Begging The Question

Friday, October 01, 2004

Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Captain Needa
StarWars philosophy, as summed up by Pejman:
And people wonder why the Empire lost? Look, when you know that you are going to die either at the hands of the enemy, or at the hands of your own Supreme Lord, you are going to half-ass it in life. What's the point of doing anything else? You're screwed, no matter what.
Read the whole thing. It's a spot-on critique of everything that's wrong with StarWars, and it's laugh-out-loud funny to boot.

11th Circuit overturns child porn conviction on Commerce Clause grounds
Today the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a child porn conviction on Commerce Clause grounds (hence the post title, supra). The court rejected the notion that, because the Zip disks and floppy disks on which the incriminating evidence was found were either shipped or mailed to Florida, the defendant's possession of those disks substantially affected interstate commerce. I'll leave it to Milbarge, the resident legal scholar, to explain the decision in more detail. To engage in your own legal analysis, you can access the court's opinion here. (PDF file)

Virginia indictment against John Muhammad dismissed
Fox News reports that Virginia Circuit Judge M. Langhorne Keith dismissed the indictment against convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad, ruling that the Commonwealth violated his right to a speedy trial. Click here for the full report.

It's < sarcasm>too bad< /sarcasm> that Commonwealth's Attorney Horan won't be able to get another death sentence against Muhammad. First, we kill him. Then we go to work on him.

Defending the indefensible
Ed Lazarus, a loathsome character if ever there was one, defends the behavior of the infamous and anonymous Vanity Fair SCOTUS clerks. It is the usual Lazarusian drivel, badly argued and poorly written. Of course, Lazarus ignores the most important issue: When a man gives his word, honor demands that he keep it. Whether one should or should not be bound by an oath is irrelevant once one takes the oath. Feddie has more to say about it here (thanks for the shout-out Feddie).

A message worth coopting
In lieu of original content, I have reproduced in full the following, originally posted by Nick at BTD:

I hope you find some time in your morning to review the above work safe* link. Consider donating if you would like to promote gratuitous cheesecake through out society, or perhaps just if there's a woman in your life that you love.
I couldn't have said it better myself.

*There are sections of the site that are not work safe. Use discretion.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Lazy People Everywhere Say Thanks
I've noticed something recently that I thought deserved comment. When he blogs about a topic he's been following for a while, Eugene Volokh now adds links to his earlier posts on the topic. Here's a recent example of what I'm talking about.

I didn't want Prof. Volokh to think his effort went unnoticed or unappreciated, especially since I've had trouble in the past with that site's search engine. It's hard work to keep track of every little mention you've made about something, and then to be sure to keep updating the list. Goodness knows I don't do it every time I revisit a subject (although I try if I think reading the earlier piece is important).

Prof. Volokh's work will be a great boon when someone wants to say "Volokh's been blogging up a storm about topic X!" The linker then need only include a link to the most recent post in the thread, counting on Volokh to list the previous entries. I know there have been times that I have thought about mentioning a series of posts, but didn't want (or have time) to go through the effort of collecting them all. (See here for an example of a time I did have that much energy.) So, my bet is that Volokh's little device will lead to increased links from lazy bloggers like me. Also, it's good for first-time viewers, who discover the blog by stumbling on the most recent post -- this is an easy way to get more page views and induce those readers to stay a bit longer.

For those of you who don't have Gmail, the innovation I like best about it is the way is collects all the responses to an email (from all parties) and displays them as a thread, on one (collapsable) page. It's very handy for multi-email threads, and saves you from having to dig through your inbox for all the "Re: lunch??" emails. Volokh's new feature reminds me of this Gmail feature, so maybe that's why I like it. Prediction: A (The?) next big innovation in blogging will be the ability to manage posts and trackback-posts and follow-up posts (and maybe even comments) this way, as one continuous train of thought, and with no requirement of jumping around several blogs to follow it all. Okay, so I've tossed that nugget out there; somebody get on that for me.

As for me, who would declare myself King of the Lazy Bloggers were I not too lazy to bother with the coronation ceremony, I won't go so far as to promise to adopt Prof. Volokh's topic-thread device. But I promise to try when I think it's helpful.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ain't I rough enough, ain't I tough enough, ain't I rich enough to love you?
So I finally got a couple of hits on my profile. One was an email and the other was just a "wink." The emailer had very complimentary things to say about me. Unfortunately, she had few of the qualities I'm looking for in a date, and several I'm actively trying to avoid. The winker seemed interesting, but (a) her picture was too small to make out her features -- it's her standing in front of what appears to be some European valley scene; so I get plenty of chalets and hills and whatnot, but almost none of her; and (b) she lives at the complete opposite end of the metro area. That's not a deal-breaker, but it is a factor in the low-maintenance equation. On the plus side, though, it appears that she lives in a very nice part of the city. She's a recent graduate (she's 23) with a degree in architecture and design, or something. I'll probably send her an email and see if we can talk a bit. Don't inundate me with a bunch of "go for it!" comments -- I'll let you know if something happens.

In a related note, while there seems to be a fair number of attractive women in this area using the service, I've noticed that a lot of them are seeking a tall man. I'm about 5'9" or 5'10", I think, but maybe as short as 5'8" or so when I'm slouchy. I'm not one of those shorter guys who gets obsessed about it: "I'm 5'6 and 7/16" dammit!" How big a deal is an inch or two of height? Well, to some women, a big deal. Match offers little pull-down menus for picking a desired height range. I think it runs from something like 4'1" to 8'11". So you have to tak an affirmative step to say what heights your prefer. And what I've noticed is that a lot of women like men over 6' tall. I guess I can understand that for tall women -- there might be physical incompatibility issues if you get a sore back from stooping to kiss him. But why is a 5'9" guy too short for a 5'8" woman?

One suggestion I hear a lot is that women who like to wear heels like to date taller guys, so the woman won't appear taller when dressed up. This just brings me back to my larger point: What's the big deal if a woman is an inch or two taller than the guy, either in or out of heels? To me, that just seems like such an incredibly superficial thing to worry about. I'm sure some guys are self-conscious about it, and I can certainly understand a woman not wanting to be with a guy who was weird about it. So maybe setting tallish height parameters is a proxy for weeding out insecure fellows (although it seems like a baby/bathwater thing to me). But are women really that insecure about being an inch or two taller than a guy?

Or maybe everyone is lying. As a matter of fact, I think my profile says I'm 5'10", which is probably only true when I'm shod. (But at least it's true some of the time.) And because I don't have a height hangup or fetish, I don't know the answer to this: When women lie about their height, do they lie taller or shorter? Or is it elastic -- the 5'2" woman says she's 5'4" but the 6' woman says she's 5'10"? Please inform. Anyway, if you start thinking that everyone is lying about it, you have to think strategically: A woman who can stand to be with a guy 5'8" or taller says she wants 5'10" or taller, because she assumes that the guys will boost themselves two inches.

My guess is that most people don't devote this much time to thinking about how they fill in the pull-down menus. Height probably isn't priority number one to any but the very short or very tall. I know I didn't fret over it as much as some of the other options when itemizing my ideal date. I think mine says 4'5" to 6'5", but I'm not sure (and I don't want to bother to log in to check). I know it's pretty broad, whatever it is. I've dated a handful of women who were taller than me, including two who were three or four inches taller. And I've dated some women a good bit shorter than me, including my longest-term ex. But most have been within an inch or two either way. Of course, I don't have a lot of absolutes -- I'm very much a "close enough" kind of guy.

But I respect that many people do have different priorities, which is why I don't answer ads from women seeking taller guys. Again, if it's within an inch or so, I'll say "close enough" if I was going to say hello anyway. But if her bottom line is six feet tall, she won't hear from me. I figure, she made a deliberate decision to exlcude trolls like me, and I'm not going to waste my time trying to convince her that I'm as much of a man as those elongated mutants.

Fitz suggested that there might be an evolutionary basis to all this -- that women, perhaps even subconciously, see tall men's genes as preferable. First, I doubt many women are concerned with a man's ability to see lions over the savana when she clicks the pull-down menu box. Second, what does that say about men's choices, which seem to favor shorter women -- or at least a woman shorter than the man. Is there some biological advantage for women having, say, a low center of gravity? More broadly, what's the point of evolution any more? This is a question I've had ever since I took a human evolution class in college. (And since I don't want to get into it here, for purposes of this post, we're going to assume evolution happens and that certain characteristics can impact favorably on one's ability to pass on one's genes.)

Without corrective lenses, I wouldn't be able to spot that lion until it's way too late for me to worry about breeding. But nowadays, my nearsightedness is highly unlikely to prevent me from passing on my genes. It's just not going to be evolutionarily determinative. Think about it: How often do you see people whose gene pools should have a sump pump, yet they nonetheless manage to sow their seed to the far winds like so many dandelion clocks? I'm not advocating eugenics here, but there are a lot of people whose genes don't need to get passed on. So why isn't evolution doing anything about it? *sigh* Enough ranting. I wonder what Darwin would have to say about, a very concerted effort to make sure that even the unfit survive.

(This post's title taken from the Rolling Stones song "(I'll Never Be Your) Beast of Burden," which my friend AEC told me a friend of his used to mis-hear as "Penelope, your pizza's burnin'.")

CBS: The Outside Scoop
Has The Onion's Jackie Harvey taken over as news director at CBS?

Though the President and the Secretary of Defense have explicitly denied plans to institute a draft, CBS News, that beacon of responsible journalism, was not bashful in reporting that fear of a secret Bush plan to start up the draft might sway some voters. Apparently, the plan is so secret not even the President knows about it. But why dwell on such things as facts, why seek statements from DoD officials, why confirm whether there is any substance to a issue when the really good story is that idiot "draft mom" Beverly Cocco of New Jersey bought into an email hoax - hook, line and sinker. And why bother mentioning that the efforts to introduce legislation to reinstate a draft have been sponsored by liberal Democrats, not the President? Why ruin a good story by checking out the facts?

So far no word on whether CBS has obtained memos proving that the President is responsible for the fake Viagra Ms. Cocco bought over the internet, or whether Bush's < breathless>disastrous economic policies< /breathless> have resulted in the plight of the unfortunate Nigerian man who emails Ms. Cocco on a near daily basis. But stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

BTQ Election Coverage 2004: The soldier's perspective
I spoke with my brother - a soldier in the U.S. Army - for about 2 hours last night. Just last week he married a young lady with whom he corresponded while he served in Afghanistan. After congratulating him and making plans to join up for a game of StarWars Battlefront on Xbox Live this weekend, I asked him about the troops, the war in Iraq and the presidential election.

When asked about the election, he said that, among the soldiers he knows, nobody wants to spend another year in Iraq, but they are convinced that Kerry will f**k it up big time. The soldiers believe that what they are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is the right thing, and they are concerned that Kerry will destroy everything they have accomplished. They are also worried that Kerry's pledge to withdraw from Iraq will result in a haphazard pullout that will leave some units in-country high and dry, without the support to complete their missions or protect themselves. They trust Bush and they know that the Pentagon is hard at work shifting the deployment schedules so that the troops will eventually be on 6-month deployments rather than year-long or 18-month rotations.

One of the most discouraging things he spoke of was that the soldiers returning from deployments know that the situation in Iraq (or in his case Afghanistan) is better than what is being reported in the mainstream press. He said that without a doubt Afghanistan was a different, better and safer place when he left than it was when he arrived there. The Afghan people knew this, and it was evidenced by their behavior. The people knew the Americans were there to help them. They do not want the Taliban or al Qaeda or the opium warlords controlling the country because those forces would just as soon shoot or steal from a villager as look at him. The Americans provided food, medicine, clothing, schools and roads and the Afghan people responded with trust. Once the people saw that the Americans were not like the Taliban, they opened up to the soldiers. The same is true of the Iraq people, yet the soldiers have not seen any of this reported in the States. The soldiers see John Kerry talking about Iraq as a quagmire and a mistake and an unwinnable mess, and they know that the reality is far different. It is discouraging at times, but they are comforted by the progress they witnessed with their own eyes.

Turning to our final topic, we talked about the new uniform the Army is changing to next year. The soldiers are pretty psyched because they will no longer have to polish their boots. The new uniform is a digital camouflage pattern similar to the current USMC cammies, but without any black in the pattern. This new pattern is designed to work in desert and urban environments. The new boots are suede tan leather very similar to the Air Force issue desert boots. Everybody is looking forward to the new boots.

I don't hold out my brother as the voice of the Army, but I trust his observations about the men in his unit. Likewise, the 10th Mtn Div. may not be representative of the Army as a whole, but I suspect that the sentiments expressed regarding the election echo the majority view.

Judge Richard Arnold
I've been quite sick lately, and also busy at work, so I haven't been doing much blogging. And then I went and left the list of things I've been meaning to blog about at home. But one thing I remembered was on the list was the death last week of Eighth Circuit Judge Richard Arnold (link via Bashman).

I don't reveal the name of my employer on the blog, but I can say it wasn't Judge Arnold. But that's not because I didn't want it to be. I applied to Judge Arnold when I was seeking a clerkship. He was one of the very few senior judges to whom I applied, for various reasons. And I'm sure Little Rock has a lot to offer, but it was definitely the case that I was applying for the judge and not the city. (Being a procedure nerd, I would have been thrilled to debate Anastasoff with its author.) I'm sure that a judge of Judge Arnold's reputation gets tons of applications from wannabes much more qualified than your humble blogger. But unlike a lot of judges who won't even acknowledge the receipt of an application, Judge Arnold was kind enough to pen very nice handwritten letters both in acknowledgement of my application and later, when he decided to hire other applicants. I remember them well not only because they were handwritten and (probably because of that) seemed much nicer than the usual form letters, but also because they were oddly-folded to fit the squarish envelopes.

I think judges, in the main, are unaware of how desperate applicants are for any acknowledgement, and how far a little human touch like Arnold's goes. I "only" applied to about forty judges, and I took some care in choosing them. So, silly as it sounds, I felt some tad bit of personal investment in those applications; I never wrote out an address without imagining what it would be like to work for Judge X in City Y. I proffered myself and beseeched them, "Hire me! I'm ever so smart and nice!" To hear nothing was a worse rejection than hearing "no." If I heard "no," at least I was acknowledged. At least I existed. I know this is melodramatic and namby-pamby, but it's true.

When you're begging for table scraps like an email from a secretary noting that your materials arrived in one piece (what a lovely sight in the inbox!), it's hard to overstate how touching Judge Arnold's gesture was. Considering how many applications he must have gotten, it must have taken an incredible effort if he sent similar notes to every applicant. And even if it's still a form letter, and even if it's just a copy, and even if the secretary or a clerk actually wrote it, it's still a nice gesture, because even that would indicate that the judge cared enough to go to the trouble of setting up a fake handwritten letter factory. To give you an idea of how great an impression Judge Arnold's letters left on me, I saved them, and for a long time considered writing him to say thanks and letting him know that I landed a clerkship after all. In the end, time passed, and I decided that he probably didn't care that much. But part of me thinks he might have liked knowing that his letters were really nice moments in a really grueling process.

So, since I never got around to it while he was alive, I'll take this opportunity to say thanks to Judge Arnold, both for his little letters to me, and for his many contributions to the law. R.I.P.

Also, this has gotten me thinking about the folks the Judge hired instead of me, and all of his former clerks. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend and mentor.

Monday, September 27, 2004

"We're dealing with fundamentalists... the Amish are fundamentalists, but they don't try and hijack a carriage at needlepoint."*
Hi. I'm hijacking BTQ for a moment because Fitz and Milby forgot to take away my access after my stint as a guest-blogger (time remaining until they pull the plug: 5, 4, 3, 2...). I suppose I could have just emailed them, but this was more fun.

Anyway, like an old un-hip actor inexplicably appearing on a late-night talk show, I'm only here to plug my latest effort. If you get a chance, check in with L-Cubed all this week as I report on the latest issue of Vanity Fair so you don't have to head to the newsstand yourself. The first post is about the controversial article on the 2000 presidential election. I focus mainly on the impending debacle in Florida due to electronic voting, one of Milbarge's favorite topics. Other posts will involve Johnny Cash, Tom Hanks and Donald Rumsfeld ("Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?").

While I'm here, check out the new blog from a group of Greedy Clerks called Nomination Nation, which will focus on news and gossip relating to the judicial confirmation process. A bit slow so far, but sure to heat up after the election.

*quote from Robin Williams, Live on Broadway

Monday's recommended reading
Two pieces well worth your time:

First, an interview with Chris Hitchens - in which the interviewer, Johann Hari, bemoans the Left's loss of Hitchens to the dreaded neo-cons after September 11, 2001. (link via The Corner's Andrew Stuttaford)

Then read Paul Berman's Slate piece, The Cult of Che, in which he dissects Walter Salles' Che Guevara bio-pic The Motorcycle Diaries. The movie received a standing ovation at Sundance, and Berman more than adequately details why it was undeserved - just another example of the Left embracing Che as a symbol of freedom and social justice, when he was, in fact, an enemy of both.

I have the powwweerrrrrrrrrrrr!
Note to Howard Dean, author of How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America, and anyone else who is confused as to the definition of democracy: "restoring democracy" and "restoring Democrats to power" are not synonymous concepts. The distinction is so simple even George Bush can understand it.

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    Milbarge Recommends

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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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