Begging The Question

Friday, April 08, 2005

Friday Spies©: From Russia With Love edition
Welcome again to another installment of Friday Spies, where we ask the questions and you tell us what we want to know. Or else.

If you would like to have the questions emailed to you, just drop us a line. I'm working on a little project which will eventually result in an archive of the Friday questions which will be accessible through a link at the top of the page. Until then, if you'd like to read previous weeks' questions, use the Google search bar in the right-hand column.

This week's list of questions is the "From Russia With Love edition" in honor of Nataliya, the newest member of BTQ.

1. James Bond or Austin Powers?

Bond. James Bond. He had cooler toys and better clothes. I have to admit that I am partial to Heather Graham and Liz Hurley, though.

Which Bond? Sean Connery.

2. What is the most romantic thing you've ever done for someone?

Uh, I married her.

3. Rachel claims this is her favorite movie. Her actual favorite movie is?

Weekend at Bernie's!

4. What is the perfect rock-and-roll song?

It's hard to pick just one. The perfect song? It depends on the situation and my mood, but I would put these songs very near the top of a list of perfect rock songs: Zepplin's Stairway to Heaven, The Stone's Gimme Shelter, Hendrix's All Along the Watchtower, U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, the Beatles' Hard Day's Night, and of course the Beach Boy's California Girls, a song which brings to mind the phrase "truer words were never spoken".

5. So what really happened to Milbarge?

Darn good question. I don't have any idea where he might have disappeared to.

UPDATE: Lots of comments out there deriding the quality of today's questions. I'm not taking it personally, despite Milbarge's gleeful emails pointing out how the negative reception just happens to coincide with the one-week anniversary of his departure from the BTQ. I would appreciate hearing any specific criticisms you might have, and, as always, if you would like to submit questions for future installments of Friday Spies, please email them to us. (No, I did not point out to Milbarge that readership is up since he left. That would be rude.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Like a Moth to a Flame
I knew about Nessie and Big Foot. I read all about the Georgia Hogzilla controversy. I knew that the Yeti wasn't really from Antarctica (sorry THL!), and I even knew about the mythical Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka. Up until yesterday, I considered myself fairly up-to-date on my cryptozoology (that's the scientific study of hidden animals).

No one told me about Mothman.

How did I miss this story? Granted, I'm not from West Virginia, so perhaps the Mothman infamy hadn't spread to my neck of the woods, but I do remember hearing about the movie "The Mothman Prophecies." It never occurred to me that the Mothman in question was really a I thought the "Mothman" of the movie title referred to a person, as if Richard Gere was playing a doctor named Eugene Mothman and he was going to be making some predictions. Obviously I never saw the movie.

I was shocked that my cryptid education had not included the story of Mothman. Before yesterday, I had never heard a Mothman reference or joke, nor had I seen a "Mothman Autopsy!" special on Fox.

For those of you who have not heard the Mothman story, it all started in Clendenin, West Virginia, in 1966, where five men working at the local cemetery saw a "brown human being" take off from some nearby trees and fly over their heads. Over the next couple of weeks, more than one hundred sightings of a frightening creature that was "shaped like a man, but bigger...with big wings folded against its back" were reported. The mothman's lair was believed to be a remote, abandoned TNT plant in the middle of the woods outside of Point Pleasant, WV.

As of today, no one has managed to catch a live mothman, and no mothman remains have been uncovered, but the Mothman Legend has put Point Pleasant, West Virginia on the map, as it hosts the annual Mothman Festival. (It's going to be held September 17 and 18 this year. If you live near Point Pleasant, WV, please attend this year's festivities and tell us what goes on there. )

What was Mothman? Group hysteria? Mass hallucination? One of the local birds of the area, such as a sandhill crane or a red-shouldered hawk, whose eyes can appear red at dusk? Could it have been an elaborate hoax, or had years of inbreeding and moonshine finally taken their toll? The controversy lingers today. Perhaps Occam's Razor applies here: maybe there actually are real, giant man moths living in the woods of West Virginia. What? It could happen! Yeah right, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.

The most interesting treatment I've read on the Mothman dispute draws analogies between the story of Mothman and the legend of the Native American Thunderbird. Similarities were noted between the descriptions of the Thunderbird and Mothman left by eyewitness accounts.

The Thunderbird was "a fearsome being and resembled a winged man or an immense bird, it caused fear and dread, and was said to actually kill and eat humans from time to time." (Jim Brandon-"The Rebirth Of Pan") The story of the Thunderbird is found in the legends of many Native American tribes.

Many people have attempted to explain away the stories of the legendary Thunderbird as merely sightings of a giant bird such as the California Condor, the now extinct Teratornis Merriami, or the Turkey Vulture. Certainly in the right light, a bird with a nine foot wing span could look slightly menacing.

You can find a comprehensive discussion of the Mothman and Thunderbird legends here. According to the site, there have been Mothman-like sightings in Sweden and England as well. In the conclusion of his discussion, the author points out that it is "... curious that two cultures separated by 400 years, 750 miles, and dissimilar cultures have recorded a particular 'type' in almost exact detail."

What do you think? Bird? Hoax? Hallucination? Or does Mothra really live in the woods of West Virginia?

I think the truth lies in this equation: Poor light + 1 Large Bird multiplied by x (x = liberal amounts of bathtub gin or twelve buttons of peyote).

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Source-programmable guidance!
Slithery D and others have pointed to the new Google Maps feature that allows you to scroll through satellite images of basically all of North America. For your amusement, I present the bird's-eye view of my humble home EDIT: LINK DISABLED BECAUSE OF THE LUNATIC BLOGGER WHO HAS BEEN THREATENING MY GIRLFRIEND. Zoom in, look left (west) of the cul de sac and the park; the street with the dog-leg right that dead-ends in the center of the map leads directly into my driveway. The utter lack of grass in the back yard is apparent (I blame the dog and, oh yeah, the fact that I live in the desert). I'm going to say that the shiny spot in the back yard is the sunlight reflecting off of my grill. Anyway, enjoy the view.

UPDATE (10:03 p.m. local time): By posting the link to the satellite image of my house I was not implying that others of you (especially the ladies) should post what is essentially your street address on the internets. There's some crazy folks out there with lots of free time and unhealthy levels of curiosity. Stalkers and such. Be careful is all I'm saying. I posted the link to mine without fear, knowing that because few people read this blog the odds of a stalker are negligible. Besides, readers of this blog who might wish to stalk me (preposterous, I know) will likely fall into one of two categories: (1) those who I would enthusiastically encourage in such an endeavor, and (2) those for whom the last words they will ever hear will be "You chose poorly."

Coalition for Darfur: Darfur vs. Martha Stewart
Eleven years ago today, the president of Rwanda was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali. His death served as a catalyst to a genocide that quickly engulfed the country - within one month, an estimated 500,000 people had been killed and by the time the genocide ended 100 days later, nearly one million Rwandans had lost their lives.

The authors of the essay "Rwanda: US Policy and Television Coverage" calculated that during the three months of genocide, Rwanda received a total of 278 minutes of news coverage from the likes of ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN, meaning that each of these news organization spent less than 1 minute per day reporting on a genocide that was taking lives at the rate of 1 every 11 seconds.

Today, another genocide is unfolding in African and, as this recent article in the American Journalism Review makes clear, very little has changed:
Serious reporting on [Darfur] largely has been absent on the networks and on cable. Last year the three network nightly newscasts aired a meager total of 26 minutes on the bloodshed, according to the Tyndall Report, which monitors network news. ABC devoted just 18 minutes to Darfur, NBC five and CBS three. By contrast, Martha Stewart's woes received 130 minutes, five times as much.
For those who are unfamiliar with what is taking place in Darfur, we encourage you to read this piece by Brian Steidle, a former Marine who spent six months working as cease-fire monitor with the African Union force in Darfur.

The bottom line is that nearly 400,000 people have died of disease, starvation and violence at the hands of the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militias, yet the crisis has receives barely a fraction of the coverage garnered by the legal problems faced by Michael Jackson or Martha Stewart.

We are all aware of the central role that blogs played in the "60 Minutes" and "Jeff Gannon" stories and we know that blogs have to power to propel forgotten stories into the mainstream media. The Coalition for Darfur is an effort to unite blogs of all political ideologies in an attempt to raise awareness of the ongoing genocide in Darfur and raise money for organizations doing life-saving work there. We think that the effort to stop this genocide is something that can unite people of varying political and religious beliefs.

It is a cliche in American newsrooms that "If it bleeds, it leads." Sadly, despite the amount of blood shed in Darfur, the genocide has received very little coverage. Our challenge is to force this issue onto the television screens and the front page. We ask you to join us in this effort.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Spies Like Me...They Really, Really Like Me!
It is with much trepidation that I write my first post here in the hallowed halls of BTQ. As you all know, Milbarge (misspelled or not) is a hard act to follow. In depth college basketball coverage, insightful law commentary, sweet tea analysis, and incredibly long, detailed posts about the State of the Milbarge Union ...these features will be greatly missed. If you look to me to fill the void, I fear I will disappoint.

I hope you will accept me not as a replacement for Milbarge, but as a new member of the BTQ family. I'm not handy with a brisket or a fishing pole, and my knowledge of King of the Hill quotes is woefully incomplete in comparison to my predecessor, but I hope to bring a unique perspective to BTQ: one with just a little less testosterone, a bit less Hank Hill, and a smidgen less of the law.

Now that I think about it, I wonder how much testosterone actually lives here at BTQ. I'm talking about a former male cheerleader and a confessed band geek here. (Don't think I've forgotten the mysterious and elusive Sebastian Haff, either.) However, my very first post is probably not the best time to start mocking my co-bloggers, so I will restrain myself for the time being.

I've told you what I won't be bringing to BTQ, so you're probably wondering "what will she be bringing to BTQ, then?" I don't want to ruin the surprise by telling you everything up front. Also, I don't exactly know yet; I'm trying to come up with something as I type this. If you have any requests, plese email me here.

I can only hope my role here will be as well-received as my role as "Russian Rocket Crew # 1", where (as Centinel so eloquently suggested) I was "all body and no talkie."

To ease the transition from Milbarge to Nataliya, I offer these items:

North Carolina beat Illinois 75-70 last night, claiming the NCAA title in an exciting game that gave Tar Heel center Sean May the Most Outstanding Player award and the overwhelming pride of his father, Scott May, who 29 years earlier had scored the same amount of points when he completed an undefeated Indiana season with a victory over Michigan. The Fighting Illini gave it their all, but in the end they were ill-equipped to handle May, particularly when 6-foot-10 center James Augustine left with five fouls.

My take: I think "The Fighting Illini" is a really bad name for a team. It makes me think of The Flying Wallendas for some reason. Go, Tar Heels!

Hospitals are cracking down on video cameras in the delivery room. The reason? More and more obstetricians are fearing the footage could become Exhibit A in a malpractice suit. Doctors claim they need to concentrate on the business of delivering babies and not worry how their actions could play out in a courtroom.

Some lawyers contend that doctors who are worried about liability and lawsuits should welcome videotapes, as they could just as easily be used to defend a doctor from malpractice as sue him.

My take: I hope that video cameras are outlawed in delivery rooms, because truthfully, I don't want that kind of evidence on tape. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking of banning Mr. Nataliya from the delivery room altogether. He definitely will not be videotaping me in stirrups.

My favorite King of the Hill quote:

Peggy: Bobby, honey, um -- what do you know about sexual relations?
Bobby: I don't know. Nothing much. I'm a little worried about being a slut.

My first question to the BTQ readers:

Is it "geez" or "jeez?" The word is supposed to be a less offensive and 100% more nerdy euphemism for "Jesus," so I guess "jeez" would seem to be the more obvious spelling choice, but the word "gee" is spelled with a "g" (e.g. "Gosh golly gee, Mr. Cleaver!") and "geez" seems like a stronger version of the innocuous "gee," so I think a case can be made for the "geez" spelling. lists both spellings as correct, but defines "geez" as a variation of "jeez."

Where do we go from here? I have always spelled it "geez," but recently I've seen a proliferation of the "jeez" version everywhere, so now I'm in a quandary. Where do you fall on the geez/jeez debate?

And yes, I am a little ashamed that I took my first opportunity posting at BTQ to debate the spelling of the word "geez."


Monday, April 04, 2005

From Russia With Love
I cannot run BTQ alone, I just can't. In just one day I've come to realize that it is beyond my capabilities. But rather than blame the inevitable bouts of silence on Blogger or "server problems" I have come up with a permanent solution. I have decided to bring in a ringer.

I know, I know. Milbarge's corpse is not yet cold, and already I've found someone to replace him. Not just someone, though, but a brilliant and funny woman, a new voice who I expect will soon become one of your favorites. And before you even think it, yes, she's for real. This is not some elaborate hoax whereby Milbarge pretends to be a woman. I don't have time for such a ruse, nor any interest in playing macho head games with you. No, she's all real and all woman.

I won't go into more detail here. Rather, I'll allow our new author to reveal herself to you in whatever manner she sees fit. I cannot tell you how excited I am to have a new partner here, and I can assure you that Milbarge fully supported my decision in this matter (he has long advocated the idea of bringing a female voice to BTQ). So, without further ado, please join me in welcoming Nataliya, formerly of the Russian Rocket Corps, and now the newest member of Begging the Question.

Welcome, Nataliya!

In the preceding post, Milbarge announced that he would be on sabbatical for an as-yet undetermined length of time. No, it was not an April Fool's joke. He is gone. It is sad to lose him, but the show must go on. I wish him well, I suppose, though his absence will compel me to pick up the slack around here.

During Milbarge's absence there will be some changes. First of all, there will be no more daily King of the Hill quotes. I don't have the time for daily quotes, but I'll shoot for something weekly. Second, no more law-related posts. Not only is the law one of my least favorite discussion topics, but the all-inclusive nature of my job pretty much means that any legal topic is off limits for me. Law school? Yes. The Law? No. Somehow I doubt that anyone will complain. Third, I will continue the Friday Spies questions. I'm working on a group email list today so that no one is left out of the fun.

Finally, I want your input. Although Milbarge was the heart and soul of this project, BTQ is not going dark in his absence. Having said that, I'm not sure how much time I will be able to devote to writing. I would like to take maximum advantage of the time I do spend writing. Part of that, of course, is writing about things that interest me, or at least writing about things that don't require me to spend much time getting acquainted with the topics (for a more complex expression of this idea see Prof. Volokh's post re: the Schiavo mess). The other part of that is writing about topics that interest (or in a style that entertains) the readers. This is where you come in. I'm asking for your feedback. Let me know what works for you and what doesn't work. Tell me what you want to read about and what you don't want to read. Do you want to me to look for new talent? Do you think you could be that talent? Let me know. More than ever before, this site will depend on the readers to keep it alive. I am up for the challenge if you are.

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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.

    Furthermore, I reserve (and exercise) the right to edit or delete comments without provocation or warning. And just so we're clear, the third-party comments on this blog do not represent my views, nor does the existence of a comments section imply that said comments are endorsed by me.

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