Begging The Question

Friday, January 30, 2004

Will Somebody Please Recruit Me?
ESPN's Bill Simmons is writing a "Super Blog" from Houston this week, gearing up for the Super Bowl. The other day, he mentioned a series of stories running in the Miami Herald. The newspaper is following a local all-state linebacker on his recruting visits to various colleges. He's done three so far, with one left before National Signing Day on February 4. In order (and they probably should be read in order), the kid went to Florida State, Auburn, and Miami, with a trip to Florida coming next week.

I find it hard to comment on these pieces. If you're not familiar with some of the things these schools will do to lure recruits, you might be surprised. Nothing here is as bad as allegations that the University of Colorado used sex parties to entice recruits, but the sheer excess is jaw-dropping at times. Also, the kid's combination of naivete and sense of entitlement is humorous. I think my favorite moment is when a group of recruits is riding in a bus to the stadium, and the bus driver is running the red lights. Our hero is shocked and scared, and thinks the police are trying to pull over this crazy bus driver, until the coach tells him that the police are actually escorting the bus through traffic.

Anyway, it's an interesting and funny set of stories, and I'll try to remember to update it with the Florida trip (and the kid's choice) next week.

UPDATE, 2/3: The story of Willie's trip to the University of Florida is here. As usual, some funny stuff. Willie didn't like the "farm" sense he got at Gainesville, which isn't surprising after his take on Auburn. My favorite line: When offered alligator tail at dinner, Willie declares, "'Some guy kept trying to get me to eat these alligator tails, but I wasn't having it. I told him 'I'm not the Crocodile Hunter.' I don't touch reptiles.'''

So, now it's down to FSU and Miami, with the decision to come tomorrow. Stay tuned.

UPDATE, 2/4: As noted in the comments to this post, Williams has chosen Miami. The story is here. Good luck to him. And I sure hope the reporters on the 'Canes beat for the papers realize how great a source for quotes this guy is going to be.








Now We're Cookin' With Gas!
As you can see, we've moved to this new site. Sorry to make everyone adjust their links, but we'd do the same for you! Sadly, as yet we've lost the comments posted on the old site. The "Archives" link will take you to them, so never fear. We've imported some of our most recent posts so this one wouldn't feel so lonely.

We know that this is akin to a TV network moving your favorite show to a "new night and time!" We hope you don't forget us like I forget Ed now that he's moved to Fridays. Actually, that turned out to be a good thing for me, because I like That '70s Show too, and those used to be opposite each other, requiring advanced VCR programming. (I know, I need a TiVo.) Anyway, we're hoping that this move is just as fortuitous. To spice it up ("a very special BTQ"?), we're working on improving the "About" page, so you can get to know us better, and Mrs. Fitz-Hume is working on a logo. Once we get that set, we'll apply it to t-shirts and whatnot, allowing all you BTQ fans to adorn yourselves in BTQ paraphernalia. And, I'll have some actual content up soon, now that I've reached the light at the end of the tunnel at work.

For now, something to ponder. Did you ever notice that, in the movie Wargames, the computer at NORAD speaks in the same voice as the computer in Matthew Broderick's house, the one he has some ancient rotary-dial modem for? You remember: "Shall we play a game?" Was that the only voice-simulator on the market in 1983? Don't you think the Defense Department could have gotten a cooler-sounding voice, like James Earl Jones or somebody? No real point there; it's just been bugging me today.

Anyway, thanks for following us further into the blogosphere.



Thursday, January 29, 2004

We have moved!
BTQ has moved to a new home: http://beggingthequestion.com. Please adjust your links and bookmarks accordingly. Same great (*cough, cough*) content, just a different place. And no more annoying Google ads either.

The old archives are still accessible and any links to archived posts will still work. Not that anyone links to our posts, but if they did...





Right... It is all Joe Trippi's fault
CNN is running the story that Dr. Evil (his WWF pseudonym) has fired his campaign manager, Joe Trippi (interviewed here by Lawrence Lessig), and replaced him with Roy Neel, one of Al Gore's long-time male companions. This is surely the key to turning around the Dean campaign - except that if you listened to Dean's scream-free victory speech after the New Hampshire primary you might be confused by all this shuffling of personnel. After all, Dean told his crowd of supporters that they had returned the momentum to his campaign. With all this victory and momentum, why replace the chief of staff of your internet-based, anti-establishment, insurgent candidacy with a Washington insider like Neel? Especially when you just fired a man you have described as a genius? Oh, maybe the fact that Trippi has never backed a succesful candidate? Nah.



Wednesday, January 28, 2004

A Rant Deferred
I was going to go off on a big rant, but I've been stewing all day and don't have the energy. The gist of it was (1) I got a bad haircut; (2) I still don't like kids; (3) I really don't like drivers of big SUVs who flash their lights at me, on a residential street, covered in slush and ice, when I'm doing a mile or two over the speed limit, just because every road has to be their own little private Autobahn; (4) I've been up for about 36 hours and am a freaking zombie about now. Anyway, feel free to vent your own rant at me if you want. I'll be awake and back to blogging soon.

UPDATE, Thurs: Oh, and another thing. Now my computer is acting all crizappy on me. It won't let me use Internet Explorer at all, and then it tells me that I don't have any disk space. Even I know that downloading a dozen or so remixes of the Dean scream won't fill up my hard drive. So, between being super-busy at work and having computer troubles at home, I'm all out of sorts.

[We seem to have lost our Comments in the move. If you're desperate for the pearls of wisdom heaped upon this post, go here.]



Tuesday, January 27, 2004

They're Playing My Song
They announced this year's Oscar nominees today. (See Crescateer Amy's predictions, which look pretty spot-on to me.) In the "It's a pleasure just to be nominated" bunch, I was really happy to see "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" from A Mighty Wind nominated for Best Song. If you don't know it, it's the latest from Christ Guest & Co. (Best In Show, Waiting for Guffman). It's an homage to folk musicians from the '60s, filmed as a documentary of a reunion show. I didn't think it was as good as Best In Show, but that's a high standard. A Mighty Wind is plenty funny -- one of the best movies I saw in 2003. And, the soundtrack is great! It could stand alone as a solid folk album. Some of the songs are laugh-out-loud ridiculous ("Potato's in the Paddy Wagon," "Old Joe's Place") and some are a little overdone ("Skeletons of Quinto," "The Ballad of Bobby and June") -- but so were a lot of songs back then. All in all, you could convince a lot of people who like folk music that this album really did come out in the '60s. My favorite tune is "When You're Next to Me," but "Rainbow" is very good too. Both of those are by the fictional "Mitch and Mickey," who are really Eugene Levy and Annette O'Toole. "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" is a genuine love song that ought to be on the radio as often as something like, I don't know, "Dedicated to the One I Love" or "Leaving on a Jet Plane." If you think I'm nuts (and who doesn't by this point?), a review on the All Music Guide said, "The greatest testament to its success is that it works as a folk-pop album regardless of the film. It is funnier if you're in the joke, but that's not necessary to know if you just want to enjoy the music here on this splendid album."

Anyway, I doubt "Rainbow" will win here, but what I'm really stoked about is that during the Oscar telecast, they usually have performances of the nominated songs. I would love to see Levy and O'Toole in Mitch & Mickey get-up singing this one before an audience in the billions. Instead, it will probably get cut so we can get extra time for Sting to sing some Civil War campfire song from Cold Mountain. Here's hoping that Oscar gets that folky feeling.





Oh, The Humanity!



Founding Father Quiz
For the historically-minded among you, via Amanda at Crescat we are led to the "Which Founding Father Are You?" Quiz.

I'm not as into these guys (and the Founding Fathers were all guys, near as I can tell) as some are. Maybe it's a symptom of my liberalism that I don't revere these folks, although I do acknowledge that they did some great things. I think history is better, and more accessible, when we realize these folks had flaws, just like us, and I think that makes them more human and their accomplishments all the more noteworthy than if they were so many Collossi come down from Olympus who could do no wrong. (Don't start; I know I'm mixing metaphors like crazy.) Anyway, I would also like to point out this interesting article from Atlantic a few months ago entitled "Founders Chic." Acting like the Founders were more-than-human makes us think we can't do as much. Our problem is more likely to be that we won't get off our duff and do it. (And of course, here I'm talking about getting off one's duff for purposes of poltical revolution, rather than other potential duff-duster-offers, like love.)

By the way, according to the quiz, I am John Adams:

You are right more often than not, but can be irritating enough about it that people will tune you out even when they shouldn't. You enter a room more concerned that everyone acknowledge that you're right than that everyone like you. You tend to make few friends, but those you do make are closer than family.


Ouch. Sadly, probably more true than I would care to admit.

[For now at least, we have lost the Comments in the move to the new site. If you really want to see the Comments for this post, please go here.]





Fisking Governor Dean
A few days after The Scream, I opened my mailbox to find the smiling visage of Howard Dean (as the song used to go) on the cover of the Rolling Stone. He is this issue's interviewee, and boy, it is a doozy. I thought about taking it down piece-by-piece (a true fisking), but it really almost fisks itself. The link above is only an excerpt, so some of the quotes I discuss will only be found on paper. (I think I'm safely within fair use here, but note that I had to type a lot of this out myself, so spelling errors are mine.)

Let me say first that I like RS -- I've been a subscriber for years. And part of the reason for that was always their political coverage. You used to be able to get strong work from Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Hunter Thompson, and Tom Wolfe in there. P.J. O'Rourke used to provide some token conservatism. And that was back before Bill Greider went off the liberal deep end over at The Nation. But it has gone downhill fast. Now, it's all "Bush sucks, legalize drugs!" Okay, that's an oversimplification, and some of the national affairs coverage is still solid. But overall, I'm pretty glad that so few people are getting their politcal info from RS. After all, John Kerry dropped his f-bomb in these same pages, and it hardly made a ripple.

Anyway, the interview is credited to Will Dana and RSeditor and publisher Jann Wenner. I don't know anything about Dana, but Wenner is pretty liberal even for the media. So be assured that all the hilarity in this interview isn't confined to one side of the table. Also note that I skip to the good parts, largely a consequence of having to type it out.

In the glowing introduction to the interview, Dean is called "the year's most extraordinary political story." That's may well be true enough, but the authors go on to say that when Dean started his campaign, he "was launching the kind of candidacy that usually appeals to the kinds of liberals who write about politics, and no one else." Oh, I see: only liberals who write about politics are smart enough to see a diamond like Howard in most cases. I sure wish they would tell the rest of us next time.

"By the time the nation started paying attention [to what these brilliant liberals already knew], Dean was suddenly not just a guy running for the White House - he was an insurgent leader around whom a movement was coalescing, the first political leader to harness the power of the Internet." [...and thunder, and wind, and fire...they make him sounds like one of the X-Men]

"Unlike most politicians, who work hard to seem like your best friend, Dean, a physician by training, projects a refreshing quality of seeming not to really care if you like him." [Because, of course, that's exactly the quality one looks for in a doctor. And, haven't the liberals been all over George Bush for not caring if the leaders of other countries like him? Do they find that "refreshing"?]

[Denouncing Democrat attack ads against him, calling the people running them "unelectable"] "Because they're being funded by enormous special-interest groups -- we don't know who they are yet. That is the old Democratic Party, the Democratic Party that can't possibly win. If you're a politician who relies on special interests, trying to run against the president, who relies on special interests, you really don't have much of a case to be president." [But aren't the biggest Democratic special interest groups -- the unions -- supporting you, Howard? Okay, so maybe you're not "relying" on them the way you are on your internet legions, but it's not like you're turning down endorsements from unions.]

Here's a nice exchange:
Q: Why do you think the Democrats just rolled over for Bush?

A: I don't know, but there's something funny in the water in Washington, because they all rolled over when Newt Gingrich got elected Speaker of the House in 1994. And I was the first one who took a whack at him then, too. Everybody was just bowled over by Gingrich. I thought he was a house of cards.

Q: I'm assuming, once Bush came in, that you told your fellow Democrats to stand up to him. What was the reaction?

A: They didn't pay any attention. I was this governor from Vermont. What did they care? The currency in Washington is "Can you get reelected?" It's not my currency -- I want to change the country.

[Funny, I don't remember Howard Dean ranting against Gingrich in 1994, much less being the first Democrat to do so. And these aren't even the biggest softball questions of the interview, but "You were right, and they were wrong, right?" is a pretty fat pitch for Dean to hit.]

Q: Didn't you also say at the time [Dean signed the civil union bill] that the whole idea of legally sanctioned gay relationships made you feel uncomfortable?

A: Sure. Look, I didn't know anything about the gay community when I signed the civil-unions bill. I grew up in the same homophobic milieu that everybody else did. I was told the same thing about gay people that all heterosexuals were. And most gay people were told the same thing themselves -- by parents, ministers and everybody else. I was uncomfortable, and I said so. And I got a lot of flak for it. But I still thought it was the right thing to do.

You don't allocate civil rights by who makes you comfortable and who doesn't. I believe that civil unions was a masterful way of making sure that every gay and lesbian Vermonter was entitled to the same rights as everybody else -- without getting into the business about telling churches who they could marry and who they couldn't marry. I think what we did was the right thing. Others may do it differently.

Equal rights under the law is a fundamental part of everybody's thinking in America -- which is why I don't think civil unions is going to be a big issue in the election for me.

Q: Is this an important enough issue to have it be one of the main issues of a presidential campaign?

A: Well, civil rights is an important issue. Gay marriage is not. Karl Rove will make it that way. Because he'll claim that everything is gay marriage, and this and that and the other thing.

Q: So you are just going to change the subject?

A: Yeah. If we allow the Republicans to run the campaign based on divisive issues -- like prayer in school, gay marriage and gun control -- then we lose.

[I will admit that I do love that Dean really likes to use the word "milieu." But I have reason to doubt that Park Avenue and Yale are the same homophobic milieu that "everybody else" grew up in. But Dean really is nuts if he thinks that the civil union issue wouldn't come up if he wins the nomination. That's just losing touch with reality -- it's akin to saying the war in Iraq wouldn't be an issue. He may not want it to be, and in his heart of hearts he may think it's a simple issue, but Karl Rove et al. probably already have the tv ads written. It's delusional to think it won't come up. And it's just as simple-minded to think that they can just "change the subject."]

Q: What do you think is George Bush's philosophy? What motivates him?

A: George Bush's philosophy is, "If you're rich, you deserve it, and if you're poor, you deserve it." That's not my philosophy.

[Actually, I kind of like that construction, but I thought it was funny the way he had to add on "That's not my philosophy" just in case we were confused.]

Q: The Republican Party has become the official party of the religious right.

A: There's nothing wrong with being religious, and there's nothing wrong with having religious people lobbying the government. What's wrong is to have anyone in this country be able to inflict their religious views on somebody else who doesn't share their religion.

[I had a hard time putting "Q" in front of that because it's not really a question. It's phrased as a statement of fact, like it's simply incontestible, and they want to know what "equal rights" Howard is going to do about it. And that still may not be my favorite "question."]

Q: How about John Ashcroft?

A:He doesn't represent the mainstream. He doesn't care, and he believes he literally has the God-given right to enforce his views on every other American.

Q: Irrespective of what the Constitution says?

A: That's what I believe. You'd never get them to admit that, but that's what they're up to. This administration intends to remake America by appointing judges who will rewrite the Constitution by their court decisions.

These guys are not driven by real-world considerations. They're driven by an ideological view of the country, which they believe, literally, it's their God-given right to inflict on everybody else. And this election's going to show, I hope, that it's not their God-given right, and that we don't want it.

[Well, not to split hairs, but it could be their God-given right, and the Dems could still win the election. But I love how Dean knows things the Republicans would "never admit," like it's some big secret that they have this radical view of the Constitution they want to force down our throats. :) ]

Q: You criticized the president for not standing up to Saudi Arabia. What would you do to confront the Saudis?

A: First of all, I'd get off foreign oil. All it means is enormous investment in renewables. Wind -- the Danes get twenty percent of all their electricity from wind. We can do something very close to that. Solar -- you've got to change the tax laws and have a massive effort to do that. Oil conservation -- if you had the same mileage requirements for SUVs and trucks as you did for the rest of the fleet, every year you'd save the entire amount of oil that's supposed to be in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

["All it means"?! Oh, gotcha -- all it means is an "enormous investment" in renewable energy. And not that I'm happy about the massive U.S. energy consumption, but might the Danes need a bit less energy than us? I think we need serious energy reform in America, and I think we do need to wean ourselves from foreign oil. But isn't this like saying, "All we need is a massive investment and we'll be on Mars in twenty years"? And there's no follow-up: How much? When? Where we will build these windmills, Don Quixote?]

Q: In the short term, you've got the Saudis financing fundamentalist schools; you've got this web of connections they have with terrorists and the terrorists of tomorrow. How do you deal with that?

A: You use economic pressure.

Q: Like how?

A: We're not going to go into like how. As a potential president of the United States, I prefer to make my threats privately.

[Well, Guv, I think you just said publicly that you would use economic pressure to threaten the Saudis, didn't you? I guess he isn't telling us whether he would prefer economic sanctions or cutting off aid, but don't those two usually go hand-in-hand?

[The interview then moves on to drugs. Dean says he supports the use of medicinal marijuana for some afflictions but not others, but "I don't like legalizing medicinal marijuana by referenda." Dean thinks "substance abuse problems should be medically fixed, instead of put into the judicial system." And: "Look. I don't think drugs are good, period, and that includes alcohol and tobacco." This is a couple of paragraphs after Dean, arguing that "the counterculture of the Sixties was much exaggerated" said, "I think beer was still the drug of choice. It was for me." I wish Governor Dean luck out there on the stump when he tells all those folks that drinking beer is as bad as smoking pot. And medically, he may even be on to something, but I think it's indicative of the cultural divide between Dean and most Americans.]

Q: What do you think of the performance of the news media? Are they doing a good job covering your campaign?

A: I have no personal complaints about the media. But I think the media's got a big problem in this country, and I think they're partly responsible for the decreasing spirit of democracy in America.

Q: They seem to trvialize the candidates...

A: I agree.

Q: ...which diminishes people's respect for the process.

[Again, who's being interviewed here? Are these questions? And I love when media outlets report on "the media" as if it's something they're not a part of.]

Q: Aside from Al Sharpton, you're the only Democratic candidate who's trying to make race an issue in this campaign. Why is this issue so important to you?

A: Because it's about social justice, and social justice is important to me. Race is a big problem in this country, and nobody wants to talk about it anymore. I am appalled by the generation younger than me that doesn't know anything about race in this country -- particularly white folks. I'm amazed.

[I'm appalled and amazed too. I'm not going to track down the links tonight, but the claim that Howard Dean is the only candidate willing to talk about race is simply demonstrably wrong. And I'm pretty sure this interview was conducted before Carol Mosley Braun dropped out, and I seem to remember her talking about race some. And shame on Dean for laying the blame on the "younger generation" which he also credits for much of his success. I look forward to all the coverage of Black History Month on Dean's website. If he thinks all these young folks need some learnin', he might as well do some teachin'. But overall, this attitude -- again, that Dean knows best -- is just ridiculous.]

Q: You have a reputation for having a temper, and I'm curious: What gets you pissed off?

A: Actually, not as much as most people say. . . . What makes me mad is people who don't tell the truth.

[Finally, something Howard Dean and I have in common.]

[The interview discusses Ralph Nader and Florida in 2000. I only mention this because Dean expresses concern about Diebold voting machines, and I think this is going to be a big mess this fall, regardless of the nominee.]

Q: What kind of person are you going to be in the White House? What do you bring, personally, to the job?

A: Somebody who likes to work hard, somebody who likes people, somebody with a scientific background -- so I have a very low tolerance for BS. . . .

[Didn't the authors just say that Dean didn't care if people liked him? Do you know anyone who "likes people" but don't care if they like him? And maybe we should cue the "You sit down!" rant from Iowa if we're discussing how much Dean likes people. And has anyone ever admitted having a high tolerance for BS? Just curious.]

[The authors go on to sort-of push Dean into calling his economic plan a "de facto tax hike," but it really just gives Dean a chance to say it isn't, and they don't fight too hard. When they say, "But you can't deny that you've been running your campaign from the left," Dean replies, "I totally deny that," and mentions his "financial record" and "record on guns, and things like that." I actually think Dean isn't as liberal as the RS folks seem to want to make him, but I don't know if a "de facto tax hike" is exactly a conservative position. Also, wasn't Dean the one who said he wasn't going to be talking about "guns, God, and gays" in this campaign? I guess that means unless it makes him look like a centrist.]

Q: Gangsta rap, video-game violence, Paris Hilton -- is pop culture spinning out of control?

A: [Paraphrasing, "every generation thinks the next one is out of control."]. . . . There was a comedian who was white and straight at an event that I did who made homophobic and racist remarks. I was shocked -- I couldn't believe it. And I said so. When I got out there, I thanked the crowd for coming, but I said, "This is not the kind of stuff that this campaign is all about, and we don't appreciate that kind of humor."

Q: Have you ever listend to Eminem?

A: Yeah. I don't like Eminem much. My kids like him, but I don't.

Q: Is that an example of going too far?

A: It's not for me to judge what goes too far. . . .

[Didn't he just say that comedian went too far? Isn't that judging? Dean goes on to say it's not "helpful to have characters smoke in the movies." Isn't that judging?]

Q: Who are some authors, thinkers, or poets who've informed your thinking?

A: [Dean cites David McCulloch's Truman as "the most important book I've read in the last ten years" and discusses a couple of other authors.] Oddly enough, Christianity has had a significant influence on me. Especially as I've gotten older, I have gained an enormous affinity for the teachings of Christ [particularly on the self-rigteousness of the Pharisees, and healing lepers and all].

[Two things here. I expect all the liberals who mocked George Bush in 2000 for citing Jesus Christ as his favorite philosopher to give Howard Dean the same treatment now. Second, I just love that "oddly enough." I'm not the most religious guy in the world, but even I don't think it's "odd" that people might be influenced by Christ.]

[Back to Dean's answer:] But I find, as I get older, that the basic tenets of religions are, in many ways -- what's the word I want to use? [Dean struggles to find the word "converging."] They converge in many ways, and they have common humanitarian values. And I think those values are important.

[Again, Dean feels compelled to state the obvious banality -- here, in essence, that he is pro-human. And I suppose you might be able to say that every religion is aimed, very very broadly, at making its believers better people, I think it goes way too far to say that the "tenets of religions" (presumably all of them) converge. Some do, but a lot don't. That's pretty much why most people pick one religion over the other ones, isn't it? And I think Dean would have a lot of trouble -- not just in the South, but in much of middle America -- if he tries to say something like "in the big picture, all religions are pretty much converging on the same point."]

Q: In broad strokes, what are we going to get when we vote for you?

[I think this is my favorite question. "When"?! Isn't it usually the candidate who says stuff like "when I'm President"? The answer here isn't even important; it's just Dean's stump speech wrap-up. But the question is pretty typical of the kind of searching inquiry Gov. Dean got in this hard-hitting interview.]

Anyway, that's my first attempt at fisking anything. I really don't think RS is emblematic of every media outlet, and I don't think Howard Dean is the typical Democrat. But put them in the same room, and it's five big pages of lunacy.

[Apparently, our Comments have gone the way of Joe-mentum Lieberman: They're lost. To see the comments to this post, go here



Monday, January 26, 2004

Pander Alert
I saw this tragic story out of South Carolina. Six people died in a motel fire in Greenville. Several people jumped out of windows or climbed down bed sheets. One man jumped even though stairs were only a few feet away. Nobody used a fire extinguisher before the fire department showed up, and the building wasn't required to have sprinklers in the hallway.

This reminded me of an interesting story in Wired about a study of how people behave in situations like this (although I think the specific impetus was things like concert club fires and trampling at exits).

But I also note that next week the Democratic presidential candidates are scheduled to have a debate in Greenville. I dread the inevitable pandering. They have to mention it -- how could you not? Yes, this is a tragic event, and yes, perhaps the deaths could have been prevented. But it's probably too soon to say if or how that's so. I don't expect John Edwards to hand out his card, but he might well use this to segue into his standard line about how he spent twenty years defending people injured by heartless corporations like Comfort Inn. Maybe Howard Dean will call for tough federal sprinkler standards enforced by, I don't know, FEMA or somebody. Maybe John Kerry or Wesley Clark will say something really painful about "courage under fire."

At a minimum, I'm sure every candidate will try to one-up the others' expressions of sympathy. There will probably be more "moments of silence" than moments of debate. I haven't watched any of the Democratic debates, and don't plan to start with this one, but it will be interesting to see how they deal with this event. I am in no way trying to downplay or ridicule the tragedy these deaths are for the families of the victims. But I am perfectly willing to ridicule any Democratic candidate who tries to exploit this fire for political gain.

[To see the comments for this post, go here.]



Sunday, January 25, 2004

Where Is Encyclopedia Brown When You Need Him?
Mr. P had a post wondering if there is some uplifting story behind the invention of nail clippers. So that got me wondering: Just who did invent nail clippers?

According to this corporate promo, they were invented by a man named Chapel Carter in 1896. (The company was announcing that Mr. Carter's grandson had joined the company, making it "poised to become the dominant North American nail care provider.")

But, a vintage jewelry store in Georgia is selling a set of nail clippers dated 1894.

The plot thickens! The game is afoot!

Anyway, I may look into this if I can find some time. If anyone knows the answer, or knows how to search for patents from the 1890s, and can straighten this up, I'd appreciate it.

[To save me the trouble of importing Comments during the move to the new site, I'll just tell you that the only one to this post was Mr. P declaring "I knew it!" If you don't believe me, go find this post in the Archives.]





Another Admin Law Tidbit
A week or so ago, I discussed a case that looks likely to end up before the Supreme Court, concerning how the Americans with Disabilities Act affects wheelchair-bound movie patrons at stadium-style theaters. In short, do the theaters have to provide merely an unobstructed view to people in wheelchairs (which the theaters could do by putting all the wheelchair-accessible seats up front), or do they have to provide sight lines similar to those enjoyed by other patrons (which would probably require a lot of work by a lot of theaters to make the upper portions of the "stadium" accessible to wheelchairs)?

Anyway, last week the Supreme Court decided another administrative law case, and I wanted to mention it briefly in case I needed a cite for an I-told-you-so later on. The case was Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation v. Environmental Protection Agency. For a nice summary, check out this one at SCOTUSblog (see also the links to news reports on the case in the next two posts after that one).

Very briefly, the case dealt with whether the EPA's interpretation of certain requirements of the Clean Air Act could trump state agency determinations that facilities were in compliance. The Act gives the state agencies the authority to make those determinations, but it also gives the EPA the authority to enforce the act, so when the EPA decided that the state agency had gotten it wrong, it stepped in. The facts of the case aren't important to this post, but they're interesting, so go ahead and read up on it, and I'll be here when you get back. The gist of the Court's decision was that the EPA had the authority based on its interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

The aspect of the decision that caught my eye focused on the level of deference courts owed to the EPA's interpretation. The majority said it wasn't due the highly deferential review called Chevron deference, because the agency interpretation wasn't a formal notice-and-comment rulemaking. Nevertheless, the majority said the EPA's stance was owed respect, and upheld it under the "arbitrary and capricious" standard (if the EPA wasn't crazy, it's permissible). The dissent argued that the majority had given the EPA too much deference despite saying it wasn't -- it was Chevron deference in all but name. (Hmm....Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, and the dissenters argued she did the same thing in her VMI decision, applying strict scrutiny review without calling it that....nothing else to say there, just noting it.)

I think a similar scenario could play out in the ADA/movie theater case. The theaters have been consistently arguing that the DOJ regs implementing the ADA aren't owed the deference most courts have been giving them. And it's true that they are somewhat informal and did not go through the formal rulemaking process. But so far, the Fifth Circuit is the only court that disagreed with the DOJ's interpretation of its own reg.

Well, like I said, the biggest reason for this post is to have something to link to when the Supreme Court finally decides the movie theater case. It wouldn't surprise me to see a cite to AEDC v. EPA for the standard of deference owed to the agency interpretation. Of course, these cases are pretty complicated, and I may be missing something. For example, the Clean Air Act gives some power to state agencies and sets up an interplay between the states and the feds -- this really isn't present in the ADA. And the way in which the agencies acted is different. But, if this case is a sign that the Supreme Court will be pretty deferential to agency interpretations of statutes under their purview, it's probably a good sign for wheelchair-bound moviegoers.

And of course, if the Supreme Court goes the other way and somebody wants to cite this as an I-told-you-NOT-so, I'll just delete it and pretend it never happened.



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