December 13, 2008

"What if the law allowed everybody one non-injurious slap against everybody else?"

"There would be some rules. You can slap as many people as you want, but you get only one slap against any one person...."

Of course, this is wrong for so many reasons -- on so many levels -- but indulge the fantasy....

AG Lisa Madigan's argument to the Illinois Supreme Court about ousting Governor Blagojevich.

Here's the transcript. [ADDED NOTE: This is only the press conference, not the argument before the court.]

As described here and here, Madigan is relying on Article V, Section 6 of the Illinois constitution: "If the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability, the office of Governor shall be filled by the officer next in line of succession for the remainder of the term or until the disability is removed." So she needs to argue that Blagojevich is disabled within the meaning of that text.

Here's the discussion from the transcript:
Q Did you give any consideration to the intent of -- the intent of the law as framed by the constitutional convention, whether it was meant for a political or legal crisis like this or simply for some kind of, you know, medical or emotional issue?

MS. MADIGAN: I think the question you're getting at is, how is disability or is disability defined correct? And so yes, we did. It's addressed in our briefs.

We would look to the fact that the term disability legally is very broad, that it is not simply isolated to a physical or mental disability. And you can read all about that in our pleadings.

There's no follow-up on that.

Madigan is asked about whether this case would "set a dangerous precedent" -- and she seems not to understand the concept:
Q General, is there a way to prevent other people, whoever might be AG in the future, from -- any protections to prevent others from using this law -- since this is the first time to have a governor sort of declared disabled -- to sort of have it be done sort of when the circumstances might not be as extraordinary? Are those protections there, or could this be filed at any -- could this...

MS. MADIGAN: I'm still not understanding your question.

Q Are there enough protections in place to stop someone from doing what you're doing in the future?

Q For political ends.

Q From abusing the --

MS. MADIGAN: Oh, I'm sorry.

Q (Off mike) -- abusing the AG authority.

MS. MADIGAN: Yes. And here's one of the protections, as I mentioned. The Illinois Supreme Court has total discretion as to whether or not to even hear this matter. So the Illinois Supreme Court, Judicial Branch, serves as a check on the executive branch in the circumstance.
So the safeguard against the AG's abuse of power is that the court will have the role of deciding? How can it be the court's role to make the final call about things that belong in the realm of impeachment? Why do constitutions put impeachment trials in legislatures? Because courts are ill-suited to such decision-making.

Consider this discussion, from the U.S. Supreme Court, about why the Framers of the United States Constitution gave the Senate the sole power to try impeachments:
The Framers labored over the question of where the impeachment power should lie. Significantly, in at least two considered scenarios the power was placed with the Federal Judiciary. See 1 Farrand 21-22 (Virginia Plan); id., at 244 (New Jersey Plan). Indeed, Madison and the Committee of Detail proposed that the Supreme Court should have the power to determine impeachments. See 2 id., at 551 (Madison); id., at 178-179, 186 (Committee of Detail). Despite these proposals, the Convention ultimately decided that the Senate would have "the sole Power to Try all Impeachments." Art. I, §3, cl. 6. According to Alexander Hamilton, the Senate was the "most fit depositary of this important trust" because its members are representatives of the people. See The Federalist No. 65, p. 440 (J. Cooke ed. 1961). The Supreme Court was not the proper body because the Framers "doubted whether the members of that tribunal would, at all times, be endowed with so eminent a portion of fortitude as would be called for in the execution of so difficult a task" or whether the Court "would possess the degree of credit and authority" to carry out its judgment if it conflicted with the accusation brought by the Legislature--the people's representative. See id., at 441. In addition, the Framers believed the Court was too small in number: "The awful discretion, which a court of impeachments must necessarily have, to doom to honor or to infamy the most confidential and the most distinguished characters of the community, forbids the commitment of the trust to a small number of persons." Id., at 441-442.
In the Illinois case, you don't even have a legislative impeachment. You have a lower executive branch official, the Attorney General, bringing the accusation, and the state supreme court is asked to make the final call, deciding by fiat that a democratically elected Governor should be thrown out of office.

Now, there is that state constitutional provision -- Article V, Section 6 -- but the question is how broadly to interpret "other disability," a term that appears on a list that includes "conviction on impeachment." Clearly, "other disability" ought to be defined narrowly so that it does not obliterate the safeguards of the impeachment process.

At the end of the oral argument, the court flat-out confronts Madigan Madigan is confronted about her own political ambitions and conflict of interest:
Q I know you say that you haven't been thinking about politics at all, but there have obviously been a lot of questions about politics, and there wouldn't be questions about politics unless your political future was considered very bright and in play here. Given the fact of your possible interest in being governor, given the fact that you've been mentioned as a possible Senate replacement for Barack Obama, was any consideration given to your removing yourself from this issue because of a possible perception, if not reality, of conflict of interest?

MS. MADIGAN: No. And let me make two further statements. One is I never expressed any interest in even being considered for the U.S. Senate vacancy. I never contacted or talked to any -- the governor or anybody in the governor's office about that.

In addition, I am supporting putting the lieutenant governor in to serve as at governor of the state of Illinois. I think that is in the best interests of the people of this state. And I am happy to serve as the attorney general of this state. And I will continue in that role to do what is best for the people of this state.
Well, the answer is meaningless. The question says it all.

AND: Keep in mind that the legislative impeachment process is something under the control of Madigan's own father. The court asked her Madigan was asked "Do you know why your father has been appearing to be somewhat reticent on the -- (off mike)?" She told them to "ask him," which, the transcript notes, provoked laughter. Do you think that's funny?

Here's a Sun-Times article headlined "Why is Michael Madigan waiting to impeach Blagojevich?"
House Speaker Michael Madigan turned heads last spring by admitting his staff had researched impeaching Gov. Blagojevich, then followed up with a fall memo to Democratic candidates advocating impeachment.

So why on the eve of lawmakers returning to Springfield to address a full-blown political crisis won't the powerful Southwest Side Democrat commit to impeaching a man regarded by some as the most corrupt state officeholder in modern Illinois history?...
Even more baffling is the fact that plenty of votes exist in the House to get the job done.

On Friday, Cross had a conference call with his 52-member GOP delegation and said "at least" 45 favored launching impeachment proceedings immediately....

If Blagojevich resigns this week, Madigan's noncommittal stance on adding impeachment to the agenda would make perfect sense because the issue would be moot.

But if Blagojevich stays put and his saga drags out, then questions inevitably will grow louder about whether delaying impeachment is a tactic by Madigan not to divert political thunder from his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan....

"The speculation is that the speaker is sitting back on this so Lisa can take the lead and get ownership on the issue," said one House member who favors impeachment but requested anonymity.
What a misguided notion of how to win glory!

If a burglar breaks into your house and even enters your sleeping child's room...

... I suppose you should be relieved that all he does is give the boy four quarters and a dollar to "go buy some soda"... and then steal your car, your Christmas presents, and your daughter's wheelchair.

Force Althouse to go to the movies.

You know I said the other day that "I don't enjoy going to the movies these days -- for about 6 reasons." Pushed about the reasons, I enumerated not just 6, but 8.

But I'm going to give you a chance to force me to go to the movies. Apply whatever standard you want -- what you think I'd like, what would lead to the best blog post, what would teach me a lesson I need to learn, what would punish me for my sins.... The choices on the poll are just the movies that are currently playing at Sundance, the Madison theater with the best aesthetic appeal -- notably: rectangular screens.

I'm assigning Althouse to see:
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"Let the Right One In"
"Synecdoche, New York"
"Rachel Getting Married" free polls
UPDATE: "Slumdog Millionaire" won the poll, and accordingly, I saw "Slumdog Millionaire." I didn't know what this movie was about -- not the slightest thing -- so I was a little worried when it opened with a torture scene. I certainly didn't want to watch a man being tortured -- or even an actor pretending to be tortured. But the torture did not last long, and it set up a delightfully plotted story about 2 very different brothers, a beautiful girl, and a sprightly tale framed by a set of questions on the Indian version of the TV show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." We got heights and depths of ecstasy and despair and the best and worst of human nature -- not to mention the slums of Bombay and the Taj Mahal. Children suffer, but never too much (or at least not too long), and they never cry or lose their fundamental feistiness. Our hero Jamal is up for everything, because he trusts destiny, and he is ready to put up with whatever it takes, from his first -- intentional -- plunge into a pool of shit.

The director is Danny Boyle, who directed "Trainspotting" -- and I seem to remember someone falling into a toilet in that movie too. Ah, yes. Here it is (NSFW):

Well, "Slumdog Millionaire" is much more uplifting. And the excrement is a much cheerier color for whatever reason... artistic license? ... turmeric? ....

UPDATE 2: I let you force me again, see "Australia" and detect 7 points of comparison to "Slumdog."

I believe the judge should have said a little more about why those South Carolina license plates violate the Establishment Clause.

A federal judge has told South Carolina to stop making and selling the "I Believe" license plate. (Via Hot Air.)
In court, an attorney for [Americans United for Separation of Church and State] said state lawmakers had approved what she called a "uniquely Christian" license plate....

"The question really presented here is whether government should be allowed to exclude a religious message precisely because it's religious. Are we going to say it's okay in the public square to express a preference for a secular humanist position of 'In God we trust' or a preference for a football team or a university? And then at the same time say any expression of a religious viewpoint is per se, impermissible," said DMV attorney Kevin Hall....

I wrote about the "I Believe" license plate back in July:
The "I Believe" specialty plate is almost surely a state endorsement of Christianity that violates the Establishment Clause. (There's no array of specialty plates for different religions and no atheist plate. What would an atheist plate look like?)
But I'm taken aback by the federal judge's incredibly skimpy analysis of the legal question. (PDF.) After articulating the 3-part "Lemon test," Cameron McGowan Currie simply asserts:
Based on the record now before the court, the court finds it unlikely that the I Believe Act satisfies even one of these three requirements. As the Act must satisfy all three requirements to survive constitutional scrutiny, the court concludes Plaintiffs have made a strong showing of likelihood of success on the merits as to their Establishment Clause Claim.
That says nothing more than: I think it's unlikely that any of the 3 parts of the test is met. Nothing about why and no acknowledgment of the counter-arguments. It's a serious question, and it is certain that if the Supreme Court were to look at this case, it would take more than an invocation of the much-maligned Lemon test to say no to South Carolina's fund-raising and facilitation of individual expression via license plate.

I won't bore you with a disquisition on the history of the Lemon test. I'll just entertain you with Justice Scalia's famous mockery of the Court's spotty reliance on it:
[L]ike some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad after being repeatedly killed and buried, Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence once again, frightening the little children and school attorneys of Center Moriches Union Free School District. Its most recent burial, only last Term, was, to be sure, not fully six-feet under: our decision in Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992), conspicuously avoided using the supposed "test," but also declined the invitation to repudiate it. Over the years, however, no fewer than five of the currently sitting Justices have, in their own opinions, personally driven pencils through the creature's heart (the author of today's opinion repeatedly), and a sixth has joined an opinion doing so. [Citations omitted.]

The secret of the Lemon test's survival, I think, is that it is so easy to kill. It is there to scare us (and our audience) when we wish it to do so, but we can command it to return to the tomb at will. See, e.g., Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 679 (1984) (noting instances in which Court has not applied Lemon test). When we wish to strike down a practice it forbids, we invoke it, see, e.g., Aguilar v. Fenton, 473 U.S. 402 (1985) (striking down state remedial education program administered in part in parochial schools); when we wish to uphold a practice it forbids, we ignore it entirely, see Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983) (upholding state legislative chaplains). Sometimes, we take a middle course, calling its three prongs "no more than helpful signposts," Hunt v. McNair, 413 U.S. 734, 741 (1973). Such a docile and useful monster is worth keeping around, at least in a somnolent state; one never knows when one might need him.
And so, Judge Currie has prodded the old monster.

Brittany Zimmermann's scream: "If I heard the initial 'scream,' it didn't register as a scream."

Said the 911 operator, Rita Gahagan:
She said she later heard background noises that police have said indicate a struggle, but they "didn't register as anyone in obvious distress."

The interview was conducted days after Gahagan mishandled the 911 call from University of Wisconsin-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann, who was stabbed to death in her apartment April 2. Her murder remains unsolved.

Until Thursday, the county had refused to release Gahagan's interview; it provided the four pages documenting the interview after it was ordered to do so by Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess. A group of media outlets is suing the county for access to records related to its handling of the call.

The newly released records show county officials have not been candid with the public about the call.

They show they realized within days of Zimmermann's homicide that the call contained a scream. Yet weeks later, then-911 center director Joe Norwick insisted the dispatcher had no way of distinguishing the call from dozens of accidental and "hang-up" calls the center receives daily.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk later acknowledged the call contained significant sounds but refused to describe them. Norwick has since resigned.

The county did not even acknowledge the existence of the call until nearly a month after Zimmermann's slaying and then only after a report about it appeared in a newspaper.

The call lasted nearly a minute, and Gahagan inquired three times whether an emergency existed. After it was disconnected, Gahagan never called the number back, though the 911 center's policy requires it.

She told her bosses she failed to call Zimmermann back because she moved on "to other 911 calls waiting to be answered."

Police did not arrive at Zimmermann's apartment for more than 40 minutes, after her fiance found the 21-year-old dead and called 911.
Horrible negligence and a despicable cover-up. At best.

Victoria Toensing thinks Patrick Fitzgerald should can the emotional theatrics.

It's not right for a prosecutor to express his outrage, she says:
... Justice Department guidelines [say] that prior to trial a "prosecutor shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused." The prosecutor is permitted to "inform the public of the nature and extent" of the charges. In the vernacular of all of us who practice criminal law, that means the prosecutor may not go "beyond the four corners" -- the specific facts -- in the complaint or indictment...
Fitzgerald said what Blagojevich did "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave" and so forth. Clearly, inappropriate, according to Toensing, who seems to think Fitzgerald was emboldened by the adulation he received in the media over the way he treated Scooter Libby:
In his news conference in October 2005 announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice, he compared himself to an umpire who "gets sand thrown in his eyes." The umpire is "trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked" his view. With this statement, Mr. Fitzgerald made us all believe he could not find the person who leaked Valerie Plame's name as a CIA operative because of Mr. Libby. What we all now know is that Mr. Fitzgerald knew well before he ever started the investigation in January 2004 that Richard Armitage was the leaker and nothing Mr. Libby did or did not do threw sand in his eyes. In fact -- since there was no crime -- there was not even a game for the umpire to call.

In the Libby case, rather than suffer criticism, Mr. Fitzgerald became a media darling. And so in the Blagojevich case he returned to the microphone. Throughout the press conference about Gov. Blagojevich, Mr. Fitzgerald talked beyond the four corners of the complaint. He repeatedly characterized the conduct as "appalling." He opined that the governor "has taken us to a new low," while going on a "political corruption crime spree."
Let's get back to super-square prosecutors -- confined by the four corners.

Madoff made off with $50 billion.

"Billion" -- it still means something, doesn't it? One man schemed, Ponzi-style, all the way to $50 billion. How is that possible?
Investors may have been duped because [Bernard L.] Madoff sent detailed brokerage statements to investors whose money he managed, sometimes reporting hundreds of individual stock trades per month. Investors who asked for their money back could have it returned within days. And while typical Ponzi schemes promise very high returns, Mr. Madoff’s promised returns were relatively realistic — about 10 percent a year — though they were unrealistically steady.
People know that if it's too good to be true, it isn't. So, I guess, it wasn't too good, just good enough.

IN THE COMMENT: The Drill SGT says my title is misleading, since Madoff didn't get the money for himself. I was madly trying for a play on the name Madoff. But I doff ma toque to the Sgt. He's right.

"I wonder if that family of ticks in my yard knows that they're going to change the Tennessee state Constitution as a result of their actions."

I was just about to create an "Insects and the Law" tag... and I was getting some big ideas about teaching an Insects and the Law course at the law school. (You know about my longstanding interest in insect politics.) But then I thought: Hey, wait a minute. Ticks are not insects. And all my grandiose ideas came crashing down at 6:44 a.m.

I confirmed my suspicion by consulting Tikipedia. Arachnid! Will there be enough posts to justify an "Arachnids and the Law" tag? The thing about tags is that you don't want them to be too small, but they shouldn't get too big either. Something that will have 5 to 35 posts -- that's the target zone. I'm thinking Arthropods and the Law. And then just a plain old arachnids tag.

Anyway, the quote in the title is from this news article, which is linked by Glenn Reynolds, in a post about -- naturally -- the Blagojevich controversy.

(We need a cute name for the Blagomess. Blagosmear? Not Blagogate. The opportunities are too ripe to squander on another "-gate." Blag-oh-no.)

Glenn agrees with me about the interpretation of the provision of the Illinois constitution that the state attorney general, Lisa Madigan, is trying to use to push Governor Blagojevich aside without the troublesome safeguards of the impeachment process. Glenn worked on an amendment to the Tennessee constitution that is analogous to the provision Madigan has seized upon in what I consider to be an illicit power grab.

The Tennessee amendment was the consequence of a tick bite: Governor Phil Bredesen got quite sick after an arachnid attack, and it was decided that there needed to be a procedure to transfer power in case the governor becomes incapacitated.

There's also a provision in the United States Constitution, Section 4 of the 25th Amendment:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
You may remember the dramatic moment in the movie "Air Force One" -- spoiler alert -- when Secretary of Defense Dean Stockwell tries to use the 25th Amendment to oust President Harrison Ford, and Vice President Glenn Close refuses to sign.

Now, I've finally gotten Glenn Reynolds and Glenn Close together in one post -- with ticks. I think that says something about my authority to say that these constitutional provisions are about dealing with physical incapacity -- including unconsciousness and brain damage -- not with political and legal problems, however severe.

Impeachment has important procedural safeguards that should not be bypassed, and the importance of the protections of constitutional process is not diminished by an opinion that the executive in question is a blood-sucking tick.

IN THE COMMENTS: BlogDog coins "Blago-a-gogo."

December 12, 2008

At the Birch Tree Café...


... it's so wintry and desolate...

Talk to me....

Using the courts to oust Blagojevich on the theory that he's "disabled" from serving as governor.

Illinois AG Lisa Madigan makes the move to oust Blagojevich that we were talking about yesterday.
Madigan said that she took the action with the Supreme Court because she thinks that this is a faster way to strip Blagojevich of his power than through impeachment, which could take several weeks.

"I recognize that this is an extraordinary request, but these are extraordinary circumstances," Madigan said at a news conference.
Oh, the irony! Grabbing power to oust someone for grabbing power. As noted in yesterday's post, Madigan is relying on this language in the state constitution:
If the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability, the office of Governor shall be filled by the officer next in line of succession for the remainder of the term or until the disability is removed.
Madigan has to argue that Blago's troubles amount to "other disability." Given that "conviction on impeachment" is one of the specified reasons for inability to serve, using this procedure as an alternative to the impeachment process looks like an abusive power grab.
It is the first time in Illinois history that such an action was taken. The attorney general is applying a rule that was intended to cover cases where a governor is incapacitated for health reasons. Her motion indicates that his inability to serve because of the scandal is akin to a debilitating health issue.
Much as I am willing to believe Blago is unfit for office, I think it's obvious that Madigan's effort should fail. Does anyone in Illinois government know how to use power appropriately?
The decision to go to the state's highest court was not welcomed by everyone. Democratic Rep. Jack Franks said it would set "a dangerous precedent" for the court to remove a governor as Madigan proposes. Franks, a fierce Blagojevich critic, said that kind of decision should be left to the General Assembly.
Franks is right. Now, get on the task.

ADDED: I react to the oral argument before the state supreme court.

The moon will hit your eye like a big pizza pie.


The auto failout.

Who's to blame? Corker and Gettelfinger finger each other.

"I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times."

"I want to be remembered as a woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form."

Said Bettie Page, who posed for a lot of photographs, but would not let anyone take her picture after she got old. But isn't age natural too? And is pinup nudity natural? And if it's natural nudity that you think is so important, what's with the bondage?

Bettie Page has turned that final page. Death. It's natural too. And there will be no photographs of that either.

Mark Kleiman says Glenn Reynolds is "hyper-masculine" and Glenn frets about it.

¿Quien Es Mas Macho? Mark, finding other men hyper-masculine or Glenn, fretting about it?

"The dynamics of the common law and the development of one of the most important technical rules of baseball..."

"... although on the surface almost completely different in outlook and philosophy, share significant elements."

When William S. Stevens was law student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1975, he wrote a law review note about the infield fly rule:
Published as a semi-parodic “aside” in June 1975, “The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule” quickly achieved legal fame, in part because nothing like it had ever appeared in a major law review, in part because of its concise, elegant reasoning. It continues to be cited by courts and legal commentators. It is taught in law schools. It is credited with giving birth to the law and baseball movement, a thriving branch of legal studies devoted to the law and its social context. It made lawyers think about the law in a different way....

“After Stevens, law reviews were never the same,” [said lawprof said Robert M. Jarvis.] “It was a cultural revolution. It cannot be overstated.”

The much-misunderstood infield fly rule was adopted in the 1890s to prevent fielders from taking advantage of a force-out situation at third base. It states that when there are fewer than two outs, and there are men on first and second base, or the bases are loaded, any fly ball in fair territory that, in the judgment of the umpire, is catchable by an infielder “with ordinary effort” is automatically deemed an out, even if the fielder drops the ball. The rule prevents a fielder from intentionally misplaying a fly and then turning a double play by throwing out the runners anticipating a caught fly ball....

Supporting his argument with a raft of footnotes dropped in like legal punch lines, Mr. Stevens described the infield-fly rule as a technical remedy for sneaky behavior that would not have occurred in the days when baseball was a gentlemen’s sport played for exercise.

Baseball, to keep alive the gentlemanly spirit underlying the game, drafted rules to enforce correct behavior. In civil society, the writ system evolved, giving plaintiffs a specific rule to appeal to when seeking redress. “Conduct was governed by general principles; but to enforce a rule of conduct, it was necessary to find a remedy in a specific writ,” Mr. Stevens wrote.

Like common law, the infield-fly rule developed bit by bit, with refinements added to address new problems as they arose, just as common law uses judicial decisions and legislation to make legal remedies conform to new situations.
On Monday, in Anchorage, Alaska, he died of a heart attack at age 60.

ADDED: Stevens is an inspiration to law students everywhere. You could write a little note and everyone would remember it. When your life is over, you could have a big NYT obituary for that elegant idea you worked out between classes and exams. Imagine hitting upon an analogy that everyone in your profession would remember -- an analogy that people would think of if the question were simply: What's a great analogy?

"You mean they put you in peril because they thought it would be fun?"

Barbara Walters asks Paula Abdul, after Abdul reveals that she told the "American Idol" producers that Paula Goodspeed had been stalking her for 17 years and the producers -- in spite or because of that -- put Goodspeed through as a contestant. Last month, Goodspeed killed herself near Abdul's home.

David Letterman -- who also had a stalker who killed herself -- tells Abdul to sue: "This could be the biggest lawsuit in the history of television. Sue these baboons!"

(Paula looks so tiny sitting next to Dave, and she's so bundled up in layers of clothing, including a military-style jacket with rows of brass buttons. The picture of vulnerability.)

Former AI producer Nigel Lythgoe defends the show -- and it's a difficult defense, because it's not in the show's interest to call Abdul a liar:
"[Goodspeed] had been through an audition process with the producers, an audition process with the executive producers, and we were wheeling her in as a huge fan of Paula Abdul," Lythgoe said. "This is what we knew: She was a great fan, she was a lovely girl. And a great fan of Paula."

Lythgoe said doesn't remember Abdul's request to have Goodspeed removed. "This is three years ago," he said. "I honestly say I can't remember the conversation. If Paula said, that's what she said, I believe her."

Lythgoe added: "We've seen over 700,000 contestants. And one has made a terrible, terrible mistake. If you're an odds man, they are great odds."...

"I'm not angry with Paula," he said. "I think Paula's in a position of: 'It wasn't my fault,' and reaching out from that point of view. For her family's sake, it should really be dropped."

Chances of a lawsuit? I'm going to say very low.

December 11, 2008

"I just hate it when stereotypes are right."

News for boffins.

"Auto bailout dead."

"Negotiations ended, no deal.... Until next year. Corker tried to make a deal with Dems, UAW wouldn't make concessions, so it will die on cloture vote with GOP opposing. Vitter held the line too, objecting to quick vote, forcing more debate. He was strong."

ADDED: "'We're not going to get to the finish line. That's just the way it is. There too much difference between the two sides,' Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced after 10 p.m., concluding a marathon negotiating session that ended in gridlock. Reid warned that markets could plummet when trading begins this morning. 'I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It's not going to be a pleasant sight,' he said."

So Reid deliberately sets off a panic. Thanks a whole hell of a lot.

"I think most of the commenters on your blog have a more 'male' vibe to them."

A reader writes:
I read your blog once in a while. I've a small question.

Do you have a sense of whether more males read your blog than females? I'm just curious. You post a range of topics though which should appeal to both sexes. But I think most of the commenters on your blog have a more "male" vibe to them.

Do you mind running a poll to find the male/female readership of your blog?

No, I don't mind:

You are:
Female free polls

ADDED: If you don't think the poll is sufficient proof that the readership here skews male -- 77% of you voted male -- you should see the comments. (Here and on the poll page.)

It gets to the point where Palladian says: "It's beginning to smell like a wrestling mat in here." He's right.

Then Joan says:
I skipped reading the rest of the comment thread -- no apology offered for that -- I just wanted to say the that the 3:1 male-female ratio here explains a good deal of why I spend so much time here. Every so often I make the rounds of the Mommy blogs, but they just don't appeal to me.

This is what comes of growing up with four brothers and a dad who controlled the tv...
The stink continues, and someone mentions rotten fish. That brings out blogging cockroach:
did someone say fish...
i adore fish
but i don t adore this thread
i have been away a while because tommy s
computer has been broken
tommy is the boy whose computer i use
anyway i had 3 or 4 funny things that
occurred to me as soon as i saw this post
i was organizing them in my little mind when
wham bam
fights broke out
can't think straight with all that going on
weird fights broke out
now i can only keep so much in my brain
which has only 960 cells or so
so i ll be back when i can find some
better space for my material
you know how i am so picky

A stink so noisome the cockroach is disgusted.


“When the baby’s coming down the birth canal, remember, it’s going through the exact same positions as something going in, the penis going into the vagina, to cause an orgasm. And labor itself is associated with a huge hormonal change in the body, way more prolactin, way more oxytocin, way more beta-endorphins — these are the molecules of ecstasy.”

How to oust Blagojevich from office if he won't resign and the legislation won't impeach him.

There's this:
"I have the opportunity to go to our Illinois Supreme Court and ask them to declare our governor is unable to serve and put in our lieutenant governor as acting governor," [Illinois Attorney General Lisa] Madigan, a longtime Blagojevich foe who is considering a run for governor in 2010, told CNN.
What legal procedure is this exactly? I can see that the Illinois Constitution provides, in Article V, Section 6:
(b) If the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability, the office of Governor shall be filled by the officer next in line of succession for the remainder of the term or until the disability is removed.

(c) Whenever the Governor determines that he may be seriously impeded in the exercise of his powers, he shall so notify the Secretary of State and the officer next in line of succession. The latter shall thereafter become Acting Governor with the duties and powers of Governor. When the Governor is prepared to resume office, he shall do so by notifying the Secretary of State and the Acting Governor.

(d) The General Assembly by law shall specify by whom and by what procedures the ability of the Governor to serve or to resume office may be questioned and determined. The Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to review such a law and any such determination and, in the absence of such a law, shall make the determination under such rules as it may adopt.
Does this mean the AG can oust the Governor over the kinds of matters that would also be grounds for impeachment? Is his arrest an "other disability"? That seems to be Madigan's theory according the Chicago Tribune:
The Illinois Constitution is vague enough that she could argue the governor's corruption charges are enough to be considered a "disability" — a condition typically associated with physical or mental issues.

... Another portion of the Constitution opens the door to considering whether Blagojevich is "seriously impeded in the exercise of his powers." The argument again is that the taint of the allegations—that the governor sought to trade official state actions for personal gain—means he can't govern.
The "seriously impeded" language is plainly left to the Governor's own judgment about himself. So I think Madigan is limited to characterizing the ongoing prosecution as a "disability" -- and convincing the court that this is appropriate.

The Tribune continues: "Would Madigan go to court so her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, can avoid a messy impeachment?" That makes the idea of end-running impeachment look quite a bit worse.

UPDATE: Madigan files the case.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the oral argument to the state court.

What we lie about when we lie about reading.

"The men polled said they would be most impressed by women who read news websites, Shakespeare or song lyrics. Women said men should have read Nelson Mandela's biography or Shakespeare."

Since everyone seems to revere or fake-revere Shakespeare, why not hew to the Shakespearean answer to any question about what you've been reading? "Words, words, words."

But, man, Nelson Mandela's biography? That is incredibly lame of women to say they'd be hot for a man who gave that answer. And as for the men who say they'd be impressed by women who read song lyrics... that just goes to show one more time that women don't really have to impress men. Oh, but you say they said they'd be impressed by a woman who read Shakespeare? I'm willing to bet the men were just saying that so women would think they read Shakespeare.

By the way, guys, I read news websites. Impressed?

What's the matter with Illinois?

That was the gist of a question for Barack Obama at his press conference just now.

All but one of the questions were about the Blagojevich scandal -- even though O's topic of the day was health care. (He introduced Tom Daschle as his pick for HHS secretary.)

He didn't answer that question, unsurprisingly. Not that he called it out of bounds. He just followed a strategy -- as he did for all the Blagojevich questions -- of saying, essentially, I'm one of the good guys and Blagojevich is one of the bad guys.

Why do bad things seem to keep coming from Illinois government? You'll have to accept as the answer that there is also good from Illinois, and he is on the side of the good.

ADDED: The news conference is detailed here:
He was asked how the governor got the impression that neither Mr. Obama nor his senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, a possible pick for the Senate seat, were “willing to play ball and why he said those unrepeatable things about you.” A second part of the question referred to the previous governor of Illinois who is “still moldering” in federal prison, raising the question: What’s wrong with Illinois?

Mr. Obama said he could not speculate what was going on in the governor’s mind.

And he repeated what he said a few minutes ago, that he believes there are two different views of politics. One involves sacrifice and public service, the other is that politics is a business, “you’re wheeling and dealing and what’s in it for me?” He noted that there are good politicians in Illinois.

If the allegations against the governor are true, he said, “this is sort of the far end of the spectrum, that business mentality of politics.”

He added that his own campaign was about changing that view of politics. “You can get elected by playing it straight,” he said. “You can get elected by doing the right thing.”

"I don't really care what the students call me: 'Jay,' 'Wex,' 'Jaywex,' 'the Wexmeister'..."

Is Jay Wexler only saying that because his name happens to produce snappy nicknames? We're not all that lucky.

I agree with Wexler's view that the lawprof should call students by their first names. But does that mean students must call the professor by his or her first name? I think not. Does that seem unfairly unequal? I just said don't call the professor by his or her first name. You can use the all-purpose "first name" for a professor: Professor. Sample dialogue:
Hi, Joe.

Hi, Professor.

Oddly -- as you may know -- I dislike being called by my first name -- by anyone. I don't even think of myself by my first name. Frankly, I don't even consider it a name. ← See? I had to write "it."

ADDED: Jay Wexler is just visiting at the linked blog. His regular blog is Holy Hullabaloos, and that's also the title of an interesting-looking book he has coming out next spring:
In the fall of 2007, I spent about six months traveling to all sorts of interesting places where big church-state Supreme Court cases came from. I wanted to visit the people who were involved in the cases and see the places where they actually happened. I went to an Amish farm, a high school football game in East Texas, the U.S. Senate, a community of really Orthodox Jews in New York State, a Santeria get-together in South Florida, and downtown Cleveland. Inspired by books like Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live, and Steve Almond's Candyfreak, my book will tell the story of this trip while also explaining the basics of church-state law and making jokes.

"How is the government going to 'get its money back' if the [auto bailout] money has been spent and the firms are bankrupt?"

Mickey Kaus asks.
1) How is the government going to "get its money back" if the money has been spent and the firms are bankrupt? Only by liquidation, it would seem. So does the bailout deal eliminate the option of restructuring (as an ongoing enterprise) under the aegis of the bankruptcy court? Either the firms are saved under the "czar," or they are liquidated, apparently. 2) The big "stick" is to kill the firms, then. Isn't that too big a stick? Like a nuclear weapon is too big a stick? Come April 29th, if the choice is to approve a half-assed "restructuring" plan that has maybe a 35% chance of succeeding, or to kill General Motors, there's going to be an awful lot of pressure not to kill General Motors, no? The threat is so big it pressures the auto czar, not the executives, investors and union members. What's needed is an intermediate threat that's more credible. How about empowering the auto czar to declare the companies' labor contracts null and void? And to indefinitely delay payment of all executive salaries and bonuses? That would get the "stakeholders" attention, maybe. 3) Shouldn't there be a different "czar" for each firm? Having a single czar for the whole industry muffles what might be salutary competitive pressures. Maybe Chrysler's workers are so desperate they'll give up more in terms of pay and work rules than Ford's workers. Shouldn't that sort of choice be encouraged? Dueling "czars" would encourage this viability-enhancing reverse solidarity. ...
Good questions! As to #3, can someone explain why 3 car companies with 1 head isn't an antitrust problem?

Also, Mickey, don't say "auto czar." It's either car czar or auto autocrat. Poetry's important when everything is going to hell.

IN THE COMMENTS: AJ Lynch offers: Motor City Mogul. Campy says: Detroit Despot.

Remember Blagojevich's plan to send every pre-kindergarten baby or child a book every month?

It was in "Freakonomics":
In early 2004, Governor Rod Blagojevich announced a plan to mail one book a month to every child in Illinois from the time they were born until they entered kindergarten. The plan would cost $26 million a year. But, Blagojevich argued, this was a vital intervention in a state where 40 percent of third graders read below their grade level. “When you own [books] and they’re yours,” he said, “and they just come as part of your life, all of that will contribute to a sense … that books should be part of your life."
The book portrayed the plan as a mistake about cause and effect. (The real reason why children with books in their houses do well is that their parents are well-educated.) I note the book's assumption that the reason for the plan was to help kids.

Actor in a suicide scene -- on stage -- stabs himself in the neck with a real knife.

That would be a dramatic way to actually commit suicide -- showy suicides are so hostile -- but Daniel Hoevels -- as Mortimer in Schiller's "Maria Stuart" -- was the unwitting victim of somebody's failure to blunt the new prop knife.

Negligence or attempted murder?

A sad day? Don't they know it's Fitzmas?

"[O]ur gloomy pols were keening as though a great leader had fallen or an important factory had closed..."

The Golden Globe nominees are announced...

Here. I've seen few of these things -- and not just because many of the best movies don't play until the end of the year. It's also that I don't enjoy going to the movies these days -- for about 6 reasons.

But I did see "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," which is up for best comedy/musical. And it's got a best comedy/musical actor, Javier Bardem, and supporting actress, Penélope Cruz. I haven't seen the competition, so it's not my place to say who ought to win, but they were excellent, especially Penélope Cruz. She's in competition with Kate Winslet -- a favorite actress chez Althouse -- who is nominated for "The Reader," but Kate also has an actress in a drama nomination, for "Revolutionary Road," so both Kate and Penélope can win.

There's some interesting competition, too, in the supporting actor category:
Tom Cruise for Tropic Thunder (2008)
Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder (2008)
Ralph Fiennes for The Duchess (2008)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt (2008)
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008)
All I can say is, if you're going to give anyone extra points for drugs, give them -- the points, not the drugs -- to Robert Downey Jr. for living, not to Heath Ledger for dying.

"I was really fat and really broke after college, so I decided to live on 800 calories a day."

"I ended up losing 160 poounds [sic] and, eventually, digging myself out of debt."

It's funny -- isn't it? -- how few people go with the idea of a combined strategy for saving money and losing weight. It's so odd it made a saleable book project.

Of course, we all somehow instinctively know that it's in terrible taste even to hint that overweight individuals with financial troubles ought to buy less food. See? You can't even write "fat poor people." ← I only wrote that to say you can't write that. Please. Really. Don't hate me.

"Sleeping at Starbucks. That takes some will power, huh?"

Says Crackskull Bob, thinking about all that caffeine, drawing furiously.

In fact, every time I go to Starbucks -- almost never in Madison, but frequently in less well café'd cities -- there's a guy sleeping in one of the chairs. I've seen men sleeping in those upholstered chairs for hours -- undisturbed. Seriously, it's as if that Starbucks logo is a hobo symbol for "nice place to sleep."


December 10, 2008

"7 Blago questions for Obama."

From Politico:
1 – “Did you communicate directly or indirectly with Blagojevich about picking your replacement in the U.S. Senate?”....

2 – “Why didn’t you or someone on your team correct your close adviser David Axelrod when he said you had spoken to Blagojevich about picking your replacement?”...

3. “When did you learn the investigation involved Blagojevich’s alleged efforts to ‘sell’ your Senate seat, or of the governor’s impending arrest?”...

4 – “Did you or anyone close to you contact the FBI or U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald about Blagojevich’s alleged efforts to sell your Senate seat to the highest bidder?”...

5 – “Did federal investigators interview you or anyone close to you in the investigation?”...

6 – “When did you and Blagojevich last speak and about what?”...

7 – “Do you regret supporting Blagojevich?”...
More at the link. The key question is #4. It presumes he knew there was a sale going on. Does the criminal complaint not imply that he did? And if the answer to #4 is "no," what are we to think?


... bracelet.

"Seriously -- how did this seismic, evolutionary species reassignment come to pass..."

"... and do the universe's laws of equilibrium require that the slug-like crime lord now be cavorting by some Tatooinian resort pool in a bikini?"

Nice sentence. But, really, I'm just wondering how a person can write so many memoirs about her personal dissolution.

"Don't call me unfair. Don't even mention my name in the same sentence with that adjective."

Geoffrey K. Pullum is outraged by linguification. Like this:
... Condoleezza Rice [said], "To mention Robert Mugabe in the same sentence with the President of the United States is an outrage." No it isn't.

The NYT reports that Jesse Jackson, Jr. was "Candidate 5"!

Federal authorities on Wednesday identified Democratic Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois as the potential United States Senate candidate who was portrayed in court papers made public Tuesday as being the most deeply enmeshed in the alleged scheme by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to benefit from his appointment of a new senator to the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama....

Federal prosecutors in Chicago would not discuss the identity of Candidate 5 and would not comment on whether Mr. Jackson would be interviewed in the case....

The complaint also said that in a wiretapped conversation on Oct. 31, Mr. Blagojevich told an associate about an approach by the emissary from Candidate 5: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That you know, he’d raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him [Senate Candidate 5] a senator.”

ADDED: Jackson says: "I want to make this fact plain: I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Gov. Blagojevich."

"A BOFFIN too busy to find real love has INVENTED his idea of the perfect woman – a female ROBOT."

No, I haven't set up a Google alert on "boffin" -- yet! -- a word I discovered yesterday. I just clicked on the "LOVE MACHINE: Man lives with female robot..." link at Drudge, because I've long been interested in robots -- click the robot tag, below for proof -- and also less-than-great sex. And suddenly, again, it's a boffin. They're everywhere.
Inventor Le Trung, 33, created Aiko, said to be “in her 20s” with a stunning 32, 23, 33 figure, shiny hair and delicate features....

"Fem-bot" Aiko, who has cost £14,000 to build so far, is a whizz at maths and even does Le’s accounts.

Le, a scientific genius from Brampton in Ontario, Canada, said he never had time to find a real partner so he designed one using the latest technology.

He said he did not build Aiko as a sexual partner, but said she could be tweaked to become one.
Just like real life: she could be tweaked to become one.
“Her software could be redesigned to simulate her having an orgasm and reacting to touch as if she is playing hard to get or being straight to the point,” he said.
Just like real life: fake orgasms!
“She doesn’t need holidays, food or rest and she will work almost 24-hours a day. She is the perfect woman,” he said.
Feminists, don't get too mad at Le. He had a heart attack at age 33 and thinks he may need Aiko to take care of him some day. Really, maybe a lot of us will benefit from caregiving robots some day. (Robots are unlikely to ever to organize a "call in inhuman" day.)
“People have mixed reactions when they meet Aiko,” he said.

“They either love or hate her. Some people get angry and accuse me of playing God. Once someone threw a rock at Aiko. That really upset me.

“But many people are fascinated by her.

"Women are generally impressed and try to talk to her. But the men always want to touch her, and if they do it in the wrong way they get a slap.”
Playing God? Is that the main criticism he hears? I would think more people would tell him he's avoiding relationships with real people.

By the way, after writing this post, I've been reading "Look Me in the Eye," about a man with Asperger's Syndrome. The author, John Elder Robison, feels a great affinity for machines -- as opposed to human beings, with their trickery and multiple levels of meaning and strange emotions.

UPDATE: "She's not really my girlfriend.... I have friends – I don't need to create friends."

See a black man? Call the police!

So, there have been some thefts on campus:
Investigating officers have released a description of a thief: a black man, 20 to 30 years old and about 6 feet tall, last seen wearing a wool hat, dark boots, a long puffy winter coat and black pants. Anyone seeing this person around the campus should call university police at 264-2677.
That's damned close to saying if you see a black man, call the police.

"Obama’s Effort on Ethics Bill Had Role in Governor’s Fall."

That's the headline on the lead article in the NYT right now. Why am I getting the feeling that the mainstream media will do what it can to obliterate the connection between Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama?

Did you call in gay today?

It's "call in gay" day today. Or, no, the real name is "Day Without a Gay." "Call in gay" equates "gay" with "sick," which isn't the intended message. Well, what is the message? What possible good is done for a cause by a protest that comes in the form of shirking your responsibilities?
Same-sex marriage supporters are urging people to skip work by "calling in gay" on Wednesday as part of their campaign to overturn Proposition 8.

The first ever "Day Without a Gay" is being organized to show the nation relies on homosexuals and to raise awareness of the drive to legalize gay and lesbian marriage.
So your co-worker doesn't show up today? What are the chances you will respond by rethinking your position on gay marriage?
"We are all for a boycott if that's what brings about a sense of community for people," said Sean Hetherington, a comedian and personal trainer who came up with the idea with his boyfriend.
Nice publicity for you, Sean. Great idea on that score. It's not really a "boycott" though, is it? People are asked to avoid their jobs, when there is nothing wrong with their jobs. And "a sense of community for people"? How about the community that people at work feel with each other? You call in sick because you actually can't contribute that day, and you feel bad that you've left other people to cover for you. Picture the "community" they are having without someone who "called in gay," knowing that he or she decided not to work because of a political agenda.

Of course, most people -- gay or not -- can see that it would be foolish to stay out of work to try to send a political message. And that's one more reason why the comedian's idea is ridiculous. Very few people will do it, and it's the sort of protest that means something only if it's very widespread.

And I apologize for giving this fool more publicity. I avoided blogging about this topic a few weeks ago. But it got enough publicity that I could see that my little "boycott" was doing just about nothing.

December 9, 2008

Joe the Plumber was "appalled" at John McCain but says "Sarah Palin is absolutely the real deal."

Politico reports:
Recalling a conversation he had with McCain about the $700 billion financial industry bailout in September, [Joe] Wurzelbacher said: “When I was on the bus with him, I asked him a lot of questions about the bailout because most Americans did not want that to happen.”

“I asked him some pretty direct questions,” he continued. “Some of the answers you guys are gonna receive — they appalled me, absolutely. I was angry. In fact, I wanted to get off the bus after I talked to him.”

"But here I am -- 55 years old, a spinster long past my sell-by date, no kids -- and I haven't had sex in a decade and a half."

"It's my own fault, I know. I'm picky. Casual sex doesn't do it for me. (I've always thought I had to be in love in order to make love.) I regard men with ambivalence, with alternate longing and fear. I've grown accustomed to being alone."

Writes Kit Naylor in Salon. Via Metafilter, where the best comment might be:
Once you've passed a certain age -- older than it used to be, but still not old enough -- it doesn't matter how much you love yourself and rejoice in being a whole, warm, wonderful woman. You can't help but see that as a person, you're terrific, but as a girlfriend-unit with optional wife-upgrade port, you're unmarketable. The thing to do is to stop reading men-vs.-women lifestyle journalism, take charge of singleness (like one Miss Florence King) and stop expecting that life owes you a reward for being a pretty, pretty princess inside.

It says she's marketing a book about how to enjoy living alone, but I'm getting depressed just thinking about it.

"Edward and Caroline Kennedy Share Tight Family Tie."

NYT headline. My thoughts, in order:

1. Loosen it up!

2. Today's not the best day to be throwing your weight around trying to get a governor to fill a vacant Senate seat.

"The Kiss of Deaf."

"While kissing is normally very safe, doctors advise people to proceed with caution."

Obama's "infrastructure" jobs program will mainly make jobs for men.

Linda Hirshman doesn't like it. Her solution?
Fortunately, jobs for women can be created by concentrating on professions that build the most important infrastructure — human capital. In 2007, women were 83 percent of social workers, 94 percent of child care workers, 74 percent of education, training and library workers (including 98 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 92 percent of teachers’ assistants)....

Many of the jobs women do are already included in Mr. Obama’s campaign promises. Women are teachers, and the campaign promised to provide support for families with children up to the age of 5, increase Head Start financing and quadruple the money spent on Early Head Start to include a quarter-million infants and toddlers. Special education, including arts education, is heavily female as well. Mr. Obama promised to increase financing for arts education and for the National Endowment for the Arts, which supports many school programs....

The current proposal is simply too narrow. Women represent almost half the work force — not exactly a marginal special interest group. By adding a program for jobs in libraries, schools and children’s programs, the new administration can create jobs for them, too.
I think Obama must respond to this problem. If a huge federal jobs program is really what we need -- and I'm not willing to say it is -- then how can nearly all the job be men's jobs? Is it enough of an answer to say that it's up to women to take up the hard physical labor of building roads and bridges and the like?

Reading the fucking criminal complaint.

From the PDF:
ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Individual A that, “I could have made a larger announcement but wanted to see how they perform by the end of the year. If they don’t perform, fuck ‘em.” …

During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife can be heard in the background telling ROD BLAGOJEVICH to tell Deputy Governor A “to hold up that fucking Cubs shit. . . fuck them.” …

ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that he thinks that they should put this all together and then have HARRIS or somebody go talk to the Tribune owners and say, “Look, we’ve got decisions to make now. . . moving this stuff forward (believed to be a reference to the IFA helping with the Cubs sale) . . . someone’s gotta go to [Tribune Owner], we want to see him. . . it’s a political fuckin’ operation in there.” …

ROD BLAGOJEVICH said Tribune Owner should be told “maybe we can’t do this now. Fire those fuckers.” …

ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that “our recommendation is fire all those fucking people, get ‘em the fuck out of there and get us some editorial support.”…

Later, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that the Senate seat “is a fucking valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.” …

In regards to the Senate seat, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated “I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for fuckin’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there.” …

ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will put “[Senate Candidate 4]” in the Senate “before I just give fucking [Senate Candidate 1] a fucking Senate seat and I don’t get anything.” (Senate Candidate 4 is a Deputy Governor of the State of Illinois)….

ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint “[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I’ll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5].”…

Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.”…

Governor Blagojevich arrested!

"U.S. Attorney's office spokesman Randall Samborn says both Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested Tuesday."

AND: The Chicago Tribune published this article shortly before the news of the arrest broke:
A three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration has expanded to include his impending selection of a new U.S. senator to succeed President-elect Barack Obama, the Tribune has learned.

Federal authorities got approval from a judge before the November general election to secretly record the governor, sources told the Tribune, and among their concerns was whether the selection process might be tainted. That possibility has become a focus in an intensifying investigation that has included recordings of the governor and the cooperation of one of his closest friends....

"I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me," the governor said.
Nothing but sunshine ... the better to cast long shadows.

UPDATE: Some details:
As Mr. Blagojevich mulled the Senate appointment, prosecutors say, he discussed gaining “a substantial salary” at a nonprofit foundation or organization connected to labor unions, placing his wife on corporate boards where she might earn as much as $150,000 a year and trying to gain promises of campaign money, or even a cabinet post or ambassadorship, for himself.

A 76-page affidavit from the United States Attorney’s office in Northern Illinois says Mr. Blagojevich was heard on wiretaps over the last month planning to “sell or trade Illinois’ United States Senate seat vacated by Pres-elect Barack Obama for financial and personal benefits for himself and his wife.”...

Under Illinois law, Mr. Blagojevich has sole authority to fill the seat being vacated by Mr. Obama, who was elected to the Senate in 2004.

According to the statement from prosecutors, Mr. Blagojevich told an adviser last week that he might “get some (money) upfront, maybe” from one of the candidates hoping to replace Mr. Obama. That person was identified only as “Candidate 5.”
So who is this Candidate 5?

AND: Feast your eyes on the criminal complaint, which quotes Blago saying the Senate seat "is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."

"A boffin provides a video demonstration of how the gadget mixes real-life ambient sounds with music."

A boffin? I learn a new word from Clive Davis, who noticed this post of mine promoting the iPhone app RjDj. Clive is not ready to abandon the natural ambient sound of the real world.

Yesterday, I made a video clip -- intending to overlay the video with the soundtrack I was hearing as I spoke. But I forgot to record the sound, and anyway, I think it's interesting to see how utterly foolish I look trying to speak while hearing my voice processed through this program. The old post highlights the boffin's line "That is something very similar to the effect of drugs." He's describing the subjective effect on the person listening to the sound produced by the app. But this video clip shows that it makes the listener look mentally disabled in a manner very similar to the effect of drugs. [The loss of synch at the first edit is unintentional and not meant to demonstrate anything. Sorry for the additional disorientation!]

Notice the addition I put on the old post earlier this morning:
I realized that running this app into your own ears is like imposing a "Harrison Bergeron" program on yourself. Are some children smarter than others? Let them listen to the teacher through "Echolon."
You know what I mean by "Harrison Bergeron"? It's a Kurt Vonnegut story, and that Wikipedia link above, has this link to the full text of the story. It's pretty short, and I think it's pretty important to upload it into your brain for future reference. Yesterday, we were talking about "book groups" and Ron -- "Please, mum, can I be frontpaged for no reason at all? Or would that be ef-frontery?" -- said:
Maybe we could do this here on Althouse. Ann picks a book, we read it, and live-blog our agreed-upon discussion...

... and, hell, we could still get drunk and live blog our bitching about our spouses!
Well, far be it from me to impose a big old book on everyone when this blog is all about disorienting shuttling from one thing to another, but I will call an instant story club on "Henry Bergeron." It begins like this:
THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh?” said George.

“That dance – it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good – no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel, a little envious. “All the things they think up.”
Don't worry, Hazel. You can download RjDj into your iPhone. It's really interesting, hearing all the different sounds....

ADDED: Clive Davis emails:
Very funny video, Ann.

Maybe the nearest equivalent to the B-word is "rocket scientist", a term which is causing some dissension at the Daily Dish today. The only time you see "boffin" in print nowadays is in newspaper headlines - much like "fillip".
In England, periods and commas refuse to be caged in by quotation marks.

"Manhattan, Kansas can finally (finally!) coordinate the traffic lights on Fort Riley Boulevard for a measly $71,250..."

Nick Gillespie is horrified at "the infrastructure flim-flam."

"If politicians want their religious lives to remain private, then they can do the rest of us the favor of not talking so much about them."

Isaac Chotiner says it's fair to write articles about Barack Obama's failure to go to church, since he used religiosity to get elected.

It's a "Snow Action Day" here at the University of Wisconsin.

As the first commenter here puts it: "All the pomp and circumstance of a snow day but none of the canceled classes. Er… cool?"

At the Law School, it's exam time. The students have been told that exams will go forward, unless campus is closed and that virtually never happens.

You may imagine that Madison is a place where government nannies coddle the populace, but when it comes to facing winter, we are hardcore northerners. No whining. Be tough. Deal with it. We don't submit to Nature. We're having a Snow Action Day.

December 8, 2008

The pussy willows look like snow.


"Is it literally true, the Bible?"

"You know. Probably not."

President Bush answers a question.

He continues:
No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament, for example is ... has got ... You know, the important lesson is "God sent a son." That God in the flesh, that mankind can understand there is a God who is full of grace and that nothing you can do to earn his love. His love is a gift and that in order to draw closer to God and in order to express your appreciation for that love is why you change your behavior.

So you can read the Bible and not take it literally. I mean you can -- it's not inconsistent to love the Bible and believe in evolution, say.

Yeah, I mean, I do. I mean, evolution is an interesting subject. I happen to believe that evolution doesn't fully explain the mystery of life and ...

But do you believe in it?

Well, I think you can have both. I think evolution can -- you're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president. But it's, I think that God created the earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an [A]lmighty and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution.
"I'm just a simple president."

"McCain Wins Wal-Mart Shoppers, But Obama Prevailed at Target, Macy's, Costco & JC Penney."

Says Zogby. McCain also got Sears and Kohl's. And Obama got Nieman Marcus and Bloomingdale's. Make of it what you will.

Are you defined by a store? The poll subjects had to pick one store from a list.

"Who knew a book group could be such a soap opera?"

"You’d think it would just be about the book. But wherever I go, people want to talk to me about the infighting and the politics."

Who knew? Everyone should have known.

Thai pavilion in the snow.

The aesthetics did not evolve in this climate:

Thai pavilion in the snow

But I think it looks pretty nonetheless.

And here's the Thai sculpture fighting off the snow:


ADDED: In happier days.

NOTE: Second photo cropped and tweaked. Here's what was there before.

"The dopiness of so-called ecotainment -- environmentally virtuous entertainment -- rises in direct proportion to its message-mongering."

Writes Scott Brown, who generally loves "movies about the environment, especially ecological-disaster flicks—oh, the hilarity!"
From the atomic-paranoia-fueled Pandora's boxes of the '50s (Them!, Godzilla) and the hapless "nature's revenge" flicks of the Love Canal era (The Swarm, Piranha) to the budget-busting disaster epic (2004's The Day After Tomorrow, best remembered for a scene in which Climate Change implacably pursues Jake Gyllenhaal), commercial attempts to put a high-minded, hortatory gloss on schlocky genre cinema are always good for a guffaw. My favorite would have to be Frogs, the 1972 "thriller" whose trailer intoned, "Suppose nature gave a war ... and everybody came?" (That's good, but it should've read, "Suppose Hollywood covered aging Oscar-winner Ray Milland in confused, nonunion amphibians ... and everybody laughed?")

"Are computers and the Internet making people a little bit autistic?"

Asks John Elder Robison (who himself has Asperger's syndrome):
Autistic people are set apart because we don't get the emotional signals from others to trigger the response and learning process. Therefore, even though we can learn many social interactions, they don't come naturally to us. And we're always awkward because we're blind to the triggers that are automatic in neurotypical people.

I submit that something similar is happening with America's youth, for a different reason.

Today's kids spend more and more time in front of computers, and more and more of their communication is electronic. For every minute spent in front of a computer, a minute interacting with other people face to face is lost. As a result, today's kids are not learning the fine points of nonverbal interaction. They don't interact in person enough to acquire the skills....

As a person with Asperger's, I have always had great success when communicating by writing, because my limited ability to respond to nonverbal cues does not matter in the written domain. You readers can't see my face . . . you only read my words. I'm grateful that I have the gift of writing in a clear and articulate manner. It's given me communication success that I could never have enjoyed otherwise.

But to me, written interaction is not enough. In my last blog post, I wrote of my sense of aloneness, and my desire to join the community of mankind. To me, that is only done in person. I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that everyone felt that way, but now I'm not sure . . .
Here's that last blog post:
For much of my life, I've carried a burden of sadness....

But I also know I am part of the community of humans, and therein lies the problem.... I cannot sense another person's joy or acceptance. Instead, I must deduce those feelings from careful observation....

Yet I want to know them. I want to be part of human society....
He must wonder why people who are not autistic distance themselves from the physical presence of other human beings by using writing -- even as they reach out to each other through the internet. One thing is that we see and experience so much feeling when we look each other in the face that we need the alternative of written communication to sort out what we really think and believe and care about. When you are in a group, you tend to go along with the group, to laugh at their jokes, to accept what they accept and to be outraged at what outrages them. You can lose track of whether you are trying to be pleasant and have a good experience or whether you really do mirror your friends and colleagues. The time spent in solitary thought and writing is tremendously important.

Robinson -- who is the brother of the writer Augusten Burroughs -- has written a good book about his condition called "Look Me in the Eye." There's a video clip at that link with Burroughs interviewing Robinson.

The Supreme Court is not interested in clearing up the noncontroversy about whether Barack Obama is a "natural born citizen."

"In a brief order, the Court, as expected, turned aside a New Jersey voter’s plea for the Court to determine if President-elect Barack Obama was qualified to run for the White House — that is whether he was a “natural born citizen.” The stay application came in the case of Donofrio v. Wells, Secretary of State of New Jersey (08A407). This marked the second time in recent weeks for the Court to turn aside such a challenge; the first came on Nov. 3, in Berg v. Obama (08A391). The Court, in neither instance, gave reasons for turning down the applications."

Doubters will have to nurse their doubts on their own for all eternity. Tough luck, you nutty skeptics! Meanwhile, life goes on. Barack Obama will be President. Deal with it.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants tell the judge they want to confess and plead guilty.

"We all five have reached an agreement to request from the commission an immediate hearing session in order to announce our confessions ... with our earnest desire in this regard without being under any kind of pressure, threat, intimidations or promise from any party."

That's the note sent to the military judge during the pretrial hearings at Guantanamo.

MORE: William Glaberson sheds some light on the possible strategy of pleading guilty now:
Many people inside and outside the government expect President-elect Obama to close down the military commissions that have been used by the Bush administration, and to direct that many detainees now held in Guantánamo Bay be prosecuted instead in the civilian American legal system.

If that indeed happens in the first days of the Obama administration, then Monday’s proceedings will have been the detainees’ last opportunity to challenge the widely criticized system here with guilty pleas that could yield them the opportunity for what they see as martyrdom.

Warehouses full of unsaleable recyclables.

And was this not predictable?
“We’re warehousing it and warehousing it and warehousing it,” said Johnny Gold, senior vice president at the Newark Group, a company that has 13 recycling plants across the country. Mr. Gold said the industry had seen downturns before but not like this. “We never saw this coming.”...

The downturn offers some insight into the forces behind the recycling boom of recent years. Environmentally conscious consumers have been able to pat themselves on the back and feel good about sorting their recycling and putting it on the curb. But most recycling programs have been driven as much by raw economics as by activism.

Cities and their contractors made recycling easy in part because there was money to be made. Businesses, too — like grocery chains and other retailers — have profited by recycling thousands of tons of materials like cardboard each month.

But the drop in prices has made the profits shrink, or even disappear, undermining one rationale for recycling programs and their costly infrastructure.
Isn't this revisionism? I remember reading all along that recycling was not the economic benefit it was cracked up to be.

The L.A. Times goes after 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski again.

Click the "Kozinski" tag if you don't remember the previous controversy. Now, the same reporter, Scott Glover, has a story about an email list run by Kozinski -- joined by accepting his invitation -- that sent out various humor items:
On the gag list, Kozinski periodically distributed jokes to a group of friends and associates, including his law clerks, colleagues on the federal bench, prominent attorneys and journalists. The jokes he sent ranged from silly to politically oriented to raunchy....

Do Kozinski's actions indicate a lack of judgment or are they merely the harmless expression of a free-spirited man who happens to be a highly regarded judge?
Patterico is not amused: Who cares what humor someone sends around to a willing group of friends? "To some, jokes like this are funny. To others, they’re annoying and tasteless... [I]t’s just not something that merits coverage in a newspaper," he says.

But wait. If the email went around to a lot of judges and it is truly offensive, I care! What if most or all of the recipients were men and much of the humor was demeaning to women? That would matter. What if it was full of racial and religious stereotypes? That would matter. You know people by what they think is funny. If there is insight to be had into the minds of judges, I want it! These people are trusted with immense power, and the federal judges have life tenure. Don't coddle them.

Now, let's go back to Glover's article and see whether he's found the kind of humor that I say matters:
The Times was given 13 jokes by three sources that were circulated on the gag list between 2003 and 2008.

One joke sent last spring poked fun at the Taliban, stating, "You may be a Taliban if ..." any of the following 12 statements are true. Among the statements: "You own a $3,000 machine gun and $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can't afford shoes" and "You wipe your butt with your bare left hand, but consider bacon 'unclean.' "...

The most graphic joke was set up as a three-page letter ostensibly written by a man to his estranged wife. The man sarcastically tells his wife that he still loves and misses her while at the same time detailing his recent sexual escapades with a young student, a single mother and his wife's younger sister. The single mom, the man says, acts like "a real woman . . . [who is] not hung up about God and her career and whether the kids can hear us."
Does this rise to the level that I've said matters? No.

But does that mean that the L.A. Times was wrong to publish this article? I'd say no to that too. I don't think it's important to publish this article. If federal judges were circulating racist jokes, it would be wrong to suppress it to protect these elite and insulated individuals. But that doesn't mean that it's wrong to share this insight into judicial minds. There was no prying into their private lives, no stalking or trickery.

Patterico places great emphasis on the fact that list membership was voluntary. There are 2 reasons why this doesn't make it all okay. The first I've already stated. The minds of judges affect the public, so it's good to have evidence of what those minds are really like. Just as I want news reports of things politicians accidentally say into a live microphone when they think they are speaking privately, I want to know what judges find funny when they talk -- or email -- amongst themselves.

The second reason appears in Glover's article:
Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School and former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, was skeptical that those who found jokes on the list offensive would necessarily complain, given Kozinski's commanding stature in the legal community.

"If you're ambitious, he's the last person you want to offend," she said.
It's just too hard to say no and, having said yes, to say take me off your list.


And, by the way, didn't sending jokes around to all your friends become completely uncool more than a decade ago? Why didn't Kozinski realize he was spamming everybody?