Begging The Question

Friday, May 07, 2004

Update From Fitz
Fitz noted before that he is off to welcome his brother back to the States. The plan was for his brother to get into Ft. Drum late Wednesday night, I think. Well, the plane has been delayed in Ireland. (I asked him if the problem was the filange, but I don't think he caught it -- that's one for all you Friends buffs.)

So, the soldiers were then supposed to show up late last night, but now they're saying around 9:00 tonight. Either way, Fitz and Mrs. Fitz-Hume have to drive several hundred miles Saturday to get home. And the problem with that is the while noodling around western New York, the "check engine" light in the Fitzmobile came on, and long story short, Fitz decided to get gassed.

When my friend and co-blogger called me, around 3:30 in the afternoon, he was drunker than Cooter Brown. There is supposed to be a ceremony welcoming the regiment back home tonight, but if we only end up with blurry pictures of Fitz's thumb, this is why.

Hooked on Phoenix
I saw this item on the Corner about how the mind can still decipher words even if they are mispelled because we see the whole word, or something. An example from the item: "[I]t deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae."

I've heard this before (as a matter of fact, I think I heard it on the Corner before, Derb), and my thought is this. I wonder if the same people talking about how cool this is are the same people who get so upset when schools try to teach reading using "whole language" instead of or along with phonics. (See here for some pros and cons of both.) We're able to figure out these misspelled words because we understand the way words work, and work together to form sentences. Of course, using only phonics as your guide, you wouldn't be able to read this garble.

(Aside: I just realized that this post will appear if anybody ever googles "frist and lsat," whether they mean this language gobbledy-gook or the law school board scores of the Senate Majority Leader -- who of course went to med school instead of law school, so I doubt he ever took the LSAT.)

Anyway, my rudimentary knowledge of linguistics is that most scholars believe that the best method for teaching children to read is to use a combination of phonics and some kind of whole language approach. I hope parents remember how interesting they found this tidbit about how our brains read words before they denounce whole language as some sort of PC junk for kids whose feeling will be hurt if they can't understand "See Spot run."

Thursday, May 06, 2004

In Case You Were Wondering...
I was not the author of this letter to Slate advice columnist Dear Prudence:
Dear Pru,
I've always loved your column but never thought I would have a reason to write. However, I'm at the end of my tether and not sure what to do. Basically, my question is, what exactly is it that women in my generation are looking for? I'm a 23-year-old law student and political activist who also loves ballroom dancing and classical music. Everyone tells me I'm a great listener and that I put other people first. After all of this, not only have I not had a date in years, but women don't even give me a second look. When I ask my women friends, they tell me that any woman would be lucky to have me ... but no one is interested. Any idea on what I might be missing to make my generation swoon?

--Lovesick Legal Eagle

Dear Love,
Different women look for different things, my friend. Among them: kindness, humor, looks, money, smarts, status, knowledge, big sex drive, no sex drive, large family, no family, lovely friends, good taste, a yacht, ability to listen, the gift of gab, multiple degrees, ambition ... and Prudie will spare you the laundry list. What women find appealing is determined by needs, neurosis, and background. Not knowing you, it's impossible to know what, if anything, is missing. Don't give up, however. It is likely that between your professional activities, cultural interests, and personal qualities, you will connect with a woman who will wonder why you're still on the loose. Hang in there, counselor.

--Prudie, intuitively
Thanks, Pru -- where can I order my poster telling me to "Hang in there"?

Aside: I looked through literally hundreds of goofy posters and could not find a link to the original "Hang in there, kitty" poster, so if anyone has one handy, I'd appreciate it. I think my sentiments are more like this cat's.

I guess Prudie's advice to the guy wasn't totally awful. After all, he is still in law school and not trapped in an office with exactly one single woman (who isn't interested in me but is otherwise very nice). And "political activist" and "ballroom dancing" should mean that he runs into women somewhere. But still, why even print the letter if the best advice you can muster is "hang in there"? But I guess they pay her the big money to say, "Trust me, not every woman on earth would find you repulsive." I'm sure Lovesick Legal Eagle will sleep so much better tonight...alone.

You know, I wasn't really upset or spurred to action when I started this post -- I just thought it would be humorous to point to this letter I could have written a few years ago (I'm not "into" ballroom dancing, but would enjoy learning if I had a partner). But the more I thought about it, the more I figured, I could do better than that!

And so, I hereby announce the creation of The BTQ Advisor. Send us your problems and requests for advice; Fitz and I will share a chuckle at your expense; and then we'll post our answers. The frequency of Advisor posts will of course depend on the volume of letters we get. Anonymity is assured if you want it, and I promise that all the letters we print will be real, subject to the sensitivities of our own BS detectors. My guess is that our advice column will end up more like Dan Savage's than Prudence's, but it will have that unique BTQ spin that keeps you coming here. Relationships, life, jobs, whatever...the BTQ Advisor lines are now open.

On another note, while I'm posting. It seems like Haloscan, the outfit we use for our comments, was down a bit yesterday. At least, I'm blaming them for what may well have been a problem here on the site. Anyway, Fitz is the code maven, and he is off welcoming his brother back to America, so no one is around to fix any problems that might pop up. Accordingly, if you weren't able to post a comment, try again, or email us. It appears to be working well today, though. Unlike me...

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Clock Is Ticking
I have previously discussed my concerns about the possibility of terrorism at this summer's Olympics. Today, ESPN has a very interesting package of articles up about the issue, noting that we are now only 100 days away from the torch-lighting in Athens. If they don't keep them up on the main Olympics page, here is a story on athletes' concerns, here is one on the chance of an attack, here is one on some financial issues, noting that the IOC has obtained a $170million insurance policy against cancellation of the Games, including in case of terrorism, as well as noting that lots of companies depend on their athlete-endorsers showing up and getting some once-every-four-years publicity. And, here is the latest news, and it's not good: a bomb explodes at a police station, and (related?) Greek police are threatening a strike for more money.

I say again: not encouraging. And while the staggering construction delays might seem to be a different problem, one of the ESPN stories notes that the rush job on the venues could hinder security. Despite spending well over $1billion in security, and getting help from all sorts of agencies (FBI, CIA, Scotland Yard, NATO), the construction sites are fairly unsecure right now -- meaning that a terrorist could plant a bomb in a structure as it is being built. And how certain are you that none of the laborers on these sites might be a security risk? Also, if the venues aren't finished well in advance of the Games, security folks won't have necessary opportunities to check for danger spots and vulnerabilities.

I can't vouch for the bona fides of these numbers, but ESPN says that, despite plenty of official Greek assurances that all will be well, some 82 percent of Greeks surveyed think an attack is "inevitable." Fifty-two percent of Americans say one is "likely." Count me in that 52 percent. I'm not ready to say "inevitable" yet, but I'm far from optimistic. Note also that Senate terrorism committee chair John Kyle of Arizona "said he wouldn't feel safe watching the competition in Athens and would opt to watch at home on television." Maybe he knows something the USOC should.

Milbarge At Large
What I am doing at work: In addition to the usual parade of rehearing petitions (see here for more about them), some oddball cases. I mean cases that aren't in the usual posture of direct appeals from trials or habeas decisions. For example, an appeal from a motion for return of property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g) (formerly Rule 41(e). Most of the time when I see these, the motion was untimely, but I've never had one where the property was seized pursuant to an illegal search or seizure or not properly administratively forfeited. My guess is that the prisoner is reading the rule book and thinks he has discovered a way to get back all that drug money the cops found when they arrested him, but it's not that easy.

Another case I've got right now is an appeal from the denail of a motion for reduction in sentence under 18 U.S.C. sec. 3582(c)(2). The basic deal there is that when the U.S. Sentencing Commission issues an amendment to the Guidelines that, had it been in effect at the time of a prisoner's sentencing, would result in a lower sentence, the prisoner can move for a reduction in his sentence under the amendment. Again, it's not so simple. Without getting into the whole spiel, (1) not all amendments to the Guidelines are retroactive, (2) even when one is, the district court still has some discretion not to apply it, and (3) most of the time, the amendment a prisoner tries to proceed under does not apply to the facts of the case.

And, I've got a habeas case that is back to me after a remand when the prisoner got relief his first time out. I can't go into all the details, obviously, but the gist is that the guy won on a technical procedural point on his first appeal, but it didn't end materially helping him -- as in getting him out of jail. But, he did get a second chance before the habeas court. I first got this guy's case during my first week here, and he's still not finished with me. The wheels of justice turn slowly.

What I am doing at home: Not a lot. Nothing worth reporting apart from the other headings here.

What I am reading: I am about halfway through Little Children by Tom Perotta, which I first mentioned here (#4). It's enjoyable.

What I am watching: Touching Evil, a police drama series on the USA network based on a British series. It's sort of a poor man's X-Files,, except instead of chasing supernatural stuff, the hard-to-believe aspect is that the lead character was once shot in the brain, and not only lived but became a better cop (but more unhinged person) because of it. Anyway, the cops work for an outift hunting serial killers in San Francisco, which apparently has enough of them to require a whole unit housed in very well-furnished headquarters. Anyway, it's interesting if you like that sort of thing.

The other thing I saw recently was the movie Tommy, The Who's rock opera. I like The Who, and I've seen Tommy before and own the album. I even saw it when it was running on Broadway, and enjoyed it, although that was part of a high school band trip and I didn't specifically chose to go see it. If you like The Who, you have to see this one, but I had forgotten just how much Pete Townsend had to say about organized religion here. The Tommy-as-Messiah message pretty much hits you over the head. It was kind of neat to catch little things I had missed before. I still haven't figured out how Tommy becomes a cult leader by being good at pinball, but hey, it was the Seventies. I chalk it up to the whole Rollerball craze. Anyway, the acting is good -- Ann-Margaret was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for, among other things, rolling around in a cascade of baked beans. Other cameos include Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, and Jack Nicholson, who also appeared in the Monkees' movie Head (how sad is it that I knew that without having to look it up?).

What I am listening to: U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind, which I "borrowed" from Fitz. Also, the greatest hits packages from This American Life, Lies, Sissies, and Fiascoes and Crimebusters and Crossed Wires. If you like the radio show, you will love these CDs, although you could find these individual segments for free on the web site. And, in memoriam for Duke freshman Luol Deng and Duke signee Shaun Livingston entering the NBA draft, the Grateful Dead's He's Gone:
Now he's gone, Lord he's gone.
Like a steam locomotive rolling down the track,
He's gone, He's gone,
And nothing's gonna bring him back.
He's gone.

What I am thinking about: I've been tinkering around in my head for at least a week with two posts, one on love and one on war. I don't know if I'll ever be satisified enough to write them down, but if I do, you'll be the first to know.

Peeve of the week: I don't understand these folks so excited about counting the days until Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turn 18. Surely they can't expect these apparently very nice young ladies to turn into the Hilton sisters on that fateful day, can they? (I don't even know what their birthday is, so it may have even happened by now.) Does their birthday somehow immunize an earlier creepiness? Maybe someone can explain to me the fascination.

Tidbit about me: I was laying on my couch the other night, and when I turned on my side, I was staring across the room at one of my bookshelves. I started thinking about where I got some of these books I haven't opened in years. I remembered that I got some of them at college during the period when everyone else was selling their books. The bookstore would sometimes not buy a book back from students, for example when a new edition of a textbook was going to be published. But they also wouldn't buy it back if it wasn't going to be used the next semester, even if it might very well be used the semester after that. So, people ended up with plenty of perfectly good books that nobody wanted. (If the students had been willing to hold on to the books for a few months, they could have just sold them the next semester, in some cases.) The bookstore had a shelf for abandoned books, and people dumped a lot of these unwanted books there. I assume the bookstore donated them or sold them after the buy-back was over. But anyone could take these books, for free. So I did. I would spend hours in the bookstore when everyone else was in line to sell their books. I was like a vulture, picking through the printed carrion.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I have been meaning to post on the subject of phony Navy SEALs for a long time. It is just one of the many topics I have yet to find time to write about. Many of you know these guys - they frequent the bars and are very quick to tell you that they "trained with the SEALs" or some such nonsense. You have your doubts but you lack any way to verify their stories. I have met a lot of these guys at parties and in other social settings (they are quite numerous in my area because of our close proximity to Little Creek Amphibious Base). I am disgusted with these losers but the real SEALs take it personally. In fact, if you are one of the no-good lying SOBs who pretends to be a former SEAL, then consider this your official notice: the guys at Phony Veterans are going to find you and expose you for the fraud you are. They have exposed dozens of liars - shaming them before their families and communities. Some of the posers have even lost their jobs or been forced from elected office once it was discovered that they had lied about their military service. I for one think the shame is well deserved. If you have some free time, click on over to Phony Veterans and take a look at their roll call of fakes, phonies, and liars. You might even recognize someone.

I hold my manhood cheap - and here's why
My apologies to anyone hoping to read another post on Texas-style barbeque. I pulled an all-nighter at work and still have much more work to do before I leave the office tonight. Then I am off for Ft. Drum, New York where I will welcome home my brother. His regiment - the "Triple Deuce" - is due home sometime early Thursday morning. There is an official homecoming / awards ceremony scheduled for Friday at which at least two soldiers - Anthony Lagman and Michael Esposito - will be awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device (posthumously) for their actions in Operation Enduring Freedom. I will try to take some photographs of the ceremony and post them next week. After the ceremony, the plan will be to take my brother out for a good meal and, during the course of the meal, consume many barley pops to celebrate his safe return.

All of this is long way of saying that I will be off the grid until Sunday. Stay tuned to BTQ, though, because Milbarge has promised some new content.

UPDATE: For those of you interested in such things, click here for a photograph of my brother and some of his fellow soldiers. My bro is the bespectacled chap on the right (no, Mom, I don't think that is a dip in his mouth!).

Monday, May 03, 2004

I'm working on some real posts -- I have three posts I'm about 90% finished with -- but for now, something a little shorter. This is going to sound like a dumb question, but I would appreciate at least a semi-serious answer. Should I get a cat?

I've been thinking about getting a pet for a while. And while at heart I would consider myself a "dog person," there are some problems with getting a dog. First, I don't have the space for one, and I don't have much of a yard. If I end up in the same situation in New City, I don't really think it would be fair to coop up a dog. Second, I'm never really sure about my hours, and I'm really unsure about my desire to wake up at dawn to walk a dog and rush home in the evening to let one out again. Finally, relatedly, I feel that whether you believe in evolution or "dominion over the animals" or both, Mankind was not put on earth to carry the feces of another animal. I recognize there's some of that involved with cats, but generally not to the same degree as with dogs. But with a cat, I wouldn't have to worry as much about getting home at a certain time or letting it out in the morning.

Anyway, I like dogs, but I like cats too -- I'm not one of those dog people who has some kind of deep-seated animosity towards the feline set. My mom and stepdad have had a cat for years, and we get along fine. And, while Fitz-Hume has both a dog and a cat (Dash and Lilly), I get the feeling that the cat and I are on a closer wavelength. I don't have any adea what kind of wavelength that crazy dog is on. Actually, I think cats and I get along okay because we're both comfortable by ourselves and don't need a lot of reassurance or someone taking us outside all the time.

So anyway, there's a woman I work with who is sort of a foster mother/adoption agent for cats or something. She volunteers for a cat rescue agency, so if I got one I would be saving it from either the animal shelter or living with this lady, I guess. I'm not looking for advice about vets and shots and food and training and all that business, although I don't know the first thing about having a pet. (We had dogs when I was a little kid but I was still pretty young when we had our last one, although my dad has a couple now.) What I'm looking for here is whether I should get one at all. Part of the reason I'm asking is to find out whether it would actually be more work that I'm assuming. And partly I'm interested in what kind of message it would send, so to speak. I'm not "concerned," just interested. Would I look like some old maid who has to talk to her dozen cats to have any company? Would it be a sign that I had given up on trying to find human companionship, along the lines of wearing sweatpants out in public or going to the movies by myself? I'd also like to ask our female reader(s), if you were chatting with an otherwise suitable guy, would it affect your decision to go out with him if he told you he had a cat?

Again, let me stress that I'm merely interested in the answers to these questions from a sociological standpoint. I'm interested in how getting a cat would be perceived, but I'm not going to base my decision on that perception. I think my situation in life provides plenty of evidence that I'm not just mindlessly seeking social approval, because I'm sure not getting it. If anything, my reason for not getting a cat would be because it will be more work than I want to undertake and/or my clerkship will require time and travel commitments that would prevent me from taking care of it. But I'm curious about what becoming a "cat person" would mean. Thanks.

(Aside to Sebastian: At present, I am not considering alternative pet choices like our friend GP, who got a bird and named it "Wilson.")

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    The views presented here are personal and in no way reflect the view of my employer. In addition, while legal issues are discussed here from time to time, what you read at BTQ is not legal advice. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. If you need legal advice, then go see another lawyer.

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