Begging The Question

Friday, January 28, 2005

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Bobby, doing a Sunday School report on Jesus, but a bit enamored of magicians: "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I am the Amazing Jesus, son of God and master of prestidigitation! Has this ever happened to you? Your followers want a glass of wine, but all you have is water. Well, if you're the Amazing Jesus, no problem! Water into wine! It's a miracle! John 2:11. Thank you. Now you're going to need something to go with all this wine, maybe some bread. But how are you going to feed all these hungry people with just one slice? No problem, if you're the Amazing Jesus! Amen! It's a miracle, ladies and gentlemen! Mark 6:44. Thank you! Now, for my next miracle, I'll need a large wooden cross and a couple of volunteers...."

BTQ Review (Fifty Book Challenge #6) -- Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
For the latest entry in the Fifty Book Challenge and our occasional BTQ Review, I am pleased to present Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Journey Into the Heart of Fan Mania, by Warren St. John. The book has its own website, complete with blog. (Check out the blog for neat pictures of the book in locations from Iraq to Shanghai to Saskatchewan.)

This is the most enjoyable book I've read in years. Virtually every page gave me reason to laugh out loud. I'm not angling for a blurb on the paperback, but every minute you waste reading this review is a minute you won't be enjoying this book, so go buy it (the paperback comes out in May, it seems, but you shouldn't wait that long). St. John grew up an Alabama football fan. Like most hardcore fans, he experienced the exultant highs of winning and the gloomy despair of losing. After years of wondering, and being asked, why he tied his happiness and sanity to the fortunes of a group of college kids (from a college he didn't even go to!), St. John decided to write a book to ponder fandom. And similarly to many people he ran into, I had the reaction: " get paid to go to football games? Where's my book deal?!" After all, I have some credentials; I was a Cameron Crazy for four years, camping out in the winter for choice seats at Duke basketball games. And just as St. John has his unforgettable moment in Bama history (Van Tiffin's kick against Auburn, for you Tiders), I have Jeff Capel's shot against Carolina in 1995 (that's the best single moment, but since Duke lost that game, my favorite game is the 77-75 thriller Duke won in 1998). Anyway, let's just say I was sympathetic to the argument that otherwise perfectly normal people could go plum crazy come kickoff or tipoff.

The wonderful device of RJYH is St. John's decision to saddle up with the hardest of the hardcore Bama fans. A sizeable contingent of fans drives to the games (and sometimes from one game directly to the next) in motor homes/recreational vehicles/land yachts. After doing a good bit of searching for someone willing to let him bunk in such close quarters, St. John finds takers in a friendly couple. Eventually, he decides to go whole hog and buy his own RV. His is considerably less well-appointed than some of the motor coaches, which can run into the millions of dollars. But it provides him with a crucial "in" and marks him as a true diehard.

In the movie version, we'd hear the Allman Brothers' "Jessica" (or, naturally, Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama") as St. John hits the road. The book is like reading Bill Bryson crossed with a David Sedaris who likes football. Interspersed in St. John's very funny tales from Bama's football season are thoughtful musings on the psychology of being a fan. One that sort of encompasses both is the story of the couple who missed their daughter's wedding to go watch the Alabama-Tennessee game. It's a perfect vignette of the devotion of some fans, but it also makes you wonder what is going on in the minds of these folks. To be fair, they did make it to the reception. But St. John discovers that how you react to that story is a nice proxy for how much of a fan you are. But whatever your reaction is to that tale, whether you want to know how their daughter could pick such an inappropriate day for the wedding or whether you want to know what kind of lunatics choose a football game over their child's wedding, you'll like this book. If you're a fan, it's a must-read. If you're not and want to know why others care so much, it's a must-read. And there are so, so many other great stories I could share. I read this book a couple of weeks ago but couldn't write this because I couldn't decide which to include here. St. John can tell them so much better anyway, but trust me...I had tears in my eyes from laughing, and my neck got sore from nodding in self-recognition.

I like Alabama football (aside: I previously discussed Alabama football in a roundabout way with my parody songs about former Tide coach Mike Price), but you don't have to in order to enjoy this book. In fact, I have a friend who went to archrival Tennessee and has sung the praises of RJYH. I have to step back for a moment to realize how deep into fan-speak I have fallen: If you understand instinctively that for a UT fan to like a book about Bama means it is truly great, then you'll really get this book. It can't surprise anyone that I'm going to give this book our highest marks, which is usually a six-pack of Pepsi thanks to an inside joke. But inspired by the name of a tailgating delicacy (cherries soaked in grain alcohol), I'm going to give Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer six Bama Bombs.
Won't you gentlemen have six Bama Bombs?

News and Notes From Here and There
Dateline: Washington, D.C. I saw an interesting note in the Law Week about an opinion from the DC Bar Ethics Committee. The situation is you represent a client. Someone comes into your office and asks you to represent him in a suit against your client. Naturally, you have to decline because of the conflict of interest. But can you refer the prospective client to another attorney? There are two issues here. First, if you refer the prospective client to a lawyer who's too good, you'll lose and your client (and you) will suffer. But if you refer the prospective client to a lawyer who's too bad, well, that's not very sporting and it looks like you were trying to stack the deck. Second, what can you tell your current client about any of this? The DC Bar said (snarkily paraphrasing) it's always good when people hire lawyers, so feel free to refer. If you worry about looking as if you're trying to steer the prospective client to a bad attorney, feel free to suggest several names, or decline altogether. As for the second issue, the answer is basically nothing. You have to protect the prospective client's confidences, so you can't even tell the current client that litigation is a distinct possibility. I don't deal with the ethics rules or the real-world issues of hiring lawyers, so I can't really say if this would make sense to actual lawyers. But it seemed like an interesting position for the lawyer to be in.

Dateline: Cheyenne. Wyoming is the least-populated state in the union, and it gets the highest per capita share of federal homeland security dollars, about twice as much per capita as New York and three times as much as California. Here is an interview with Wyoming's Homeland Security Chief discussing this. It's about as good a justification as you're going to find for allocating the money this way, but I don't think I buy it. Sure, there are some potential terrorism targets in Wyoming. And the state's geography and spread-out population might make responding difficult. So I'm not saying Wyoming shouldn't get any homeland security money. But homeland security is all about tradeoffs, and I think the money needs to be provided based on risk, and there are riskier places than Wyoming.

Dateline: Topeka. Gay-hater nonpareil Fred Phelps, the preacher who picketed Matthew Shepard's funeral, has raised the bar again by thanking God for sending the South Asian tsunami to punish Swedes on vacation (scroll down for the link). I haven't been looking into it, but I hadn't heard that the Swedish tourists were predominantly gay, but maybe Phelps thinks God targeted Swedes because of their country's approval of gay marriage. But even assuming God is this vengeful, couldn't he have been a little more focused? Why not a disaster in Sweden? This is as dumb as claiming God hates illegal immigrants from Mexico because an undocumented janitor was killed in the World Trade Center. But I know it's no use to argue logically with someone like Phelps.

Dateline: Milwaukee. You've probably seen the news that a kid in Wisconsin sued the state school board over being assigned summer homework. The state's response was that local board set curricula, not the state, and that the law declaring the school year to be 180 days sets the minimum, rather than a maximum. I don't have the Wisconsin statutes handy, but I find that argument interesting. If the law says something like "the school year shall be 180 days long," I don't see how one could argue that should be read to mean "at least 180 days long."

Dateline: Boston. I had the same reaction as Ken Lammers's to the news about the big Catholic priest case going on now. See also Dahlia Lithwick discussing repressed memories. It sounds like this priest did some seriously bad things, but I'm quiet dubious of reports that it went on in the pews. That's like something out of The Devil's Advocate. It makes the whole thing sound fishy.

Dateline: Tallahassee. Two prominent Republican state legislators are backing a drive to restore the voting rights of ex-felons.

Dateline: Raleigh. North Carolina's legislature might pass death penalty moratorium this session. It passed the Senate last time, but didn't get a vote in the House. Since then, at least one more person has been freed from death row in that state because of new DNA tests.

Dateline: Phoenix. Arizona Governor Jean Napolitano has declared this to be Stalking Awareness Month in that state. Nothing more to add; just be aware.

Dateline: Little Rock. Hard to imagine Hillary Clinton doing this. Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee has taken a job with a siding and window company. More here. Are there plans to put siding up on the governor's mansion?

Dateline: Oklahoma City. An Oklahoma state senator wants to revive that state's recently-banned practice of cockfighting, and attempts to mollify critics by having the fighters wear little boxing gloves over their spurs. The state would then regulate (and assuredly, tax) the sport. There are so many ways to go with this, but I decided on: Finally, a state gaming commission that would license Mike Tyson.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Two from a favorite of mine, the episode where Hank and Kahn's families share a mitad condo in Mexico, and Hank and Dale and Kahn get arrested, and their i.d. is confiscated, and they have to sneak back across the border.

Bobby: "Why is there such a big fence, Dad?"
Hank: "Well, millions of people come to America in search of a better life, and we've decided we don't need that many."
Bobby: "Did the Souphanousinphones come through the fence?"
Hank: "No, Bobby, Kahn applied the legal way. Sometimes the system fails us."

Kahn: "Look how easy it is to get into this country. I can't believe I had to learn the Bill of Rights. When am I gonna use that?"
Dale: "You'd be surprised, Kahn. I take the Fifth on a daily basis."

The Return of the BTQ Answer Man
The internet is all about information. People search the internet for answers to the most pressing questions. In service to humanity, and in an effort to ensure that the internet remains a place where people can find the truth, I present another post in our irregular series, the BTQ Answer Man.
1. Gay Joke of the Day? So Randolph Scott, Kevin James, and Vin Diesel walk into a bar. . .

2. Can you get into Georgetown when you do not meet the minimum SAT scores? Only on a basketball scholarship. Good luck with your jump shot, kid.

3. Ninth Circuit ineffective sleeping counsel? That would be me.

4. Passive aggressive procrastination? That would be Milbarge.

5. Pictures of ladies' SMP? clothes. That's a good idea. Mr. P should offer a line of SMP?-inspired women's garments.

6. WNBA Bad Decision? Yes it was.

7. Yin Tongue? Wrong blog, dude. I think you're looking for this guy.

8. Scalia's Daycare? Coming this fall to NBC: Can a grumpy Supreme Court Justice manage a house full of kids without sentencing himself to the loony bin? Find out Thursdays after "Joey," on NBC's newest comedy hit, "Scalia's Daycare." Starring Charles Durning as Justice Scalia (shot of Durning cleaning crayon marks off the wall: "If judicial salaries weren't so low, I wouldn't have to take in all these bratty kids!" and one of him turning off the lights at naptime: "You have the right to remain silent...exercise it!"), with Loni Anderson as the sassy housekeeper (shot of Loni: "Nino, I'll hold you in contempt of my fist if you don't stop cracking walnuts with that stupid gavel!"), and a special guest appearance by Dick Cheney, who brings duck for Christmas dinner, and Clarence Thomas, who we didn't have to pay because he didn't have a speaking part. Must see tv!

9. Fitz's Law? It's not so much a law as it is an observation: "If the little woman ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

The Right Position for the Left on Abortion is in the Middle
If Hillary Clinton becomes the next President, a speech she gave this week about abortion will be a big reason why. I agree with William Saletan at Slate and Andrew Sullivan in The New Republic that Clinton has announced what ought to be the Democrats' position on abortion, and the kind of message that will resonate with a lot of voters. Clinton acknowledged the moral implications of abortion, and stated that the ideal number of abortions is none. Yet, for lots of reasons, it shouldn't be banned across the board, and we should devote our energies in this arena to reducing unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Read the linked pieces for lots more details about the speech. But Clinton spoke the truth the party needs to heed, both because it's the right position and because it's the position shared by most swing voters. If John Kerry had given this speech last year, he'd be President today. That is, if people believed he meant it. I think people will believe Mrs. Clinton. The gang in The Corner may sneer, but Hillary Clinton may have just proved herself to be the best politician in office today. I'm not ready to declare her the winner of anything yet, but for people who long to see another Clinton in the White House, this is a good sign. Regardless of politics, though, for people who feel that abortion is a bad thing but that a woman's right to choose it should be protected, and feared we could never escape the extremist rhetoric on both sides, this is a great sign.

UPDATE: Centinel has a solid post up in response to the same speech. I'll agree that it doesn't represent a drastic shift in the Democratic position on when abortion should be available. But I think acknowledging the other side in this way is still helpful.

UPDATE 2: Michell Cottle has more in The New Republic.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Dale: "Spanking was wrong then and it's wrong now. I say spare the rod and spoil the child!"
Hank: "Dale, 'spare the rod and spoil the child' means you're in favor of spanking."
Dale: "I don't think so."

You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes.
The patron saint of the Church of Baseball is at it again. Most Hollywood types complain about being typecast, but not Costner. Of course, there are worse things in life than being typecast as a ballplayer / cowboy. Things like astroturf and the designated hitter.

It'll Grow Back
Energy Spatula had a post up in which she does some navel-gazing, and long-time readers know how much I love navel-gazing bloggery. But her post is about the disappointment she's feeling after getting some bad law school grades. I started to comment over there, but decided to post my thoughts here.

During my darkest days in law school (there weren't many, because I liked it a lot and would go back in a heartbeat), what helped me was the knowledge that I could always quit if I wanted. Sure, there would be some sucky things to deal with, like loans and figuring out a job. But I still knew that if I wanted to, I could just leave and no one could stop me; it's not prison, after all. I guess being conscious of that gave me the upper hand, in a way: I could quit before I got fired, or something.

However, I acknowledge that I was lucky because I never had one of those utterly exasperating experiences where you get sadly surprised by a grade. Pretty much all of my grades in law school were pretty much what I expected. So I don't know what those folks go through when something like this happens. Now, there were some grades I wasn't happy with, and I'm not saying I got all A's or anything. It's just that in the classes I performed the worst in, I saw it coming, either because I didn't get the material or didn't put in enough effort (or, like with my Conflicts of Laws class, not only did I not get it but I also decided that a peanut butter cookie-baking date the night before the exam was a better way to spend my time than studying).

I think there are four things to which I can attribute my attitude about being able to dump law school before it could dump me, if it came to that. First, I'm generally a roll-with-the-punches, go-with-the-flow sort of guy. I don't obsess over what could happen, I just deal with it when it does, and I know that failing at one thing doesn't make one a failure. So I wasn't worried during exams about what I would do if I failed, because I knew I'd cross that bridge if I came to it. Second, I remember my first day at college. I was a nerdy goofball from the hills. And while I was somewhat familiar with the outside world (I knew a kid who was fascinated and ecstatic when he rode an escalator for the first time in sixth grade!), and had even spent some time on my own for camps and the like, this was different. I was moving away for an extended period of time, I knew no one, I didn't have a car, so I felt sort of trapped there, and I was worried about being able to hack it. The first day we had some orientation stuff that included families, and then a big brown bag lunch on the quad that was the last thing the families were a part of. I knew that after lunch my Dad would go home and leave me there. I was so flummoxed with nerves and thinking of how much I was going to miss him that I couldn't even eat. I was pretty scared. My Dad understood, and he asked me, "Do you want to go home?" And he didn't mean it either way; he wasn't trying to taunt me into staying and he wasn't encouraging me to leave. He just asked me straightforwardly what I wanted to do, and that was all it took. I knew that everything would be ok, that he would support me either way, and that ultimately it was up to me to decide what to do with my life. As I recall, my response was that I knew I would feel like this regardless of where I went, but I knew it was time for me to move on. But his simple question helped me grow up. Even now, more than ten years later, that moment is vivid to me, and I'm choking up a little at remembering it, and at how much I appreciate his support.

Third was a moment from my first day of law school. I was lost in the building or looking helplessly confused, I'm sure, and an upperclass student stopped to chat. At one point, I asked him if he had any advice for me. He said that students often got bummed out after seeing their first semester grades, and they checked out after that, just doing enough to get by. He said there's plenty of time after the first semester to regroup and bring one's grades up, and advised me to avoid disillusionment. I know it's not the most groundbreaking advice, but it's what I needed to hear, and it helped me not fear my first set of exams. It was like that scene in the movie Dragnet when the kids are upset because the lion's mane had been sheared, and Tom Hanks cheered them up by telling them, "It'll grow back!" The fourth moment was when a classmate told me her story. She had been in a Ph.D. program for a couple of years when one night she just decided she didn't want to do it anymore. So she closed her book and drove home, right in the middle of a semester. To be honest, I think that part of the reason this inspired me was ego: I figured I was at least as tough as this gal. But it was also a nice reminder than people do quit graduate programs and recover from it, and that cutting one's losses after two miserable years is better than suffering through six miserable years and then deciding it's not what you wanted to do.

So, I think moments like these (and there were others, as well as one friend who was particularly encouraging when I wasn't having a good time) gave me, to use a touchy-feely term, a sense of ownership over my law school experience. I knew I could quit and the world would keep spinning and I would be alright. And I think I enjoyed it more because I felt less pressure on that front. I don't know if any of this is helpful to E-Spat or anyone else. And I have to say that I disagree with the sentiment that law school is a means to an ends. At least, that attitude wouldn't have worked for me, because I didn't want law school to be a drudging chore like eating my vegetables before I get dessert; I wanted to enjoy the journey too. But everyone who is disappointed with law school should remember that it's not the be all, end all. If you're bright enough to get into law school, you're bright enough to make your way in the world without a J.D. The people who love you will still love you if you're not a lawyer, and you'll probably gain some others who'll love you because you're not one. I'm not encouraging anyone to quit law school. I'm just saying that I think losing the fear of quitting can help people decide what they want to do.

I know this isn't a complete answer for someone in E-Spat's (or, for that matter, Fitz's, not to be telling tales out of school) situation, but I also know that you don't want to hear someone who was on the law review tell you it'll be ok if you're not. That's like the guy dating an underwear-modeling Mensa member telling me he's sure I'll find the girl for me, too. Even if it's true, it's not who you want to hear it from. So, I do what I can. Hang in there, kitty.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

There Is No Escape From the 57% Loser Who Will Die At Age 74


and go to because law school made laura do this.

I really hope this isn't accurate, although it would explain a few things. And I won't make any bondage jokes. Maybe I could work at the Justice Department. /snark. Via Soup first.

I am 57% loser. What about you? Click here to find out!

That one via F&D.

I am going to die at 74. When are you? Click here to find out!

Well, that's just crap.

I have been doing some travelling lately, and been quite busy at work to boot, and Fitz is covered up with work, but I'll have some stuff soon. Maybe even tomorrow.

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Hank: "I hate the man because he's rude and nasty. Not because of what his people did to us in WW2."
Peggy: "Well, Hank, I know that. But everyone else will say 'Hank Hill is a racist.'"
Hank: "What the hell kind of country is this where I can only hate a man if he's white?"
Peggy: "Hank Hill, you will go to that party, you will pretend to like Kahn, and you will drink until you actually do."

Monday, January 24, 2005

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Peggy: "Did you even happen to notice that Luanne was crying when she left here?"
Hank: "Well, when isn't she crying? She cries at weddings, she cries at funerals, there's no rhyme or reason to it."

Peggy: "Luanne loves you, and you have no emotion for her at all?"
Hank: "I've got plenty of emotions. I was afraid she was going to hug me, I was worried she wouldn't leave, and I was happy when it was over.

Whose Fetish Is It?
Steve Minor at the Southwest Virginia Law Blog (happy second anniversary!) points to this story about a vigilante group that troll the web looking for people who are trying to pick up underage children. Members of the group Perverted Justice (they call themselves PeeJ -- really) go into chat rooms posing as young girls and wait to be messaged. (In the article, there's no mention that they also pose as young boys, so I'm not sure if their vigilantism goes both ways.) Once another chatter contacts the PeeJ member, the member gets as much information as he can about the chatter and posts it on the group's web site. The members have the option of then calling the cops and reporting what they've learned, and they claim responsibility for several convictions for various sex crimes. Even without a conviction, you probably don't want your name to show up on their web site if a prospective employer googles you one day.

Law enforcement officials, child exploitation experts, and a counter-vigilante group, Corrupted Justice, suggest that PeeJ is at best a misguided and ineffective effort and at worst harmful to ordinary law enforcement mechanisms. For one thing, they could screw up an ongoing investigation, and for another, they could warn off a chatter before the police have a chance to gather incriminating evidence. I can also think of a case from Alabama (?) where hackers snooped into someone's computer and discovered child pornography, and the court said that the hackers came awfully close to being de facto government agents (which would have made the search illegal). And of course, they could be wrong and ruin someone's life. It's not illegal to say you want to have sex with children; it's illegal to do something about it. But PeeJ members could very easily manipulate the conversation in a way that would be entrapment if the police did it. The reason we don't let police entrap suspects is that the criminal law doesn't punish people unless they have formed a criminal intent on their own, without being coerced into it for the sole purpose of busting them. (My favorite case along those lines involved a guy who wanted to hunt out of season, and undercover cops took him up in a helicopter and kept flying around and encouraging him to shoot more animals so they could increase the number of counts against him.) Is it any better to have this public shaming -- and cop-contacting -- system potentially based on entrapment? It's not any more reliable, or indicative of criminal intent, just because it's private.

The issue of whether chatting about having sex with children (like the argument over "virtual" child pornography, made without using real kids) is an outlet or release for someone with those thoughts and saves that person from having to do it in real life, or merely whets the appetite for a greater and more real thrill with actual children, is worth discussing, but not really the aim of this post, and well beyond my expertise to answer. But the folks for whom it is genuinely an outlet or release, for whom all the talk is mere fantasy and might even know, or strongly suspect, that they're not talking to an actual child, are at risk if PeeJ thinks some statement crosses a line.

Another thing bothers me. Being a cynic, I'm skeptical of PeeJ's motives. Isn't it a little strange to choose as your devotion going online and posing as a young girl and talking to older men about having sex? What if some people who do this (even police who make their mission the same kind of thing) have a vicarious thrill from having this conversation, and try to mask it as legitimate by busting their chat-partners, leaving themselves free to do it again and again? I have no doubt that most of the people who do this sort of thing are good folks with good motives who experience no titillation whatsoever (although I still wonder why one would choose that path). And I think the effort is worthwhile lest the internet become a haven for child molesters and child pornographers, if it isn't already. I don't know how well PeeJ vets its members, but wouldn't it be nice cover for someone who got off from talking about adults having sex with children or viewing child pornography? I can't wait to see that defense when the cops find pictures on someone's computer: I'm not a pervert, I'm a vigilante!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Here's one for the true fans:

Hank: "Thatherton!"

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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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