Sunday, July 21, 2013
Early observations on an experimental family e-library and e-bookclub using Kindles
Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes today that his Kindle Paperwhite has "replaced [his] iPad as [his] favorite device for reading Kindle books":
The backlighting is the key. It’s light, battery lasts a long time (longer than the iPad), it charges quickly (faster than the iPad), and it’s very clear and easy to read in all kinds of light, from bright sunshine to a dark room. And of course, it’s much, much cheaper [than an iPad].
To all of which, I say: Ditto. I bought one of the first Paperwhites last fall, and I like mine so much that I made this product the basis for a family e-book club.
Specifically, I've given four Kindle Paperwhites, plus two older Kindle models I'd purchased in 2010 and 2011, to my four college-age kids and two of their best friends. All these devices are associated with my Amazon Prime account, and as the group's sponsor I encourage the members to make responsible e-book purchases through Amazon using their devices. Those purchases are of course billed to my Amazon account — like many parents, I've never regretted buying books for my kids! — and each purchase generates an emailed invoice to me, which helps me keep track of new additions to our collective e-library and its ongoing costs.
Here's how the Kindle system multiplies the already formidable convenience and economics of e-books for a family e-library, though:
Most of Amazon's Kindle books include licensing rights for multiple copies of e-books to be downloaded simultaneously to six different devices. (The precise number is set by the publisher of each book, I gather — I wonder if that was another one of Apple's ideas or something the publishers insisted upon on their own?) Not everyone in our group can simultaneously be reading the same book, then. But then again, six copies at any one time is quite a few: What home library has as many as six copies of on-dead-trees books available for simultaneous checkout? When you remove a copy from one Kindle or other e-reader device, it automatically frees up the license rights for another free and nearly-instant download on any of my account's devices, so even the six-copy limitation turns out to have a trivial and rare effect on us.
And although we have a total of seven Kindle devices among us, there are actually more e-readers than that associated with my account. With the Kindles' autosync via WiFi capability, I also use my smartphone and a free Amazon Kindle app as an additional e-reader — which lets me pick up with the same book I'm reading on my Paperwhite on my smartphone, in exactly the same spot, whenever I happen to find myself standing in line or eating out alone.
(I opted to forgo the more expensive Paperwhite models with the built-in 3G wireless capability to augment the built-in WiFi. However, my smartphone can sync using either 4G or WiFi, and my Paperwhite back home will sync to where I leave off reading on my phone too. We don't think our group members need, or would much use, wireless on our Paperwhites, but YMMV and for some of you the additional cost may be justified.)
As I'd hoped, many of the books that one of us buys are ending up being read by more than one of us — and sometimes (e.g., the Game of Thrones series) by all or almost all of us. And as I'd also hoped, we're trading book recommendations and discussing books more frequently. Our "family book club" doesn't have meetings or circulate memos; instead these shared books become evolving, continual topics of occasional conversation whenever any two or more of us happen to feel like chatting (in person, on Facebook, or wherever) about something we've just read.
For those who worry that this might be "cheating" or that they'll get sued under the DMCA: I haven't studied the fine print in Amazon's sales and licensing agreements, but I emailed Amazon's customer support folks about my family book club plan before buying the additional Paperwhites last December. They replied that Amazon is perfectly happy to sell on those terms, which include the understanding that I'm maintaining financial responsibility for the purchases made by the responsible young adults to whom I've entrusted what are, legally, still "my Kindles" and "my [licensing rights to Amazon-purchased] e-books."
Finally: my older daughter just returned from a month's volunteer work in Nepal, where her internet access was limited and infrequent. She reports that she got more use and more satisfaction out of her Kindle than from any other gadget she had with her.
So far, then, I've been very happy with this ongoing plan and the return I'm getting on my investment. These Kindles don't suck at all. If you decide to buy one, I recommend doing it through either Instapundit's site or your other favorite blogger who's an Amazon Associates participant. (I'm not any longer; Beldarblog is nonprofit for the additional freedom that buys me with respect to "fair use" copyright issues.)
Friday, January 13, 2012
Blogger Aaron Worthing's new novel, "Archangel," now available
My blogospheric friend Aaron Worthing, known to me (and perhaps you) as a regular guest-poster at Patterico's Pontifications and author of his own blog, Allergic to Bull, has self-published his own novel — "Archangel: A Novel of Alternate, Recent History" — on Amazon.com, where it's now available for painless and quick download to your Kindle or other e-book reader.
I have today ordered a copy with an eye toward a potential review or note here, but I haven't yet read it, so all I can say for sure yet is that the premise is intriguing. However, Aaron's a good writer and keen observer of our times, well-read and clear-thinking.
I'm a fan of the new self-publishing paradigm; Knowing that my purchase price is going mostly to Aaron as the content-creator (rather than mostly to a big publishing company that thinks it and its fellows should be entitled to decide what we all get to read) pleases me.
And last but not least, Aaron's another lawyer-turned-novelist — a fairly common species that I (like just about every other lawyer I know) have often wistfully contemplated joining, but haven't yet gathered the diligence and creativity to manage.
Accordingly, I'm publishing a link to Aaron's book here. (If I've managed the link properly, it should also rebate a further small portion of the purchase price, at no additional cost to you, to Aaron's blog through the Amazon Associates program.)
If you join me in buying Aaron's book as an impulse purchase, please feel free to leave your considered reactions in the comments to this post, or at Aaron's blog.
Good luck, Aaron!
Sunday, April 03, 2011
Kevin Drum begins to doubt his cult leader
I used to read, and frequently argue here with, longtime liberal blogger Kevin Drum, but I haven't done much of either lately. This morning, however, Instapundit sent me to Brian Doherty at Reason.com, who quoted this passage from Drum's recent post at Mother Jones:
So what should I think about this [i.e., the first six paragraphs of his post, in which Drum had listed Obama decisions that have surprised or disappointed Drum and his fellow lefties]? If it had been my call, I wouldn't have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I'd literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he's smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust his judgment, and I still do.
Doherty titled his mocking post "The Loyalty of the Clerks,"* but I think that's a bit harsh to Drum. He's not a clerk. He's just a charter member of, and deeply invested in, the Cult of Obama.
I'm not even going to bother looking through Drum's past oeuvre (to use a 50¢ word I'd just as soon no one ever apply to my collected blogging) for snarky references to the book and movie called "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" to throw back at him. I'll just say this:
The problem isn't that Drum isn't as smart as Obama. I'm sure Obama, for one, shares that view of Drum. Indeed, Obama shares that view about just about everyone else too. And that's a real problem, but it's not the biggest problem.
No, the biggest problem is that Obama thinks he and, perhaps, a very small cadre of like-minded elites (an astonishing number of them either law professors or political hacks) are smart enough to know everything important. But as Ronald Reagan said: "[T]he trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so." And a lot of what Obama and the lefties think they've got all figured out, and hence that they can competently manipulate at will, is actually stuff that no one is yet even capable of knowing.
So when, for example, Obama thinks he knows better than the free market how to allocate or price scarce resources, he's deluding himself and anyone who believes him. When Obama thinks he's going to use his intellect and his wit and his charisma to persuade China or Russia or Iran into doing something which their autocratic leaders don't think in their own best interests, he might as well have fallen off the turnip truck at dawn this morning.
Thus we have the free market bringing us increasingly fuel efficient cars, including hybrids and electric cars from Toyota and Nissan and Honda and even Ford that look quite promising — while Barack Obama and Government Motors are bringing us the Chevy
Dolt Volt at half again (or more) the price but only half the performance. (Reliable sources inform me that the next big General Motors idea will be the introduction of two new product lines, the Lada and its upscale cousin, the Zil.)
Monday, March 28, 2011
Kudos to Frey and Stranahan on their collaboration at Patterico.com
Kudos to my blogospheric good friend and fellow Texas Law School alum Patrick Frey, the proprietor of Patterico's Pontifications, who has been far more industrious and creative a blogger than I've ever managed to be. He's experimented, with generally good results, with inviting others to post on his bandwidth and under his masthead — and now, in particular, he's invited someone whom he respects, but who has opposite views to Frey's own on a great many issues.
His latest experiment is a collaboration with leftie Lee Stranahan, who will, I'm sure, take a lot of flak from fellow travelers who will think he's bedding the devil; at best, they're likely to view Stranahan the way I view, say, David Brooks or David Frum and their engagement with reflexively left-wing media. (But at worst: How long before someone at dKos slaps him with an "Uncle Tom" label?)
I frankly expect, however, to read — at Patterico.com — some punditry from Stranahan with which I strongly disagree, rather than just critiques of the left from the left. I certainly don't ever expect watered-down mush calculated to avoid offending anyone: That sort of bland and apologetic centrism is certainly not Frey's own style, and I can't imagine that he'd hit it off with anyone, even someone from the left, who embraced it either.
Stranahan's first post is up, and it effectively skewers Arianna Huffington and the HuffPo for their treatment of Andrew Breitbart. Stranahan's first-hand knowledge and liberal credentials add substantially to the post's throw-weight. But I hope, and fully expect, that in some number of his future pieces Stranahan will also provide an intelligent critique of the right on some of the issues that we disagree upon, and I look forward to debating him from time to time. This is a good thing.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Good parent, terrible wife/husband?
InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds links this not terribly insightful piece from something called "Shine from Yahoo!®" called "Mom Confession: I'm a Terrible Wife." Its author writes, "I'm a very good mother. But I'm a terrible wife." By way of commentary, Prof. Reynolds adds:
Being a good wife is part of being a good mother. If you’re a terrible wife, you’re not actually being a good mother.
That bit of punditry should have come with a tsunami warning. Prof. Reynolds' remark is going to spark a lot of debate, including some very vehement disagreement.
By definition, his comment doesn't include ex-wives, nor husbands of any variety. But I would be inclined to amend his statement to broaden it to say instead:
If you're a parent, and your kid has another parent with whom you're regularly failing to cooperate, then neither of you is being a good parent — regardless of whether you are now, or ever were, married, and regardless of whether either of you is, or ever was, a good spouse.
I never do remotely as well, under my own metrics for judging my performance as a father, as I think I ought to do. I'm constantly aware of my own failings. But at a bare minimum, I expect myself to cooperate actively and continuously and creatively with my ex to promote the best interests of the treasure we continue to share.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Regarding my recent silence
A reader emails:
"Come on, Beldar, there has been a mid-term election Surely you must have something to say about this. What has happened to all those pointed, witty Beldar remarks?"
I wasn't much surprised by the election results. I'd said what I had to say about the Texas governor's race back during the primaries, and I didn't think I had anything unique or particularly interesting to write about any of the other races that wasn't already being at least adequately written by others.
And I don't have the urge right now to comment on the daily missteps of the Obama Administration. I'm instead content, at least for this moment, to continue to rely on a general observation I made over a year ago, just when some of those self-deluding Obama voters were beginning to focus more closely on their new emperor's new clothes:
Amateurs. Incompetents. Ideologues. Full-time politicians turned half-wit government officials. Brilliant leftists who, confronted with the real world, are exposed as clueless idiots and children.
It's going to be a long time until January 2013....
The odds are good that the muse will again take me, but there's no telling when.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Odd traffic from Pandagon.net
I have only the cheap and free version of Sitemeter, and although TypePad also offers some metrics, I don't spend much time even when I've been blogging recently checking stats to see which other websites are referring traffic here. I notice sometimes when folks have linked me; I'm sure I miss noticing others. But the last couple of days I've been getting hits from pandagon.net a leftie site that I gather is quite popular, but not one which I frequent. So I took a look, and found that I'd been linked as part of a post by someone named Jesse Taylor in a post entitled "Ten Questions Nobody Ever Asked About George W. Bush," thusly:
6.) Where are George W. Bush’s MBA projects and papers?
That's a link to a post about Obama that I wrote during the 2008 election season specifically, on June 23, 2008. My post was triggered by a widely remarked article by Jeffrey Ressner and Ben Smith on the Politico website in which they reported on Obama's tenure at Harvard Law and, in particular, on the Harvard Law Review. They'd said:
One thing Obama did not do while with the review was publish any of his own work. Campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Obama didn't write any articles for the Review, though his two semesters at the helm did produce a wide range of edited case analyses and unsigned "notes" from Harvard students.
The thrust of my long-winded rejoinder was to say: Gee, based on what I know about law reviews, from my own admittedly different perspective as an editor at a competing one a few years before Obama's time, the assertion that Obama hadn't written or published any student work seemed extremely odd and improbable for someone who went on to become the head (editor-in-chief or, as at HLS, "president") of his or her law review.
I was right, and Ressner and Smith were wrong, although it appears that the reason they were wrong was that they'd been misled by the Obama campaign for reasons no one has ever adequately explained: As I explained on August 22, 2008*, in a prominent update to my June 23rd post, Ressner's and Smith's own subsequent reporting revealed "Obama's lost law review article" actually a student casenote. I wrote at greater length about the apparent contradictions from the Obama team on this subject. My criticisms put me in company with, for example, such right-wing observers of the Obama campaign as Noam Scheiber at The New Republic.
I'm not sure what to make of this new link from Mr. or Ms. Taylor, then other than as a general, and pathetic, example of the current Obama apologists' annoying whining about political problems of The One's own making, and especially of their need to continually re-invoke, somehow, Booooosh. As for their premise that George W. Bush's life was never put under a microscope, obviously those folks slept through the 2004 election and the entire TANG/Rathergate controversy. Silly libs.
Oh, wait Mr. or Ms. Taylor apparently wasn't asleep for all of 2004. Google-searching my own site, I'm reminded that he or she linked me in October 2004 from a pandagon.net post entitled The Hollow Echos of Jackboots. Sweet!
Friday, April 10, 2009
The world will little note, nor long remember, the angle of Obama's bow from the waist to King Abdullah; but ...
I'm in a particularly crusty mood at the moment, and this post may draw disagreement from many or maybe even most of those who read it. That's okay. I've just been working up to a rant, and I have to let it out.
In March 1936, my father was a 14-year-old in rural Lamesa, Texas, and he was fairly preoccupied with working toward the rank of Eagle Scout. Thus, he may, or he may not, have paid any attention to the national and international news of that month. The Hoover Dam was completed, and that certainly was a good and noteworthy demonstration of American engineering prowess. On St. Patrick's Day, they had a terrible flood in Pittsburgh. Daytona Beach hosted the first-ever American stock car race. Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art paid an estimated $300,000 — a shocking sum — for Titian's "Venus and the Lute Player." And TIME magazine had already observed with respect to the upcoming presidential election that the incumbent administration of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt was
approach[ing] the November election in a high state of hope. The head of the firm, despite sporadic booing, remains extraordinarily popular with customers who must be resold. His health holds up as well as his glowing confidence. His campaign will be simple: "Things are getting better & better. We planned it that way. Let's have four years more of Democratic Recovery." The Party debt has been cleared away and millions of voters living on government bounty will not be allowed to forget who feeds them. And, above all, the Republicans have no one candidate now in sight who can fire the country with personal enthusiasm.
Across the Atlantic, the Royal Air Force conducted the first test-flight of the Spitfire Type 300. King Edward VIII, having succeeded King George V in January of that year, was deeply in love with Wallis Simpson — a not-quite-yet divorced American — but was still a few months away from his decision to abdicate the throne to marry her. He drew mixed press reviews from his participation on behalf of British and Commonwealth manufacturers at the British Industries Fair outside London: some thought he had compromised his dignity by pulling up his pants leg to display, and roundly endorse, his "ingenious 'Munrospun Sock[,]' into which [was] woven its own garter."
I'm sure if there had been an internet in March 1936, English-language bloggers would have blogged about all of these things. Would my dad have been among them? Not likely, unless there had also been a blogging merit badge available for him to earn.
But with the hindsight available a mere three and a half years later, it would be crystal clear to everyone in the world that the most important event of March 1936 had occurred on the seventh day of that month when — in clear and unambiguous violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles — German military forces suddenly reoccupied the Rhineland. Either France or Britain could have immediately and decisively crushed the German forces — not only throwing them out of the Rhineland but almost certainly causing, as a consequence, the toppling of the German government led by Chancellor and Führer Adolf Hitler. Either nation had ample military force to enforce the Treaty at minimal military risk, but neither had the political spine to do so.
There and then, the civilized world forfeited its last clear chance to prevent, at minimal cost and with unquestionable righteousness, the horror that became World War Two. By the time my father enrolled at the University of Texas in September 1941, most of the world was already at war, and he entered an accelerated NROTC program designed to churn out naval officers to fight and, if necessary, to die on the oceans bordering both of America's shores.
Perhaps when we all have the benefit of similar hindsight, you will pardon me, friends and neighbors, that I have not already blogged this week about whether Barack Obama did or did not bow to the King of Saudi Arabia. (He did, which was stupid and beneath the dignity of the POTUS, but at least he's had the minimal sense to brazenly lie about it now.) And maybe you'll forgive me in a few years, gentle readers, for failing to obsess during the past week or so over the outcome of the close special election in New York's 20th Congressional District, or the considerably more distressing probable last gasps of Norm Coleman's efforts to keep (it pains me to even type these words) Al Franken from taking one of Minnesota's seats in the U.S. Senate. In the long run and the big picture, even in a Senate teetering on the edge of a filibuster-proof majority, Al Franken is going to be no more consequential than Edward VIII's socks, either with or without garters.
But in three or four or six years, when a North Korean missile drops a nuke somewhere on Japan, or perhaps in the vicinity of Anchorage — or, even assuming no continued technical progress by the Norks, they simply hand over a very, very dirty bomb to al Qaeda to put into a container bound for the Port of Houston or wherever — then the whole world will know that it was this past ten days in which Barack Obama proved himself as gutless, indecisive, and naïve as the Brits and the French were in March 1936.
Those of you who were alive and aware in 1986 surely remember how Ronald Reagan reacted to Mohamar Khadaffi's "Line of Death" in the Gulf of Sidra. Even John Kennedy reacted forcefully to a threat of nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba in 1962 (although he himself had invited that particular bit of Soviet adventurism by his weak-kneed showing at the 1961 Vienna Summit).
So what did Barack Obama do about North Korea's missile launch, made in defiance of the United Nations and world opinion, made to intimidate and threaten our staunch allies Japan and South Korea, and made to humiliate the United States?
He toured Europe. Where he blamed America first for all the world's problems, winning applause from reflexively anti-American crowds and not a damned thing of value more from our European allies.
Then he came home and cut production of the preeminent air superiority fighter of the first half of the 21st Century.
Yes, in the last 10 days, Obama has answered the only question remaining about his administration: We're now sure beyond any doubt that it will be not just a domestic fiscal catastrophe, but a foreign policy/national security catastrophe as well.
Barack Obama is on track to become the worst president in American history, and I frankly can't see any way that can be avoided any more.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Problems leaving comments here?
TypePad is making some improvements under the hood, and I think some of them may be causing conflicts with some of the customized templates I'm using for my comments. At least as I perceive the problem, it starts with the moment I click on the data entry field for the comment text — that's where I start getting odd behavior, anyway.
A few readers have emailed me to indicate that they've had similar problems; but a few readers are still managing to post comments.
For those who are still managing to see their comments posted, I wonder if you're seeing any of the weird behavior (as compared to how my comments were working, say, two weeks ago). If so, feel free to post a description of what you're seeing as a comment to this post.
Or feel free to use this post to test whether or not you can post a comment.
TypePad's customer service folks are very responsive, so I'm hoping the problem can be diagnosed and fixed in short order.
UPDATE (Sun Dec 14 @ 10:55pm): TypePad's support folks say the bug (as illustrated by this screencap) "is a known issue which [TypePad is] working to resolve this coming week." In the meantime, it seems that the best way to work around the bug is this:
Click within the comment text entry field (which will start the bugged behavior, complete with whirling and never-stopping "progress" icons).
Click on the "View an alternate" hyperlink, which will cause an error box to appear saying that "You cannot leave an empty comment" error box to appear; click the "OK" button in that error box.
The randomized verification text will then appear. Re-type the characters you see into the small text entry field just below them, but don't click any buttons yet.
Click again inside the comment text entry field and type your actual comment text. If you click the "Preview" button, a preview of your comment will indeed appear, just below the bold-faced "Previewing Your Comment" headline.
When you're satisfied that your comment says what you want it to say, click the "Continue" button just below the verification text entry box — not either of the "Post" buttons.
That should post your comment within a few seconds. But the screen won't automatically refresh to show the new page with your comment as posted. (This is causing lots of duplicate comments at the moment, and understandably so.) Instead, you have to manually refresh your browser to display the new page.
I'm confident that the TypePad folks will have this sorted out in short order so that this work-around will no longer be needed. Thanks for your patience in the meantime.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Unabashedly oldschool (tragically unhip) blogging
My blog has always been for "long-form writing," as my masthead conspicuously warns. I'm generally satisfied with how my posts fare in search engine rankings. I don't think my commenters are 'tards. I don't have a Facebook entry, and neither do I Twitter, although when properly amused I may chortle.
I have no aspiration to put up 30 posts per day, nor to turn a profit through advertising. I am perfectly content for such readers who may find their way here from time to time to do so because they hope I might provide them with sufficiently "clever, insightful, witty prose to compete with [the] Huffington [Post] and The New York Times" — neither of whom I hold in high regard, and both of whom surely need all sorts of further alternatives on the internet. Ultimately, however, I write here for my own enjoyment.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Blog noir at Patterico's
Wikipedia tells us that "film noir," literally "black film," is
a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize moral ambiguity and sexual motivation. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography, while many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Depression.
But my friend and fellow lawyer-blogger Patrick Frey is exploring two frontiers simultaneously: One is the citizen-journalist-blogger paradigm, where a knowledgeable blogger (day job: California state-court prosecutor) digs through the debris that the mainstream media have discarded or, perhaps, buried, to bring you not just punditry but fresh and genuine reporting.
The second frontier is what we might call "blog noir" because it involves crime, moral ambiguity galore, and so many of the sorts of characters that give these fictional films their glamor — the prize-winning star reporter who may make, or cover up, as much news as he reports; the rich entertainer who's been brutally murdered; the snitch; the fall guy; and an assortment of other cops, lawyers, press types, and Hollywood stars and wannabe-stars. I'm still waiting for Patterico to find a cool blonde dame with legs down to there and an attitude up to here as part of the mix — but Patterico's writing about real life, and maybe there's not a Kim Bassinger role in this drama.
Or maybe she doesn't show up until Act II, which is promised for later.
Mickey Kaus' teaser post could be the blurb for the book jacket:
Poor "Pulitzer" Chuck Philips! Patterico is on Philips' case, he doesn't seem about to give up, and he has a hot doc. ... P.S.: This isn't the embarrassing Philips screw-up that led to a spectacular LAT retraction in April. This is another, potentially more-than-embarrassing, incident — but also related to the Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls murder stories.
Peel this one like an onion, folks, starting with Patterico's executive summary and then working down as deep as you care to drill.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
BeldarBlog re-design done (for now)
Many thanks to those of you who've provided feedback on the changes in format I've been experimenting with here.
I've decided to stick with a fixed-width white container for post text, and to go with something wider than the 500 pixels I'd used since 2003. But I've dialed that back from 800 to 700 pixels to keep the line lengths from becoming too long.
The consecutive comment numbers seem to be working okay, and I've widened the text entry box.
I think the RSS syndication feed (now being redirected through Feedburner) is working okay now.
One reader asked that I incorporate buttons in the sidebar that would increase and decrease the text size. Unfortunately, TypePad advises that they have neither a widget or script to do that, although they've added that to their "new features to-do list" for future development. In the meantime, if you'd like a larger, or different, font, you'll need to use your browser settings for that.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Changes in comments format
While I was tinkering with other things tonight, I think I've figured out how to make two changes to the format in which comments are displayed.
First, comments will no longer display email addresses (even with what's supposed to include no-spam harvesting code). So if for some reason you want to give out your email address, you'll now have to do that in the text of your comment. And those worried about spam and privacy in general need not, I hope, worry about accidental disclosure of their email addresses. As before, however, if you enter a URL in that blank, your name at the bottom of the comment will contain a hyperlink to the website you link.
Second, before the commenter's name at the bottom of each comment, there should now be a number listed that corresponds to the display sequence of that comment (in ascending order, chronologically from the earliest and top-most). This may help commenters be more specific in referencing each others' comments for discussion within a comment thread. As before, there will still be a permanent hyperlink at the bottom of each comment that permits direct links to individual comments.
Let me know if these changes seem not to be working properly, or if you have any other requests/suggestions.
Some things about the internet, I know about. Some things I don't. Some things I don't know are known unknowns, and some are unknown unknowns, but one of my known unknowns is the whole subject of feeds, aggregators, and the like.
My blog hosting company, TypePad, has provided some sort of feed, which I think I have turned on properly, so that those of my readers who use aggregators or feed-readers (is there a difference between those terms?) can see when I've posted new stuff. I think it's linked from the very bottom part of my right-hand sidebar, where it says "Syndicate this site (XML)," but I'm not 100% sure of that. But no one's complained lately. Me, I like to use the old Mark I eyeballs rather than a feeder/aggregator, and I just hop around using my bookmarked favorites and/or my own blogroll.
However, in doing some other site maintenance today (especially futzing with the width of the text container in my style sheet, which is very much a trial and error process in which I'm slightly afraid that I will crash the entire internet), I also decided to enable a new TypePad feature which is connected to something feed-related that Google has apparently recently acquired, something called "Feedburner." Now it might be that if I knew what it was and how to configure it, it would make my life 20x easier and ensure that both sides of my toast were the same color every morning. But in the process of turning it on — which included "republishing my site" — I've noticed that what that link now produces when I click it is a summary of my 10 or so first-ever posts from 2003.
I think that's a function only of having "republished," which I've actually done now three or four times as I've been figuring this out. And if so, then with this post, folks who have feeders/aggregators should see it at the top of the list as "new content." If that's wrong, I hope someone will clue me in. And if I've caused anyone confusion — even a fraction of my own — from suddenly getting posts dating back to 2003, welp, consider this a Steve Martin "Excuuuuuse Me!" moment. And if I'm wrong about the whole thing and this hasn't inconvenienced or confused anyone except me, then consider this an Emily Litella moment: "Never mind."
Of course, it occurs to me that if I've broken the feed, then anyone using an aggregator probably won't get this post. Catch-22!
Are the wider margins better?
When I first started blogging in 2003, most folks used lower resolution settings on their monitors, and there were very few wide-screen monitors. My sense is that both of those things have changed, so at least temporarily, I've widened the white text-box for my posts (as opposed to my grey-colored sidebar on the right) to make each of the text lines 300 pixels longer than before (now 800 pixels total), at the expense of the dark blue borders on each side.
A few readers may now have to use a slider-bar to get the full text of each post on-screen, but I'm hoping this won't require them to constantly adjust it as they scroll down. And everyone will have to scroll down less frequently.
I'd be interested in readers' opinions — whether practical, technical, or aesthetic — either via email or, preferably, in comments.
UPDATE (Thu Nov 6 @ 7:15pm): Joanna comments below that she finds the longer text lines less appealing especially for long posts. When I'm blogging — as compared to when I'm writing, say, motions and briefs for trial courts — I tend to write shorter paragraphs. But I certainly write plenty of them. So you might want to consider this question while reading a longer post, such as the post immediately before this one. And I'm also interested, of course, in how this change affects the comments. And while I'm at it, I'll solicit any other general suggestions (although I'm fairly fond of using Verdana for headings and Georgia for regular text).
Thanks and farewell [to HH.com] from Beldar
This, in all probability, is the last of my teaser posts here noting a guest-post of mine at HughHewitt.com.
It's been great to have the traffic at Hugh's place. It's been frustrating to have no control over the comments there, however, which are sometimes indistinguishable from things you'd read from the more immature posters and commenters at dKos.
I'm grateful to Hugh for the chance to guest-post there, but it's good to be "home." Thanks to those of my regular readers here who've read what I wrote there, and by all means, I encourage you to continue visiting there for Hugh's views too. To anyone who's visiting here for the first time, by all means put up a bookmark, syndicate my XLM feed in your aggregator if you'd like, and pull up a chair.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 6, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I first became personally acquainted with my gracious host here, Hugh Hewitt, during the 2004 presidential campaign as part of the exposure of the phony Killian Memos relied upon by CBS News' "60 Minutes" program during Rathergate. CBS executive vice president Jonathan Klein had derided the bloggers who were writing daily about the forgeries and CBS News' then-still-ongoing efforts to defend the indefensible — famously saying that "you couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances [at CBS News and "60 Minutes"], and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks."
I was another one of those pajamas-wearing bloggers, and Hugh appreciated the irony that CBS News had nevertheless thought enough of me some years earlier to employ me (without pajamas) as its own lead counsel before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, when I successfully defended a summary judgment in CBS News' favor in a defamation lawsuit based on another of its national broadcasts. That led to Hugh and me trading some emails about common judicial clerkship and law firm experiences, plus a couple of occasions on which I was a telephonic guest on Hugh's show, and we've stayed in touch by email at least occasionally since then.
Still, I was very surprised when Hugh asked me in September of this year to guest-blog here through the election. He offered, and I accepted, because this blog would put my writing in front of more eyeballs. And we both had hopes that that might, in turn, do some good for our side in particular, and for the country in general — especially given my early interest in, and consistent support of, Gov. Sarah Palin on my own blog. This has been a volunteer effort, motivated by mostly by principle (and just a little by ego, since even those of us who blog in our pajamas like to have our stuff actually read by more people).
Despite the outcome of the election, I'm personally satisfied that I did all I could to try to counter the relentless and unconscionably vile smears against Gov. Palin that were made by the Obama campaign, its allies on the Hard Left, and their allies in the mainstream media. My only regret, in fact, is that I spent more than a week pondering Hugh's invitation before accepting it — and then Hurricane Ike left me without power and internet access for another week almost immediately after I had started guest-posting here.
The reason for my delay in accepting was simply a desire to maintain absolute editorial control over everything I wrote, without even an appearance of being beholden to any one else's view. And although I've had other, similar offers from high-traffic sites that I also admire and respect, I knew from being a regular reader of this blog over the last several years that Hugh's views and my own naturally run parallel most of the time anyway. Hugh is a partisan, of course, but a joyous one rather than a bitter one. I shoot for that same quality, although with less consistent success.
I knew that I could take Hugh at his word that he wouldn't edit or otherwise attempt to influence what I wrote, and he's kept his word most scrupulously. It ought to go without saying (but in lawyerlike fashion I'll not neglect to say again anyway) that everything I've written here should be taken as representing my own views, and ought not necessarily be imputed to Hugh or the fine folks of Townhall.com just because they've made it possible for you to read my views here.
In hindsight, I wish I had had the benefit of the higher traffic here during the first days after Sen. McCain announced that he had chosen Gov. Palin, because I think that's when a lot of the lies and invective against her first began to stick. But I've only myself, and then a hurricane, to blame for the delay.
Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, Sen. McCain would have secretly made his pick back in late June or July. His aides could have started helping Gov. Palin prepare for a more aggressive, less defensive national roll-out on the QT, and we'd all have been better able to respond more effectively to the tsunami of lies that were unleashed against her. But we don't live in the best of all possible worlds, and I am confident that given her success in Alaska, her fabulous speech at the GOP convention, her performance at the Veep debate, and her strong finish in the campaign, Gov. Palin's future in national politics remains very bright indeed.
(Were I advising her, then assuming the GOP holds on to Ted Stevens' seat and his motion for new trial is denied, forcing his resignation, I'd advise Gov. Palin to appoint a short-term replacement who has disclaimed any intention to run in the resulting special election, and then to run herself for that seat. That would be better than appointing herself, which would likely not sit well with Alaska Republicans who are still upset that Gov. Palin's predecessor, Frank Murkowski, appointed his daughter Lisa to his own seat in December 2002. Lisa was re-elected in her own right in 2004, but changes in Alaska law since then, as a direct reaction to dismay over this appointment, now require a special election within 90 days after a temporary appointment by the governor. Besides striking another blow in the ethical clean-up of Alaska, Gov. Palin taking over Stevens' seat would put her in a better position for a national campaign in 2012.)
Of the future of conservatism and the GOP, I'm skeptical of too-glib arguments too close to this electoral defeat. However, I'll hazard a few points anyway:
Of the five major GOP candidates in the primary, Sen. McCain was my fourth choice. I disagreed with him on a great many issues, and there were times throughout the campaign that I nearly bit off my own tongue to hold back a snarky criticism. But he's always had my respect for his service to this country, and he earned more of it with this campaign (in particular, with his selection of Gov. Palin). Although, as he is the first to concede, he made his share of mistakes in this campaign, I am grateful to him for his efforts.
I do not think that we necessarily need a whole-scale reform of the current GOP primary system, which is front-loaded to produce an early winner and to avoid the kind of sturm-und-drang that afflicted the Democrats until June because of their dreadful proportional voting and caucus schemes. It's unfortunate, but true, that the race for the 2012 GOP presidential primary started yesterday. I think it's unlikely that we'll have such a splintered field by the time the primary votes start coming in.
I'm also of the strong view that we need a committed conservative at the top of the next GOP presidential ticket. Nominating a "centrist" lets the Democrats morph into whatever they need to be in response, which is how Barack Obama — of all people, Barack Obama! — was able to campaign credibly (at least in the eyes of the gullible) as a middle-class tax-cutter. We cannot become the party of political triangulation, because the Dems already have a corner on that market, and it would corrode our hearts anyway. Let them either compromise their principles to campaign more effectively against us, or better yet, let them run on their own real principles (tax, spend, and run-away-home) and let the American people have a clear choice.
That said, I'm equally persuaded that we cannot become rigid and intolerant as a party or a political movement, particularly with respect to hot-button social issues. I will give you a specific example of where we need to be on that:
The first veto that Gov. Palin exercised after being elected was of a law passed by the Alaska Legislature that would have attempted an end-run around an Alaska Supreme Court decision which compelled the state to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners equal to those the state offered to opposite-sex married couples. Gov. Palin disagreed with that court decision, and indeed, she had said she would support an amendment to the state constitution to overturn it. Although she opposes social bigotry toward gays and is personally tolerant toward them, Gov. Palin had also campaigned in 2006 as opposing either legislation or a state constitutional amendment that would permit same-sex marriage. But she was unwilling to subvert the Rule of Law and separation-of-powers doctrine to reach a politically and socially conservative result by signing into law the Alaska Legislature's disingenuous end-run of the state supreme court ruling, even though (quite arguably anyway) the court had overstepped its own bounds in its interpretation of the state constitution to reach the politically and socially liberal result.
Clear and consistent on our own principles; committed to democracy and democratic institutions operating within their proper spheres; unwilling to rig the game just to reach desired results; and personally tolerant and respectful of those with opposing views. That's complicated conservatism, perhaps, but it's not squishy or internally inconsistent or driven by political expediency.
One of the ironies of my profession as a courtroom lawyer — a/k/a my "day job" — is that things that are awful for my clients sometimes, quite perversely, turn out to be great for me personally. So it is with this election: I'm convinced that without Gov. Palin on the ticket, Barack Obama might well have even carried the State of Texas, because his energized supporters certainly turned out in large numbers in the state's more urban areas. And as a direct result, almost all of the incumbent GOP state-court civil and criminal judges in Harris County were narrowly defeated. The GOP nominees held on in the state-wide races, so the Texas Supreme Court's philosophy isn't likely to change. But tort reform is effectively dead at the trial court level in Harris and Dallas Counties, and although I'm more often on the defense side (typically representing small businesses) than otherwise, my profession is likely to see boom times soon as a result.
So while I'll return to blogging at my own site, beldar.org, it probably won't be with the frequency that I've written here in the last several weeks, and I'll likely also return to writing somewhat more often about legal and non-political topics. By all means, feel free to visit me there. (Maybe Hugh will even see fit someday to add me to his blogroll, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) My regular audience there is much smaller, and dissenting views are welcome in the comments — although I don't permit as much incivility and subject-changing as the folks who moderate comments at Townhall.com. Mine is a simple, noncommercial site and I pay for the bandwidth, so I refuse to subsidize those whose main goal is to make personal attacks on the host (me) or other commenters.
To all who've taken the time to read what I've written here, whether you found it persuasive or not, and especially to my gracious and generous host, Hugh Hewitt — thanks very much.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Temporary bookmark for Patterico
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Gremlins are afflicting Patterico as his website's domain registrar gets its act together. If you can't reach him at his normal address, http://www.patterico.com, then try this temporary address: http://18.104.22.168 ....
Friday, September 12, 2008
Beldar to guest-blog at HughHewitt.com until the election
I'm tickled to announce that between now and the election, I'll be doing some guest-blogging at HughHewitt.com. Hugh and the good folks at Townhall have offered me that opportunity as a way to make my posts accessible to a broader audience. There as here, however, the views I express will be my own, as will my blunders.
I'll probably move most of my blogging about Gov. Palin there, and most of my other political blogging as well, but I'll try to cross-post short pieces here linking each of my posts there just to keep a consistent record. And after the election, I expect to be back here full-time.
I've posted a self-introductory post there for now, and I've got a couple of others almost ready to go that I'll try to post before Ike makes landfall.
Thanks for your readership at either location!
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
[Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar]
Hugh Hewitt has been one of my inspirations since I first started my own blogging in September 2003 at the oddly named BeldarBlog. ("Beldar" is the nickname I received in the late 1970s as a student at UT-Austin, a beer-slurred version of "Bill Dyer" from the days when Dan Aykroyd and the Saturday Night Live cast were still running their "Coneheads" skits.) During and after the 2004 elections, Hugh was generous to credit my small roles in the Rathergate and Swiftboat controversies with links and praise here, a few guest appearances on his radio show, and a mention or two in his fine 2005 book, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World.
Now, with just a few weeks left before the 2008 election, there's an increased appetite for pundits' political opinions, but there's also an increasingly urgent need for fact-gathering and -distribution to back up that punditry. Hugh and the fine folks from Townhall.com have generously invited me to guest-blog here between now and the election for the express purpose of exposing my blogging to "more eyeballs" — which means to all of you.
On my own blog, I've recently been among the most enthusiastic supporters of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin of Alaska. Hurricane Ike (and my power and internet access) permitting, I plan to continue writing about her here — partly to provide hard information to rebut the Left's attempts to smear her, and partly to continue contributing to America's self-education about this remarkable new force of nature on the political scene.
Like Hugh, I write in the hope of persuading, but not with any pretense that I'm neutral or unbiased. Rather, I write as an undisguised and unabashed partisan: I'm as proud to be a committed conservative and a third-generation Republican as I am to be a fourth-generation Texan. In my day job, I'm a courtroom lawyer who's practiced civil litigation in Houston since 1981. My law practice has mostly involved disputes between businesses, and although I practiced at very large law firms representing Fortune-500 companies until 1992, since then I've practiced either on my own or at very small firms, where my clients are more typically small businesses and entrepreneurs.
My training and practice as a lawyer has given me a set of habits that affect my blogging both for better and worse: I strive for concision, but unlike Hugh, I almost always fail at achieving it. I also strive, with somewhat better success, to gather and assemble and organize credible evidence to back up my assertions. Once in a while I can even contribute an original thought and turn a decent phrase or two. And I hope to match Hugh's consistent standards for decency and ethics — sharing my opinions vividly but, I hope, never hatefully.
My views and Hugh's align far more often than not, but while I'm guest-blogging, I'll try to be careful to mark my posts conspicuously. And you certainly shouldn't assume that my opinions reflect Hugh's own. My inevitable blunders will be my own, too. I thank Hugh for his trust, and I hope not to disappoint either him or you.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
An indirect graphical indication of public interest in Sarah Palin
I'm not modest, but my blog's traffic is, and I'm okay with that. My normal traffic, as measured by Sitemeter, generally runs between 1-2k page views per day, for which I'm genuinely grateful. On days when InstaPundit or Hugh Hewitt or someone on The Corner or my friend Patterico links something I've written, I may get three or four times that much traffic. And on the very best days of the 2004 election campaign, when I was blogging fast and furiously about the SwiftVets and Rathergate, I occasionally would hit something like 10-15k page views.
The announcement of Sarah Palin as John McCain's VP selection on August 29 resulted in a jump in traffic that I believe accurately reflects, if not in any precise mathematical relationship, the internet-viewing public's level of interest: As the graph at right indicates (click for full-size pop-up), I've received over 57k page views today, almost all of that in the last 14 hours. This was far more than double my previous traffic record.
That's pretty cool. Thank you.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Problems viewing BeldarBlog from particular browsers?
Personally, I use Firefox 3 — free, fast, less buggy and less of a memory hog, and with cool plug-in apps that are also free — almost exclusively, and I love it. I only use Microsoft's Internet
Exploder Explorer on those few (and increasingly more rare) occasions when I'm effectively forced to because someone's written an IE-only web app.
But to each, his own. I'm happy to have you browse BeldarBlog on whatever browser tickles your fancy.
Which brings me to ask: Has anyone had any problems viewing this site that might be the result of the reported conflict between Sitemeter and IE 7.0? If so, please let me know in the comments to this post.
(I rarely use tables in my posts, but I did notice a problem using IE 7.0 to view the post just before this one, in which I'd originally published blurbs about McCain and Obama side-by-side in a table format. Other than dispensing with use of the table for that one post, I'm loath to do any major re-coding of my blog, since I figure Sitemeter will surely diagnose and fix the problem shortly. Indeed, they may have already done so, since older posts that use tables appear to me to now be displaying properly.)
Sunday, July 20, 2008
MSM covers up both Obama's arrogance and imprecision in interview gaffe during Afghanistan/Iraq trip
Today on CBS's Face the Nation, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Afghanistan, told the paparazzi-pursued correspondent Lara Logan that "the objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.
"And it's important for me to have a relationship with them early, that I start listening to them now, getting a sense of what their interests and concerns are."
The notion that Obama will be dealing with world leaders for eight-to-ten years, possibly up through July 2018, suggests that either (a) he believes that not only will he be elected and re-elected, but the 22nd amendment will be repealed and he will be elected for a third term, OR (b) he was speaking casually and just meant two terms.
If Barack Obama is this cocky and this sloppy now, when he's not yet even the official nominee of his party, then just how much more insufferable and how much more reckless will he be if he actually does become president of the world's only remaining superpower?
Why does this report appear on ABC News' political blog, "Political Punch" — where, at best, it will be seen by a few thousand political junkies who get their news from the net — instead of as a headlined story on ABC News' homepage?
The ABC News homepage's "top story" about Obama today is actually an AP report entitled "Barack Obama Meets Afghan President Hamid Karzai," and it makes no mention of the gaffe — but it does manage to quote another of Obama's statements from the same CBS News interview in which he made the "eight-to-ten years" remark, so the AP writers must have heard the gaffe. Similarly, MSNBC manages to quote from the CBS News interview, but found neither the Senator's arrogance or imprecision newsworthy. The New York Times also manages to quote other lines from the interview without revealing Obama's blunder. Ditto for the Washington Post.
And as for CBS itself, the Tiffany Network, the network of journalistic standards personified by its long-time anchor Dan Rather? Well, over there it's: "Scoop? What scoop?" CBS News' own website article about the interview includes the gaffe as part of a transcript of Obama's full interview with Logan (as does its ten-minute embedded video clip) but its prefatory news analysis doesn't bother to point out the fact that the would-be next president of the United States either doesn't know how long he might serve (absent a constitutional amendment), or else doesn't care enough to be precise in describing the potential outside limits of his service in that office.
And the CBS Evening News played parts of the interview in an almost six-minute clip, but Obama's gaffe somehow found its way onto the editing room floor rather than onto the air again. Ironically, the last two minutes of the CBS Evening News clip is all about how the media are giving Obama almost twice as much coverage as McCain. It ends with a solemn warning that with this level of intense scrutiny, Obama's slip-ups "could hurt his candidacy and give him the kind of media coverage he doesn't want."
Oh, please. The peals of laughter from the editors who included those lines in the segment — after cutting out Obama's gaffe — must have been extremely dangerous, perhaps risking the rupture of several internal organs.
For pete's sake, the gaffe was in response to a question about whether Obama is too inexperienced in foreign affairs — which would include being too gaffe-prone when speaking without a teleprompter — to "lead the country at war as commander in chief from day one." Can't he reasonably be expected to answer that question without screwing up? And if he can't, isn't that in itself newsworthy?
I don't think Jake Tapper is the only MSM reporter smart enough to know that presidents can only serve two terms in office. I don't think he's the only one smart enough to figure out that two times four is eight, not "eight to ten."
I know I'm not the only person around who remembers the media hurricane that began immediately after Gerald Ford's remark about Poland in the 1976 presidential debates, and that lasted through (and possibly tipped the outcome of) the 1976 presidential election. That gaffe, however, played directly into the narrative of the leftist elites and the mainstream media, who treated this as Gerald Ford helplessly confirming Chevy Chase's previous SNL impersonations of Ford: Poor man, too many blows to the forehead boarding Air Force One.
Imagine if McCain had been either this cocky or this sloppy in a major interview with a national media outlet on a trip being covered round-the-world like the Second Coming. Is there any chance that a McCain gaffe like this could have failed to be quoted in headlines in every mainstream media news outlet?
UPDATE (Mon Jul 21 @ 7:30am): Andrew McCarthy points out that "the truly scary thing about what the Messiah said is that he no doubt figures it's Maliki and Karzai who will be out of power within ten years, not him."
Sunday, March 09, 2008
During the past week, BeldarBlog passed the 1000-post mark, with something over 11,500 comments and 1062 trackbacks. TypePad's stats, which vary some from Sitemeter's, show slightly over 2 million "lifetime page views" at an average rate of 1245 per day since I started blogging in August 2003 (including some long periods of inactivity). Alas, neither TypePad nor Sitemeter provides a "word per blog post" statistic; I'm sure I'd rate highly on any objective bloviation index.
That anyone at all reads still surprises me. That some whom I've come to know and respect from their comments appear to do so at least semi-regularly gratifies me a lot. Thanks.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Not to worry, it's just a bit of a blogging hiatus
There are several downsides to conducting a solo practice of law. One of them is simply a function of limited capacity: a gush of urgent work that might result in modestly less avocational time if that work is spread out among four or five lawyers can result in a major time-crunch for a solo. For the several weeks just passed, and probably for several on the immediate horizon, I've been and will be up to my elbows in some very challenging work.
I'm sure that the tides will ebb, at least a bit, in due course, and the itch to blog will assert itself again. For those who've emailed to express concern or encouragement, many thanks. Don't delete me from your bookmarks quite yet.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Sometimes things get busy in real life, and one who wants to be able to continue to pay his very reasonable TypePad subscription fees must pay attention to professional obligations, even at the risk of slightly disappointing those who may have cruised by looking for a new blog post or two.
I had a working lunch today with a former colleague, current client, principled Democrat, and good friend — all rolled into one. He said he'd looked in vain for my post about the Congressional Dems' recent attempts to perform in accordance with their mandate from the 2006 elections — i.e., to really get tough with the Ottoman Empire — but he said he'd concluded that I'd found that too easy a target to justify my time. The truth is, though, that I've spent a lot of time pondering how to help him navigate his company's fortunes through some treacherous rapids, leaving me little time for avocations like music and reading, and none lately for blogging.
But I'm not planning another sabbatical. Thanks for your patience while for a time, I write directly to various of the esteemed judges of the Harris County District Courts in matters of weight and consequence to my beloved clients — instead of to you, gentle and faithful blog readers.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Comma quote Jay period Dee period unquote
Without exception, I think every single law school graduate whom I've ever encountered who signs his or her name "John Doe, J.D." has been a shallow, pompous dimwit. But how much more pompous must one be to sign a blog comment that way?
In my professional correspondence (but nowhere else), in the inside address, I'll append the honorific ", Esq." after the names of both male and female lawyers (other than myself). It's a cost-free sign of respect, but it actually serves a more practical purpose because it's a reminder for me at a later glance if the addressee is a lawyer or a layperson; and there are different ethical rules that govern my communications with each.
I don't really even have a problem with doctors and dentists or even PhDs who engage in the whole cult of "Doctor This" and "Doctor That." Fine, whatever.
And finally, I humbly submit the entirety of this blog as a tribute to my respect and awe for the mystic, ever-revered Rule of Law, the practical and tangible institutions of the law, and the majestic, mysterious challenges and rewards of the practice of law (when done right or reasonably close thereto).
But "J.D." by itself does not denote membership in a very exclusive club. So to my fellow law school graduates who haven't figured it out yet: Signing your name with a ", J.D." after it tells us all a lot about you, and the information so conveyed is probably useful for us to have. It's not, however, likely to create the impression that you intended.
UPDATE (Wed Sep 26 @ 1:45am): Follow-up comments here and here. On further investigation, I like the commenter who thinks I'm a smug bastard, to which I plead nolo contendere without prejudice to the reputation of my parents better, despite our differing political views. Still think she ought to drop the ", J.D." though, for it can lead to over-harsh first assessments (as mine was, for which, although provoked, I apologize).
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Conservative pundits (and candidates) should avoid uni-dimensional analyses of our candidates' positions on multi-dimensional issues
Hugh Hewitt writes on his blog today:
"If the defense of traditional marriage is one of your key issues, Fred Thompson can't be your candidate."
Hugh and I agree about most things, and I like and respect him immensely, but I'm disappointed in the single-dimensional analysis of Hugh's post. It's based on this post in which NRO's K-Lo quotes a Thompson campaign statement which includes this sentence: ""Fred Thompson does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage."
It would be equally true — but equally shallow and potentially misleading — for me to write of Romney:
"If curbing the power of the federal government to override the States and intrude in Americans' personal family lives is one of your key issues, Mitt Romney can't be your candidate."
I know beyond any doubt that Hugh is as thoroughly familiar with principles of federalism as anyone on the planet. I know that he supports the notion at least most of the time. And I know he must have read the rest of the Thompson campaign's statement, which makes very, very clear that Thompson's lack of support for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is based on Thompson's very traditional federalist belief that laws affecting family relationships are for the state governments to make — not the federal government. Thompson also pointedly insisted that one state ought not be able to force its views on another, and that he's against these issues being decided by courts instead of state legislatures.
Here's the question that Hugh ought to be putting to the Thompson campaign, if he wants to flesh out the rest of Fred's position in a fair way that acknowledges his federalism concerns: "Sen. Thompson, if you were a state legislator voting on a proposed state statute that would permit gays and lesbians to marry, how would you vote?"
Fred, or any politician in his shoes, would probably answer that in the first instance by saying, "But I'm not running for any state legislature; I'm running for president of the United States, and you should vote for me, or refuse to, based on what I would do in that office." And that too is a valid point.
But I don't think presidential candidates can avoid sharing their views even on subjects that they would not be in a position to decide or directly influence as president. Someone at that level should have a well-developed, fully integrated viewpoint, including views on matters that traditionally — and I would say appropriately, for I agree with Thompson's federalism point — are matters for the states to decide upon. That fully-integrated viewpoint in turn gives important indications as to how a candidate will react when some new twist or turn on one of these issues pops into public discourse.
Being willing to stake out a position in which one believes, but which polls and focus groups and traditional wisdom about "party bases" tells us may be unpopular with primary voters, is something that ought to distinguish Republican candidates. I'm not sure how Fred would answer the "If you were a state legislator" question. But when and if it's asked, if it hasn't been yet "on the record," I hope he'll address it directly, and let the chips fall where they may.
Likewise, if Mitt were pressed by this question — "Isn't your support of a federal constitutional amendment depriving states of their rights to define marriage inconsistent with the principles of federalism?" — he should freely admit that. And then he should explain why he thinks that's justified in this particular instance.
The hints of that explanation are in Hugh's post: "[P]roponents of the amendment have long pointed to the threat of sudden, judge-imposed changes in the law that would see DOMA struck down without warning." That's a short-hand rendition of an argument that I know Hugh has elsewhere discussed in more length. It's basically a concern that depending on how Justice Kennedy interprets the sweet mysteries of life in any given Court Term, the SCOTUS might suddenly turn America upside down by purporting to require every state to give full faith and credit to, for example, gay marriages from Massachusetts — notwithstanding the existing federal statute from the Clinton era designed to prevent that.
Romney's arguing for a prophylactic federal constitutional amendment that would not only tie the hands of the Supreme Court, but of state courts and state legislatures. That would be a radical step. Conservatives, including even conservatives who vehemently oppose gay marriage, can disagree in good faith as to whether it's justified by the current risk. And one can't meaningfully assess that risk without also talking about SCOTUS appointments. If the GOP can hold the White House in 2008, then there will almost certainly be a chance to add to Dubya's good works in the Roberts and Alito appointments, such that Justice Kennedy's mysticism would be unlikely to be a factor when and if a constitutional challenge to the existing federal Defense of Marriage Act makes it to the SCOTUS docket.
All of which is to say: You simply can't discuss these things intelligently — or fairly! — in one dimension. They're genuinely multi-dimensional problems. And it's not fair, when conservatives are discussing our various candidates' positions, to frame the issues in a way that truncates half of one candidate's rationale. If pundits like Hugh or me have a "job," it's to illuminate and educate.
That's also part of the challenge for our candidates. And for them, being candid, even when it means telling people other than what you think they want to hear, is what ought to define our side. Otherwise, our candidates are just Hillary in a necktie, triangulating madly every time they speak to a different audience.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Of .orgs and .coms and cybersquatters
I'm advised that my domain name, "beldar.org," is up for renewal soon. My original preference, "beldar.com," has long been the home to some sort of cable TV/internet business in Virginia, which is why I was obliged to use the ".org" suffix. It's particularly inapt because I'm not particularly well organized in my blogging or in my personal life.
But I was surprised to just learn that, apparently for some years, some troll has been cybersquatting on "beldarblog.com," using it as an autolink to some legal referral page. My small consolation is that they almost certainly wasted their money: I can't think of a single new client who's employed me as a direct result of my blogging over the last four years. (I did once get a nice referral of a potential client from a reader, but it turned out that I was unable to be of much use to him, and so I more or less talked him out of engaging me.)
I looked into the process for making a cybersquatting complaint. It compares unfavorably with the complexity of getting a foreign company served with process under the Hague Convention; even as a lawyer, I'm not eager to start through what appears to be a ridiculously slow, cumbersome, and likely-ineffective process.
So I suppose I'll stick with "beldar.org" — "beldar.blogs.com," via my hosting service, Typepad, will also work. Perhaps this is a karmic message that I need to get better organized.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Beldar on BlogTalkRadio
Dr. James Joyner and two of his co-bloggers at Outside the Beltway, Alex Knapp and Steve Verdon, were kind enough to host me tonight on their BlogTalkRadio show, talking about the Foster capital punishment case, felony murder more generally, and a couple of other current legal topics. It was fun, and I'm grateful for the invitation. You will not be surprised to read that I hogged far more than my share of the internet airtime, but if you'd like to listen to the hour-long program, it's linked here.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Four years of blogging, but Beldar isn't holding his breath waiting for the big blue and white jet
Exactly four years ago, I put up my first post on BeldarBlog: What do I mean when I describe myself as a "trial lawyer"?
I wrote that post because I'd just finished the graphic for the blog heading (including the subtitle), and I figured readers were likely to mistakenly assume from my self-description as a "long-winded trial lawyer" — admittedly a redundancy — that my primary practice involves representing injured individuals in personal injury cases. Indeed, I've always included a link to that first post in my sidebar.
Despite some long dormancies, I've kept up the TypePad subscription (and I continue to be happy with its features, reliability, pricing, and especially, customer service). Thank you, TypePad.
Sitemeter indicates that I've had well over 1.5 million "visits" and 2.2 million "page views" since then. That's many times more visitors than I'd ever have predicted four years ago, but small potatoes in comparison with many other bloggers, including several whose blogs are much newer. I'm always grateful to those who've read, commented, emailed, and/or linked to my stuff. Thank you, folks.
While I was visiting my 84-year-old father in early July, we watched some talking heads TV together (Fox and PBS, mostly), and I was able to boast to him several times: "Hey, there's another pundit who's linked to my blog!" and "Oh yeah, I've traded emails back and forth with her!" Or: "Yeah, Dad, that guy wrote that I'm doing a better job explaining their positions than the President's and Vice President's own staffs are doing, and that they ought to hire me!"
At which my father drawled, with gentle skepticism: "So what time exactly is Air Force One landing to pick you up?"
Monday, August 06, 2007
Mainstream media flunks basic fact-checking by ignoring No. 2 & 3 Google returns on whether Jeri Kehn Thompson is or isn't an attorney
Entitled "The Truth About Jeri Thompson," this post today by WaPo staffer Alec MacGillis on the newspaper's campaign blog, "The Trail," follows up on a Sunday, August 5th front-page news article from MacGillis and his colleague John Solomon that was entitled "The Rise Of Jeri Thompson." I don't know if the text of MacGillis blog post will also be in tomorrow's print edition or not, but as I write this, the breathlessly provocative title is prominently featured on the main WaPo web page. In it, MacGillis claims (boldface mine):
It is a measure of how rapid Jeri Kehn Thompson's rise to prominence has been that there has been widespread confusion about a basic fact of her background: whether or not she is a lawyer.
Several major news organizations — including USA Today, the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, and The [Washington] Post — have in recent months referred to Jeri Thompson as both a political consultant and lawyer in articles about Fred Thompson's nascent presidential campaign, in which his wife has taken a leading role.
And supporters of the Thompsons have repeatedly invoked Jeri Thompson's status as an attorney to challenge insinuations that the 40-year-old mother of two is a mere "trophy wife" for the 64-year-old actor and former Tennessee senator. On Fox News last week, host Chris Wallace quoted a letter from a viewer attacking NPR's Juan Williams for having previously used the 'tw' phrase in reference to Thompson: "You chauvinist pig. Jeri Thompson is an intelligent, accomplished woman. She is a lawyer. And she has worked in the public policy arena." Added conservative blogger Ed Morrissey last month: "Anyone with access to Google knows that Mrs. Thompson worked as an attorney and media consultant in DC."
Well, presumptuous as it may be to challenge the holy writ that is Google, the hard fact is that Jeri Thompson is not a lawyer. There is no trace in public records of Thompson holding a license to practice law in D.C. or any of the states in which she has resided. And today, campaign spokeswoman Linda Rozett said conclusively, "Jeri Thompson does not have a law degree."
Despite the reference to the WaPo itself as having made this error "in recent months," Solomon and MacGillis' August 5th story made no assertion one way or the other about whether Mrs. Thompson is or isn't an attorney; perhaps they were still waiting to hear back from Ms. Rozett, and decided to finesse the question in order to make the Sunday front page. And notably missing from MacGillis' blog post is any claim that either Sen. Fred Thompson, Jeri Thompson, or the Thompson campaign has ever misrepresented her non-lawyer status. In another WaPo blog post today, Mary Ann Akers asserts that the Thompson proto-campaign "hasn't done itself any favors by being so evasive when it comes to questions about Mrs. Thompson." Nevertheless: The only even moderately interesting issue here is whether those writing about Mrs. Thompson, whether in the blogosphere or the mainstream media, ought to have figured out sooner whether she is or isn't an attorney.
As is unfortunately but typically sloppy for posts in many mainstream media newspaper "blogs," MacGillis didn't bother to link to either the WaPo's own previous error (which presumably occurred before the August 5th news article), nor to any of the other MSM errors, nor to the July 8th post from Captain's Quarters from which he included a direct quote from Ed Morrissey, but here's the link to Captain Ed's referenced post. (And here's one to Ed's post about MacGillis and Solomon's August 5th front-page article.) It would be very interesting to know, however, whether MacGillis or Solomon had found Ed's July 8th post before they wrote their August 5th news article. If they had, and if they'd actually bothered to even skim its comments, they surely would have found my comment on that post (posted "July 11, 2007 10:32 PM," and currently fairly prominent as the very last comment to that post), the first paragraph of which reads:
Ed, here's a small correction of no great weight: In response to my emailed inquiry as part of my follow-up to a couple of posts I've written about Jeri Thompson (here and here), a trusted source close to the Thompson organization (one whom I believe you'd also have grounds to trust) confirmed for me that although she was employed as a political and media consultant in the Washington office of the Verner Liipfert law firm (which merged into DLA Piper in 2002), she is not, by training, an attorney. Verner Liipfert employed a number of other high-profile non-lawyers for the services it offered in addition to legal representation, including, for example, the late former Texas governor Ann Richards.
Now, how had I come to post that comment in mid-July?
I'm not a high-powered, well-connected Washington, D.C. political reporter, nor even a very high-powered political blogger. But some time after writing my first post about Mrs. Thompson on June 4th — about the time that the first round of nasty "trophy wife" remarks started circulating in the blogosphere and the mainstream media — I had become curious about whether Mrs. Thompson was or wasn't a lawyer. In my second post about her (on June 24th), I ended with a long parenthetical note:
(A last comment: It's by no means crucial to Ms. Kehn's own list of accomplishments, but I'm not certain that she is in fact an attorney, as has been reported — or quite possibly simply assumed — at various places around the net. The Nashville Post story that I quoted earlier, for example, said that she "was an attorney and political media consultant at the once-powerful Washington [law] firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and McPherson and Hand ... [b]efore that firm merged with DLA Piper in 2002." But Verner, Liipfert offered services besides legal advice, and it hired a fair number of politically savvy and well-connected non-lawyers, among them a famous former Governor of Texas, the late Ann Richards. I don't find Ms. Kehn's name among the online list of current members of the D.C. Bar Association, although that could also simply reflect her retirement from practice. If anyone can lay hands on definitive info one way or the other, please let me know by email or in a comment. Thanks!)
One of my regular commenters posted a link to another media source that had listed Mrs. Thompson only as being a "media consultant" at Verner, Liipfert, but I still decided to do some very light non-Google research of my own.
And it took me exactly one email exchange to get a provisional answer from a very reliable source I know who is, as they say, "close to the campaign" — someone whose name I already knew from blog and newspaper reading. After doing his own upstream checking, my source followed up with a more confident answer within a few hours. On June 26th, then, I published an update to my June 24th post stating that I'd been "advised — via an email from a trusted correspondent who's well connected to do such checking, and who was kind enough to do so (but prefers not to be named) — that Sen. Thompson's spouse generally goes by 'Jeri Thompson,' and that she is not a lawyer herself."
Whether or not its writers were sloppy in not reading the comments on Captain Ed's post that they quoted from directly, how much solace can the WaPo take in the fact that it and other mainstream media outlets jumped to the same mistaken conclusion that he did? Well, let's start by checking — as MacGillis' blog post suggests — the "holy writ that is Google."
As of this moment, if you Google search on "Jeri Kehn Thompson attorney" (either with or without internal quotation marks around her name), my June 4th and June 24th posts are the second and third entries. Indeed, if you simply enter the term "Jeri Kehn Thompson" into Google with quotation marks around it, my June 4th post is the third result listed out of 26,600. (Without the quotation marks, my post only drops to fifth.) From that post, you're only one link away (via my own trackback there to my June 24th post) from my update on June 26.
This precisely fits what the National Review's Byron York quotes Sen. Thompson as saying:
Some [recent mainstream media] reports, Thompson said, have contained substantial factual errors. "Things that you would think could have been checked fairly readily," he told me, "but things that are clearly erroneous — like she’s not a lawyer and she’s never been married before. I listened to a news show with an expert commentator about a week ago talking about Jeri, and in a short segment he had four totally erroneous factual errors about her."
The bottom line: Back as of early June, neither Captain Ed nor I nor anyone else could very easily have determined, via the first few entries in the "holy writ that is Google," whether Jeri Kehn Thompson is or isn't an attorney. But certainly as of late July or August, someone damn sure could have. And should have. So the only story here is that WaPo and other mainstream media have been very, very sloppy in their basic fact-checking. And as I wrote at the beginning of this post: That's only moderately interesting at best, and hardly a surprise anymore.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Army grounds immature "soldier-journalist" Beauchamp by taking away his toys
I've been following the story of Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, of course, but mostly because I don't have any personal history in the military, I haven't felt like I had anything particularly interesting to contribute to the on-going discussion. Nevertheless, I simply want to highlight one paragraph from WaPo media reporter-extraordinaire Howard Kurtz' column today that pushed one of my laugh-out-loud buttons as a father of four teens (emphasis mine):
The [New Republic's] editor, Franklin Foer, disclosed in an interview that Beauchamp is married to a New Republic staffer, and that is "part of the reason why we found him to be a credible writer." Foer also said Beauchamp "has put himself in significant jeopardy" and "lost his lifeline to the rest of the world" because military officials have taken away his laptop, cellphone and e-mail privileges.
What Foer calls Beauchamp's "lifeline" is, of course, what Beauchamp may actually have already used to hang himself. I'm sure that Foer is correct in saying that Beauchamp has "put himself in significant jeopardy" with the Army, both formally and informally. And The New Republic and, presumably, his wife have been his eager enablers in that, albeit without directly sharing his risks. (They may, however, have their own.)
My guess — and it's a pretty wild one, much less well informed than any of the military bloggers who are watching this — is that the appropriate personnel in the First Infantry Division will fairly soon confirm that Beauchamp is guilty mostly of birthing execrable and quite literally incredible fiction in both prose and poetry. Very likely neither he nor his fellow soldiers did the bad acts about which he's written.
Once that's established, then — to the enormous credit of our military — there will be intelligent and passionate internal arguments over what punishment, if any, Beauchamp merits (beyond the scorn of every serious person, regardless of their politics). Our military leaders are still struggling to find the right balance in dealing with the new media age — a time when, for purposes of damage control during the assessment, taking away Beauchamp's cell phone and laptop may be more urgent than restricting him to quarters. I frankly don't have a firm opinion as to where they ought to come out in that balancing, either in general or, in particular, with respect to Beauchamp. (I do hope that if he continues trying to publish his writing, he will seek professional assistance, perhaps via the G.I. Bill, in obtaining some basic grammar, punctuation, and even capitalization training.)
But I'm glad he's been exposed, and I look forward to the rest of the truth coming out. In the meantime, all of my sympathies are — presumptively and probably permanently, or at least until I have better reason than the likes of Beauchamp's trashy writing to change my evaluation — with every member of the First Infantry Division except Scott Thomas Beauchamp. The Big Red One has certainly been made famous in not only news reports but in fictional (or fictionalized) print and film, but I don't think they've ever been quite so "fabled" as they are now, as a result of Beauchamp's smears. I believe they almost certainly deserve to be vindicated even from any whiff of "fake but accurate" that lingers about Beauchamp's shameful tall tales.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
We are bloggers, hear us roar
[W]ell-written and insightful blogs can have an influence beyond that reflected by our admittedly pathetic hit counts. Reporters and politicians’ staff members monitor the better blogs for an indication of how the public feels. People e-mail posts to friends and relatives. And because the Internet is everywhere, you never know whom you’re going to reach.
It would be foolhardy for blogs to take all the credit for any major political occurrence like the defeat of amnesty. But blogs’ significance should not be unduly downplayed, either.
Allah, in turn, had linked and paraphrased Dean Barnett before writing:
[R]ight-wing blog readership is so pitifully small that we can’t influence much of anything except when opinion is unusually and passionately united on an issue, in which case Republican legislators might note it as a sort of "early warning system" for how the base at large is going to react.
The metaphor I'd prefer, actually, is biology and in particular biofeedback. There, you have what is by number, volume, or mass a comparatively tiny number of comparatively complex molecules that trigger, suppress, and otherwise affect one another — all of which, collectively, end up having a huge role in determining the actions of the major systems that collectively make up the organism. And it's a very distributed process. It's hard to say, "Here are the individual molecules that generated that allergic reaction that caused me to sneeze so violently that I ruptured a cervical disk." A lot of other things also go into the total causation of that ruptured cervical disk, too, but we may have a place in the causal chain whose importance is indeed disproportionate to our size and number.
Call us irritants, accelerants, catalysts, messenger RNA, or whatever. But ignore us, collectively, at your peril. Because when the circumstances line up just right and the chain reactions start to cascade, we can induce sneezing, spasming, nausea, confusion, headache, muscle ache, diarrhea, vomiting, and erections that last more than four hours.
(I'm talking to you, Dan Rather, you pathetic metaphor-mixing has-been. And are you listening, John ("my candidacy is toast but I can't admit it yet") McCain?)
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Admissions against interest
If you're a serious reader, and you hold me in some measure of regard as a serious blogger who writes about presidential candidates and constitutional law and the like, and then you follow this jump, you'll almost certainly think badly of me. You probably shouldn't keep reading. You've been warned.
Among my hobbies are computer games. That's been true since, oh, about 1975, the year before I almost got expelled from UT-Austin for being a computer bandit sneaking time on the mainframe to play ASCII-graphics "Star Trek." The second post I ever made here in 2003 contained screenshots of my two main characters from EverQuest — one of whom was a seven-foot-tall Norse babe, a level 60 rogue with an, ahem, exaggerated figure and the name of "Mizchif." The screenshots are still posted, fer pete's sake, along with those of my male wood elf bard, "Pontifex."
And that year or so I took off from blogging, in late 2005 and 2006? I played World of Warcraft with my teen-aged sons for more dozens of hours than I can be compelled to admit without a subpoena, or than they or I would ever admit to my ex-wife, subpoenaed or not. I took two priests to 60 with Blackwing Lair gear, too — one Horde, one Alliance, one on a PvP server and one on a Care-Bear.
(Some few of you reading this are going, "O'RLY? Shadow, holy, or disc build?" And some of you who are saying that are also middle-aged professionals, including other lawyers! You know who you are, but I won't name any names for now.)
(But the rest of you are going, "Whaaa ...?" Or rather, you're not "going" anything, you're, ahem, saying to yourself: "Goodness! I do believe Beldar has gone mad!" And you'd be at least partially right, too.)
Yes, I'm an almost-50 computer games geek — no, not level 50, I meant 50 years old! — even though I'm currently cold-turkey, and I've been completely off the habit for several months now. Yeah, I gave the undead priest to my younger son, because his end-game guild, post-Burning Crusade, really didn't need another 70 rogue, and so he's leveled the priest up to 70 now to hang out with my older son's 70 warlock. I can't take that account back now! — it would be ... wrong and mean. But:
As a consequence of all that gaming, I've pounded a few million keystrokes in casual conversation with teen-something and 20-something and, yes 30- and 40-something gamers over the last half-dozen years. And one cannot do that without picking up some of the associated culture being created by folks younger than oneself. Not more than a fraction of it; I don't flatter myself to think that I'm anything other than a "tragically un-hip old fart" in these online crowds, but they at least pretend to tolerate me for the most part.
I mean, they needed the heals, and I was the dude with the mana, wasn't I?
So: When Lileks wrote, on Monday of this past week, as part of his genuinely gripping on-going job saga, "This week I find out whether or not I has a bucket" (referring obliquely to his job as being the "bucket") — I already knew the pictures that his link would take me to:
Indeed, I had already spent a ridiculous amount of time studying these two silly, brilliant photos and their sillier captions. When BoingBoing posted this picture this week:
I already knew it referred to this website (which should be read back-to-front). And specifically, to this photo:
Because yes, I had indeed already skimmed through every single page and caption on that website, laughing until my eyes watered. It is silly beyond the power of words to describe, silly in part because it imagines that really hep cats (to use a term my dad would recognize) speak in a kind of pidgin English called "LOLcat" that, in turn, requires them (and us) to know pop cross-cultural references to oldies but goodies like "All your base are belong to us" in order for the captions to be funny. But, ya know, my WoW priests did their fair share of pew-pew-pews too.
I'm not bragging about any of this. It's insane. The adult parts of me keep trying to seize control and delete this damned post.
But pictures like this one still just crack me up:
And even though I'm mostly a dog-person instead of a cat-person, I'm still willing to argue the elegance of the photo and caption above at great length. Unless my computer fails suddenly:
These are admissions against interest, but ... I admit them. I'll probably end up fighting a big relevancy fight about whether I can be cross-examined about them the next time I testify to prove up attorneys' fees.
Just drop it, Beldar. You've done enough damage for one morning. kthxbai.
"Inside the office, General Hamid had unslung his submachine gun and propped it up against the wall."
Mostly on this blog I rant. This, though, is a rave.
This is, by far, the most incredible, riveting first-person reporting from Iraq I have ever read, seen, or heard.
I've had a "tip jar" on my blog, as a lark, for three or four years now. I don't need a tip jar. I'm taking it down. Right now, in fact, I'm sorta embarrassed to have ever had it up, actually.
Michael Yon is putting his own skin on the line so that you and I and everyone who has an internet connection anywhere in the world can read and see for ourselves what kinds of challenges are facing our fighting men and women in Iraq — and how they're handling them. And the reports from Iraq that he's posting have verisimilitude that smokes, spits, and crackles like ozone off a high voltage electric wire.
You have to pay attention. It's not a simple war, and it doesn't always generate simple stories. But Yon provides the back story you need for context. And if you read Yon's latest report, entitled (without melodrama, but for a damned good reason) "The Final Option," out loud in an empty room, it will eventually, gradually raise the hair on your arms and the back of your neck, the way Hollywood thrillers wish they could do. You might well be afraid to touch a door-knob after reading this report.
There's enough polish to make his writing flow smoothly and seem effortless; and that's deceptive, of course, because that's the kind of polish that actually takes hard work and real talent. But I have the feeling that he's a willing conduit for this story, less a creator in his own right than a faithful conductor of powerful emotional currents bundled in a tough sheath of nitty-gritty facts.
The sentence I've extracted to use as the title of this post, for instance, isn't Yon's dramatic re-creation of something he heard about. It's part of what he saw happen. I could blog for another 50 years and never be in a position to write a sentence that powerful. The photos aren't what some Reuters stringer lucked into; they're what Yon saw through his own viewfinder before his finger pushed the button, and they're every bit as superb as the writing. In fact, in an absolutely literal sense, Michael Yon's camera became a crucial part of this story.
If you've ever given even a passing thought to paying for something you've read for free on the internet — just because you can afford to, and it would be right to, and because the person who wrote it actually has earned a tangible indication of your appreciation, and you don't want to be a greedy tick all your life — then go hit Mr. Yon's tip jar. Whatever you can spare, even if it's just five dollars. It'll take maybe 90 seconds, or less if you already have a PayPal account.
We need to know this stuff, and we damn sure are never, ever, in a million-trillion years going to get it from the mainstream media, and we can't expect to keep getting it from Mr. Yon unless we make sure he can afford to keep working. You could go buy a movie ticket that puts a couple of bucks into some Hollywood nut-case's pocket so he can preach at you from the next Academy Awards ceremony about how crappy Americans are, and at the end of the movie, you wouldn't be any smarter, nor much entertained, and you might even feel sort of greasy. Or you could put the price of that movie ticket into Yon's tip jar and feel not only like you've gotten your money's worth, but, well, proud about the whole dang episode (including your itty-bitty part in it).
If you're sick and tired of feeling confused and depressed and overwhelmed when you read about the war, then read Yon's work. Whatever your views are on the Iraq War, I don't think you can read this stuff without being amazed at the soldiers and Marines whom Yon regularly writes about, and amazed at him for writing it.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Self-immolation on the witness chair via the power of the internet
Prof. Jonathan Adler and Hugh Hewitt both link to this story about a Boston pediatrician, Robert P. Lindeman, who, while a defendant in a malpractice case, blogged about his case — even during the trial. As he was undergoing cross-examination on the witness stand, the plaintiff's lawyer asked what probably sounded to the jury and everyone else in the courtroom like a pair of throw-away questions: Did he have a medical blog? Yes, he said. Did he blog under the pseudonym "Flea"? Um, well, yes. And then the plaintiff's lawyer moved on to other topics until they broke for the day.
But the very next morning, before Dr. Lindeman returned to the witness stand for further cross-examination, "he agreed to pay what members of Boston's tight-knit legal community describe as a substantial settlement — case closed."
"drfleablog" has since had its content zapped, but according to the news report, at the time of the trial, it included such things as the inside advice that Dr. Lindeman had been given by a jury consultant, along with a whole host of other potentially embarrassing observations that doubtless would have been explored in vivid detail on the following day of his cross-examination:
In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff's case and the plaintiff's lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing....
Elizabeth N. Mulvey, the lawyer who represented Vinroy and Deborah Binns and unmasked Lindeman as Flea, said she laughed when she read a posting at the start of the trial in which Lindeman nicknamed her Carissa Lunt, noticed that she bit her fingernails and mused, "Wonder if she's a pillow biter, too?"
"Not too bright," sez Hewitt with considerable understatement. But Lindeman is described in the article as being "a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons [who] is board-certified in general pediatrics and pediatric pulmonary medicine." And he's supposedly very media- and specifically internet media-savy, having "shared his medical views on local television news programs, on the 'Manic Mommies' podcast produced by two Ashland mothers, and in magazines." So amateur courthouse psychologist Beldar's differential diagnosis is: "Willful but subconscious self-destruction, possibly coupled and overlaid with a God-complex."
Next on the horizon: Med-mal insurers revise their policies to exclude coverage for liability established in whole or part from internet self-immolation!
(From the comments on Prof. Adler's post, I've learned that New York lawyer Eric Turkewitz has been blogging about this for some time and in considerable detail before the Boston newspaper's story; he, in turn, has a long list of other links. And someone else has posted a 105-page .pdf version of what was on the drfleablog site before its content was zapped.)
I've been sensitive since Day 1 of my blogging career, back in August 2003, about the possibility that something I write here could come back to bite me or my clients in court in one way or another. So far, it hasn't.
But this past February, as I was on the stand as a witness myself to prove up the attorneys' fee portion of my client's claims during a jury trial, I was asked a question on cross-examination drawn directly from my own professional website: "Is it really true that you sometimes charge your clients for time you spend just sitting around and thinking about their cases?"
"Well, yes!" I replied. And then I explained, using a slightly less polished version of what I'd written on the website itself:
Not all my time spent on behalf of clients is "doing." Some of it is "just thinking" — while sitting at a computer keyboard, pacing the hallways, or simply staring off into space. I don't charge for travel time, but a lot of my travel time is also "thinking time." (If I'm asleep on a plane or in a hotel room, my meter is not running.) Daydreaming about brilliant arguments that I ought to have made doesn't count. But composing and rehearsing for brilliant arguments that I'm planning to make does count. When I believe you've gotten good value for time I've spent "just thinking," I will indeed bill for it. You ought not want a lawyer who's incapable of — or even just resistant to, or under-acquainted with — reflective thought and planning.
The genesis of that paragraph goes back many, many years, to when I was learning the fine art of how to honestly describe the services I'd rendered in a way that would nevertheless help my clients understand their genuine value. It is both a blessing and a curse of my profession that services rendered in its practice can often be performed outside the office and outside the courtroom. I don't think I've ever written down on a fee statement, "Talked out loud in a forceful voice while pacing my back porch, frequently scaring the dog and occasionally annoying a neighbor or two — 1.25 hours." But I have written entries like, "Prepared, revised, and practiced closing argument — 1.25 hours." Or: "Dictated outline for evidentiary strategy for proving up affirmative defenses of laches and estoppel — 0.50 hours." And that may have been done into a Dictaphone clutched in my drivers-wheel hand on the long open road between Houston and Corpus Christi.
So having thought all that through in detail over many years, and having discussed it with colleagues and clients on many occasions, I was pretty well prepared to be cross-examined on any aspect of my billing philosophies — including on that one sentence taken out of context. Talking to several of the jurors afterwards, I was relieved, but not surprised, to confirm that they'd understood all that. That case turned out to have other problems, but my testimony on attorneys' fees wasn't one of them. And as it happens, that's pretty much all I can say here about that case, lest I potentially create problems elsewhere!
The moral, nevertheless, is this: While cross-examination under oath may famously be the most powerful engine ever devised for the ferreting out of reluctant truths, the internet is making it a potentially more powerful engine just about every day — especially when used against the blissfully unaware (or the self-deceiving). Caveat blogger!
UPDATE (Thu May 31 @ 2:10pm): Scrolling through the .pdf of Dr. Lindeman's blog, I'm alternately sympathetic, stunned, amused, impressed, and appalled. I see posts mentioning, for example, lawyer Turkewitz. This suggests something that ought to be obvious, but bears repeating: There's a whole, whole lot more to this story, from just about every angle, than I or any other fairly casual inquisitor is going to be able to find out from bopping around the internet over the course of an hour or two.
Therefore, a long string of caveats, which you may interpret as ass-covering on my part (he's now probably a public figure for NYT v. Sullivan purposes, but unlike him, I've never tried to hide my actual identity behind my blogging pseudonym); it might be that, but it is also an attempt on my part to be more fair: I have no basis for any opinion about Dr. Lindeman's competency as a physician; my "diagnosis" of his mental state is obviously unqualified and made for purposes of satire. My comments about the ill-advised nature of his blogging about his malpractice case are statements of opinion on my part, admittedly based on less than all of the facts and from an outsider's perspective, but they demonstrate the very strong negative initial reaction that I and, I think, most other experienced courtroom lawyers would have on the superficial question of whether it's a good idea for anyone to blog about pending litigation in which they're involved. When a litigant blogs about his case, he runs great risks of inadvertently waiving attorney-client and other important privileges (e.g., those regarding the work product of consulting, non-testifying experts like his jury consultant). When a litigant who's insured blogs about his case, he runs some risk of jeopardizing his own insurance coverage; the insurer may take the position that the insured is failing to cooperate in his defense. I have no clue, however, to what extent, if any, those issues are raised by the facts of Dr. Lindeman's lawsuit.
I'm quite sure that, for example, opposing counsel would have dearly loved for the jury to learn that Dr. Lindeman had referred to her in his blog as "Carissa Lunt" because that would tend to prejudice many people against him. But how much of what was written in his blog might have become admissible evidence for the jurors in his trial to hear as part of his cross-examination would depend on a whole lot of very specific fact-specific inquiries, including some that involve complicated balancing of interests, and neither you, I, nor anyone who wasn't there for pretty much the whole trial can make confident predictions as to how all that would have played out. And his blog, and the questioning about it, may or may not have had anything to do with the timing or the amount of the settlement, and settlements can be and frequently are made for reasons having little or nothing to do with the settling parties' legal liability or moral culpability.
Bottom line: To whatever extent Dr. Lindeman's story does or doesn't prove it, I'll stand by my general "moral of the story" stated above.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Light blogging again
On Monday I'm starting another trial, this one a bench trial of a commercial fraud case. I'm trying to save a small group of related, family-owned businesses, one of which went under a few years ago due to changes in its marketplace (which was moving to a "just-in-time" framework with which it was ill-equipped to cope, based on commitments made in the old economy). Now the landlord of that failed company is seeking to hold all of the other companies accountable, even though the landlord never acquired cross-guarantees from the sister corporations or a personal guarantee from the owners themselves. A loss would also likely destroy not only these family businesses and their owners, but also several dozen good (stable and well above minimum-wage) service jobs now held by very dedicated but unskilled workers, and their customers would probably look offshore for new service vendors to replace my clients. So I'm highly motivated in defending this case.
It's remarkable how freely wealthy money managers and their lawyers lightly throw around allegations of "fraud" whenever they're disappointed in the outcome of a deal, even when their own bad planning and harsh conduct contributed to the deal going south and when their targets are emphatically not deep pockets. A multi-decade history of profitable, honorable, good-faith dealing can be thrown out the window in an instant. This makes my clients understandably bitter. It produces business for me, but it's unhappy, ugly business that I'd rather not have (except for the fact that my clients so badly need a good lawyer). Far from all "lawsuit abuse" is committed by personal injury lawyers. Bogus commercial cases also exact a hidden "tax" on the national economy — and one way or the other, it's the consumer and other bystanders, as well as small-business entrepreneurs (like my clients) and their employees, who ultimately pay that tariff.
But everything else notwithstanding, I still believe in the system, and I am cautiously optimistic that justice will be done even though we're the underdogs going in (in the sense that the other side has essentially unlimited resources to pursue its vendetta, and I'm necessarily on a shoestring budget).
Blogging in the next few days is likely to be light to non-existent as a consequence of this case. Wish me (and my clients) luck!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Another odd search string
One small but important continuing benefit of blogging is the amusement generated when one checks one's blog's Sitemeter to see what search engine strings are producing referrals to one's blog.
"Hairy celebrities" is one that still amuses me, but it shows up with remarkable regularity from all over the world. I'm also pleased to be among most search engines' top returns for the phrases "uh-uh" and "nuh-uh" — it's good to be widely recognized as being authoritative on something, even if it's negative and inarticulate. As of the moment, Google returns one of my posts at number six for the search phrase "Libby materiality." My conceit allows me to think that Google takes me as a serious pundit on the Libby case, even if several million blog readers obviously don't. I'm still enormously proud to be among Google's first returns on the phrases "Kerry's lucky hat" and "Dan Rather fraud." And I have no trouble recognizing and remembering the posts that any of those particular search terms dredge up.
Oftentimes, though, it's harder to fathom how the search engines' logic corresponds to something I've written here. The winning search phrase in the "what could I have written to produce that?" category for today is this one: "forced to wear rubber punishment knickers." And how could I only have ranked fourth? (Hmmm. Perhaps within a few days, this post will bump me up to number one!)
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Light blogging forecast
I've just finished a complicated appellate brief that represents several weeks' work, and I'm scheduled to start a jury trial in a week. In terms of personal satisfaction, the trial should be lots of fun — it's one I'm looking forward to with something approaching glee, although its outcome is not, of course, anything approaching a "sure thing" or a foregone conclusion. But if my client consents, I hope to be able to blog about the trial afterwards because I'm keenly interested in how you, gentle readers, would react to the issues the case raises.
In any event, however, that explains why blogging has been light lately, and is likely to remain light for some time yet. Thanks for your patience.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Tom DeLay's blogroll
I think I'll eventually be able to overcome my disappointment at not being on Tom DeLay's blogroll (hat-tip OTB). Let's see: I learned he had a blogroll at 5:01 pm today. And I now (5:04 pm) seem to be over it. Yup.
As a believer in the two-party system, I've always been appreciative of Mr. DeLay's mostly behind-the-scenes effectiveness in enforcing party discipline. I thought his involvement in the Texas redistricting battles was an example of brutal but long-precedented hardball politics — and ultimately something that was driven by small-d democracy. (Red-state Texas was not going to retain a majority of Democratic Congressmen for much longer whether Tom DeLay had been involved or not.) I don't think he's been a productive public face for the Republican Party, though, nor an appropriately parsimonious steward of the public piggy-bank. We'll see how he turns out as a blogger.
I'm wondering if one or another of his less renowned co-bloggers actually compiled that blogroll, though. Somehow I have a fairly hard time picturing former Congressman DeLay actually reading Frank J at IMAO on a regular basis.
Verdana and Georgia
If the print you're reading here seems a bit larger and/or otherwise easier to read than in the past, that's because I've changed my stylesheet to use Georgia instead of Times New Roman as the default serif typeface (for most long passages of text), and Verdana instead of Arial as the default sans-serif typeface (for titles and for most of the sidebar entries).
If you positively hate it, comments are open. But to my own increasingly far-sighted eyes, these typefaces (which are specifically designed for display on computer screens) seem a bit more friendly.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
If you are a commercial website guru ...
... who's looking for a client who's terribly, terribly in need of your services, contact Polar Fitness in Finland, www.polar.fi. I recently bought one of their heart-rate monitors to exercise with, and I like it pretty well. And they have what's supposed to be a website to permit you to upload data from the monitor to keep track of your exercising. But their website is the slowest piece of junk on the internet — like communicating with one of those old bulletin boards at 28k baud in 1992, or maybe worse. I think I'd actually read something about how slow the site is in a review before I bought the monitor, but I thought, "Naw, that's just someone with a slow internet connection." Nope. It is awful.
Now, I know that's not up to my usual standards of blog-worthiness, and I'm sorry for that. But sometimes ... you just have to rant. (InstaPundit does it all the time! Although he also sometimes raves.)
Friday, November 24, 2006
So this morning I'm out walking the dog over on the nearby campus of Houston Baptist University. As usual, I try to pay for the privilege of enjoying their running path and sidewalks by picking up and disposing of some litter, and I pick up what looks to be the plastic wrapper from a small cake or pastry. The largest word on the wrapper is a word I didn't recognize: "Vainilla." After some thought, I concluded it was probably Spanish, and confirmed that when I got home to the internet. It's probably pronounced something pretty close to "Vah-ee-NEE-ya." But I didn't recognize it as a Spanish word at first. Rather when I initially read it, I attributed an English pronunciation to it, resulting in a nonsense word: "Vain-IL-la." Sort of like a mix between "vain" and "plain vanilla."
"That's me!" I thought immediately.
One thing that I believe is intrinsic to the notion of blogging is that one does it for fun, and only when and if one's so inclined. Thus, one doesn't owe anyone else explanations or apologies if one stops. Nevertheless, I apologize to those of you who've wasted clicks looking for new content here over the last year, and I thank what turned out to be the surprising number of you who emailed or otherwise contacted me with encouragement to return.
If you were wondering:
I just haven't felt like blogging for about a year. Some of it was frustration and burn-out from my frantic, futile efforts to defend the Harriet Miers nomination in October 2005. (No, I'm not going to blame the Republican party's loss of Congress on that intra-party bloodbath, and Justice Alito is fine. But I'm still angry at the elitism and the refusal to trust the President that brought down that nomination, and I despair of the chances of a courtroom lawyer ever getting a seat on the Supreme Court bench, even though that's a perspective that's badly needed there.) Another cause was a prolonged case of the blues that, in hindsight, had mostly to do with my employment circumstances from mid-2005 to -2006, and that seems to have lifted now that I'm again in solo practice.
I need to do some site maintenance — clear out about a zillion spam comments and such. And I might again find my blogging muse. We'll see.
In the meantime, I've much to be thankful for, including continued good health, fabulous kids, loyal clients, and a renewed enthusiasm for my law practice. I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving as well.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
I blush ...
... at the last sentence of this post. Thank you, Mr. Ponnuru.
But it is true that I'm available, even to Dick Morris, at a much lower hourly rate than Dick Morris.
To anyone who says that the right hemisphere of the blogosphere has any sort of monopoly on well-tempered, humorous, eloquent, and intellectually honest political argument: You're badly wrong, and as proof, I refer you to Houstonian Charles Kuffner's excellent blog, Off the Kuff.
I came upon Kuff's blog almost at the same time I started blogging. He immediately gained my respect during the civil and honest debate we carried on, both here and on his blog and in our respective comments sections, during the Texas Redistricting wars. His blogging ethics are impeccable. In fact, I'd gladly claim Kuff as a role-model, for I admire his ability to combine passion, good taste, and receptivity to contrary arguments. He's prolific, but way less wordy than I am. And he thereby justifiably attracts links from other good bloggers (not limited to those left of center) and a consistently high caliber of commenters (again, not limited to those left of center).
Kuff is an all-around class act and a genuinely nice guy. It's a slight misnomer — his blog's regular content includes yet also wanders far from our home city into state, national, and international matters (not limited to politics) — but Charles well deserves his recent recognition by the Houston Press as Houston's "Best Local Blog" again this year. I fully concur.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Big Lizards live
One of the interesting things about writing a blog is that over time, you begin to recognize and appreciate your regular and semi-regular commenters, if you're fortunate enough to have any. You also nod and smile when you see their comments elsewhere, too. If the commenter's name or pen-name is memorable for some reason -- say, distinctively Welsh -- then that further helps connect the dots.
One of my own long-time favorite blog commenters, here and elsewhere, has been Dafydd ab Hugh, self-described as a "libertarian-conservative, anarcho-capitalist, erstwhile Discordian, secular, Darwinian, politically non-Euclidean science-fiction and fantasy writer" who says: "I'm not a conservative, but I caucus with them." It's perfectly obvious to anyone who's read even a few of Dafydd's comments that he's articulate and opinionated. Add in that he's guest-blogged prolifically and well in the recent past at Patterico's Pontifications and Captain's Quarters, and by that point it becomes unsurprising, even preordained-feeling, to learn that Dafydd has indeed started his own blog (and associated website).
The name of his new blog — Big Lizards — is something of a surprise, at least to me. But it's good that there are at least some small surprises as part of pleasant and not-unexpected news.
Sometimes little things say a lot. The small graphic at the top of Dafydd's sidebar, for example, tells me (as if I already didn't know it) that Dafydd is the kind of continuous student of history and the world with whom I can easily relate. I'm pretty sure, for example, that if he and I were listening to several other people conversing about what a "quagmire" our military has gotten into in Iraq, and how shocking our casualties are week after week, either he or I might interrupt to say something like this — "Yeah, but ... Cold Harbor" — and the other would nod and say, "Yeah, argument over." Some of the others listening might get the reference, but sadly, most probably wouldn't. Those who did would likewise recognize that the reference wasn't intended to minimize or trivialize our Iraq casualties — every one is absolutely tragic, and every one of them was a real mother's son or daughter whose comrades-in-arms and family and friends have been absolutely pole-axed by their loss. But if you don't have a broader perspective to put those casualties into, then you're not properly appreciating the significance of their lives either — how smart and incredible a job the current U.S. military is doing of protecting its own while getting some important things done, just for example, as compared to any remotely similar endeavors by any other military in the known history of the world — and you're therefore likely to make some really silly misjudgments in trying to assess what's going on both there and in the rest of the world. That's the kind of thing that Dafydd ab Hugh not only gets, but apparently (like most of the rest of us in the blogosphere) feels some sort of irresistible compulsion to discuss and write about in hopes of influencing peers and, perhaps, educating the educable.
And bless him, Dafydd's not another damned lawyer-blogger, who're proliferating like fleas. (Well, some would say ticks. No quibble here. Hey, even the ennobled John Roberts likes a good lawyer joke.)
Anyway, I'm quite confident in predicting that Big Lizards will be a big hit, and I congratulate Dafydd on its launch! Go have yourself a look, friends and neighbors.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
My blogging is likely to be nonexistent for the next several days because I'm starting a jury trial tomorrow morning. It's another one that I'm sort of parachuting into at the last moment, without having participated in any of the pretrial discovery and workup, so that alone would make it very challenging.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
I guess it's Les Nessman for me
The following (very morbid) story will make no sense at all until you've skimmed this website and this post in particular. There's no way I can trim this to 100 words, though — I'm just too damn longwinded to get it below 300 words, in fact.
The sudden, strangely familiar "Whump!" sound from my left front wheel well reminded me that while patrolling Hobby Airport's runways, taxiways, and the auxiliary interior roadways set aside for authorized vehicular traffic, I'm supposed to keep an eye peeled for debris, among many other things.
At three AM, though, my cruiser's headlights and spotlight rarely catch anything more than a jackrabbit. And before the tower had radioed me about an "aircraft/vehicular collision," there'd been no explosion or fireball like you see in the movies.
Still, as I continued toward the civilian aviation terminal, I had no trouble picking out the Gulfstream II. Badly skewed on its parking pad, something had obviously clipped one wing hard enough to quarter-spin it.
And indeed, over there in the grass was one of the old pickup trucks used by one of the airlines' contract cleaning company to drive their crews across the airport, from their supply depot over to the parked commercial jets that they mucked out in the wee small hours of every day.
But you don't see many convertible-model pickups. This one had no cab roof — and in fact, nothing at all above hood level.
My spotlight traced wheel ruts through the grass back to the parking apron. No skid marks anywhere. The pickup musta come in fast from behind. Sumbitch veered off an aux road onto the parking apron without noticing, and he obviously never saw the moonlight glinting off the blade-like trailing edge of the right wing.
"Looks just like a giant axe blade lopped the top off of this old truck," I was saying into my radio when the distraught cleaning crew foreman wandered up. I pointed to the truck. "Como un hacha — like a hatchet," I said to him, and I made a sideways chopping gesture.
"¡No, no, señor!" he replied, "¡Era como una guillotina!"
I suddenly remembered when I had last heard that "whump!" sound — backing over the soccer ball my oldest kid had left in the driveway. Damned ball shot sixty yards down the street.
I said, "Help me look in the tall grass, okay?" I pantomimed searching, then gestured for him to join me.
"¿Para qué estamos buscando?" he asked.
What was the Spanish word I wanted? I almost said out loud: "Una pelota." But then I remembered, and said: "Una cabeza, amigo. Una cabeza."
Apologies if, as is likely, my Spanish is rusty and badly mangled.
Although fictional (since I've never actually been an airport cop), this brief story is closely based on an actual case I had in the early 1980s.
I was hired in the middle of the night by the aircraft's owner to supervise the accident investigation; to prepare to defend against any potential claims by the decedent's family (none in fact were ever filed); and to sue the contract cleaning company for property damage to the jet.
As it turned out, the company's supervisors had given the decedent no training about airport driving — he didn't know a runway from a parking apron, spoke no English, and probably couldn't read. They'd let the guy drive regularly, despite knowing that he was unlicensed, prone to lean out the truck's window while driving so he could shout lewd propositions to female co-workers, and — both habitually and on that particular night — very drunk. Then they'd put him in a truck whose brake pedal had been missing for so long that the cylinder that the brake pedal was supposed to attach to had been worn down to a rounded nub coming out of the floorboard. But because they worked on airport premises, the cleaning company was required to have scads of insurance — which was a very good thing, given that both of the G-II's wings had to be replaced (at a cost well into eight figures).
By the time I got to Hobby a little before dawn, they'd long since located the decedent's missing part, and as far as I know nobody had driven over it. But otherwise, the accident happened in real life exactly as this story describes it.
Update (Wed May 18 @ 1:40am): Okay, I've come up with, and posted as a comment here, another story that fits the topic and comes in at 100 words exactly. I trust that my conservative friends will recognize and forgive me the parody.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Bit more time for blogging
I was told yesterday that the middle of my trifecta of trials set back-to-back in fact won't be reached, and will instead be reset for sometime in the summer. I hope to be able to write more about the just-concluded trial, but it's not quite wrapped up (still one more fight to finish, with my predecessor counsel on the case), and I'd best not quite yet. The third is still set for April 11th, and I'll be fairly busy with it between now and then. But I hope to have some more time for blogging over the holiday weekend, at least. Much thanks to those of you who continue to stop by!
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Advance apologies for light posting
I'm announcing "ready" for one jury trial tomorrow; for another one in two weeks; and for yet a third in mid-April. Chances are good that all three will be reached, which would mean back to back trials for ol' Beldar. The middle one might turn out to be something I can blog about eventually — in fact, I'm already having to bite my fingers to keep from using my blog as a mock jury pool because it raises issues which I'm quite sure that both my lawyer and nonlawyer readers would find provocative, and it's a genuine "case of first impression" both legally and factually that it's awfully hard to predict how a real jury will react to. Anyway, my blogging over the next several weeks is likely to be light and even more unhinged than normal.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
What the Davos tape still won't tell us about Eason Jordan's ouster
Further to my previous musings about the proximate cause(s) of Eason Jordan's departure from CNN:
I agree with, for example, Patterico (as one among many) that we know very little about the real reasons that CNN ousted Eason Jordan. And I also agree with him (and many others) that it would be very interesting and useful were the videotape to be made available.
But I'm not at all sure that the videotape would provide a definitive answer. In fact, if the question being asked is "Why did CNN axe Jordan?" rather than "What did Jordan actually say at Davos?" it's quite likely that the videotape, by itself, would not answer that question.
The tape hasn't been released to the public. Was it seen, though, by anyone in CNN's management structure? If the answer to that question is yes, then the tape — and the actual words spoken in and tone of Jordan's remarks (and "walking back" from them, as claimed by David Gergen) — may indeed have been a key decisionmaking factor in Jordan's ouster. If the answer is instead that CNN's execs acted without having seen the tape either, then they were just speculating along with the rest of us about what it might show, and what inferences might reasonably be drawn from Jordan's failure to call for its release.
As I wrote earlier, I believe it's altogether likely, even probable, that the blog swarm around Jordan's Davos comments was one proximate cause of his ouster. But there may have been many others — and perhaps others that were far more significant than either the blog swarm or the videotape's contents in the minds of the CNN execs who actually swung the axe.
For example, Howard Kurtz' WaPo article suggests that there was concern among CNN's management about lingering gossip regarding Jordan's personal romantic life. If so, and if that was indeed another proximate cause, then that perhaps ought to be more troubling to Jordan's defenders and sympathists than the "blogospheric scalp-taking frenzy." (I say "perhaps" because I don't know, and am not interested in, the details of Jordan's romantic life; I can imagine a set of circumstances in which what would otherwise have been a purely personal matter could have become a legitimate, nonprurient concern of CNN's management.) Howard Kurtz is no fool, but he's treading a tightrope — blessed with extraordinary inside access, cursed with the fact that it comes through being on CNN's payroll himself. Was Kurtz hinting through the mysteriously edited references to the "gossip about Jordan's personal life" that this was indeed a big, big factor — perhaps a bigger factor than either the Davos remarks or their aftermath?
Likewise, the blogosphere has documented Jordan's past pattern of making remarks similar to, and as outrageous as, those reported from Davos. We don't know whether those past episodes weakened the camel's back, so to speak, nor if so, how much. The preexisting state of the camel's spine would be useful information if one truly wants to know whether the blog swarm was an anvil, the proverbial "last straw," or simply one of the last among many other sufficient straws.
Look, too, at the timing of Jordan's resignation — early on a Friday evening. Was that deliberate, trying to drop the decision into one of the rhythmic lulls of the weekly news cycle? Could be. But it's equally consistent with a week-long internal argument inside CNN management over how to deal with the problem. Perhaps it was an argument that escalated into a late-afternoon shouting match, or an ultimatum unmet. "By God, you'll either apologize on-camera or you're outta here, buddy!" "Well by God I won't, and f--k you and the horse you rode in on, you fascist!" "Oh yeah? Well you have fifteen minutes to compose your 'resignation letter,' Mister Ex-Executive!"
You giggle? Hey, such things happen in boardrooms as well as in marriages. And if there was indeed a knock-down, drag-out personality-and-principles clash — one that escalated a "we'll tough it out (but he's got to clean up his act)" situation into simply "he's outta here" — you'd nevertheless expect the sort of bland press release that CNN and Jordan in fact issued.
The "blogospheric scalp-taking" explanation for Jordan's ouster is the obvious and convenient one — easily understood through a few clicks on hyperlinks — and perhaps it therefore makes a nice kernel around which to foment a devoutly desired backlash. Even if, in the view of the CNN execs who made the decision, there were other, more significant causes, the cynic in me wonders whether those same execs are perfectly happy for the right hemisphere of the blogosphere — us Bible-thumping knuckle-draggers — to take the rap. Thus the goat (in the unblinking internal assessment of the CNN execs) is turned for public purposes into a martyred sacrificial lamb (in the eyes of his sympathizers and defenders). Was that intentional? If so, was it a primary goal or a mere bit of lagniappe?
But in my wildest, most hopeful fantasies, I imagine a group of enlightened CNN executives saying to one another, "You know, whether these bloggers are right or not, we need to be ahead of them on the curve. Making statements like Jordan's at Davos, even under the most charitable interpretation of them, suggests a lack of management judgment, and the way he responded to this tempest demonstrates a lack of journalistic ethics. This guy's snap instinct and his considered reaction were both to go in the wrong direction. He's just not the guy to be leading our network forward when we're facing sagging ratings and lost credibility anyway. This is no time to act like we're CBS News and no time for half-measures and more warnings. Let's get proactive here; we need a visionary and a paragon of ethics and transparency in this slot, and Eason Jordan's clearly not that guy."
Discretionary employment decisions being what they are, and corporate execs having the multiple motivations for concealment that they do, I doubt we'll ever have answers to any of these questions — videotape or no. That prospect leaves me and many others unsatisfied, of course. But in the big picture, the long-term picture, I'm less troubled than I might otherwise be. Whether the blog swarm was the only proximate cause of Jordan's ouster, or the most significant of several, or a minor one, the net result will be that folks in positions like Jordan's are going to feel more accountable and less bulletproof in the future. Even if I have gnawing questions, I still chalk that result — not Jordan's ousting as such — up in the "win" column for the blogosphere.