October 25, 2003

October 24, 2003

It's not online, but this week's New Yorker features an article by Jeffrey Toobin about the difficulties prosecutors have in constructing a winnable criminal case against former Enron executives and BushLite Crony Capitalism poster-boys Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. One problem is the unwillingness of lower-level executives to rat out their former bosses; none of the trials are scheduled to commence until the middle of next year, reducing any sense of urgency on the defendant's behalf to cop a plea. The trial judge presiding in the Andrew Fastow case, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt, is an interesting character in his own right, sort of a Southwest version of Janice Rogers Brown. Nominated by Ronald Reagan, Judge Hoyt, an African- American, once opined in a 1997 environmental case that
"...physical differences among races were the product of their environments. 'Why do you think Chinese people are short? Because there is so much damn wind over there they need to be short. Why are they so tall in Africa? Because they need to be tall. It's environmental,' he said. 'I mean, you don't jump up and get a banana off a tree if you're only 4 feet. If you're 7 feet tall and you're standing in China, then you're going to get blown away by that Siberian wind, aren't you?' "
So much for Yao Ming. He later recused himself. More recently, Judge Hoyt threw out the conviction last August of a man who had driven a truck into an abortion clinic, holding that the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act was unconstitutional.
As it turns out, State A.G. Bill Lockyer still believes that Ahnold Ziffel should be investigated, even though he voted for him. With the potential for more post-election bombshells about the governor-elect to come out, it's refreshing that at least one Democrat in Sacramento has an instinct for opportunism.

Elsewhere: Slate.com has an hilarious dialogue on the World Series, between Charles Pierce (the sportswriter from Friday Altercation) and Allan Barra; where else can you hear the Yankees middle relievers described as a "trip to Mordor"? Prof. DeLong has a scathing piece on Justice Scalia, who recently recused himself from hearing the Pledge of Allegiance case due to his personal relationship with one of the interested parties (ie., "God"), and the logical ramifications of his judicial philosophy. And Spinsanity tears a new one into NaziPundit.

October 23, 2003

This is an indication that I'm getting old. Yesterday's LA Times had a profile of actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who, it turns out, is an alumna of my high school, Harvard-Westlake. Except when I was going there, it was just "Harvard", and had an oh-so-strict policy about not admitting women onto our ivied corridors. The school went co-ed well after I graduated (in 1981; famous classmates: film directors Brad Silberling and Andrew Fleming, and novelist Ben Sherwood), which means she, like the Collins Twins, was born after I started matriculating there. I suck.

I used to live in an apartment on Bunker Hill that claimed in its advertising that it was "adjacent" to the soon-to-be-built Disney Center. That was fourteen years ago, just after I passed the bar and was earning good money for the first time. Unfortunately, the Disney Center wouldn't even be started for another ten years, and my memories of living and working in Downtown Los Angeles were bleak and depressing. Nothing ever happened there until the Troubles of April 1992, but by then I had returned to the glamour and excitement of the Valley.

Anyway, tonight the Frank Gehry-designed concert hall opens to the public for the first time. In the past year, two major architectural accomplishments (Our Lady of Angels Cathedral opened last year) have been completed in the Downtown area, and the people of this community are starting to get a civic center that they can go to, rather than escape from.

William Greider, on the late Vermont Senator George Aiken:
George Aiken was a conservative Republican of the old school -- a conservator of cherished values and regular order in governing institutions, not a radical right-winger like the present crowd. In private life, Aiken was a nurseryman. He wrote a celebrated book in the 1930s, "Pioneering in Wild Flowers," in which he described his self-learned methods for propagating the rare species of wild flowers hiding in his native woodlands. It's still in print and still a charming and educational book to read.

Aiken could see the future even then. Eventually, he realized, development and aesthetic tastes would put unbearable pressure on the pink lady slipper and other natural gems. To prevent their extinction, he explained, Vermont and other forested states needed laws prohibiting their harvest in the wild (those laws are now standard). Instead, people could cultivate the plants for sale from seed or cuttings, thus multiplying the supply and protecting the species in wild places from human predators.

He was, in other words, a wise, plain-spoken environmentalist before that term came into usage. One misses his type in public life, especially in the Republican party.

October 21, 2003

Not willing to be outdone by recent events in Texas and California, Florida Governor Jeb Bush has assertively moved to reclaim for his state the distinction of being the Moron Capital of America by signing this legislation, which gives him the arbitrary power to impose force-feeding on comatose patients, in defiance of the wishes of the next-of-kin.

Just in time for Halloween, an important public health warning.

October 20, 2003

State A.G. Bill Lockyer claims to have voted for Ahnold Ziffel, saying he opposed the recall, thought that the slate of replacement candidates was a "crappy list", but "...chose Schwarzenegger in the replacement election because he stood for 'hope, change, reform, opportunity, upbeat problem solving.' He added, 'I want that. I'm tired of transactional, cynical, dealmaking politics.' No word on whether the state's top law-enforcement officer, who was hinting in the days before the election that a criminal prosecution of The Pig might be warranted, is now soft on workplace groping, although he did add that while he now believed the charges against the governor-elect, "I'm convinced Arnold didn't really understand that he was caught up in frat boy behavior". Boys will be boys !!

October 19, 2003

A good encapsulation of everything wrong with Disney's decision to can Gregg Easterbrook may be found here. For those of you who don't follow controversies in the blogosphere or on the pages of the New Republic, Easterbrook is a very fine writer, famous for his oft-contrarian work on environmental issues, religion, and, of all things, pro football, who used an unfortunate choice of words in a blogpost concerning the movie Kill Bill, which made it seem like he was anti-Semitic.

One of his targets in his post was Michael Eisner, long-time CEO of Disney, parent company of ESPN.com, which terminated Easterbrook's hilarious football column, "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" (ironically, Easterbrook had criticized Eisner, among others, for being a Jewish movie executive who had greenlighted the Tarentino bloodfest, presumably in contradiction to the religious tenets of Judaism; TMQ is famous for its soft-core descriptions of pro football cheerleaders, which is not entirely consistent with the religious beliefs of most Christians).

As with the controversy over Rush Limbaugh's remarks several weeks ago about Donovan McNabb, I feel the corporate reaction of purging the officious commentator only exacerbates the problem. Even though I view most charges of "political correctness" skeptically, as an excuse by others to justify racist opinions, it doesn't mean that the phenomenum doesn't exist. Censoring ill-phrased comments is appropriate, and Limbaugh and Easterbrook were rightly attacked for the remarks they made. I thought that Rush never should have been hired by ESPN in the first place, and I disagree with most of Easterbrook's takes on pro football (he seems to have an unhealthy obsession with the running game).

But forcing the offender into some public Maoist self-criticism ritual is precisely the wrong approach, one that guarantees that a large portion of the public is going to view such opinions as forbidden fruit, and speaking such opinions as courageous rather than bigoted. In particular, ESPN has apparently removed TMQ from its website altogether, and its football parade ads that were so ubiquitous at the beginning of the season have been all but pulled, due to the conspicuous participation of Mr. Limbaugh. Down the memory hole....

Once Limbaugh was hired, ESPN knew what it was going to get from him. His statement, while wrong in the specific (McNabb isn't overrated b/c he's black; he's overrated b/c he's a quarterback), was not racist per se, and is certainly no more outrageous than some of the things Howard Cosell used to say on MNF. He was hired for his opinions, and when he was wrong, Tom Jackson and Steve Young certainly had the right to stand up to him.

Many of the same people who jumped down Easterbrook's back on this case do not hesitate to impose similar criteria on Clarence Thomas every time a civil rights case is brought to the Supreme Court, or on Catholic politicians where the issue of abortion is concerned (or, for that matter, on Jewish writers concerning the domestic policy of Sharon). Political discourse in a free society often means saying something that does not sound pleasant to the ear, and when an attempt to do so goes awry, the speaker should be argued with, not bullied by the rest of us.
Things not to do ever again: watch a Bruins game at the Rose Bowl. It is a depressing place, with none of the amenities a sports fan has come to expect when attending games. The game itself was boring (alma mater is now oh and four in games I've attended), the crowd was docile (who could have thought that 60,000 fans could make so little noise, on a day when their side was winning), and I actually had to use my cell phone in what was a futile attempt to get the SC-Notre Dame score. The word "stalinist" gets thrown around loosely, much like the words "racist" and "fascist", but there has to be a way to describe UCLA's unwillingness to announce any score that might favor their crosstown rival. When my friend Deborah asked, with a minute to go, if I wanted to leave to catch the shuttle to Old Town, I enthusiastically supported the motion; as it turns out, I missed CAL's only impressive drive of the game.
Well, I went and saw the Corvids tonight, and for those of you who might expect me to snark away at my less than ideologically-pure bloghomies, well, I can't help you. They were actually pretty good, much better than a band that has supposedly never performed live should be...it just makes me wish I had had the gumption to have abandoned my fledgling legal practice in the early-90's and sought asylum in the Czech Republic. Busking, pitchers of Budvar, smokin' fatties with Vaclav Havel...all of that must have been better than 3-day depos on CERCLA litigation in Riverside County, or helping my dad appraise the art collection of Peter Bogdanovich during his Chapter 7.