specter = clear serpent = lepers recant = rectal preens

Hugh Hewitt = HH, huge twit

George Will = grew ill ego

Schumer = crush me

Pillage Idiot = I'll dig opiate

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October 24, 2005

Schumer misquoted

Senator Schumer was apparently misquoted on Meet the Press yesterday. What he actually said was:

"The hearings will be make or break for Harriet Miers in a way they haven't been for any other nominee," Schumer said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "She'll have to do very well there. She has a tough Roe to hoe."

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Osama bin Toast - REPRISE

Osama is dead again, according to, which reports that Osama died four months ago.

The closing line of the short item is worth its weight in gold: "Osama bin Laden has a reward of $25 million on his head. Despite this he remains elusive, and could remain that way for a long time, alive or dead."

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The Powell precedent

The New York Times can't quite understand why Miers is having so much trouble, when Lewis Powell breezed through in 1971. (Anyone? Anyone? Patterico?)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 - On Oct. 22, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon nominated to the Supreme Court a corporate lawyer and former bar association president with no judicial experience. On Dec. 6, his choice, Lewis F. Powell Jr., was confirmed with fanfare by a vote of 89 to 1.

Harriet E. Miers, President Bush's nominee to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, brings a similar résumé, along with five years in the White House and one year as its counsel. But in just three weeks, her nomination has provoked a range of opposition that some scholars say may have no modern precedent.
And the article points out that this is not the first time in history a president's pick has met with opposition from his own party. Let's see, Ulysses Grant and Caleb Cushing in, uh, 1874.
Ms. Miers is not the first nominee to confront ideological opposition from within her own party. Republicans objected so much to President Ulysses S. Grant's 1874 nomination of Caleb Cushing, a former attorney general and a respected lawyer, that it was withdrawn after four days, said Professor Richard D. Friedman of the University of Michigan Law School. Republicans also complained about President Herbert Hoover's 1932 nomination of the eminent jurist Benjamin Cardozo. Others choices for the court - President Franklin Roosevelt's 1937 nomination of Justice Hugo Black, a former senator who never finished high school, or Mr. Nixon's 1970 nomination of G. Harrold Carswell - have faced doubts about their qualifications.
Ouch, that last reference to Harrold Carswell really hurts!

Sheldon Goldman -- you remember, the guy who was always trotted out to attack Reagan's judicial picks? -- feels sorry for her, according to the N.Y. Times piece.
But several historians said that they could not think of a nominee who had drawn so much criticism from both parties so quickly. "I have to sympathize with this woman," said Sheldon Goldman of the University of Massachusetts, noting the similarity with Justice Powell's résumé.

"The difference in treatment that she has received has been absolutely stunning," Mr. Goldman said.
The difference is that we now know what kind of justice Powell was.

UPDATE: Links to some of my previous Miers posts, serious and not serious, are here.

Click here to read more . . .

October 23, 2005

So now I'm a resource

I've discovered that in England, I'm a resource. I wouldn't say I'm valuable, but the topic on which I'm a resource undoubtedly ranks near the very top: naked swimming. I checked this out because I was getting referrals from England to my post called "Nekkid," in which I discussed the tradition of male nude swimming at New York City private clubs.

To prove to you I'm a resource, here's a screen capture. You'll have to click to enlarge it and scroll to the bottom (heh, heh, he said "bottom"), where I'm listed seventh under Resources for naked swimming. And with the magic of Google, this post will probably move me up a couple of notches.

Click here to read more . . .

Further reactions to the Miers nomination

And, meanwhile, the revered senior senator from New York weighs in:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 - A senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Charles Schumer of New York, said today that if a vote were held now on the embattled nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, she would not be confirmed.

"She would not get a majority either in the Judiciary Committee or the floor," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Click here to read more . . .

Anti-war groups ready to celebrate

Cindy Sheehan and the anti-war crowd are getting ready to par-tay! What fun! They're about to celebrate the 2,000th death among American troops in Iraq.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cindy Sheehan, the military mother who made her son's death in Iraq a rallying point for the anti-war movement, plans to tie herself to the White House fence to protest the milestone of 2,000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq.

"I'm going to go to Washington, D.C. and I'm going to give a speech at the White House, and after I do, I'm going to tie myself to the fence and refuse to leave until they agree to bring our troops home," Sheehan said in a telephone interview last week as the milestone approached.

"And I'll probably get arrested, and when I get out, I'll go back and do the same thing," she said.

The death toll among U.S. military forces since the March 2003 invasion stood at 1,996 on Sunday.
You'll excuse me if I've gone a little overboard in characterizing them as ready to celebrate. But it was the anti-war crowd that yelled at us before the invasion in 2003 that "tens of thousands of Americans will die" if everything didn't go perfectly. Now it's 2-1/2 years after the invasion and we've had 1,996 killed. Every one of these men and women is an incalculable loss, but where's the accountability for the grotesque exaggeration about casualties? There is none. Being a leftwinger means never having to say you're sorry. And worse, this same group is looking forward to the 2000th death to turn it into a morbid platform for protest.
"On the day after the 2,000th reported U.S. military death in Iraq, people will gather in communities across the U.S. to say that the countries pro-peace majority wants Congress to stop the deaths by stopping the dollars that are funding the war," a coalition of anti-war groups said online at

"The clock has stopped ticking for 2,000 Americans in Iraq, and once again there is a media craze, another reason for people to pay closer attention to the human cost of a lie, but for how long this time?" said Camilo Mejia, an Iraq combat veteran who served a year in prison for refusing to return to the war in Iraq.
What's stopping these groups from protesting today that 1,996 American troops have been killed? Nothing. But they want to wait for four more deaths so they can have a magic, round number. And believe me, you'll hear it all over in the press.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike. Here's LGF and Michelle Malkin using similar language.

UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein weighs in with another conversation between Cindy Sheehan and Billy Jack, with the latter noting that there has to be enough cake at the party to feed the protesters because the 1000 Dead party had only some "bite-sized Twix bars and a half-tin of cinnamon Altoids."

Click here to read more . . .

October 22, 2005

TTLB's survey on Miers

N.Z. Bear wants bloggers to declare where they stand on the Miers nomination. I've done this already, but here goes:

I oppose the Miers nomination. Here are my posts explaining why:

A gentleman's D-

More on Miers's qualifications

In which a Miers supporter finally loses it

Here are two photoshop essays poking fun at the situation:

Harriet Miers: dreams and nightmares

The Dems stumble on Miers

Here are some more semi-serious thoughts on the subject:

Maybe it really IS Harriet Miers's blog

Harriet Miers gets some advice

Harriet Miers's underwhelming support

Balkin on Miers

Miers in Vietnam?

Click here to read more . . .

October 21, 2005

Latest Fark news

You might not have known about these stories if you hadn't occasionally checked out

  • An Alaska town installs an electric fence at its airport to keep moose off the runway. ("If they ever did come to the runway and have a collision with an aircraft, that could be disastrous to the pilot," Giddings said. "An airplane could disintegrate if it hits a moose.")
  • A South Carolina man stopped a carjacking by tossing a hot cup of coffee in the attacker's face, wrestling him to the ground, and taking his gun away.
  • From Australia: A fight between a man's girlfriend and his estranged wife (the former semi-nude) spills over into the front lawn, where the man (nude) joins them. The fight ends in tragedy, when the ex-wife dies a few days later. ("Mr Temiha said the woman in the G-string had a hand on the other woman's chest and was punching the woman in the face. He said the naked man pulled her off the woman, who got up and walked away. 'She staggered away, she was kind of dazed,' Mr Temiha said.")
  • This headline says all you need to know: "Couple Finds Pornographic Surprise On Used Video Game Card"

Click here to read more . . .

Miers in Vietnam?

Latest weird analogy: The Miers nomination as Vietnam. Charles Krauthammer has an "exit strategy."

Yes, I know. Krauthammer never mentions Vietnam, but we all know where the idea of "exit strategy" comes from.

The Krauthammer "exit strategy" is that when senators demand privileged documents from the White House about Miers's tenure there, the White House refuses to turn them over, and the nomination effectively can't go forward. As Krauthammer puts it:

For a nominee who, unlike John Roberts, has practically no record on constitutional issues, such documentation is essential for the Senate to judge her thinking and legal acumen. But there is no way that any president would release this kind of information -- "policy documents" and "legal analysis" -- from such a close confidante. It would forever undermine the ability of any president to get unguarded advice.

That creates a classic conflict, not of personality, not of competence, not of ideology, but of simple constitutional prerogatives: The Senate cannot confirm her unless it has this information. And the White House cannot allow release of this information lest it jeopardize executive privilege.

Hence the perfectly honorable way to solve the conundrum: Miers withdraws out of respect for both the Senate and the executive's prerogatives, the Senate expresses appreciation for this gracious acknowledgment of its needs and responsibilities, and the White House accepts her decision with the deepest regret and with gratitude for Miers's putting preservation of executive prerogative above personal ambition.

Faces saved. And we start again.
This is not a totally unlikely scenario, after all. Previous fights (Estrada, Roberts) have involved documents from the nominee's tenure in the Solicitor General's office. Those documents involve internal deliberations on legal positions to be taken by the government. With possible rare exceptions, they are far less sensitive than White House documents, which potentially may involve terrorism, national security, and broader confidential presidential strategery.

As my grandmother would say, "This all should have been discussed earlier." Still, it seems quite possible that this is the road we are traveling down. If it is, I sure hope we reach the end of the road before the hearings begin. Because, given what we've seen already from the nominee, the hearings can only be worse.

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October 19, 2005

Mmmmmm, kosher giraffe!

None of these fancy kosher restaurants in New York actually serve giraffe, but the O.U. points out that they could. Save me the neck, dear!

Hat tip: Mrs. A

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The Dems stumble on Miers

Previous Miers photoshop "Harriet Miers: dreams and nightmares"

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Law firm interview questions

Orin Kerr comes up with the top 10 questions that law students should ask when they interview with law firms and the interviewer asks, "So, do you have any questions for me?" The first example is "How would you describe the atmosphere here — Is it more like a labor camp or a slave ship?" The rest are in a similar vein.

The commenters' questions are pretty good, too. My personal favorite: "Glare at them and say, 'I'm deeply offended at the question.' Then whatever they say next, respond, 'Why, that's even more insulting!'"

Click here to read more . . .

Three abstractions

Ars gratia artis?

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Bork on Miers

I think Robert Bork doesn't have to worry any more about the condition of his tux for that next White House dinner. After this.

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October 16, 2005

Harriet Miers: dreams and nightmares

When President Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court, things got off to a really fast start. In fact, pretty much everything and everyone fell into place right away. I spoofed that in a series of voice-bubbled photos, which I called Anatomy of a Nomination.

It didn't quite work that way when President Bush announced his nomination of Harriet Miers, who seems to be speaking French in this photo:

Perhaps David Gregory was at the press conference.

Anyway, people quickly realized that Harriet Miers was something of an empty vessel into which all of us would have to pour our hopes . . . and our fears. In fact, right away, Miers became some people's dreams, and other people's nightmares.

Let's start with the obvious.

The President's dream:

Charles Krauthammer's nightmare:

Ann Coulter's nightmare:

Beldar's dream:

Patterico's nightmare:

National Review editors' nightmare:

Hugh Hewitt's dream:

Maureen Dowd's hallucination:

David Brooks's nightmare:

UPDATE: See the next photoshop essay "The Dems stumble on Miers"

UPDATE: In case you want to read my less frivolous thoughts on the nomination, here they are in order of appearance:

A gentleman's D-

Maybe it really IS Harriet Miers's blog

Harriet Miers gets some advice

Harriet Miers's underwhelming support

Balkin on Miers

More on Miers's qualifications

In which a Miers supporter finally loses it

Click here to read more . . .

October 15, 2005


I hope this is disinformation designed to fool the Syrians:

Some current and former officials add that the United States military is considering plans to conduct special operations inside Syria, using small covert teams for cross-border intelligence gathering.
We're "considering" special operations inside Syria? I would have imagined we'd already have been conducting them for the past 2 to 3 years. What gives? Seems to me a few well timed, untraceable sabotage operations could really apply the pressure on Assad.

Click here to read more . . .

No death penalty for Hitler

I haven't really been paying any attention to the gubernatorial race in Virginia, but this article in this morning's Washington Post Metro section woke me up.

Jerry Kilgore, the Republican, is running an ad (in two versions) in which the father of a murder victim complains that Tim Kaine, the Democrat, "voluntarily represented" the murderer and is against the death penalty, "no matter how heinous the crime." The ad is here.

This ad has now been attacked by some self-styled spokesmen for the Jews, because the father says that Kaine thinks that even Hitler didn't deserve the death penalty.

"Such references [to Hitler] are inappropriate and insensitive, and, as part of a discussion of the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia, trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust," wrote David Friedman, a regional director for the group.

* * *
The ADL reaction was echoed by other Jewish leaders in a conference call Friday organized by the Kaine campaign. Rabbi Jack Moline of Alexandria and Tommy Baer, the former president of B'nai B'rith, demanded that Kilgore apologize and withdraw the ad.

"I find it demeaning and morally repugnant. It trivializes the entire period of the Holocaust," Baer told reporters.

Moline, whose daughter is a paid staff member for the Kaine campaign, called it "blasphemy" and said Kilgore owes "an apology to the Jewish people."
For readers who are too dim to fathom what this is about, the Post adds:
Holocaust references have become almost off-limits in American politics as Jewish leaders have begun to pounce on what they say are cynical attempts to capitalize on the emotional power of the genocide.
Here are the examples:
U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) was chastised for accusing Senate Republicans of acting like Nazis. Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan was taken to task for comparing the Terri Schiavo case to the killings at Auschwitz. And in Virginia, state Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) was reprimanded for comparing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the Holocaust.
See if you can figure out the difference. In these examples, a politician compared something to the Holocaust or Nazis and trivialized the horrors. This ad doesn't compare Kaine to Hitler; it says Kaine is so adamantly against capital punishment that he doesn't think Hitler is bad enough to deserve it.

What I want to know is where these "leaders" have been for the past several years, when the Left has been equating Bush with Hitler? Where were they during the anti-war rally in Washington last month, when this was not an unusual sign?

I wish these people speaking for Jews would stop embarrassing the rest of us in public.

Click here to read more . . .

October 14, 2005

Which justice would Miers be like?

For the weekend consider this question: Which former or current Supreme Court justice would Harriet Miers most resemble?

Hugh Hewitt says she'd be like Potter Stewart, and Patterico rightly responds "No More Potter Stewarts!" Before that, Patterico pointed out similarilities between her and Lewis Powell, a point that I forgot to mention in my complaint about former bar presidents.

Who's next, Harry Blackmun? Hmm, some are saying. . . .

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Messing with the Bureau of Justice Statistics

Joe Bessette has an excellent article at the Weekly Standard discussing the administration's unfortunate messing around with the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

I really don't want to say more about this, because in my previous life I worked a lot with people who worked at BJS, including Larry Greenfeld, who's the subject of the article, and I feel that even with the passage of well over a decade, I'm a little too close. I've always had the highest regard for Larry and everyone else there.

Click here to read more . . .

Two questions

1. A few weeks ago, I offered reciprocal blogrolling to readers who had their own blogs. I've added two bloggers as a result. Does anyone else want to be blogrolled (assuming you meet the minimal requirements in my original offer)?

2. I've almost never participated in the comments sections here. I figure that comments are for readers who want to express their views of my post or other readers' comments. I know a lot of bloggers do, though mostly people who attract a lot of commenters. This morning, I felt the need to respond to one person commenting on an essay I put up last month, so my question is whether anyone would like me (occasionally) to respond in the comments section. I'll take your views under advisement.

Click here to read more . . .

Beethoven discovery

The New York Times reported yesterday on a big Beethoven discovery -- a manuscript, in Beethoven's own hand, of his in-process transcription of the Grosse Fuge for piano four hands. If you're thinking, "Huh?" right about now, let the Times explain.

Any manuscript showing a composer's self-editing gives invaluable insight into his working methods, and this is a particularly rich example. Such second thoughts are particularly revealing in the case of Beethoven, who, never satisfied, honed his ideas brutally - unlike, say, Mozart, who was typically able to spill out a large score in nearly finished form.

What's more, this manuscript is among Beethoven's last, from the period when he was stone deaf. It not only depicts his thought processes at their most introspective and his working methods at their most intense, but also gives a sense of his concern for his legacy. The "Grosse Fuge," originally part of a string quartet, had been badly treated by a baffled public, and he was evidently eager to see it live on in a form in which music lovers could play it on their pianos at home.
The "Grosse Fuge" -- German for big or grand (not "gross") fugue, or in my translation, "big, badass fugue," or in this translation from the Japanese, "large Hu moth" -- was originally written as the sixth and final movement of one of Beethoven's late string quartets. At the first performance of the quartet, the audience and critic reaction was a lot like yours, i.e., "Huh?" The late quartets are completely sublime music, but can be somewhat difficult to understand, and the fugue, which is a complex work on its own and lasts 15 to 20 minutes, made the quartet it was part of even more difficult. The publisher persuaded Beethoven to write a new sixth movement by offering to pay him to publish the fugue as a freestanding work.

As the Times points out, there's a continuing controversy today over whether the fugue should be restored to its original role as the final movement of the quartet. The pro and con arguments are amusing if you think of them as comparable to a disagreement between "original intent" (Raoul Berger) and "original meaning" (Justice Scalia). The "pro" view is that Beethoven thought the fugue should be part of the quartet and changed his mind for money, all the while insulting the fools who didn't understand it. The "con" view is that Beethoven agreed to substitute a new movement and that we are looking at Beethoven's final decision. I once asked a professional string quartet violinist what he thought, and he proceeded to mock the opening of the substitute sixth movement (bouncing octaves in the accompaniment) and told me that Beethoven wrote it to make fun of his foolish critics. I personally like the substitute movement and think the fugue should stand on its own.

The fugue is a complex work, not a strict fugue like Bach's -- Beethoven rarely if ever wrote fugues according to the book -- but more of a free-flowing effort in several shorter movements. Here is a MIDI version for "string quartet," but I would encourage you to listen to the real thing. (By the way, here's a MIDI version of the transcription for piano four hands.) Segments of the fugue are almost inconceivable in music written in the 1820s, with harmonic clashes that presage the polytonal and atonal music of almost a century later. And even the more traditionally tonal majority of the fugue has an energy to it that verges on musical violence. It really is an amazing composition.

The Times article quotes some musicologists about the fugue:
Like Ms. Carbo, musicologists sounded stunned when read a description of the manuscript by Sotheby's, which will auction it on Dec. 1 in London. "Wow! Oh my God!" said Lewis Lockwood, a musicology professor at Harvard University and a Beethoven biographer. "This is big. This is very big."

Indeed it is.

Above all, it may shed light on Beethoven's conception of the "Grosse Fuge," a work with almost mythical status in the music world, variously described by historians as a "leviathan," a "symphonic poem" and an achievement on the scale of the finale of his Ninth Symphony and Bach's "Art of Fugue."
So when you go into your local CD store to buy a copy, make sure you ask for Beethoven's "Big Badass Fugue" or, better yet, his "Large Hu Moth."

UPDATE (12/1): The manuscript sold for $1.72 million to an anonymous buyer.

UPDATE (3/1): The anonymous buyer turns out to be Bruce Kovner, who donated it and other manuscripts to Juilliard.

Click here to read more . . .

October 11, 2005

Small but positive changes for Israel at the U.N.

As my father would say, it beats a kick in the pants.

The New York Times reports small but positive changes in treatment of Israel at the United Nations.

Israel recently proposed a United Nations resolution, it submitted its candidacy for a two-year seat on the Security Council, and its prime minister has been warmly received speaking to the General Assembly.

For any of the 190 other nations in the world organization, those would be routine events.

But in Israel's case, the resolution is the first the country has ever proposed, and the request for a Security Council seat presumes an end to the disdain with which the country has historically been treated at the United Nations.
Why has this happened at the U.N.? Reason one: It's the Jewish mind-control of the United States.
Acknowledging the American influence on the process, Edward Mortimer, a senior aide to Mr. Annan, said, "Israel and its supporters have a lot of weight when it comes to American politics and American policy, meaning it has an impact on relations between the U.N. and the U.S., which obviously is very important to all of us."
Reason two:
Mr. Foxman [of the Anti-Defamation League] said he thought Israel's cause was also helped by the United Nations' being thrown on the defensive over mismanagement and corruption in the oil-for-food program, which allowed Iraq to sell some of its oil, despite sanctions, to meet civilian needs.
So the U.N. is being punished for its corruption by having to start thinking about treating Israel fairly.

But you can't get through a whole NY Times article without some gratuitous moral equivalence. In the process of talking about "antagonism" between the U.N. and Israel, the Times says:
The nadir in relations occurred in 1975 with passage in the General Assembly of a resolution equating Zionism with racism. The measure stayed on the books until 1991, when it was revoked after a campaign led by the United States.
Got it? The U.N. declares Israel to be a pariah state, and that's a "nadir in [their] relations." As if Israel and the U.N. just weren't able to get along.

Click here to read more . . .

In which a Miers supporter finally loses it

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the—if the—if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not—that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement."
Bill Clinton, Grand Jury testimony (Aug. 17, 1998)

I have a lot of respect for Hugh Hewitt, but I think he's taking his Miers cheerleading a little too far. I suspect that when whatever happens actually happens, he'll look back and realize exactly that.

Meanwhile, I'd like to introduce his two new arguments.

First, when Bush promised to nominate justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas, you can't really take him too seriously.
When Bush said "like Scalia or Thomas" many people heard many things. I think it is very safe to say that the vast majority of American voters did not hear "justices committed to a particular theory...of textualism or originalism." I think they heard "justices who aren't making stuff up," or "justices who aren't full of themselves," or "justices who will not impose same sex marriage or overturn every juvenile death penalty in the land or import EEC law on a whim."

I think they heard "results," and if I am right, Bush has not only not broken his promise, he may be well on his way to fulfilling it twice and hopefully more times over.
This is why I quoted Bill Clinton at the top of the post. It depends on the meaning of "Scalia and Thomas." If Bush meant (Hewitt: "people heard") simply "justices who aren't making stuff up," he could have mentioned Rehnquist, who didn't make stuff up, but who isn't as popular with "the base." He could have said "justices who aren't making stuff up." He specifically said "Scalia and Thomas." Yes, he also mentioned he wanted a "strict constructionist," but that's a politician's term. Proving that Scalia is not a "strict constructionist" but rather an "originalist" (a judge's term) -- as Anne Althouse does -- is no way to justify the "Scalia and Thomas" promise.

Second, Hewitt argues that good authority supports his view that Miers is a trustworthy nominee. Now, follow this one closely. Hewitt interviewed Professor Lino Graglia, a Federalist Society stalwart, and asked him for his opinion of Nathan Hecht. Why? Because Nathan Hecht has offered an opinion of Harriet Miers. Here's the relevant exchange:
HH: I should have asked this at the beginning. Do you know Harriet Miers?

LG: I do not, no.

HH: Do you know Nathan Hecht?

LG: I know Nathan Hecht.

HH: Do you trust him?

LG: Nathan Hecht is very trustworthy. Nathan Hecht is probably the most conservative judge on the Texas Supreme Court, very trustworthy. He speaks very highly of Miers, who he knows, and that is a large part of my basis of belief that she'll be all right.
Trial lawyer stuff, but leave that aside. Graglia vouches for the conservative bona fides of Nathan Hecht, who vouches for the conservative bona fides of Harriet Miers. Hecht also has dated Miers at some points over the past couple of decades.

So the White House gives us nothing on Miers, but we should be happy because in this Tinker to Evers to Chance vouching, we know what Lino Graglia thinks of Hecht.

But I don't recall that Evers was ever dating Chance.

Click here to read more . . .

October 10, 2005

More on Miers's qualifications

Being White House Counsel is a pretty big deal. Although there are some hacks and some crooks on this list, you'd still have to say that serving as White House Counsel would stand as a major qualification for a federal judgeship.

But, for some reason, about which we can speculate, Harriet Miers's supporters are not making much of her current position. To the extent her supporters have been speaking of her qualifications, they have been devoting much of their time to attacking her opponents as elitists. On the other hand, one of her big supporters is Bill Dyer, a/k/a Beldar, a Texas trial lawyer who has been ably defending her at his blog. To Beldar, Miers's role in running a big law firm is of great importance in determining whether she's qualified. In addition, Beldar has run a Westlaw search to find published opinions in which Miers's name appears. The result: "A search on Ms. Miers' name, run in a Westlaw database containing both state and federal court reported decisions from Texas, pulls up 19 separate cases dating back to 1974 in which she's appeared among counsel of record."

Of course, the trouble when you try to quantify -- especially with competitive lawyers -- is that other people try to measure themselves against your candidate. (I'm sure Jeff Goldstein would make a more graphic analogy.) For example, Baseball Crank, who's a lawyer with a big firm in New York, found this: "even granting that state trial courts rarely publish opinions, at least in Texas, [Miers's Westlaw result] does seem a bit thin to me for 30+ years of practice (the same search for me would turn up 14 opinions, and I've only been in practice for 9 years)."

And I could do the same thing, and whaddaya know, I did it. True I'm a government lawyer, and we tend to have more courtroom time than private practitioners, but it really isn't close. My Westlaw total is 60 opinions (cut down to 50 if you use really restrictive criteria) in 18 years of litigation practice, including about 6 in private practice. I spent a few more years not doing litigation. In any event, I can tell you now, and I'll tell you again, that I'm not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. But Beldar's search results for Miers don't impress me.

I want to make this clear: Being a lawyer in private practice can qualify the right person for the Supreme Court. Ted Olson, even before he was Solicitor General, was highly qualified. Chuck Cooper is highly qualified. With more time I could come up with a whole bunch of lawyers in private practice who truly understand constitutional law -- and are clearly in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.

True, as the New York Times helpfully points out, much of the Supreme Court's docket is business-oriented. But the point is that to be qualified for the Supreme Court based on a career in private practice, you need a deep and intense familiarity with constitutional law. Contrary to Hugh Hewitt's notion, constitutional law isn't easy, though it can be learned over a sufficient period. As Orin Kerr puts it: "To be fair, I agree with Hugh that Supreme Court Justices don't need to be academic super stars. But they do need to be reasonably self-aware. And my guess is that self-awareness tends to come most often from the experience of testing and evaluating arguments again and again, whether as a judge or in some other forum." Con Law's not like some esoteric priestly material, but you do have to have thought through some important concepts that go to the essence of judging, and if you haven't, no one should throw you into the game with eight Michael Jordans.

Now, getting past this huge amount of verbiage, here's my main concern with a nominee who's being promoted based on her time in private practice. A lawyer in private practice who's an unknown quantity on constitutional issues is going to lean center-left. The reason is simple: The legal profession -- and remember we're talking here about a woman who was head of the Dallas Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas, and also a leader in the American Bar Association -- is a bastion of petty politics, lockstep thinking, and political correctness. (This is true of other professions and it's true of big business, too.) Which is why the phrase "merit selection" has always sent chills up my spine. Merit selection usually refers to a process of selecting state court judges outside of electoral politics. Typically, panels of lawyers send a small number of names to a governor, and the governor picks one to appoint. I've always preferred appointed judges to elected ones (a topic for another time), but merit selection inevitably incorporates nearly the same petty politics, lockstep thinking, and political correctness that characterize the organized bar. If I had a choice between allowing a politically accountable governor to pick judges on his own and giving the choice over to a committee of bar leaders, I'd choose the former without hesitation.

The bottom line to me is that leadership in the organized bar is a major negative. Maybe Miers did a great job in building her law firm, but that isn't enough. If she did a great job in building her law firm and if she were actually familiar with constitutional law and if we had some tangible indication that she thought about constitutional law in a principled, originalist way, then I would enthusiastically credit her for her time in private practice. As it is, she's just a lawyer who got involved in bar politics, and that can do us no good.

Click here to read more . . .

Miers in love

WARNING: This has nothing to do with the Pillage Idiot Advisory System, but it has a "Code Red" YUCCCKKKK!! alert attached to it. Read at your own risk.

Via Underneath their Robes -- truly a place you don't want to be, not the blog but their robes -- we learn that the L.A. Times has disclosed far too much information about the romantic life, past and present, of Harriet Miers.

Sure, the article's out there to counteract smirky speculation about a 60-year-old unmarried woman, but it's still YUCCCKKKK!!

Here's a key passage from UTR's description of the article:

The whole piece is exceedingly juicy, and you should read every scrumptious word. Here are just a few choice excerpts:
[F]or 30 years, Hecht and Miers — President Bush's Supreme Court nominee — have nurtured a kinship that has entranced and confounded their closest friends. They are traditional conservatives content in a modern, nontraditional relationship, one that leaves plenty of time for their true love, their work, to take center stage....

"I think they thought seriously about getting married," said Dallas commercial litigation attorney Brady Sparks, who lived across the hall from Hecht in law school and has been friends with Hecht and Miers ever since.
Very interesting! It seems like this rather conservative lawyer is part of a decidedly non-conservative relationship. Consider this comment from a friend of Harriet Miers:
Sharon Baird, a friend of Miers since they both played on the tennis team at Hillcrest High in Dallas, called Miers' life decisions "very European." Europeans "put a lot of emphasis on love and not so much on marriage," she said. "It's a New Age thing. Much like Oprah. She never married either."
Uh-oh... Harriet Miers is already no favorite of social conservatives. The news that she takes a "European" and "New Age"-ish approach to her love life, belonging to what President Clinton might have called a "non-traditional family," just can't be helpful.
To get the internal links, you'll just have to go to UTR. You know you can't help yourself.

Click here to read more . . .

Balkin on Miers

On Balkanization, Jack Balkin, a brilliant though leftwing law professor at Yale, writes about whether the nomination is in trouble. (I met Jack about 25 years ago, though I haven't seen him since, and if he were to read this, I doubt he'd figure out who I am. We were involved in artistic pursuits, only partly related to law, that required considerable creativity. I can assure you that Jack was so creative that I sometimes wondered whether things were too easy for him.)

Anyway, Jack writes about a new book by a couple of political scientists about judicial nominations since the Eisenhower administration. Some of the findings are pretty obvious -- that nominees who are perceived as highly qualified get broader support, even from people who oppose their ideology. Nominees who are perceived as minimally qualified get fairly strong support from their ideological supporters but dramatically less support from those who are in the middle or ideologically distant. Jack notes that Bork was an exception to this, perhaps because his opponents successfully painted him as extreme.

Here's the really interesting part of his post:

From this chart you can also see the potential disadvantages of a stealth candidate. By definition a stealth candidate's perceived ideology is fuzzy and uncertain. As a result, more Senators from the President's own party have reason to believe that the candidate's views might differ markedly from their own. That gives them less incentive to support the candidate, all other things being equal. Put another way, the less qualified the candidate appears, the greater the chance that the uncertainty about his or her judicial positions-- the defining characteristic of a stealth candidate-- loses the nominee potential supporters he or she might otherwise have enjoyed. Note that this problem with stealth candidates arises only if their qualifications are in doubt. A nominee like David Souter benefited greatly from his prior judicial experience, his Ivy League credentials, and the perception that he was extremely bright, studious, and able. Indeed the stealth strategy is best designed for situations when the candidate is widely perceived to have strong qualifications. If a stealth candidate's qualifications are clearly excellent, lack of clarity about his or her ideology is more likely to help a candidate than harm him or her, because it greatly increases the chances of support from Senators who suspect the candidate's ideology is quite different from their own.

Harriet Miers is a stealth candidate whose qualifications have been questioned, whether fairly or unfairly. That makes her potentially far more vulnerable than John Roberts or even David Souter. She is vulnerable not because people on the left are uncertain about her judicial views-- for that uncertainty might actually gain her some votes-- but because people on the right are not certain whether she will be reliably conservative.

The strategy for Bush, Jack writes, is to persuade senators that Miers is highly qualified and to persuade conservatives that she is highly conservative. He ends his post with this:
Miers has a good shot at confirmation if this public relations campaign is successful and the President can convince his party to trust his assessment of Miers' likely views. On the other hand, if he cannot command virtually unanimous assent from the Republicans in the Senate, the nomination may be in for a bit of a rough ride, because he will have to rely on help from a substantial number of Democrats. And this creates a real problem for the President: The more clearly and successfully he defines Miers as a strong conservative, the less likely Democrats are to help him get her confirmed. But if the President lets Miers' views remain undefined and fuzzy, it will be far more difficult to keep members of his own party in line.
Those of you who think this is obvious, go take a look at the chart. It puts all of this in really good perspective.

Click here to read more . . .

Harriet Miers's underwhelming support

The Washington Times claims that "[n]early half of Senate Republicans say they remain unconvinced that Harriet Miers is worthy of being confirmed to the Supreme Court," according to its survey. And that's her friends.

The paper calls it "troubling for President Bush" that 27 Republican senators "have publicly expressed specific doubts about Miss Miers or said they must withhold any support whatsoever for her nomination until after the hearings." What's actually more troubling for Bush is that he doesn't even seem to have the moderate Liddy Dole's vote locked up.

A typical chilly response to the Miers nomination came from Sen. Elizabeth Dole, the North Carolina Republican who is one of Mr. Bush's most unwavering supporters.

After Chief Justice Roberts was nominated to lead the court, Mrs. Dole issued a statement to "commend President Bush for his decision to nominate John Roberts to be the next chief justice of the United States."

Not so with Miss Miers.

"As the nomination process moves ahead, I look forward to reviewing Ms. Miers' qualification and her views on the proper role of the judiciary," Mrs. Dole said. "I am hopeful that the confirmation process will be both fair and civil."
The article mentioned several other Republican senators, including Senators Brownback and Coburn, who are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Elsewhere, I've read that Senator Jeff Sessions, another committee member, is having some heartache over the nomination.

Maybe Miers should take Specter's advice, even if she doesn't take Charles Krauthammer's advice.

UPDATE (10/11): This morning's Washington Times suggests the White House is in denial:
The White House yesterday dismissed early doubts from nearly half the Senate's Republicans over the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, saying that lawmakers also expressed doubts about Judge John G. Roberts Jr., who was easily confirmed last month as chief justice.

"Even before the hearings that led to confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts, senators were saying they were reserving judgment on how they would vote until they got to know him better at the hearings," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

"Now the same is being said about Harriet Miers, just one week after her nomination, and that should not be surprising nor be cast in a negative light for what is the norm," she said.
Then again, this is only a press secretary, the kind of flak about whom Groucho Marx could have applied his quip, "Who are ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" (OK, it was really said by Chico in Duck Soup, but he was dressed as Groucho.)

Click here to read more . . .

Barbour for President?

This morning's Washington Post has a surprisingly favorable profile in the Style section of Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi, former head of the Republican National Committee, and possible presidential candidate. The article begins with an anecdote showing what a fun guy he is:

Gov. Haley Barbour's favorite political memento is a framed sequence of four photos of himself trading off-color jokes with his former boss, Ronald Reagan. In the first photo, the young White House aide is seen telling the president a joke, "the one about the three couples joining the church," Barbour says. He adds, rightly, that the joke is not suitable for the newspaper -- its punch line features one of the couples doing something enormously inappropriate in the frozen-food section at Kroger.

In the third picture, Reagan is saying, "Haley, have I ever told you the one about the two Episcopal preachers?"

This joke can't go in the newspaper, either.

The last photo captures Reagan and Barbour, post-punch line, convulsing in laughter. It is inscribed, "Dear Haley, did you hear the one about . . ."

"One reason Reagan liked me was that I wasn't afraid to tell jokes in front of him," the governor of Mississippi says with a mark of pride that reflects an essential part of his political personality, even during these most unfunny days in post-Katrina Mississippi.
The profile devotes a good deal of ink to Barbour's post-Katrina efforts and reports some positive anecdotes involving Barbour and his wife. Along the way, the profile mentions this:
Barbour makes regular trips to "the devastation" -- the operative synonym for the coastal region. Like Reagan, the governor's political idol, Barbour emphasizes hopeful rhetoric even amid despair-inducing conditions. He talks of how Katrina could, in the long term, be the impetus for a "renaissance" in Mississippi.

This renaissance, if it occurs, could be a springboard into a run for president in 2008 -- something Barbour had been considering before Katrina. "He is, in some ways, in a very enviable political position," says W. Martin Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. Wiseman adds that Barbour's fortunes will be determined largely by his ability to bring in federal relief dollars -- a task he is suited to.

"There will be no federal account that he won't know about or tap into," says Ed Gillespie, a Barbour protege who served as RNC chairman until last year.

"He knows what to ask Thad Cochran to do, and what not to ask him," Rogers says, referring to one of Mississippi's Republican senators and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who will hold great influence over how federal relief money will be spent. "He knows where FEMA money is. He knows how it all works."
I remember hearing Barbour speak on TV during his tenure at the RNC during the Clinton era, and I loved the guy. I called a political consultant friend of mine who had worked with Barbour at the RNC to tell him what a great job Barbour had done on TV, and I joked about how he should run for president. I would obviously have to check him out more closely, but can you imagine how odd that would seem -- a Jewish guy born in New York supporting a Bourbon-drinking, back-slapping politico from Mississippi?

Click here to read more . . .

October 09, 2005


The Mets may have been mediocre this year, but at least the Braves have lost ignominiously once again in the divisional playoffs against Houston.

The Braves took a 6-1 lead into the eighth inning behind Tim Hudson, who was working on only three days' rest, but ended up with a 7-6 loss in 18 innings and their fourth straight first-round exit.
Series over. The Braves go home for the winter. Rah!

Click here to read more . . .

Harriet Miers gets some advice

The cliché is that it's better to ask forgiveness than to seek permission. That seems to be the President's approach to the Harriet Miers nomination. Act first, ask questions later. And now he's not exactly asking forgiveness.

So what we have is some gratuitous advice from people whose advice we generally don't want to ask for -- like Arlen Specter, who offers this:

. . . Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who presides over confirmation hearings, offered a blunt assessment that was yet another sign that the nominee faced an uphill battle on Capitol Hill. Though Mr. Specter called Ms. Miers "intellectually able," he said she had a "fair-sized job to do" to become fluent in the language of constitutional law, which will be essential for senators who want to examine her judicial philosophy in deciding whether to confirm her.

"She needs more than murder boards," Mr. Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview, referring to the mock question-and-answer sessions most nominees use to prepare for their confirmation hearings. "She needs a crash course in constitutional law."
Constitutional law, you say? Gee, shouldn't someone have thought about that a little earlier, like before she was chosen?

And Bruce Fein (you know, that guy you want to punch out whenever you see him on TV) offers some advice to Democrats:
"If I was a Democrat and I wanted to destroy her candidacy, I'd go to constitutional law professors and experts and get the 60 key Supreme Court decisions," Fein said. The committee members could then go through the list and ask her, "'Have you read this case from beginning to end?' And when she says for the 59th time, 'No, I haven't,' I'd say, 'Why are you going to be on the Supreme Court?'"
It's exactly this problem that leads those of us who are highly skeptical of the nomination to complain about it.

UPDATE: For those who can't get enough of this stuff, check out these two links (via confirmthem) to Mark Kilmer's summary of the Sunday morning talk shows and to a handy-dandy summary at Right-Side Redux of the arguments pro and con (with sources and organized by quality of argument).

Click here to read more . . .

Very sad

The guys at Toner Mishap, including B2, who guest-blogged for me this summer, have announced they're going to try to have a life. They're cutting back from daily blogging to occasional blogging. I suppose that's good news for them, but it's sad for us.

Click here to read more . . .

More Bush-Rove stifling of dissent

OK, so it was actually Southwest Airlines, not Bush and Rove, and it was just a vulgar tee-shirt. But we all know where these evil actions originate.

Click here to read more . . .

October 07, 2005

Finger phone


That's the name of a Japanese invention, and it means "Finger ring" or "Speak by finger." The BBC News reports that turns your finger into a phone receiver.

In noisy places where you cannot hear who you are calling, you simply place the Ubi-Wa bearing finger in the ear.

The ring converts speech sounds to vibrations. These travel down the bone and into the ear canal, which obligingly turns them back into intelligible speech.
The buttons are going to be too small for pressing with a finger, so you'll have to tap out pre-defined rhythms with the finger to make it do what you want.

Sounds cool, except for the name. I grew up around New York, and when I think of "speak by finger," I think of something that looks like this.

Click here to read more . . .

Maybe it really IS Harriet Miers's blog

If this story is true, then maybe that blog really is being written by Harriet Miers:

In an initial chat with Miers, according to several people with knowledge of the exchange, Leahy asked her to name her favorite Supreme Court justices. Miers responded with "Warren" -- which led Leahy to ask her whether she meant former Chief Justice Earl Warren, a liberal icon, or former Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative who voted for Roe v. Wade. Miers said she meant Warren Burger, the sources said.
It's very sad when your Supreme Court nominee is not as sharp as Patrick Leahy. And even if she actually meant Burger, that's a absolutely pathetic choice. Burger was a complete mediocrity and a pompous windbag, to boot.

Also, Charles Krauthammer calls for the nomination to be withdrawn.

(Both items via Bench Memos.)

UPDATE: This is hardly reassuring (from K-Lo at Bench Memos):
This is what I'm told happened:

"Miers was asked about Justices she admired. She responded that she admired different Justices for different reasons, including Warren — interrupted by Senator Leahy — Burger for his administrative skills.

Reasonable people could ask whether Burger was a great administrator, but the comment is taken out of context by the Washington Post. Miers didn't express admiration for his jurisprudence."
I notice that the person who reported this to K-Lo didn't mention any of the other justices Miers admired, leaving us with the suspicion that the list was not one to put us, or anyone, at ease.

Senator Leahy: What's your favorite case?
Harriet Miers: Brown.
Senator Leahy: Brown v. Board of Education?
Harriet Miers: Case? Oh, I thought you were referring to litigation bags.

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy says that Burger was a lot like Ted Baxter.

UPDATE: The whole Earl-Warren-Burger business reminds me of the confirmation hearings for Bill Lucas as head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in 1989. Lucas, by all accounts a nice man but way, way out of his league, was asked about certain major civil rights decisions by the Supreme Court. He apparently hadn't read them, and my recollection is that he didn't seem to have heard of them.

UPDATE (10/12): More spin on the story in the Washington Post.

UPDATE (10/12): The Post's articles online often have a "who's blogging?" box. Look at this screenshot and tell me who doesn't belong. You get three guesses and the first two don't count.

Click here to read more . . .

October 06, 2005

Writing for the humor-impaired reader

There are a boat-load of totally dense, humor-impaired bloggers and blog-readers out there.

I mentioned the "Harriet Miers" blog that was started on Monday? Go right there right now and check out the comments at that blog. About a quarter of all commenters don't get the joke, including some people who ask to be reassured it's a joke. It's only mildly funny, but it's obviously a joke.

I say, Let's track down some of those bloggers and get the President to appoint them to the next vacancy.

Click here to read more . . .

Perils of perineum

Those of us who enjoy riding a bicycle, especially those of us of the male persuasion, generally do not include among the enjoyable aspects of bike riding that special feeling we achieve between the legs. Urologists have been warning about this for nearly a decade, but now we have it on the authority of the New York Times (motto: "we give our reporters crotch pads before they go to jail") that "traditional bicycle saddles, the kind with a narrow rear and pointy nose, play a role in sexual impotence."

The reason is that the saddle puts pressure on the "perineum," which some of us didn't even realize we had. Never one to avoid undue alarm, the Times reports:

The research shows that when riders sit on a classic saddle with a teardrop shape and a long nose, a quarter of their body weight rests on the nose, putting pressure on the perineum. The amount of oxygen reaching the penis typically falls 70 percent to 80 percent in three minutes. "A guy can sit on a saddle and have his penis oxygen levels drop 100 percent but he doesn't know it," Mr. Cohen said. "After half an hour he goes numb."
Aiyeeeee! Well, as if you couldn't figure out that this was undesirable, the article continues:
Dr. Goldstein added, "Numbness is your body telling you something is wrong."
How do doctors know this stuff, anyway? Well, there are tests that have been done. And the article wants you to know exactly what those tests are:
Researchers are using a variety of methods to study the compression caused by different saddles. One method involves draping a special pad with 900 pressure sensors over the saddle. The distribution of the rider's weight is then registered on a computer. In another technique, sensors are placed on the rider's penis to measure oxygen flowing through arteries beneath the skin. Blood flow is detected by other sensors that send a "swoosh" sound to a Doppler machine.
What I want to know is who volunteers for these tests?

I would guess that those of us who ride hybrids are probably better off than those who ride road bikes. The handlebars of road bikes are lower, and one tends to lean way forward when riding them, which puts more pressure on the perineum.

The article notes that certain police departments are experimenting with what are known as "noseless" seats for their bike-mounted officers. But the moral seems to be simple: Keep that nose out of your crotch.

Your mother could have told you that.

Click here to read more . . .

October 05, 2005

A different new year

On October 5, 2004, I posted my first essay on Pillage Idiot, which I called "Jew in America." I actually planned it so my first post would be something serious, rather than "Uh, this is my blog, and I'm still trying to figure out why I'm writing." The first lines in my essay were: "The United States has been the most hospitable country for Jews in the entire two-thousand-year history of the Jewish diaspora. Any suggestion to the contrary is sheer lunacy." My essay was an expression of gratitude to this country on behalf of Jews, and it discussed why America was unique in its treatment of Jews. I ended by suggesting a prayer that Jews should say for having been made Americans.

It's been downhill at Pillage Idiot ever since.

Tonight, I noticed another blogger who's reached his anniversary today (please don't use the horrid word "blogiversary"), and we couldn't be more different. He's serious; he's cultivated the big bloggers; he's been successful. As for me, I'm an immature joker; I haven't done much in the way of cultivation; and I've been planning to shut down this blog for the past 9 or 10 months (though I guess it's kind of like smoking, which I've heard is very hard to quit).

So what this blog has become is mostly a place where I can point out strange or absurd things I've come across in the media, make fun of big events and the people who are involved in them, and generally act immature. What I like about the format is that when I make a joke or a wisecrack to others in person, I can tell immediately that they think it's not funny, whereas here in the blogworld, my readers, with a couple of exceptions, are too polite to tell me so. This is called reasonable doubt. And as long as I have reasonable doubt, I can keep going. (To be honest, in person I keep going even when people don't laugh; hope springs eternal.)

I haven't developed a huge readership or even a medium-sized one, but I appreciate every one of you who comes by. I'm going to continue to plan on shutting the place down, and if I'm as successful in doing that as I've been over the past year, I might just still be around next October.

Click here to read more . . .

October 03, 2005

Shanah tovah

A shanah tovah umetukah -- a happy and sweet new year -- to you.

In case this doesn't apply to you, have a lovely Tuesday and Wednesday.

Click here to read more . . .

A gentleman's D-

I realize I'm a pretty tough grader. But the nomination of Harriet Miers looks like what happens when your kid has a homework assignment to interview an important member of the community, and the day before it's due, your kid wakes up to the due date and asks to interview you.

This nomination seems to represent a remarkable change in Bush's attitude since last March, when he nominated John Bolton to the U.N. Bolton was nominated by a confident president, ready and even eager for a fight. Bolton had some trouble in the Senate. So now, we've had two Supreme Court nominations by a president who seems totally lacking in confidence and appears far more interesting in trying to sneak through. Even though Bush campaigned on a promise to appoint Supreme Court justices like Scalia and Thomas, he's going for nominees with negligible "paper trails." This makes him seem embarrassed about his own position.

The Left is gloating. Al Qaeda likes the nomination, too, for the weakness it shows (only kidding I think). Osama bin Laden, however, is still dead.

After the Souter nomination hearings, I wrote an anonymous piece called "Persecution and the Art of Being Confirmed." It was a slightly-tongue-in-cheek pseudo-Straussian analysis of Souter's testimony suggesting that a careful reading would show that Souter actually was a conservative. (I was totally right, wasn't I? Not.) But now there are eerie reverberations from the Souter era, including the fact that both he and Miers are advanced-in-age unmarried people. Already the Wonkettes of the world and their allies are throwing around innuendo about her. Of course, given that this is now 2005, someone has already started a "Harriet Miers" blog (which has more traffic in one day than I have in a year) and a Luttig blog.

Finally, and more seriously, one of the best critiques I've seen is by Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy, who distinguishes between justices who change the voting pattern of the Court (Rehnquist) and those who change the legal culture through the intellectual weight of their view of the law (Scalia and Thomas).

Bush's back-to-back appointments of Roberts and Miers [are] a clear indication that his goal is at best to merely change the voting pattern of the Court rather than to change the legal culture. One suspects that the best that conservatives can hope for from the two them is that they will consistently "vote right." But neither of them appears to be suited by background or temperament to provide intellectual leadership that will move the legal culture. I suspect that this is the source of the conservative outrage about Miers. In addition, historically those who come to the Court without a clear jurisprudential philosophy almost always end up moving left, which may add still further to the concern about her apparent lack of intellectual heft. Simply because she has stood up to the political criticism that she has received working in the White House does not mean that she will be able to withstand the intellectual criticism that she will receive. Writing a persuasive Supreme Court opinion that will hold a majority is a whole different ball game from stonewalling the Washington Post reporters.
If that doesn't depress you, nothing I can say will.

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October 02, 2005

Judith Miller explains her decision

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Chinese Walking Ladies disease

I need to speak to you.

I need to speak to you if you were taking a leisurely stroll this morning down the Capital Crescent Trail, talking to your friend or spouse, while I was on my bike ride. When you hear a bell sound coming from behind you, that is typically a polite warning, a courteous way of saying, "Would you please, please, please, GET YOUR FAT LARDBUTT OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAIL?" I can't understand why you won't move when I ring. Why do you think I'm ringing? To show off ("Look at me!")? To say, "Have a lovely morning?" No! I'm ringing because I hope you'll show me the courtesy of letting me pass by without risking life and limb. Besides, you'll burn more calories by taking a couple of steps to the right instead of just staying put.

This is a hiker-biker trail, and since you apparently have difficulty with that, let me explain: A hiker is someone who's walking (you); a biker is someone who's riding a bike (me). We have to share the trail. So if you and your friend take up the entire downtown side of the trail by walking side-by-side, where am I supposed to go? Directly into the stream of traffic coming uptown?

I can't believe you're doing nothing because you can't hear my bell. You look too young for that. I ring the bell over and over until I start to feel as if I'm being rude -- or as if I'm talking to teenagers. And it isn't just you. It's about three-quarters of the people I needed to ring at this morning. I fear an epidemic of the dread Chinese Walking Ladies disease.

You remind me of an old joke, which I first heard many years ago as an ethnic joke. We don't do ethnic humor here at Pillage Idiot (Jewish jokes only, and even those can't be mean-spirited), so I'll have to tell it without the ethnic identification.

A scientist who's not known for his intelligence is working on an experiment to see if there's a link between the number of legs a frog has and the frog's hearing ability.

He puts a frog on the ground and says, "Jump!" The frog jumps 16 feet. The scientist writes down, "Four legs, jumps 16 feet." The scientist cuts one leg off, puts the frog down and says, "Jump!" The frog jumps 11 feet. The scientist writes down, "Three legs, jumps 11 feet." The scientist cuts another leg off, puts the frog down and says, "Jump!" The frog jumps 6 feet. The scientist writes down, "Two legs, jumps 6 feet." The scientist cuts yet another leg off, puts the frog down and says, "Jump!" The frog jumps 2 feet. The scientist writes down, "One leg, jumps 2 feet."

Finally, the scientist cuts the last leg off, puts the frog down and says, "Jump!" The frog just sits there. "Jump!" The frog sits there. "I said, 'Jump!'" The frog doesn't move.

The scientist writes down, "No legs, frog becomes deaf."

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October 01, 2005

"How can I wear shoes if I don't have feet?"

Rick Reilly, a columnist in Sports Illustrated, has a column (subscription to magazine required) in which he takes a high school football referee to task for telling Bobby Martin, a high school player, that he couldn't play because he wasn't wearing shoes, knee pads, or thigh pads. What's wrong with that? Bobby Martin was born without legs and manages to play by running on his hands. (The photo can be viewed even by non-subscribers. Another photo is in the news story here.)

Let's leave aside the moral questions and take a purely legalistic approach, which is what the ref took -- the rule says all players must wear shoes, knee pads, and thigh pads. My question is: Would the ref have been a "referee-al activist" if he had read the rule with the slightest bit of common sense? I don't think so, and we can see this without getting into the whole Hart-Fuller debate.

I don't know what the rule's language is, but let's make the reasonable assumption that it says something like this: "All players must wear protective equipment, including [list of equipment], shoes, knee pads, and thigh pads." Reading this rule to bar a legless player from playing without shoes is idiotic. It's the kind of interpretation that gives "plain meaning" a bad name.

What this rule is really saying is: "All players must protect . . . their feet with shoes, their knees with knee pads, and their thighs with thigh pads." If you have no feet to protect, how can the rule that you have to wear shoes possibly apply to you? When the ref told Martin he couldn't play without shoes, Martin returned to the field for the third quarter with a pair of shoes tied to his belt. "I'm wearing shoes," he said. A fair point for a literalist ref.

Let's imagine you live in a town with an ordinance that says: "All residents must obtain a license for their dogs." You receive a summons for violating the ordinance and call the town clerk to complain.

You: I don't own a dog.
Clerk: Are you a town resident?
You: Yes, but I don't have a dog.
Clerk: Doesn't matter. You're a town resident. Do you have a dog license?
You: No. I don't have dog.
Clerk: Any town resident who doesn't have a dog license is in violation of the ordinance.
You: I won't be a town resident much longer.

The football referee is a lot like my imaginary town clerk. He's saying to Bobby Martin: You have to wear shoes. Bobby Martin replies: I don't have legs or feet. Referee: Doesn't matter; the rule says you have to wear shoes, or you can't play.

So how do you get from a rule that applies to everyone to a rule that has an exception? The answer is that the rule applies to everyone who meets certain conditions -- you have feet, knees, and thighs -- and one would have assumed that for high school football players everyone would meet the conditions of this rule. The reason you have a dumb, literalist ref is that people aren't used to the idea that there are some football players to whom the conditions of the rule don't apply. (In the dog license case, it isn't surprising in the least that a lot of people don't meet the condition of owning a dog.)

By the way, all's well that ends well. Bobby Martin has been allowed to return to play, without shoes.

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