Begging The Question
Friday, January 23, 2004
This story notes that NBC will no longer run an ad calling "Friends" the "best comedy ever." Most of the story focuses on Kelsey Grammer being miffed at the "Fraiser" dis, but I liked this nugget from CBS chief Les Moonves:
OK, leave aside the fact that "The Simpsons" didn't make his list, which is just wrong. But "Raymond"?!? Come on! I like "Raymond" fine, and I know Moonves wants to talk up the CBS comedy keystone (and note that almost all the other shows he cites were CBS shows, too). But "Raymond" among the eight best comedies ever? That's just crazy talk.
I saw something interesting yesterday. Sometimes when I'm in the library, my eye catches something on the spines of the Federal Reporters. (Note to non-lawyers: the Federal Reporters are a collection of judicial decisions. They also sometimes include transcripts of ceremonies like courthouse dedications, portrait unveilings, memorial services, etc. These are listed on the spine of the volume.) Anyway, I read the report from Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood's 1995 investiture ceremony, located at the beginning of volume 72 of the Federal Reporter, 3d series.
Judge Wood had a very strong background in international law before her appointment. In introducing her, then-Chief Judge Richard Posner had the following to say, which I found interesting given recent controversy over the Supreme Court's citation of foreign law in the Atkins and Lawrence cases:
I can hear the Feddies now: "You say 'provincialism' like it's a bad thing!" And I'm not arguing that everything Posner says is pure gold everyone should obey. I'm not really arguing anything. I guess I just wanted to point out this interesting perspective, and also note that it was a matter of debate well before Atkins and Lawrence.
Also, reading these pefatory ceremonies in the reporters is a nice way to waste time because it looks like you're reading cases. The portrait unveilings are always fun because judges like to joke about "getting hung." You get to read fun stories about judges and see them speak in a fairly candid manner sometimes. The worst are the ones where a judge has an axe to grind, or acts at an investiture that he or she was destined for the lifetime appointment, and could barely stand to suffer the fools who only now realized his or her brilliance. (It happens plenty.) One of the judges on the court for which I work commented to me once that "A person who thinks it's his destiny to be a federal judge probably isn't the kind of person we want in the judiciary anyway." Hear, hear.
I missed the Democratic debate last night. Fortunately, Jeremy Blachman over at En Banc read the transcript and has posted his commentary here. My favorite line comes from Al Sharpton: "I wanted to say to Governor Dean, don't be hard on yourself about hooting and hollering. If I had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I'd still be in Iowa hooting and hollering." Amen, Reverend.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
I haven't been blogging too much recently. Part of that is because I have been extra busy at work, but I have a story to tell about another reason. But first, two asides.
1. This story is about a woman, and since I'm all about anonymity, I'll give her the pseudonym Kate. The reason for giving her that name is that this story is about regret, even though I'm the kind of guy who usually just swims along and doesn't worry too much about things I can't change. But a girl I knew in high school named Kate is the source of one of my biggest regrets. She was a really cool girl, and I liked her a lot. I got the sense that she liked me (I got that sense a lot in high school, but this time it was justified), and I asked her out. We went to see The Last of the Mohicans. I had a great time....and I never asked her out again. Instead I got back together with the girl I dated most of the way through high school and into college. (Aside within an aside: Even though her name is Angie, the song that reminds me most of her is not the Rolling Stones' Angie but Led Zeppelin's Tangerine.) Angie dumped me in a most vicious manner some time later, and I always regretted not asking Kate out on a second date. Kate, if you're reading this, give me another chance! Anyway, that's why I'm using the pseudonym Kate for this story.
2. "Love" is the worst word in the English language. But that's a-whole-nother post.
OK, so this is what happened.
When I get all cynical about love when I'm talking to my friends (all of whom seem to be in relationships despite not being nearly as cool as me), I sometimes point out that it has been so long since my last real date that it's easier at this point to measure not in months or even years but decades. So, long story short (too late! -- ed.), I was in an online chat room. Don't worry, it wasn't devoted to some freaky sex topic (work safe, and funny when taken out of context). It was one of these regional things. I was hoping maybe to meet a girl in the area.
Well, anyway, this girl (Kate) sends me a message and we get to chatting. And we really hit it off -- we chatted for hours. She's getting her master's degree in Public Administration (a wonk! what luck!), she's witty and cute and very into politics (Democrat!), and even liked talking to your humble author. In short, after talking with her a lot over the course of a few weeks, I decided that Kate had just about every quality I was looking for in a woman except one big one: proximity.
For you see, Gentle Reader, Kate does not live near me. She has friends here and will probably eventually pursue a career here and she doesn't like chatting with the folks from her region who go to that chat host. In fact, Kate lives about 1000 freaking miles from me. But, as luck/fate/whatever would have it, she lives about four hours away from the city where I will be moving in August to start my next job.
Let's just pause a moment to take this in. Here I was, the proverbial needle-hunter in the Haystack chat room, looking for a smart, funny, cute, cool woman -- and I found one! As my mountain forebears would say, Even a blind hog finds an acorn sometimes. Well, soooiee! And even though she didn't live anywhere near me, she did live fairly close to where I'm moving. I was actually starting to believe in all those treacly aphorisms about how it's all about destiny or fate or how "it happens when you're not looking" or all those others I just loathe most of the time. But how else to explain it?
Anyway, I really like her; she's great. And I've never hit it off so well with someone when starting from scratch. So, after a lot more talking, we started talking about meeting in person. At first we considered her spring break week. But I don't think either one of us wanted to wait until then, and eventually I suggested coming down the weekend before Presidents' Day (I have the holiday off anyway). I knew I was going to have to make a trip or three to my future home to scout out living quarters, so the plan was to spend a few days there doing that, and then drive to Kate's city for, well, a date.
Being a guy, and a zealously single one at that, I hadn't looked at the calendar or thought about another certain February holiday before making this suggestion, but Kate knew: "You're going to be here on Valentine's Day?!?" When Fitz heard that I floated this trial balloon, he went into "Danger, Will Robinson!" mode. But it turned out okay -- she thought it was a good idea, and she started planning all the things we could do with a day to kill in her city.
But I guess I can't handle success or something. I should have been making preparations like buying plane tickets and making hotel reservations. And I should have been getting excited about having a first date with such a great person on Valentine's Day, of all days (even though I knew I was going to get gouged on flowers).
We hadn't had a chance to talk in a few days, and I had been doing a lot of thinking. And then tonight when she called, she asked me if I had bought the plane tickets yet. And at that moment, I held it all in my hands...and I let it go. My natural tendency is to overthink, overrationalize, overanalyze, and overtalk everything. (Exhibit A: this post.) But tonight, to my credit I think, I didn't. I gave it to her straight: I don't want to be in a long-distance relationship. The absolute best-case scenario I could map out had us meeting in person maybe four times in the next eight months. After that, she will probably live close to where I am now, and I will live close to where she is now. An Alanis Morissette song comes to mind.
When it came down to it, I couldn't pull the trigger. I guess I'm looking for something more -- or at least different -- than a bunch of phone calls and seeing each other every two months. And the crazy thing is that I still really like her. If she lived in the same city as me -- hell, the same state! -- I would probably already be thinking of her as my girlfriend, in a sense. I certainly wouldn't be looking for other women. But then again, we probably would have had a few dates by now. And I liked her even more for how cool she was tonight about all this. I wasn't expecting sobbing hysterics, but I was expecting a little more "Huh?" and a little less "Ah." She seemed to understand my point of view.
The thing she said that really tore me up was, after I said I was looking for more than seeing her just a handful of times in the next year, "I guess I was just looking at it differently." She was totally willing to take a big gamble that something special might come of this. She knew that, after my year in her home state (I have a clerkship lined up there), I will probably come back to this area. I think she saw it as a year and a half of hassle, after which we would be in the same place finally.
I don't want you to think she was already picking out china patterns or anything; it wasn't like that. It was more that she was willing to be optimistic about our chances. My position is that it's easier to maintain a long-distance relationship that started out with the pair together than to begin a long-distance relationship in the hopes that eventually the distance won't be quite so vast. At that point she called me a "realist." To which I replied, "Maybe so. But people like you are the ones who find love, and people like me die alone." So, we promised to keep in touch periodically, and she encouraged me to seek her counsel once I move to her home state. Who knows if any of that will happen.
Yeah, I'm upset about this. To the extent that you could call it a "breakup," it hurts. I was surprised at how much of an emotional investment I was able to make based on several (dozen) three-hour phone calls. But what I'm most bothered by is the haunting specter of regret. Leaving aside the dreadful possibility that it's been so long that now I'm completely gun-shy towards women ("The horror! The horror!"), I'm worried that this will turn into another wound like Kate from high school. After all, what are the chances that I will have four dates with someone as cool as pseudo-Kate in the next eight months? (Although, to be fair, I won't have to fly 1000 miles for them if they happen, so I got that going for me, which is nice.)
So I go looking for some inspiring words to help me out and I find:
"I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations--one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it--you will regret both."
Anyway, all those long phone calls were a big reason I haven't been doing much blogging lately. Sorry if this was even more off-topic than our usual off-topic posts. (we have a topic? -- ed.) But as I've often said, this blog really started as emails among friends, and this is the kind of stuff I would have forced them to listen to. So, new friends, welcome aboard the crazy train. Tomorrow we will return to our regular programming.
Alternative post title: "F.U.? F.U.? It took me thirty minutes to realize that 'F.U.' meant Felix Unger!"
Michael Hastings has posted an article over at Slate on my least favorite Democratic presidential candidate. In the article, Hastings raises the question of whether Wesley Clark has ever seen Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine (note to readers: you can find a link to it without my help). The season's political odd couple, according to Hastings, is "the union of the Silver Star winner and the self-described peacenik."
Moore is an idiot. I could explain that in more detail, but I don't really feel it is necessary. And Moore's idiocy is not my point here. I write this post to again point out to the BTQ audience that Wesley Clark is either: (1) an idiot or (2) crazy. And he did not get a section 8 discharge so my money is finally on choice number 1. There. I have said it. No more dancing around the issue trying to remain balanced and trying to avoid the word "idiot."
What compels me to conclude that Wes Clark is an idiot? Well, for now let's focus on Hastings's article. To begin with, Clark accepted the endorsement of Michael Moore, whom Clark described as "a fantastic leader" and an "enormous talent." That is bad enough. But once you understand that, in his movie Bowling for Columbine, Moore blames NATO's bombing campaign in Kosovo - thus implicitly blaming the then commander of NATO General Clark - for the Columbine shootings, you really must question Clark's sanity and/or intelligence.
Most candidates, even Dennis Kucinich, would balk at the idea of accepting the endorsement of someone who accused the candidate of fomenting murder. Does it bother Wesley Clark? Nah. According to a campaign aide, he 'doesn't "pre-screen the views" of all who support him.' In principle I understand that a candidate and his supporters need not see eye-to-eye on all issues. But perhaps when the supporter thinks you are a murderer you might consider kindly declining the offer of an endorsement.
With the lack of a screening process and an absence of good judgment, I wonder which other "fantastic leaders" and "enormous talents" we should expect to endorse the Clark campaign in the coming weeks? I am leaning toward Kim Jong Il, Britney Spears (Madonna has already endorsed him), and Slobodan Milosevic.
Candidate Clark, you have fooled some people so far, but with BTQ as my soapbox I will continue to spread the word that you are an idiot - Rhodes scholar or not. And if you make it to the Virginia primary mine is one vote you will not be getting. I know, I know, you would like my endorsement even though we don't see eye-to-eye. Fortunately, I do have a screening process.
The alternative post title is a line from Neil Simon's The Odd Couple which came to me after reading Mr. Hasting's description of Moore and Clark as the season's political odd couple.
Via Larry Solum's indispensible Legal Theory Blog, I see that Professor Barbara Fried of Stanford has a new article called Begging the Question With Style. I can only understand it well enough to know that it is not about BTQ. (It is actually an analysis of Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia if you're that interested.)
Still, it's a nice title. How many other blogs find their names showing up in academic literature? Yeah, we rock. Oh, pardon me -- we rock with style.
Here is a good example of how busy I have been. Last week I missed this humorous Jack Balkin post titled "Top Ten Reasons Why Bush Wants to Go to Mars."
My favorite: President thinks it would be really cool to dress up in space suit and shout "Mission Accomplished!"
I just had an image of the wackiness that might ensue: "Jinx put Bush in space!" (All right, that's a pretty obscure reference, but I think that's an underappreciated movie.)
As you may suspect by now, all I'm really doing here is posting on something -- anything -- instead of working. And I find it more entertaining than discussing etiquette and revolving doors.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
My apologies for the boring post title.
It boggles the mind that Wesley Clark has any kind of serious support. His little display on CNN Monday night just confirmed that for me.
I can hardly bring myself to check National Review Online's The Corner more than once a day. The quality of the content (I know, I know, "Hello Teapot, my name is Kettle") has been in steady decline since I began checking the site. The Corner's zenith was probably sometime around March - May of last year during the Iraq war. Anyway, on my one check through there yesterday I found a link to CNN's transcript of an exchange between former Senator Bob Dole and former general Wesley Clark on the Larry King Show on Monday night. It is too bad I cannot get an audio file of this, because Dole was masterful and Clark was shrill, self-centered, and not-ready-for-prime-time. Here is a little taste of what transpired:
DOLE: No, I think, you know, it's a tough -- you indicated it's a tough business you're in. Looking at it from my perspective, it seemed to me that John Kerry is a big winner tonight, not just in Iowa but also New Hampshire. I know you can't worry about Kerry's campaign but just as an observer I think he's going to benefit a great deal in New Hampshire. Somebody has to lose. Now, of course, you don't want it to be you but I think it may be you.
Score one for the Viagra spokesman - he laid the smack down on Clark. And more to the point, he was right. Kerry's win in Iowa really does make him the presumptive favorite in New Hampshire now. Clark failed to realize that - all Clark could do was huff and puff about Kosovo (which I still do not believe was a victory) and outranking Kerry. He was one step away from screaming "Look at me ! I am a general! I was a Rhodes Scholar! That means you have to vote for me! Me me me me me me!" (insert H-bomb's caucus night primal scream here)
I don't want to believe that the guy is crazy. For now, I will chalk it up to being really dense or so sensitive about comparisons between his military career and John Kerry's that he could not distinguish analogy from reality. That is still pretty discouraging. But then I look at his platform and I am even more discouraged (and more inclined to go with "Clark is crazy" over "Clark is really dense"). On domestic policy grounds he has not given me anything to get excited about except "I know all of the domestic issues" (Really? I know them too, but that does not mean I understand them or that I have a plan for them, or that my plans are superior to my adversaries' plans) and an abortion stance that only Jack Kevorkian could embrace. He says he wouldn't use litmus tests in deciding which candidates he would nominate to the federal bench, then in the same interview tells us that he would never appoint a pro-life judge. Regarding the war on terrorism he promised us that he would have captured Osama years ago and that he would have prevented the September 11th attacks AND would never let another major terrorist attack occur in the U.S.!* Prior to the Iraq war he gave us perhaps the most persuasive case for war and then renounced it (then didn't, then did again) once he became a candidate. And you want to be my latex salesman? To borrow a phrase from Jerry Seinfeld, "I don't think so."
What scares me most about Clark is that several of my moderate and conservative friends are actually considering voting for this guy if he becomes the Democratic nominee because they just love a man in uniform.
*Note to candidate Clark: I promised chocolate milk everyday in the cafeteria, bumper cars on the playground, and jets to fly us to school when I ran for fifth-grade class president in 1985. I learned the hard way that wild promises about things you have absolutely no ability to deliver do not win elections - even when you only have to convince a bunch of fifth graders.
EDIT: Although the Corner is in danger of losing me as a faithful reader, Don Luskin and his Krugman Truth Squad will not lose me. I love the KTS!
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Two of my favorite blogs are celebrating their one-year anniversaries this week. Steve Minor's Southwest Virginia Law Blog and Eric Muller's Is That Legal? have both reached a milestone that I suppose marks them as old hands in this new medium. There are other blogs that get more traffic, but these two are as good as any out there.
Minor is a lawyer for a firm in the border town of Bristol, and Muller is a professor at North Carolina. I have some ties in my past to both regions, and it's nice to hear about what's going on in the old stomping grounds. But both authors discuss all sorts of issues, and I think both are worth reading even if you don't care about what the Virginia Supreme Court is up to or whether Chapel Hill is going to punish red-light runners civilly or criminally.
I won't go on and on, and I won't comment on every anniversary of every blog I enjoy reading. But I've been doing this for a couple of months now, and I hope that a year after I started, I can be as good at it as Minor and Muller are at what they do.
Now that "Comeback" Kerry has reestablished his frontrunner status with a solid win in the Iowa caucuses he must turn to New Hampshire and a new contender: former-general-turned-politician Wesley Clark. Kerry and Clark focus their campaigns around a similar theme: my record as a war hero gives me the national security credentials to go head-to-head with President Bush. The advantage here goes to Clark, though, because his experience is more recent (the "victory" in the Kosovo campaign) and because he was a general (and the job of a general, according to Postmaster General Henry Atkins, is "to by God get things done"). Clark also has the advantage of having devoted the last several weeks to New Hampshire while the other major candidates focused on Iowa.
But Clark has a serious problem in that he cannot make up his mind about where he stands on the war in Iraq. Candidate Clark has been all over the map, from supporting the war to being strongly opposed to it. But General Clark was not all over the map. Here are some excerpts (via Drudge and WaPo) of his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee about 18 months prior to the invasion of Iraq:
There's no requirement to have any doctrine here. I mean this is simply a longstanding right of the United States and other nations to take the actions they deem necessary in their self defense.
Wow. General Clark's testimony before Congress was one of the most eloquent presentations of the Administration's case for war - better than anything the President ever said, and better even than Colin Powell's presentation to the UN. So how will he reconcile his testimony with his current anti-war position? I am curious to see how he spins it because I only see two options for him: (1) admit he lied before Congress or (2) accuse the Administration, the Pentagon, and the CIA of deceiving him and using him to present false information to Congress. What attractive choices!
Here is the real point of this post though: I am curious to see how "Comeback" Kerry spins this, because I think the situation offers him an opportunity to torpedo the Clark campaign. Kerry has an opportunity to complete his "Clark is really a Republican" message by telling the voters that he voted for the war in part based on information provided to Congress by General Clark! Granted, Clark testified before the House not the Senate, but that is not an obstacle to Kerry's presenting Clark as in cahoots with the Administration in leading America into an unnecessary war. I think there is potential to deal serious damage to Clark by portraying Clark and President Bush and the neo-cons as the persons responsible for Kerry's vote in favor of the war and his current anti-war position. Kerry can deflect all the criticism of his waffling by telling the voters that it was Clark who convinced him to vote for the war and tell them to ask Clark why he changed his tune.
I happen to think that this is a smart (if opportunistic) move that Kerry should make,* though I could be wrong. Milbarge doesn't think the Kerry campaign is smart enough to come up with this on their own and I am sure plenty of people could explain to me why this would not work. So here is your chance. Tell me why Kerry should not lay the blame for his Iraq war vote on General Clark.
*Understand that I don't happen to think that Kerry's anti-war stance is the correct one, nor do I think it would be absolutely truthful for him to blame Clark for his pro-war vote. I think Joe Lieberman, and to a lesser extent Dick Gephardt, have taken the correct positions on the Iraq war. But this post is not about who is right and who is wrong. The strategy I propose above is about primary politics (like telling Iowans that you favor ethanol subsidies) and in no way should be construed as an endorsement of Kerry's position on the war.
Alternative post title: Iowans prefer the F-bomb to the H-bomb by 2 to 1 margin
So John Kerry, John Edwards, and Howard Dean all claimed victory in the Iowa caucuses (big surprise), while Dick Gephardt reportedly will announce today that his candidacy is over. That is too bad, because Gephardt, for all his pro-union flaws, has been fairly consistent in his position on the war in Iraq and he had the courage to vote for the $87 billion to finance Iraqi reconstruction. I am not saying I would have wanted to see a President Gephardt (egads!), but I would like to have seen him stay in the race a little longer.
Now, I am not sure how finishing a distant third in Iowa constitutes a victory for frontrunner Dean (hereinafter "H-bomb") -- Sen. Harkin summed it up this way at the H-bomb 'victory' rally, "Iowa has traditionally written three tickets out of here and we are on that ticket!" Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, that was a rousing victory speech if ever I heard one! What I am sure of is that the Democratic party owes a debt of thanks to Dick Gephardt for knocking H-bomb out of contention at the expense of his own campaign. Gephardt's attack ads hurt H-bomb even among his "hardcore" supporters (query how hardcore they really were if they abandoned ship after seeing a couple of TV spots). Joe Trippi absolved the H-bomb campaign (aka himself) of any blame for the abysmal third-place finish and blamed it all on Gephardt going negative. For now I'll put aside any comments about Trippi washing his hands of failure and just congratulate Gephardt on doing what was right for the party and the country. H-bomb has absolutely no chance of beating President Bush and the sooner the angry left figures that out and rejects him in favor of a candidate who can offer some competition the better. The last thing we need in this country is for President Bush to breeze past the finish line in November without Karl Rove even breaking a sweat. The Dems need to offer a candidate who will force President Bush to earn his victory -- it is simply better for the Republic. H-bomb is not the guy who can do that and I am thankful that Gephardt convinced Iowans of that fact. Hopefully the voters in New Hampshire were paying attention last night.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Today's Random Thoughts:
1. Today's lyrics in my head:
"But anyone who ever had a heart,
They wouldn't turn around and break it.
And anyone who ever played a part,
They wouldn't turn around and hate it."
--Velvet Underground, Sweet Jane
"And she was lying in the grass,
And she could hear the highway breathing."
--Talking Heads, And She Was
Thank you, VH1 Classic. (Motto: More mullets per capita than any other channel on television.)
2. I don't know if Howard and Mr. P are "Eggles" fans, but I'm predicting a Panthers upset today. By the way, speaking of conference championship football games, I don't really care who wins, but I know some people who do. The folks in Tennessee still love Peyton Manning so much, the Indianapolis Colts' radio network includes stations in towns and cities all over Indiana, plus one in northeast Tennessee near Knoxville. He is still their fair-haired golden boy. (Thinking of Knoxville always reminds me of my favorite Simpsons episode, which includes the chant "Knoxville! Knoxville! Knoxville!" and provided the title of this post.)
3. I saw that the Kevin Costner/Robert Duvall movie Open Range is coming out on DVD this week. I saw it in the theater with Fitz-Hume, and I liked it. It has some flaws, but if you like westerns, you should see it. I hope it doesn't give anything away to let you know that the climax of the film involves a gunfight, but I thought it was very well done.
4. Why is it that pizza delivery guys never freaking ever have a pen?
5. I know I'm late coming to this bandwagon, but Curb Your Enthusiasm is a darn funny show. In this season's opener, Larry reminded his wife of her promise to him just before they married ten years ago: If they made it ten years, he could sleep with another woman. Now she has practically challenged him to do it if he thinks he can get another woman. I predict much hilarity. I'm not saying I'm looking for a similar promise in my pre-nup, but it reminds me....
6. After vacillating a bit, I finally filled out a profile on Match.com, complete with picture and interests and the whole shebang. (At first, I typed Math.com, which I suspect is a much less successful dating site.) I did that last night, and it's already been viewed twice, although for all I know that was by the staff to make sure I didn't use any "inappropriate language." Anyway, as an inside joke to any BTQ readers who stumble across it during a drunken game of "find the biggest loser," I said my favorite movie was Spies Like Us.
7. Today is my birthday. Please -- no congrats. All I did was not die for a year. One good thing about senility: Two grandmothers = three birthday cards. Sweet.
8. Here's something I've been thinking about. What is the best song whose the title does not appear in the lyrics? My nominee is The Who's Baba O'Riley. Led Zeppelin seemed to have a bunch of these: Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, Black Dog, and Over the Hills and Far Away come to mind. I'm sure I'm forgetting some really great songs, so let me know. The rules: instrumental songs don't count, of course; adding "The Ballad of" or "Blues" or "Theme" or "Song" to words that do appear in the lyrics doesn't count. Something like Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen or Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues is probably okay. Anyway, feel free to chime in.