Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Monday, January 31, 2005

"Chicken...Gave Me a Bad Coupon..."

Just so we're clear, the sequence in which Peter Griffin fights the giant chicken is the funniest two minutes in television history. I wanted to make sure we're all on the same page.

Not Voting for Good Governance

I got my ballot for the board of governors of Mory's today. Given that I know nothing about: a) the nature of the positions up for a vote, or b) the candidates, I've decided to abstain. Voting is good (it's very good) but there are times when you should steer clear, in the name of the common good. Like when you're totally ignorant.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Give Terror the Finger

Tomorrow, color your index finger blue or purple in solidarity with the brave Iraqi civilians who went to the polls today.


Religious Celebrity Deathmatch

Pope v. doves of peace. I'd bet on His Holiness. According to Googlefight, that's the smart money.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Who Are These Handsome Devils?

They're both Angus Dwyer! (Sort of.)

The former is Lt. Captain Denys Angus Lambert Dwyer, an RAF officer who died in 1985. He's from the Laye-Dwyers, a British branch of the family who unlike their American cousins seem to have been quite a respectable bunch. The latter is Angus Dwyer MacDonald, a young lad out of Colorado who passed recently from SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) and is one of the inspirations for Josh and Gus' Run for a Reason in Littleton. (For more pictures of young Gus, who was quite a cutie in his time, click here.)

This is by way of saying: I wholeheartedly endorse the new A9 search engine, which produced these images (along with about a dozen images of cattle) for my Angus Dwyer search.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Snowed In!

I've had a quiet Friday night in, doing crosswords online and reacquainting myself with my CD collection. Funny how it being 15 degrees out makes me less desirous of walking a half-mile into town to go to the bars. Call me lame if you must, but unlike this time last night I can feel my fingers.

On a related note, if watching out-of-shape law students wail on each other in a foot of snow is your thing (and why wouldn't it be?) there'll be a snow football game somewhere in New Haven sometime tomorrow afternoon. (As always, we're a little light on details here at Mansfield Fox.) If you want to come watch (and why not?) or even get in on the action, email me and I'll get back to you with new developments as they arise.

UPDATE: Warghle! No snow football. The powers-that-be have spoken. Another day with all my limbs intact...sigh....

Hey, Why Not?

You carry yourself with the self-assurance of a poem by William Carlos Williams. There is really nothing to worry about. The children are gone, but there will be more children. The flowers may be gone, but some will grow back. When the end comes, you will be waiting in the long grass, fingers idly toying with broken chessmen, deep in contemplation. You have worlds waiting inside you, waiting to be born.

which clip from a Guns 'N Roses video are you?
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A Story of the Triumph of Human Spirits

Slovak man, trapped in his car by an avalanche, saves himself by drinking the 60 bottles of beer he has with him and peeing himself to freedom. Brings a malty tear to my eye.

Ain't That Just the Way

In Googlefight, as in real life, law school kicks my ass.

Doctor Angelicus, Ora Pro Nobis!

Today is the feast of the great saint, scholar and Dominican, Thomas Aquinas.

I rather like this severe portrait of the Dumb Ox. It makes him look like a professor, and he was that long before he was a saint.

I'll leave it to others to discuss how titanic a figure the Angelic Doctor is in the history of Christianity. I just want to point out that he was also a poet and composer of real gifts. If you turn up your speakers, you can listen to one of his pieces, O Salutaris Hostia, a hymn to the Eucharist.

LSU Cross Vandalism - How Not to Debate

So, a little while back, vandals removed or damaged 3,000 crosses placed on the LSU campus as part of a protest against abortion. There have been arrests. And now, the leader of the vandals has sent a letter to the university newspaper explaining his actions. We don't usually Fisk here at MansfieldFox (it runs counter to our generally easy-going attitude) but the letter is such a masterpiece of inanity that it cries to Heaven to be parsed and mocked.

And so, with no further ado:
My name is John Philip Morlier. I am the sole student being charged with destruction of property for my actions against the crosses on the parade grounds.
Hi! My name is Angus White Dwyer. I am the sole blogger about to Fisk your letter to the editor. (Nice to meet you.)
I engaged in what I believe to be an act of free speech. The crosses were planted in an effort to join a debate, conversation. By removing from the ground and disassembling the crosses I was voicing a counter point.
I, too, have found that the most effective way to participate in a debate is to shut the other side up somehow. You win a remarkably high percentage of debates in which you can successfully do that. In seriousness though, this is an all-too-common tactic of people engaged in debate today, and one that pops up far more often on the Left than on the Right. I've never been able to figure that one out. I guess you get the bully's thrill of pushing someone around, and you can deceive yourself into believing that's a form of refuting their argument. Plus, it seems like a protest, which harkens back to the glory days of the Sacred Sixties, but can be done by very few people (it only takes one or two shrill people to shout down a speaker) which makes it a cost-effective tactic for a movement whose numbers are shrinking. And decorum, I guess, is just a tool of patriarchy, or hegemony, or whatever they're calling it today. Anyway:
I know that my actions were rash; however, the statement made by the crosses was rash, inappropriate, invasive and hostile.
Now, John, you're a grown-up. You should know that you can't fight rash with rash. You need Lotrimin AF for that.
The technical legal issue of the status of abortion has to do with the definition of a woman's body and the state's roles in controlling said body, not in the metaphysical labeling of a fetus.
You know, you're right. All these years of believing fetuses and embryos were human beings: what a fool I was! If only someone had simply baldly asserted that the issue doesn't matter! I also appreciate being lectured on the fine points of legal doctrine by an Anthro major. Next time I see him, I'll pass this info on to Justice Blackmun, who's woefully misinformed on this issue. After all, he's the guy that said, "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment." And in Roe v. Wade no less. Talk about missing the boat!
Year after year the tasteless crosses shout accusations of evil, guilt and shame. After five years as a student and resident of the greater campus community, I shouted back.
Now, I'm no expert on Louisiana State. I've never even been there. So I can't speak to the accuracy of his statements. I just think the idea of a talking cross is cool. What? That was a metaphor? Oh. So the crosses don't actually say anything? So where's all this shouting come from? Whence the evil, guilt and shame? Surely these aren't coming from inside Mr. Morlier, for whom abortion is just about the woman's personal autonomy right to procure an elective surgery. Hmmm. Curious. Also: I can't speak to the tastelessness of the crosses, but I make it a point never to try to eat anything that's been lying out on the lawn. You can consider that a free piece of advice, John.
I want to make it very clear that I believe in free speech. I am not anti-Christian. I am not anti-life. I am anti-hegemony. What I did is not simply a matter of pro-life or pro-choice, it is much deeper than that.
Hegemony he·gem·o·ny ( P ) Pronunciation Key (h-jm-n, hj-mn)
n. pl. he·gem·o·nies The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group, over another or others.

So you stole the crosses as a protest about geopolitics? Now I'm really confused. Oh, wait: you were an Anthro major. You've absorbed the collegiate-academic tripe-trope (trope-tripe?) that "hegemony" is a word empty of actual meaning that can be used to describe, and condemn, anything that's, y'know, bad. I too prefer jargon to argument, though I think you're supposed to lay it on a little more thick. You're not anti-hegemony. You're trying to construct a heuristic that denatures the paradigm of hegemony. See? It's easy!
The misuse of a Christian symbol by the students for life is indicative of a very old and sad trend. That is, factions of person's attempts to attach to their agenda the supernatural powers of God and the finality of the word in order to ensure the compliance of those targeted.
See? He's not anti-Christian. He just wants Christians to shut up. OK, that's not fair. They can speak on issues of public concern, just as long as they pretend they're secular humanists while they do so. With Mr. Morlier as referee. (It must be awfully difficult to be both anti-hegemony and so obsessed with controlling what other people do. No wonder the second sentence is so unreadable: he was exhausted!)
The crosses are not an invitation to engage in a give and take debate on the issue, rather the issue is evasively hidden behind the most powerful symbol in our community.
Wait, I thought that "[t]he crosses were planted in an effort to join a debate, conversation" and that your stealing them was your special way of continuing the debate. If they weren't "an invitation to engage in a give and take debate" does that mean your witty (if felonious) riposte was uninvited? That you weren't debating when you stole the crosses? I'm so confused. I'll just assume that I'm the dumb one, lost in the depths of your dizzying intellect.
Those crosses were a black and white framing of a very complex issue veiled behind the threat of hell; a wood and glue manifestation of the self-righteous, mislabeled "Christian" mentality that fuels itself off of the punishment it threatens or administers to those that it persistently persecutes.
Wait: I thought the abortion issue was very simple ("The technical legal issue of the status of abortion has to do with the definition of a woman's body and the state's roles in controlling said body, not in the metaphysical labeling of a fetus.") I'm pretty sure I know what a woman's body is. (I mean, it's been a while, but not that long.) As for the state's role, I suppose there's some room for debate there, but in general in a liberal polity we try to avoid infringing on people's freedoms, and in particular their bodily freedoms, without some compelling countervailing reason. (Like protecting the life of the fetus? Perhaps, except remember that "the metaphysical labeling of a fetus" is a non-issue.)
I did what I did because I feel that debate is democracy, I feel that the image of ideologically impregnated and anonymous crosses is an attempt to end the debate, to abort democracy.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, isn't the issue the definition of the body politic and the state's roles in controlling said body, not the metaphysical labeling of a democracy? Then again, if the crosses really are pregnant, shouldn't their choice as to whether or not to carry the ideology to term? (No, silly: being anti-hegemony means having the right to use force to compel others to think and act how you want. Right. My bad.)

OK, that's all she wrote. There's still lots of good material in the letter for a further Fisking, if anyone's interested. It's circles within circles, wheels within wheels of assininity.

Also, Fr. Sibley has been all over this story like white on rice. All the links in this post came from his blog, A Saintly Salmagundi. Send all further factual inquiries his way.

UPDATE: Minor edit for content. No change of substance.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Vulpine Credo

I really believe that you can be a sincere and dedicated Christian and still play poker, drink beer and occasionally crack jokes about assless chaps.

If I'm wrong please let me know. Seriously. And tell me why. Because the whole Jesus thing means a great deal more to me than the assless chaps jokes. I'd gladly give them up if it were the cost of discipleship. I just don't think it is.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I Know Many People Who'd Disagree

I am nerdier than 32% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

(via RageMonkey)

UPDATE: PapaBear writes to inform me that he scored a 71. He seems to be oddly proud of that fact. The tree doesn't fall far from the apple, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

In Which the Fox Knocks the Oscars

Since everybody and their cousin is complaining about who got jobbed by the recently released Academy Award nominations, I thought I'd join in on the fun. But instead of saying who was subbed, I'll just post the list of nominees I'd have created. Actual nominees that remain on my list will be denoted with italics. The list won't be my "favorite" movies - living in New Haven, I rarely get to see movies anymore, and so will be selecting based not on personal knowledge but on my sense of the zeitgeist. I'd nominate "Million Dollar Baby" for best picture, for instance, even though I find the movie's message - that it's OK to "put down" people who've become disabled as if they lame horses - despicable and repulsive. I'll also follow some basic Oscar rules, such as: there's always one, and only one best picture nominee whose director doesn't get the best director nod. I'm also including "The Aviator", not because I'm convinced it's any good, but because I'm convinced that THE ACADEMY is going to give Scorsese his Oscar now. I wanted to make my list better, but realistic.

After that, I'll make predictions about who'll win among the actual nominees. 'Cause making half-assed predictions based on hunches is just what we do here at Mansfield Fox.


Best Picture

The Aviator
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Million Dollar Baby
The Passion of the Christ

Best Director
Martin Scorsese, The Aviator
Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunsine...
Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11
Mel Gibson, The Passion...
Alexander Payne, Sideways

Best Actor
Jim Caviezel, The Passion...
Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
Jamie Foxx, Ray

Paul Giamatti, Sideways
Bernie Mac, Mr. 3000

Best Actress
Annette Bening, Being Julia
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Alda, The Aviator
Curtis Armstrong (that's right: Booger), Ray
Thomas Hayden Church, Sideways
Willem Dafoe, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Jamie Foxx, Collateral

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
Laura Linney, Kinsey
Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Sophie Okendo, Hotel Rwanda

Natalie Portman, Garden State

OK, I'm already getting bored of this. I'm sure you are too. Weird to note that I basically agree with their decisions regarding best actress/best supporting actress. Couldn't say why. Maybe they're just better choices. Maybe being a massive sexist, I subconsciously ignore women's performances. Who knows.

Anyway, my picks (again, who will win, not who should win):
Best Picture: The Aviator
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray
Best Actress: Annette Benning, Being Julia
Best Supporting Actor: Jamie Foxx, Collateral
Best Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Best Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine...
Best Adapted Screenplay: Sideways
Best Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside
Best Animated Film: The Incredibles
Best Original Score: The Passion...
Best Original Song: "Learn to be Lonely" from Phantom...
Best Art Direction: The Aviator
Best Cinematography: The Aviator
Best Costume Design: The Aviator
Best Makeup: The Passion...
Best Documentary Feature: Supersize Me
Best Sound: The Aviator
Best Sound Editing: Spider-Man 2
Best Visual Effects: Spider-Man 2
Best Film Editing: The Aviator
Best Animated Short Film: Gopher Broke
Best Live-Action Short Film: Two Cars, One Night
Best Documentary Short Subject: Hardwood

That's it! That's the list!

You can take it to the bank.

"The Trouble with Scotland..."

" that it's full of Scots."

Thankfully, my classes don't have a Scots-problem (those miserable, tight-fisted...). What they do have, at least BizOrgs and Tax, is an infestation of 1Ls. 1Ls, who are fast replacing undergrads as the focus of my irrational ire and curmudgeoninity (curmudgeonliness?). Will Baude won't like it, because he himself is in Tax, but it's true. It's not that they've done anything yet. But I know they will - fresh-faced, full of civil procedure rules and a confidence in their own insights, they're bound to start participating, to no end any day now. But more than that, it's their very presence that irks me: these strange, alien beings, invading my classes, taking my seat in the back row. I won't stand for it! (And don't tell me I was a second-semester 1L only a year ago. I'm well aware. I was a quiet one, though. And generally deferential to my elders. Those were the good old days, when kids knew respect!)

If I were Edward I Longshanks, I'd be concocting some kind of scheme to rid myself of these pests, preferably by means of prima nocte. I can think of a few 2Ls who might sign up for a scheme that involved breeding the 1Ls out of existence.

What Intentional Tort are You?

and go to because law school made laura do this.

(via Eve Tushnet, who's assault)

Now, having gone to Yale Law School, I don't know intentional torts from non-intentional torts from amortized non-conforming uses. But I know the theory of torts, of why we have a torts system, all too well. And, having taken my torts with the last of the great Anti-Calabresians, I know that it has everything to do with Kant and nothing with the cost of accidents. Tremble before me and my mighty implicit moral obligation to take into account the interests of those to whom I owe a duty of care! Let all men run in terror before the necessity that I own my actions by setting right those I've harmed by wronging! HWAH!

"Let the Wookie Win"

I've got to get back to work, but one piece of blogging afore I go:

Am I the only one who's noticed that C3P0 has an article up in NRO on the Sikh play-closing controversy? Honestly, is there anything those protocol droids can't do?

Monday, January 24, 2005

"Why I Hate Yale Undergrads"

That going to be the title of a monster post I was planning to write, detailing the various reasons why it wouldn't bother me that much if all the University's undergraduates were wiped out in some kind of gruesome plague, or the like. Reasons like: they swarm the Law School dining hall like locusts and eat all our food; and: they can't seem to grasp the concept that traffic lights are there to direct traffic.

I was going to write that post. But then, while waiting on line at Gourmet Haven, I overheard something wonderful. It was a pair of what I assume were undergrad members of a singing group, practicing an a cappella version of the semi-obscure Stevie Wonder gem, "Knocks Me Off My Feet". Which is one of my favorites. It was really quite beautiful. Who knew they had such taste? And so, like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day.

So, I can now say, in all honesty, that I no longer desire that all Yale undergrads be horribly and painfully consumed by fire from heaven. For now.

Law School is Now Officially Half Over

Following Will Baude and Oxblog's Josh Chafetz (who, unlike Will, I've never met but who I think I've seen around Ye Olde Sterling Law Building a few times) I'll post my schedule: Federal Income Tax (with Anne Alstott), Business Organizations (a.k.a. Corporations, with Jonathan Macey), Theories of Statutory Interpretation (with Bill Eskridge, who the guys at The Thing Is don't seem too fond of but who, politics aside, is a brilliant legislation teacher) and Managing National Security (with James Baker - not the one you're thinking of; his son).

Two pleasant surprises thus far:

1. My Theories of Statutory Interpretation textbook is the same one I used for Legislation last Spring. This saved me between $75 and $100 dollars.

2. An essay by Professor Bainbridge is excerpted in my BizOrgs text (it's on the Law & Economics idea of corporations as a "nexus-of-contracts"). My work and my play, colliding. Crazy. (Speaking of which, I'll put up a link to the good professor in the blogroll soon.)

Anyway, wish me luck. I have to write a 30-60 page paper this semester, or I don't get to be a 3L next year. Which would be bad. Can your famously scatterbrained correspondent buckle down and produce such a work, while still making progress towards becoming a 150 bowler? Only time will tell.

UPDATE: Just read Blackmore Partners v. Link Energy LLC (a Chancery case out of Delaware about whether the directors of a limited liability company violated their fiduciary duties to the company's equity unit holders when they sold off all the company's assets to pay its creditors). I can honestly say: I have no idea what's going on. Not a one. Well, that's not true. I understand that the motion to dismiss was denied. Aaaaaand that's about it. At least the opinion was brief. I hope Professor Macey can explain this tomorrow, or it's going to be a long semester.

UPDATE II: The federal income tax seems to have given me an unholy hunger for salt'n'vinegar potato chips and cherry twizzlers. This is definately going to be a long semester.

William Albert Kenyon, Requiescat in Pace

Here's To Global Warming!

(And I'm not just saying that 'cause there's a foot of snow on the ground.)

It seems mankind's releasing of huge volumes greenhouse gasses over the last couple centuries, as well as the mass deforestations of our ancient ancestors, have prevented the arrival of a new ice age.
The findings from a team of American climate experts suggest that were it not for greenhouse gases produced by humans, the world would be well on the way to a frozen Armageddon.

Scientists have traditionally viewed the relative stability of the Earth's climate since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago as being due to natural causes, but there is evidence that changes in solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations should have driven the Earth towards glacial conditions over the last few thousand years.

What stopped it has been the activity of humans, both ancient and modern, argue the scientists.

Over the last 8,000 years carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have gradually risen, when previous trends indicated that it should have dropped.

Methane, another greenhouse gas, had also increased instead of fallen.

The unexpected trends could be explained by massive early deforestation in Eurasia, rice farming in Asia, the introduction of livestock, and the burning of wood and plant material, all of which led to an outpouring of greenhouse emissions.

The United States researchers, led by William Ruddiman from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, used a climate model to test what would happen if these greenhouse gases were reduced to their "natural" level.

They wrote in the journal, Quaternary Science Reviews: "In the absence of anthropogenic contributions, global climate is almost 2C cooler than today and roughly one-third of the way toward full glacial temperatures."

At the peak of the last ice age, which began 70,000 years ago, 97% of Canada was covered by ice.

The research showed that without the human contribution to global warming, Baffin Island would today be in a condition of "incipient glaciation".

"Portions of Labrador and Hudson Bay would also have moved very close to such a state had greenhouse gas concentrations followed natural trends," said the scientists.

The experiment had probably underestimated the amount of ice that would exist today in north-east Canada without human interference, they said.

Anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: "If the research findings are correct, a radical change in the perception of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will be required.

"Instead of driving us to the brink of environmental disaster, human intervention and technology progress will be seen as vital activities that have unintentionally delayed the onset of a catastrophic ice age."
Ain't that just the way though?

(via Instapundit)

Almost... Cut My Hair...

Oh wait, I did. Apologies to the Allman Brothers. It's a tad uneven in the back, but that can't be helped with these home rush-jobs. Anyway, shorter hair means no more winter hat-hair, and a shorter beard leaves less undergrowth in which frost particles can form. (Sort of a facial-follicular version of Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative.) All-in-all, I'm pleased with the effect. Hope you are too. No better way to start a new semester than by giving yourself a haircut.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Blizzard of '05, Day 2

We're enjoying a brief respite from the blizzard, though the gray-green color of the southern sky bodes poorly for the afternoon. (Well, y'know, that and the forecast.)

I've been trying to keep a visual log of the storm's progress, using my lovely apartment as the backdrop. Anyway, here's a shot from Wednesday afternoon:

Here's yesterday at around 4:15, about 3 hours into the storm:

And here's how she looked this afternoon when I got back from Mass:

I'll update as further developments warrant.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

It is Unleashed...

Check that last post. The first flakes are falling. Just now. See you again in 10-20 inches.

The Calm Before the Storm

New Haven is still right now. A quiet hour before the storm while the city girds herself. When she is ready, there remains only the dreadful waiting. I myself am doing dishes, quite happy to ignore what's coming. Will two liters of Pepsi and a half-box of Cheerios be enough to survive the approaching ice age? Enough for one, perhaps.

Ahh, the Wonders of Digital Photography

I'm not sure how my camera produced this image. It was supposed to be a rather blah picture of McSorley's. I especially like the white errata in the top right corner. They look like quarter-notes, as if I've captured the ambient noises of the street visually. Or something.

The Enormous 'Stache of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg

Above the sculpture department of the Art School there's a giant wooden mustache. It kind of reminds me of The Great Gatsby.

Sometimes a Zombie is Just a Zombie

I don't usually blog about my dreams, following the advice of a friend who noted that talking (or writing) about one's dreams is what uninteresting people do in lieu of being creative (or something to that effect). But I'm feeling particularly uninteresting and uncreative this morning as I await the Great Blizzard of '05, so here you go. Only the roughest sketch, though:

I just awoke from a rather odd nightmare that was a cross between the movie 28 Days Later and the Aesopian fable of the Grasshopper and the Ants. Except now, a sole ant who plans ahead (in regards to his hiding spot in a hotel about to be overrun by flesh-eating zombies) is overrun, and his hiding spot spoiled, at the last minute by a gang of non-forward thinking grasshoppers. Suffice it to say, I don't trust my friends from Yale to have my best interests at heart in the event of a zombie attack. At least not subconsciously.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Amongst the Teenyboppers

Yes, that was me at the Urban Outfitters on Broadway, standing on line to purchase some uber-ironic merchandise. But it's not my fault! I needed to buy gloves, and New Haven is slim pickings on the ground in the gloves department. Like a tiger who takes to eating humans, I was acting not out of taste, but from necessity. If it makes you feel any better, I almost choked to death on my own bile while in there. What a miserable establishment.

New Blog!

The Thing Is, the blogging arm of The Fact Is, a social conservative policy journal co-sponsored by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Initiative and the Culture of Life Foundation.

On a personal note, one of the bloggers on The Thing Is is Justin Torres, who I worked with (OK, he was one of my bosses) eons ago when I was an intern at Crisis. Mr. Torres was, among other things, the guy who introduced me to the late, much-mourned, which got me interested in Internet-based humor and commentary, which would evolve into my taste for blogs, which lead to the creation of this monstrosity. In other words, put the blame on him.

And read their blog!

"It's driving me mad, it's making me cra-azy"

Is it wrong that the Steve Miller Band song "Jungle Love" reminds me of Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins?

On the Second inaugural

Very torn. On the one hand, the Wilsonian substance - that the United States should commit itself to the aid of any group, anywhere, that's struggling for liberalism and democracy against despotism - has been the core of my foreign policy beliefs for about the last seven years or so. (Yes, since I was seventeen. I was very precocious. Then came the Internet, and beer, and buffalo sauce, which caused me to fall somewhat back to earth.) All people, everywhere, have an inherent dignity, simply by virtue of their being human, and part of what that dignity means is that they have a right to be free from oppression. This doesn't mean that we have to intervene (militarily, or preferably, otherwise) in every instance; what it means is that our default stance ought to be support for such groups, and that we ought to have a darn good reason for doing otherwise. All people, everywhere, are our brothers, and we'll ultimately be called to account for what we do, or don't do, to help them.

That said, I kind of share Chris Suellentrop's concerns:
Moreover, the entire thesis of Bush's address is questionable. "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one," he said, because democracy is an elixir that will defeat fanatical terrorism. But were Timothy McVeigh or Eric Robert Rudolph driven to kill because America's democratic institutions failed them somehow? Bush's belief that an absence of liberty is the "root cause" of terrorism feels as simplistic as the belief of some of the left that 9/11 was caused by poverty. Although it's true that democratic societies do not historically go to war with one another, it's doubtful that democracy is sufficient to quell violence from nonstate actors.
(Emphasis added.) Now, I agree, generally, with the idea that the general absence of liberty, and for that matter the presence of widespread poverty, in the Islamic world exacerbates the problem of terrorism we're now facing. But the "root causes" of terrorism don't lie in the fact that the House of Saud isn't responsible to an elected legislature, nor in the unemployment rate in Aleppo. They lie, as do the origins of all the various forms of evil we're going to come across, millennia ago in the disobedience of our first parents in the Garden, and before that in the rebellion of the angels in Heaven. Parliaments and markets will never solve the problem of evil, and we're bound to be disappointed if we place our hope in them.

We ought to help those who struggle against tyranny because it's the right thing to do, not because global liberal democracy will usher in a millennial age of peace and goodness.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Great News!

Zorak: She back!

And, it seems, she's had her baby! And it's a girl!

UPDATE: In other birth news... (via CRM)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Everyday Superheroes and their Names

When I was a lad, reading X-Men comic books and the like, I was always struck by an odd (or perhaps, in retrospect, not-so-odd) feature of superpowers: there seemed to be an inverse relationship between how cool a superpower was in a comic and how practical it would be in real life.

Take, for instance, Cyclops. He shoots beams of concussive force from his eyes. Very useful, say, in a pitched battle against rampaging super-beings. Not so useful around the house. In fact, I can't think of a single instance in which such an ability would actually be helpful in this, the real world, where supervillains are few and far between.

In contrast, consider Rogue. Her mutant power (the ability to absorb temporarily the knowledge, skills, abilities, etc, of those with whom she has flesh-to-flesh contact*) always seemed decidedly lame to me. It just wasn't that much use, while her colleagues were wailing away on the Mutant Liberation Front or some equivalent group of ne'er-do-wells with one or another type of supernatural energy for her to be able to absorb the powers of her foes. The basic problem, I think, was that evil mutants were tough, and generally paranoid, which made them difficult for Rogue to get close enough to them to actually touch them and absorb their powers. If Rogue could get close enough to take your powers, it probably meant you were weak, and your powers probably weren't worth taking, y'dig?

That said, in the real world, abilities like Rogue's would actually be quite useful. You could, for instance, hire yourself out as an interrogator for the government, discerning the plots of captured al-Qaeda operatives through nothing more than a handshake. Or you could impress your boss with an expert round of golf on your first try, just by high-fiving the course's pro. And so on and so on. I'm not saying it would be perfect for every situation, or that having to wear gloves all the time wouldn't be unpleasant (Rogue's power is reflexive and uncontrollable, so she wore a full-body-suit to avoid unwanted contact). I'm just saying that, unlike Cyclops' optic blasts, there's actually some real-world use for her powers.

There is then, in my estimation, an iron law of superpowers: the impressiveness of a superpower on the comics page is inversely proportional to the practicality of such a superpower in the real world. This is due, no doubt, to the unusual nature of the world of superhero comics. It is a world in which the forces of good and evil, clearly defined, are constantly doing battle, and in which the collateral damage world that results from said battles is essentially swept under the rug. Such a world puts a premium on powers that are able to cause the greatest degree of damage to one's enemies, with little cost (even among the heroes) for abilities that generate substantial negative externalities. Moreover, because the world of comics is a visual one, there is an emphasis on powers that are spectacular as opposed to subtle, even though there is little reason to think that a mutant ability's utility would be meaningfully related to its visibility.

All this is a roundabout way of saying: I think the world needs heroes with useful powers. As such, I've decided to set about, piece-by-piece, creating my own Legion of Everyday Superheroes who'll be possessed of practical superpowers. The first two members:

Fever (a.k.a. Thermamo, the Human Thermostat)
Fever is a seemingly ordinary man, capable of raising his body to slightly higher than normal temperatures, and of passing that excess heat on to inanimate objects and other people with whom he is in direct contact. Though he's not much for fighting crime, no-one's better to snuggle up to on a cold winter's night!

The Canteen
This super-powered lass can really hold her water! Her uncanny ability to go weeks at a time without peeing may not seem impressive, but unlike you she didn't miss a minute of the Lord of the Rings trilogy when they showed all three movies back-to-back-to-back in December '03.

That's all I have for now. More may follow. Contributions, of course, are welcome, though I daresay I don't anticipate any.

*She can also fly and is super-strong, as a result of a permanent melding with another superheroine, Ms. Marvel, but that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

UPDATE: An old friend, who was also in his day an avid X-Men reader, points out, correctly, that there's no such group as the "New Mutant Front". The group to which I intended to refer, of course, was the Mutant Liberation Front, a PLO-style group of evil mutants who battled the X-Men periodically in the early 90s. In my hurry, I elided them with the New Mutants, a group of teenage mutants that began under Professor Xavier's tutorship in the early 80s. All I can say in my defense is that I was operating on very little sleep, and had just finished a rather long take-home exam about the history of the common law. Anyway, I've made the correction.

Also, Toby Snedecor e-mails to suggest I've got it all wrong:
Au contraire.

Flight. A very common, very cool superpower that would *kick ass* in real life.

Superspeed (with integrated forcefield) - pow, you never need a car again, you can eat whatever the hell you want because your metabolism is ridiculous, and you can pay for your eating by running the Fastest Delivery Service Ever.

Super strength - in one fell swoop, you get Matrix-style superjumps (or leaping tall buildings in a single bound, if you want to be old school) and the ability to move any damned thing you please.

Water control- this one is for guys like Iceman and Aquaman's son (whose name escapes me at the moment.) Control over water/ice? In addition to the formidable potential for pranks, you've got the cool ice-slide method of getting around, you never get cold, and you don't have to get rained on if you don't want to.

And last but not least... Mastery of Magnetism. Want to change the channel on the bar TV? Done. Want to put up a skyscraper? Done. Want to put four thumbtacks in the wall while you're holding the poster perfectly square? Done. Flying on the Earth's magnetic field? Starting cars without a key? Turning off blaring car alarms? Using "the Force" to pull your prop lightsaber to you from across the room? (Or making your own Mjolnir and pulling the same trick as the Mighty Thor?) Carving the turkey while you're passing the gravy? FETCHING A COLD BREW FROM THE FRIDGE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FOURTH QUARTER WITHOUT GETTING UP? Yeah, you can do that.

Tip your hat to Magneto and call him your daddy, because there's iron in your blood.
It would be nice to be able to get a beer from the couch. I can't argue with that.

UPDATE II: Publius emails with some good suggestions of his own:
Instead of feet, he has feet-like hands to walk on. Useless in a fight, but he doesn't have to bend down to pick up dirty laundry on the floor or get someone else to hold a dustpan when he's sweeping.

The Shroom
The top of his head is shaped like the head of a toadstool. It's no good for stopping laser blasts or debris that come flying at him, but it's better than a sombrero for keeping the sun out of his eyes.

He can memorize vast amounts of trivia in short periods of time. He's useless as a fighter, but put him on Jeopardy and he'll clean up. Rumor has it that his secret identity is Ken Jennings, mild mannered Jeopardy champion.

She has the ability to emit beams of light from her fingernails that she can focus and aim at will and each of which is of approximately the same intensity as a Mini Maglite beam. These beams of light are harmless, but darn useful when she gets home after dark and can't find the right key to unlock her front door.
I'd like to team up the Shroom and Garlic-Butter Girl; that'd be an unbeatable combo.

Last Exam: Completed

And so, having completed my 24-hour take-home History of the Common Law exam, my "fall" semester is over. And, on January 19, not a moment too soon.

I've just got to go print it out and hand it in, and then a few days of relaxing interspersed with revelry before spring semester begins. Blogging, etc., is likely to be light for the next couple days, since I'll have more important things to do, like have fun.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I Think I'm in Love

"100 lb. woman eats 6 lb. hamburger"

It was, I might add, almost 11 lbs. when all the fixin's are included. And she did it in under three hours, making her the first human ever to accomplish the feat, though many, including professional competitive eaters, had gone before her. I'm getting weak in the knees.

What a woman!

More pictures.

Tip o' the pith: the Corner

UPDATE: Foodmarket News has a longer account. Apparently Ms. Stelnick is studying childhood education and psychology at College of New Jersey (my grandpa's alma mater, although when he went there it was called Trenton State Teachers' College) and is considering a career as a professional skydiver.

And just look at the guy she bested, Eric "Badlands" Booker:

I'll be honest: I don't quite get the helmet. Maybe he plans to be a professional skydiver someday, too.

I'll Admit: I was Wrong About Europe

You know, I used to think the Europeans were a fading power, made economically sclerotic through crippling regulations and staring down an inescapable demographic collapse. But then I realized: they just built a really tubby jet airliner.

Europe: it's the wave of the future!

Democratic Protest or Space-Time Tourism?

K-Lo of NRO points to a novel form of protest against the Bush inauguration:
While Republicans in Washington will be busy hanging bunting and straightening the final touches on the president's second inauguration Thursday, Jesse Gordon of Cambridge will be taking another, less festive action.

Gordon will turn the pockets on his pants inside out. No, the 44-year-old Internet marketing manager for a chemistry company is not flat broke. Nor is he attempting to advance a new hobo chic.

Gordon will be taking part in what he and other activists hope will be a day of protests across the nation designed to dampen the spirit of the quadrennial ritual and register a broad, if quiet, displeasure with the man about to be sworn in for a second term.
Wasn't this the fashion for young people in 2015, according to "Back to the Future: Part II"? Indeed it was!

Now, I'm not saying that Mr. Gordon is some kind of time-traveler from the mid-1980s come to prevent Bush from becoming president. I'm just saying: if you see a DeLorean giving off sparks, you might want to try to stop this guy (possibly by whapping him on the head with a cane and calling him "Butthead").

Kidnapped Archbishop Freed

Deo gratias. It seems my earlier pessimism was unwarranted.

May God be with those Chinese workers, though.

Monday, January 17, 2005

"Revolutions are Not Made with Rosewater"

Taking a brief break from studying the history of the common law to watch the new History Channel documentary on the French Revolution. It's been a long time since I'd thought about that unfortunate incident, and particularly about those despicable little Jacobins. (In case you can't tell, I'm not a big fan of the whole business.)

What hadn't occurred to me when I was learning about this stuff in high school/junior high history classes was the extent to which the Revolution prefigured the entire totalitarian project of the 20th century. Not just in the extent that it gave birth to Bonapartism dictatorship (though Old Boney can defer only to Mao, Stalin and Hitler in the scope of the destruction he unleashed). The Revolution itself gave sowed the seeds of totalitarianism. Robespierre was the first totalitarian. The Great Terror - with its omnipresent secret police, its constant threat of denunciation, its vision of massive political bloodletting as necessary for the preservation of the cause - is the acorn from which the oak of Nazi and Soviet repression would eventually spring. The Republic of Virtue is really the first totalitarian ideal expressed in the long, sad history of man: the idea not just that man must obey the state, nor merely that he must be brutalized into such obedience, but that he must be brutalized into loving the state.
But what is the fundamental principle of the democratic or popular government, that is to say, the essential strength that sustains it and makes it move? It is virtue: I am speaking of the public virtue which brought about so many marvels in Greece and Rome and which must bring about much more astonishing ones yet in republican France; of that virtue which is nothing more than love of the fatherland and of its laws.

If the strength of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the strength of popular government in revolution is both virtue and terror; terror without virtue is disastrous, virtue without terror is powerless. Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue....
I should get back to studying, so I'll leave it at that. Perhaps, after exams, I'll comment on this subject at greater length.

Iraqi Archbishop Kidnapped

As you probably know by now, the Archbishop of Mosul, Basil George Casmoussa, has been kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq. I pray for his safe release, though sadly, given his captors, I do not anticipate it. St Joseph, patron of a good death, be with him.

Why I am Not an Anglican, Vol. MCXVIII

Glad I'm Not in the Land of Cotton

Seems Roy Moore is the favorite in early polling to win the 2006 Alabama GOP gubernatorial primary. My initial reaction when I saw this story on Southern Appeal was: that's just because he has name recognition on account of the whole Ten Commandments fracas. But then I clicked the link and realized he was in a two-man race with the incumbent governor Bob Riley. So much for that theory.

How is the Fox Like LBJ?

Both have/had difficulty bowling because of their big asses.

Disseminating this kind of meme, folks, is why Al Gore invented the internet in the first place. Go, and tell the people!

PSSST... 21 Across is "Minister of Defense"

(I hope I'm not giving away too much, but) today's Yahoo crossword is an oddly touching tribute to the recently deceased Reggie White.

Today's Fake News Item

Did you know that "funk" music was actually invented by the Nixon White House in 1971 as a way to promote full employment? It's true! That's why all funk bands have at least seven members. Daniel Patrick Moynihan also hoped it would ease the inflationary pressures created by the country's massive surplus production of oversized plastic sunglasses.

Friday, January 14, 2005


Apropos of that last item, I had an idea that I wanted to float: GoogleMash. The name derives from the Mash notes you used to pass around back in the day (a subject about which I'm only familiar through the academic literature, since I went to an all-boy's school until I was fifteen). But, since bloggers are basically sexless automatons, there won't be any obligation that you have a crush on the people you GoogleMash. It's just a way to covertly pay a compliment to one of your fellow bloggers.

OK, enough prologue. Here's how it works: you pick another blogger who you're friendly with, or think could use a pick-me-up, or whatever. Then, type into Google a phrase complimentary to that person (like, say, Dawn Eden is cute) then click on the link to that person's blog that comes up. That way, when they look at their search engine referrals, a nice little compliment will be waiting for them. (If your initial phrase doesn't produce an actual link to their blog - as, say, death of yale law is mysterious and sexy doesn't - then go back to the drawing board.)

This may seem cheesy, but I can tell you that if I opened eXTReMe Tracking one morning and saw mansfield fox is ruggedly handsome, well, that would just make my day.

What the blogosphere needs now, is love, sweet love. Go to it people!

OK, Death, I'll Play Your Game...

Death has a posted a variant of the random song challenge. Here are the rules:

Why Are You Looking At Me?

Step 1: Open up your webtracker (if you don't have one, then download and install one and come back to this meme in a few weeks) and pull up your search engine referrals
Step 2: Look at the first ten search engine referrals and create a number least of of the terms/phrases used. You can skip repeats, or really obvious ones (for example, if your blog title is "Death in the Afternoon" and somebody searches for "Death in the Afternoon" don't list that)
Step 3: Post the list to your blog, with optional explanations and links
Step 4: Link your post to the person you got this meme from.
Step 5: If there is a really odd/interesting referral that doesn't appear in your most recent ten include that at the bottom of the list.

And so, to the country:
1. mollerus family photos
2. Kylie Agent Provocateur windows media player download
3. "federal judges and the heisman trophy"
4. margaret holloway
5. harry truman's austere inauguration
6. "hardees ad"
7. "He's got all the time in the world" and NFL and video
8. palsgraf v LIRR
9. palsgraf film NYU
10. "chris muha" + picture
The problem with linking to the memes that brought people here is that there's often more than one. Kylie Agent Provocateur windows media player download, for instance, directs people to Mansfield Fox because of two separate posts, which had nothing to do with one another. One was the random song challenge, in which I whined that Windows Media Player was convinced I really liked Kylie Minogue; the other was this post in which I pondered whether Michael Newdow (fast challenging Ralph Nader for the title of "America's most litigious man") was actually secretly working for the Religious Right.

Still, always fun to post amusing googlings.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

"Harry the Nazi" and Communist Chic

Andrew Stuttaford asks a question regarding the Prince Harry the Nazi story of particular interest to your humble correspondent: would there have been a similar controversy if Hal had gone in Soviet, as opposed to National Socialist, attire?

Would there, indeed?

The Fox, Halloween 2003

A more casual Lenin, seen with a pre-icepick Trotsky

As for Hal: it would obviously be somewhat hypocritical of me to criticize his choice in costumes. For my part, I went disguised as Lenin for Halloween because I wanted to go as something genuinely scary - and what could be scarier than the man whose murderous ideology lead to the death of tens of millions? (Well, there's probably some scarier stuff, but nothing I could pull off on my limited budget.) It was also kind of a piece of conservative performance art, since I assumed (correctly, it turned out) that people (and by people I mean Yale grad students, who are, I think, a sort of people) who would have been aghast if I'd gone costumed as Hitler or Goering would be amused and enthusiastic at my Lenin. Not all mass murderers, it seems, are equal.

Remembering that Harry's great-grandfather was one of the leaders in the fight to defeat the Nazis, I can't help but wonder if, say, the descendants of Scipio Africanus went parading around costumed as Hannibal Barca, even in the darkest days of the corruption of republican Rome. Or whether Edward VII paraded around the dance halls and brothels of late 19th century London attired as Old Boney. (Actually, he probably did, that degenerate.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

And They Were Delicious

I'm Incorrigible and Ineducable

Sad but true: The new dietary guidelines make me want a Big Mac. Really, really badly. I can't explain it. They just do.

At least it's not a craving for a you-know-what.

Introducing Brutus

About a month ago, I mentioned Brutus, my grapefruit tree. He's a stalwart companion, a stoic who accepts changes (atmospheric or otherwise) as they come. He's been with me for about 15 months now; early in my law school career I purchased him for a few bucks off of an old lady selling house plants on the street. I've basically ignored all of her directions (don't over-water, give him only indirect sunlight) but he seems to be doing alright. Anyway, now that I have a camera, I thought I'd share him with you.

That's Brutus on the left with his current neighbor, the Poinsettia. The Poinsettia doesn't realize it, but he's slowly being fed to Brutus. As his leaves dry up and fall off, I'm grinding them up and mixing them into Brutus' topsoil. Like me, he's a hungry little devil, and will eat pretty much anything; I mulch scraps into his pot - apple cores, dried rose petals, cucumber skins, etc. I'm steering clear of meats right now, mostly for the smell. (You can see some Poinsettia leaves drying in the bottom of the shot.)

Brutus has grown an enormous amount in the time he's been with me. When I got him, he was only yea high; now, after months of delicate care and one hot, moist summer, he's hey high.

I'm not sure when he'll be ready to start producing fruit. I imagine not for a while. I'm honestly not sure what I'll do when the day comes - doesn't every parent secretly dread the onset of puberty? Maybe I'll sneak into a greenhouse and hope he picks up some ambient polination.

Yale Law Student or Khalid Sheik Muhammed?

We report, you decide.

I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watchin' Me

This is my favorite shot from yesterday. I think it conveys my deep-seated paranoia nicely. (As you can see, I need serious help as a photographer.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

First Shots

So, the technical difficulty has been solved (somewhat). Further fixes will follow tomorrow, when I have more patience to be on the phone with Dell customer service. In the meantime, I leave you with these, the first two shots taken off my digital camera:

Ansel Adams, I ain't

I have a bad habit of squinting in photos (and of looking constipated in photos where I'm trying not to squint - see below). I think the next photo is a slight improvement. There are better photos still on the camera, but they'll have to wait for tomorrow, since for now the process of downloading them involves two computers and email (and a lot of me muttering under my breath). Anyway, here's happy Angus:

As you can see, exams are not good for my health or hygiene.

Good Enough for Non-Government Work

Man, those UPS guys work late. My final Christmas present (a gift from my entire family, in small increments) just arrived. Its coming signals the end of productive work for the evening. Just as well, I suppose: Administrative Law is dull anyway. Now I must run: I've got software to install, cockeyed photos of myself to download, et cetera, et cetera. Check this space for further updates.

UPDATE: We're currently experiencing technical difficulties. We regret the inconvenience.

Know Me by My Music

Following Father Tucker, I've decided to take the "Top Ten Random Songs Challenge". The rules:
1. Open up the music player on your computer.
2. Set it to play your entire music collection.
3. Hit the "shuffle" command.
4. Tell us the title of the next ten songs that show up (with their musicians), no matter how embarrassing. That's right, no skipping that Carpenters tune that will totally destroy your hip credibility. It's time for total musical honesty.
5. Write it up in your blog or journal and link back to at least a couple of the other sites where you saw this.
6. If you get the same artist twice, you may skip the second (or third, or etc.) occurrences. You don't have to, but since randomness could mean you end up with a list of ten song with five artists, you can if you'd like.

My list:
1. OutKast, Ghetto Musick
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Yertle the Turtle
3. Gary Jules, Mad World (from the Donnie Darko soundtrack)
4. the Beatles, Hey Jude
5. Snoop Dogg, Trust Me
6. Kylie Minogue, Love at First Sight
7. TaTu, Malchik Gay
8. Cake, Is This Love?
9. G. Love and Special Sauce, Rhyme for the Summertime
10. the Waterboys, Death is Not the End
In a funny twist, the next song on the playlist was a clip of Homer Simpson singing "My Baloney has a First Name". A class act, I am. To make sure the initial list wasn't some weird outlier, I redid the experiment, and got these results:
1. OutKast, Da Art of Storytellin' (Part 1)
2. Veruca Salt, Volcano Girls
3. Kylie Minogue, Love at First Sight
4. Jamie Foxx, Slow Jamz (from Kanye West's "The College Dropout")
5. Belle & Sebastian, Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son
6. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, I Won't Back Down
7. Nick Drake, Thoughts of Mary Jane
8. the Rolling Stones, Ruby Tuesday
9. the Cardigans, Love Fool
10. the Simpsons, Dr. Zaius
Some thoughts: I think the lists are pretty representative (weirdly so) of the music on my computer, which is in turn representative of my musical tastes. Not that there weren't quirks: In both lists, OutKast came up first, and twice (I dropped the second both times, even though they were better songs). Also, Kylie Minogue came up on both lists. Is this the Windows Media Player version of "My TiVo thinks I'm gay"?

He Hath Cast Down the Mighty

Juan Gonzalez, the two-time American League MVP (1996, 1998), is about to sign a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians. I'm trying not to be happy about this unfortunate turn of events, but Gonzalez has such a poor reputation that it's hard not to be at least a little pleased that he's been humbled.

Monday, January 10, 2005

This Guy Really Did Chicken Right

What a great story: just before Christmas, Bobby Brock, a Kentucky man who'd worked for the same KFC for 49 years, retired. He was, as the article puts it, "a KFC original".

That's it. There's no twist, except that the man worked his entire adult life for one employer, a rarity in this age.

Interestingly, Mr. Brock, who's 65, is the same age Colonel Sanders was when he founded the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain. KFC has a fascinating backstory. Sanders, it seems, was a retiree living off his meager Social Security pension. But:
Confident of the quality of his fried chicken, the Colonel devoted himself to the chicken franchising business that he started in 1952. He traveled across the country by car from restaurant to restaurant, cooking batches of chicken for restaurant owners and their employees. If the reaction was favorable, he entered into a handshake agreement on a deal that stipulated a payment to him of a nickel for each chicken the restaurant sold. By 1964, Colonel Sanders had more than 600 franchised outlets for his chicken in the United States and Canada. That year, he sold his interest in the U.S. company for $2 million to a group of investors including John Y. Brown Jr., who later was governor of Kentucky from 1980 to 1984. The Colonel remained a public spokesman for the company. In 1976, an independent survey ranked the Colonel as the world's second most recognizable celebrity.
A real American success story. (Side note: Sanders was only an honorary colonel, though he had been a soldier, serving as a private in Cuba during the first Roosevelt administration.)

Many thanks to Airdog for the initial link.

"Music of the Knight"

In New Haven? Love opera? Wanna help a brother out?

Why not consider purchasing tickets to "Music of the Knight", a concert Roberto Iarussi is putting on for the benefit of the Knights of Columbus (who will, in turn, spend the money on all sorts of assorted good works). The concert's on January 22, 8:00pm, at the Shubert Theater in scenic New Haven.

What are people saying about Roberto Iarussi?

Well, Placido Domingo said he has "a beautiful timbre".
Luciano Pavarotti says, "Bravo tenore!"

That's two of the three tenors! What more do you people want!?!?!??

Go here to find out how to purchase tickets.

On Pornography, Culinary

The Slate review of the latest Hardees ad campaign for the Monster Thickburger contains the following brilliant sentence:
I guess if the Thickburger qualifies as food porn, the Monster Thickburger is XXX hard-core food porn, with cheese bondage and underage buns and deviant bacon orgies.
The ads, by the way, are genuinely pornographic, which is a shame because I was otherwise quite well disposed to the Monster Thickburger. Just as well, I suppose, since there aren't any Hardees in the Northeast.

For Sale: Everything But Indulgences

Fr. Sibley is now the proprietor of his own well stocked CafePress store. I'll have to be sure to get an "I'd Rather Be Roasting Heretics" apron before grilling season starts.

No C.O.D.s, I Assume...

I don't usually find the Umbert the Unborn strip funny. I understand that it's for a good cause, but the jokes are as saccharine as even the stickiest Family Circus. That said, this strip was too deeply surreal not to link to.

I find myself asking questions like: Did Umbert have to buzz the delivery guy in to get him past the cervix? And, since they're suspended in fluid anyway, why does the UPS guy need a hand-truck? These are exactly the kind of questions I want to be asking myself on a Monday afternoon.

(On a related note, if you want an illustrated story about a fetus that's charming and heartwarming but not so sweet that it will give you cavities, may I recommend Angel of the Waters?)

A Death in Connecticut

On January 26, Connecticut will execute serial killer Michael Ross. It will be the state's first execution in almost half a century.

Ross, who murdered at eight women in the 1980s, has voluntarily abandoned all further appeals and has asked to be executed. (He lays out his reasons here.) His former lawyers are seeking to void his dropping the appeals on the grounds that Ross is mentally incompetent, but such efforts are expected to fail.

The Most Reverend Henry Mansell, Archbishop of Hartford, has drafted a pastoral letter calling on Catholics to work for the repeal of Connecticut's death penalty. If local news reports are to be believed, the letter has met with a mixed response among members of the archdiocese.

I think that Archbishop Mansell's heart is in the right place, and I agree that the state of Connecticut ought to spare the life of Michael Ross. (I'm not sure whether or not I'm in favor of abolishing the death penalty in CT; more on that later.) I'm not certain, however, that I agree with the contents of the letter. My chief concern is that the Archbishop allows good rhetoric to get in the way of clear thinking. Here are two passages from the letter:
[W]e are motivated by the consistent ethic of life. We wish to make clear that, in accord with the teaching of Pope John Paul II, respect for human life must be “profoundly consistent.”(Evangelium vitae, #87). Human life is a gift from God that must be respected from conception to natural death. Thus, we oppose capital punishment. ... Specifically in regard to capital punishment, we note increasing reliance on the death penalty, which diminishes each of us. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life only by taking life.
The nature and extent of the punishment ought not to go to the extreme of executing the offender, except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare if not practically nonexistent. (Evangelium vitae, #56).
The former is Archbishop Mansell; the latter is His Holiness John Paul II. Although, in this case, they lead to the same conclusion, they express what I take to be very different views about the morality of the death penalty, of which the latter is more analytically sound and more in harmony with the whole of Catholic teaching as represented by the Catechism.

The core of Archbishop Mansell's argument seems to me to be as follows: God, and God alone, is the master of human life, deciding when it begins and when it is to end. Any action that varies from that plan, that deliberately cuts short a human life, is wrong, even when that action has as its aim achieving some good end, even an end as high as defending life. Thus, the idea that we can defend life by taking it is a "tragic illusion", a devil's bargain no different from any other sin to which we are tempted out of our desire to do good. (cf. Catechism #1756: "One may not do evil so that good will result from it.")

And yet, there clearly are circumstances in which one can only defend life by taking life, as the Catechism recognizes. 2263-2265 acknowledges the right of self-defense, and indeed the duty for those entrusted with the defense of others to use lethal force if necessary. Furthermore, though war is to be avoided, it is permissible for a soldier to kill in battle, so long as they abide by jus in bello standards. This is, I assume, what the Holy Father speaks of when he refers to "absolute necessity": one may only impose the death penalty when there is no other way to protect society. Our respect for human life requires not that we never take it at all, that we take it only when there is no other way to defend life, and never otherwise.

As a practical matter, I think the Cardinal, the Holy Father and I (that sounds like the set-up for a joke, doesn't it? A cardinal, the Pope and a blogger walk into a bar...) would agree that the state of Connecticut oughtn't to be executing people. But, I think, we should be careful and precise as to our reasons for coming to that conclusion, lest we lay premises that will lead us to talk ourselves into error (that Christians must be pacifists, that Christian morality forbids the use of force even in self defense). In any philosophical system (and Christianity is a philosophy, though it's not principally one) the argument is as important as the conclusion.

As for whether Connecticut should take the step of abolishing the death penalty, I'm torn. This is attributable, I think, to the tensions between Catholic teaching on these kinds of issues and the demands of liberalism. That is: liberalism requires that laws (particularly criminal laws) be written down in advance and that the discretion of judges and jurors be circumscribed so that trials and judgments will be fair, regular and just. Catholic death-penalty teachings require that the death penalty only be imposed when absolutely necessary. It will be extremely difficult to lay down in advance what would constitute the "absolute necessity" required, certainly not in a manner that didn't afford juries and judges overwhelming discretion. So your choices are probably either a) tie the death penalty to specific elements of the crime, in which case the law will be overinclusive and lots of people will be executed when there's no absolute necessity, or 2) abolish the death penalty altogether, as Archbishop Mansell wants to do. Yet, I would think that, should a situation of genuine "absolute necessity" actually arise, we would not only want to, but be under a moral obligation to make use of the death penalty in order to protect the innocent. But of course, we wouldn't know that such a necessity was about to exist until the crime had already been committed, at which point it would be deeply illiberal to reinstate capital punishment ex post facto and impose it just on the cause of the genuine absolute necessity.

I honestly don't know what to do. One way to square the circle might be to retain the death penalty but to develop an understanding that the executive's power to pardon or commute sentences was to be used liberally. Yet that too vests an enormous amount of discretion in the executive, and would probably be impossible to work in practice. So I'm back to the drawing board. I'm bereft of ideas, and yet you can't simply punt on this issue. A society either has to have or not have a death penalty. Any advice would be welcomed.

The NFC: No F***ing Chance to Win Super Bowl

Which is a more terrifying prospect: that two 8-8 teams actually won playoff games this weekend, or that it's relatively easy to imagine that those two 8-8 teams will meet in the NFC title game? (St Louis plays Atlanta in a dome, where they traditionally dominate; a surging Minnesota team plays a hobbled Philly squad that hasn't been tested by a meaningful game since Terrell Owens was injured.)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Daddy, Where Do Bad Books Come From?

An interesting article by a former collaborator on the project that would eventually become The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, the recent book that claims to prove, definitively, that the Great Emancipator was an active homosexual. It's a fascinating story of an honest historian battling with an ideological one, and later with a publishing house that knows it's been duped but can't do much about it. The piece also contains a pretty thoroughgoing take-down of the book's methodology and reasoning. It's worth a read, if you have the time.

As to the substantive issues - whether Lincoln was attracted to other men, whether he acted on those attractions, whether he considered himself a "homosexual" in anything like the modern sense - I think they're probably unknowable by now. It is pretty clear that Lincoln was an odd bird, by the standards of his or any time. But the historical record is just too scant, and what evidence we have is subject to too many competing, plausible explanations, for us to answer those questions with anything other than a somewhat-educated guess. This is just one of those issues about which we'll just have to accept that so long as we're in this world we won't be able to understand all the mysteries of this world, and leave it at that.

UPDATE: Biographer-genius Richard Brookhiser reviewed the book for the New York Times this weekend.

Bring on Pittsburgh!

What a great game. (Better, of course, because the J!E!T!S! won.) A lot of guys (Brien, Barton, Kaedling) vied for the coveted title of The Goat, but in the end, it could only be one man: the Goat of Goats, Marty Schottenheimer. If he doesn't charge onto the field to protest a sensible non-call on an imaginary roughing-the-kicker penalty towards the end of the first half, the Jets don't tie the game going into the locker room. If he doesn't waste three downs, running the ball unenthusiastically towards the right hash-mark in OT, maybe Kaedling, a rookie in an unbelievably tense situation, doesn't go just wide-right on a 40-yard field goal in bad conditions.

Marty, there's a reason you're 5-12 in the playoffs in your career. You're the Goat. La cabra. La chèvre. Die Ziege. козочка. η αίγα.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Michael Newdow Sues Over Inauguration

Notably litigious atheist seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent Bush from taking the Oath of Office with his hand on a Bible.

Am I the only one who thinks Newdow is really an agent provocateur covertly employed by Jerry Falwell & Co.?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Finally: Neuroscience Put to a Good Use

Lowering free-throw percentages:
Last week, I wrote to the NBA owner I deemed most likely to consider applying the scientific method to free-throw shooting, Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. I told Cuban that the assumption that waving balloons wildly will produce the biggest distraction is just plain wrong. Given how the brain perceives motion, randomly moving balloons aren't very off-putting. When you see a lot of little objects moving crazily back and forth, all the different motion signals that get sent to the brain cancel each other out. In the mind of a free-throw shooter, a crowd of people waving wiggle sticks looks like a snowy TV screen. This sort of white noise might make it harder to see the rim, but the stats show that isn't a big deal for the pros.

But what if the waving balloons didn't cancel each other out? If fans behind the backboard waved their balloons from side to side in unison, opposing players would perceive a field of background motion. When we see a moving background, we tend to assume that we're the ones moving and that the background is staying put. If everything on my desk suddenly drifted to the right, I would probably assume that my chair had rolled to the left. And if I were at the free-throw line as the world drifted to the right, my shooting motion would automatically compensate for what I perceived to be my own motion to the left. David Whitney, a visual psychophysicist at the University of California-Irvine, recently described this phenomenon in the lab. The results, published in Nature ("The influence of visual motion on fast reaching movements to a stationary object"), showed that a field of background motion can bias hand movements in the direction of that motion.

A few hours after I wrote Cuban that first e-mail, I got an answer. "I love using science to gain an advantage," he wrote. He said he'd give the plan a try.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Will Eisner, Resquiescat in Pace

I hadn't realized it until just now, but Will Eisner passed away a few days ago. Eisner was one of the giants of American comics. He started working in the 1930s, running a production house that employed future greats Jack Kirby and Bob Kane, and which famously turned down a proposal to create a character called "Superman". From 1940-1952 he produced The Spirit, a strip about a masked crime fighter that was narratively and artistically light years ahead of its time. In the late 1970s he returned to the "sequential art" medium, as he called it, effectively inventing the modern graphic novel with his A Contract with God. In the succeeding 25 years, he published a large number of other graphic novels, which can be seen here.

Challenge to Ohio Electoral Votes

So the Democrats have objected to the counting of Ohio's Electoral Votes. I'm currently watching the House debate on the subject. I must say that, although I think the substance of the objection is absurd, and ought to be voted down. That said, I think the proponents of the objection Representatives Stephanie Tubbs Jones and John Conyers, are behaving with much more class than their Republican opponents in this debate. There clearly were problems in Ohio, though there were doubtless similar problems in every other state, and we ought to work to make an effort to keep these problems as infrequent as possible. Yeah, this might not be the best time to have this debate, but nobody's helped by accusing the objectors of lacking "class", as Ohio Representative Deborah Pryce

Roy Blunt's point - that since even the Democrats agree that Bush actually won Ohio, they ought to count the state's electoral votes and discuss the issue of voting problems at a later date (or in a different forum, like the state of Ohio) - is a sound one.

And yes, Mel Watt is grandstanding. That's what Mel Watt does. Criticizing him for grandstanding is like criticizing a scorpion for stinging.

Bob Ney starts off basically making my point, that these were real problems, but that they weren't confined to Ohio, that there's no such thing as a perfect election, and then spoils everything by saying "those who are brining this challenge just can't accept that Bush won." (That's a paraphrase.) Sheesh. So close, so far.

UPDATE: Nancy Pelosi also accuses Republicans of saying the challenge was "frivolous" (Watt did the same). I may have missed something, but I don't recall anyone saying that exactly. And Ney expressly denied that he thinks it's a frivolous challenged. AHH SHE DID IT AGAIN! I'm starting to think "Republicans think this challenge is 'frivolous'" is on it's way to becoming the new "Republicans are challenging my patriotism" - a political cliche untied to its lack of objective validity.

UPDATE II: In fairness, Republicans have their own phony rhetorical hobby-horse in this debate. Many of them keep accusing the Democrats of imagining that there's some kind of conspiracy to deny minorities their votes and elect Bush. That's not what Democrats are saying; they're saying that ordinary incompetence and poor planning resulted in huge problems that (even without any conspiracy) had the effect of denying at least some people (minority and otherwise) their rights. That seems genuinely accurate. Whether now is the best time to have this debate is another issue, but accusing Democrats of Michael Moore-esque conspiracy-mongering is untrue and unfair.

UPDATE III: I'm done watching. Everyone's settled into their rhetorical positions; they're just going to talk past each other for a while, then approve the Ohio electoral votes. Standard congressional non-drama.

Snow Falling on Elms

New Haven, or at least the quasi-suburban part in which I live, looks lovely right now, all trees and gables bedecked with new-fallen show - the very image of a quaint New England town. Set against the dark northern sky, the city rests, resplendent.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Constitutions, in 2020 or in Exile

Right now I'm cramming for my Evidence exam tomorrow (specifically hearsay, which I'm told is really important*). But that's really boring, so I thought I'd take a break and comment on Orin Kerr's recent post on the whole "Constitution in Exile" kerfuffle.

(For those not up to speed, liberal law-prof Cass Sunstein recently made the claim that conservative jurisprudes use the term "restoring the Constitution in Exile" to describe their judicial program - which apparently includes declaring the entire post-New Deal regulatory state unconstitutional. His basis for this claim was a single use of the term "Constitution in Exile" in a law revue article 9 years ago. A pretty minor controversy, I know, but conservatives objected since it made them seem like a creepy cabal, when, in fact, we're only a deeply unsettling cabal. That's a world of difference.)

Anyway, I'm glad that there's at least a basic agreement that we conservatives do not in fact use the term "restoring the Constitution in Exile" to describe our nefarious jurisprudential designs. The actual secret code-word, for the curious, is "Reinstating the Iron Rule of Cthulhu". Which is way cooler.

I do think, though, that Professor Kerr is overly dismissive when he comes to discussing Sunstein's substantive fear, that there's serious support among conservative legal academics and judges for the goal of invalidating the modern regulatory state. Sure, we're not talking about huge numbers of people (picture it: legions of Federalist Society members sharpening their halberds, preparing to storm the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters). But there are people (not all of them cranks) who want to do this, or would if they thought they could get away with it as a practical-political matter. And there are a lot more people who favor a toned-down version, not abolishing the regulatory state altogether but halting its growth, pruning it here and there. After a couple of decades of this, the difference between further pruning and wholesale abolition might be hard to see.

This is not to say that we're in any actual danger of seeing the abolition of the federal regulatory state any time soon. We ain't. But, particularly since all that's required to install even the zaniest legal regime is to capture a 5-4 majority on an unelected body of cranky gerontocrats, it doesn't seem unreasonable that conservatives and liberals should be attentive to all the far-out legal end-states the other side wants (however faintly) to achieve. Consider how quickly same-sex marriage went from crackpot theory (mid-70s) to respectable thought experiment (late-80s) to impending reality (mid-90s) to virtual litmus test for admission into respectable liberal circles (today). If nobody's minding the slope, things can get awfully slippery awfully fast.

That's why I think conservatives ought to pay close attention to the Constitution in 2020 conference, and to similar such goings-on in the future. In the words of one astute analyst, "You can't keep the Democrats out of the White House forever." We're eventually going to have to deal with activist-progressive judicial nominees and judges (as opposed to liberal caretakers like Breyer and Ginsburg, who seem primarily interested in preserving existing Warren Era precedents against the Rehnquistian onslaught). It would probably behoove us to have some sense of what we're up against. People like Bruce Ackerman, Harold Koh, Reva Siegal, et al., probably aren't going to be the Supreme Court nominees of the next 20 years (well, maybe Koh), but they're going to be the friends of those nominees, the people who write the law revue articles those nominees read, the people who help shape the respectable liberal consensus to which those nominees subscribe. It's therefore important to know what they think, and where they want to go. Their ideas may be crazy, castles-in-the-sky kinds of stuff (see generally, Deliberation Day), but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be dangerous in the hands of a Supreme Court justice someday.

*Get it?!?

Now It Can Be Told: Liposuctioned Fat

Did you ever wonder what happened to all that fat that gets removed in liposuctions each year? Well, the answer came to me in a dream last night, and it may surprise you. No, it isn't turned into expensive soap by nihilist guerrillas. Nor is it destroyed by experts in biohazard facilities. Nor is it just poured down the drain.

No: the fat is being stored in a series of warehouses along the Mississippi River. You see, the nation is storing up fat for winter, preparing to hibernate, if you will. It's all part of a super-secret government program called Operation: Chipmunk, that's designed to protect us from the real threat, global cooling. In the event of a new ice age, the survivors will be re-injected with fat for insulation and fed primarily on a nutritious fat-based broth called Obiso Soup.

Fat, understand, is a very efficient method of calorie storage. But if that fat remains on the body, it can cause myriad health problems, not to mention unsightly love handles. We needed a way to produce large quantities of human fat, but then to get that fat out without destroying it. Thus, the iron triangle of Hardees, liposuction and Operation: Chipmunk was born. Americans are literally being turned into fat factories. It's like the Matrix, only quite a bit more gross.

Think about it: That's why we're encouraged to eat grotesquely large and high-calorie meals while simultaneously being told that the ideal human form has under five percent body-fat. That's why cable TV is littered with those repulsive but oddly watchable shows that document the plastic surgeries of celebrities and ordinary people alike. That's why diet and exercise just aren't enough.

Remember: the fat you save, may save you.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Further Cosmetic Surgery

I've added a new link to the sidebar (Sharon Mollerus' Clairity's Place) and joined the Catholic Bloggers webring Mrs. Mollerus is setting up. We'll see how this works out.

UPDATE: I've also gotten rid of the Advent Blog, which seems not exactly au courant now, what with Christmas having come and gone, and all.