I love words, despite the indignities I enforce upon them, so I relish a little bit of grammar geekery.
Petri piles on poor old Bill Keller (isn’t being married to Emma punishment enough for you jackals?), not only for being a concern troll and a horrible human being but, worse still, a blatant and premeditated user of “passive constructions” in his writing. As Petri puts it:
Concern trolls thrive on passive constructions the way vultures thrive on carcasses.
Pullum wonders whether Petri might be getting her “passive” confused with her “obscured agency”, and details his analysis in the Language Log post. There are tables and numbered lists. It’s great fun.
Pullum also links to his tutorial essay which provides a “clear and simple explanation of what a passive clause is” in English, and his forthcoming article Fear and Loathing of the English Passive (pdf):
No folk rhetorical property could yoke together this diverse array of constructions. What is going on is that people are simply tossing the term ‘passive’ around when they want to cast aspersions on pieces of writing that, for some ineffable reason, they don’t care for. They see a turn of phrase that strikes them as weak in some way, or lacks some sort of crispness or brightness that they cannot pin down, and they call it ‘passive’ without further thought. And such is the state of knowledge about grammar among the reading public that they get away with it.
If concealed passives dipped in a little bit of scorn are your thing, then that will keep you entertained for a while.
Meanwhile, in segues, music. Sunday is Australia Day, and one of Australia’s proudest traditions – besides pretending to have invented pavlova*; meat pies; footballers in tiny shorts; dispossessing indigenous peoples; and shipping coloured people back where they came from – is the Triple J Hottest 100. Voting on the best music releases for 2013 has ended, but if you feel like an Aussie weekend, tune in online at 12 noon Sunday Sydney time (Saturday evening for most of you).
You may have to crank up the thermostat and buy some Australian beer to get you in the mood. Think James Boag or Little Creatures. Please don’t buy Fosters, because it is watered-down mule piss.
Cheers, buckeroos. I’m off to bed, for there is to be much drinking today, so that we’ve got a headstart on Sunday. I’ll post a post at Balloon Juice at Hottest 100 kickoff time for anyone who wants to listen along.
ETA: * Edited for accuracy
EATA: Jesus, you’re going to turn me into Greenwald.
Petri probably was using the term “passive construction” in some rhetorical sense to mean “hiding behind the alleged views of others”, but that means she was being unclear, and exposing herself to the argument that she didn’t know what the term meant. I’m a writer who agonises over every word (and I still manage to fuck up half my posts). I try to use words in a way that avoids confusion, and Petri wasn’t doing that.
I agree, however, that that doesn’t mean she deserves to be called a nincompoop.
I do love me some birthers – Ted Cruz birthers, that is.
What does that say about the list the authors put before you as “cleared for take off?” Both Jindal and Haley’s parents were Indian citizens and the Indian constitution makes their children citizens of India by BIRTH! See permanent residents are not required to renounce their former citizenship as naturalized citizens are, so the laws of India apply to the children of Indians born in the United States.
Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father. Cruz is a great man, a true conservative but he is ineligible to be President, because the law of Canada made him a citizen of Canada by BIRTH. His citizenship comes from Title 8 of the United States Code.
Rubio has perhaps the best claim of them all to show that at the time of his birth he only had allegiance for the United States. The 1940 Cuban Constitution which was in effect at the time of his birth states, Those born in foreign territory, of Cuban father or mother, by the sole act of their becoming inhabitants of Cuba (become Cubans by Birth.) Here Rubio would need to perform a positive act to claim Cuban citizenship as he would need to migrate to Cuba and take up residence there. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that a natural born citizen is one born in the United States to citizen parents, and until that is changed by the Supreme Court of the United States Rubio will be on shaky legal ground.
All across the Nutweb they are springing up, like tiny phallic fungi, poking their heads up through the bullshit strewn around them. Watch now, as the slightly less insane representatives of the right, recognising (perhaps) that their party has fruited something unpleasant, poisonous and inconvenient, watch as they try to stomp the tiny little birther mushrooms into mush.
Eliana Johnson at the National Review Online. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.
Some question whether the Canada-born freshman senator is eligible for the presidency (hint: he is).
The homepage of the website Birthers.org is currently devoted to making the constitutional case against Cruz’s eligibility. He is lauded for representing his state “with a passion not seen in Texas since the Alamo” and cheered for being “one hell of a Senator,” but Birthers.org’s denizens emphatically conclude that he cannot be president “because the law of Canada made him a citizen of Canada by BIRTH.”
On ObamaReleaseYourRecords.com, alongside the latest news about the president’s fraudulent birth certificate and his close ties to Islam, anonymous authors blast the media for propagating the “myth” that the Constitution permits a Cruz presidency. “What complete madness to suggest someone born in another country is a ‘natural born Citizen’ of the United States and eligible to be POTUS,” one of them argues. “It is complete rubbish and they know it.”
Donald Trump, who in 2011 hounded President Obama to turn over his long-form birth certificate and kept the birther movement in the national news for months, has yet to look into Cruz’s eligibility. “I like him,” Trump tells National Review Online, but says he has “not studied his situation.”
“Obviously, I have everybody calling me wanting my support,” he claims. Nonetheless, he considers Cruz’s case “very different” from the president’s because Cruz “has been very candid and open about his place of birth and his background.”
I’ve been here in Australia for about six weeks, and if it hasn’t been been piss-steamingly hot, it has instead been dumping cockloads of cold rain on my head. I was shat on by a koala that looked more stoned than I did. I had to go to a cocktail party attended by both Rose Fucking Porteus [Youtube] and Gina Bitchface Rinehart. Thankfully they kept them on opposite sides of the ballroom, pointed Rose at the gin buffet and distracted Gina by waving Fairfax share certificates at her. I went to dinner at Parliament House, all done up in my best soup-and-fish, and got stuck next to Christopher Pyne – the stupid person’s idea of a clever poodle. [Also Youtube]
Now there’s going to be an election. In September. Which will be all the media here will talk about for the rest of my stay.
What a fucking country.
Anyhow, I realised that I have fallen down on my duty to you all. It has been a long time since I last fished a gleaming urinal cake of stupid out of the piss trough they call the Corner, and then held it up for your delectation. Thus, I remedy my fault.
For today’s bagetelle, I thought I might use Obamacare Punishes Smokers: Why not the Promiscuous? By Wesley J. Smith, in which Wesley J. Smith responds to an AP story which reports that health insurers will be able to charge higher premiums to smokers buying individual policies.
Living unhealthy lifestyles has become the new Scarlet Letter. That’s what happens with centralized health care. But once we go down that road, it won’t end there. Smokers today, the obese tomorrow.
This financial stick is entirely political. Notice we never hear experts wanting to “punish” the promiscuous for the cost burden they inflict on the health care system. Yet people who sleep around, like smokers and the obese, cost the rest of us plenty–what with promiscuity leading to sexually transmitted diseases, some cancers, HIV, unwanted pregnancies, mental health issues, etc. Why isn’t what is good for the goose also good for the gander?
That won’t happen because society celebrates promiscuity and the popular culture glamorizes licentious lifestyles the way it once extolled smoking. Consider: Girls. We applaud basketball players who sleep with 20,000 women. We ooh, and ah over Reality TV celebrities, with no talent other than living provocatively before the camera, who sleep around and get very publicly pregnant. We even tend to think something is wrong with virgins who are older than 18.
If we are going to outlaw underwriting, it should apply across the board. But if we are going to punish unhealthy lifestyles with higher insurance premiums, that too should apply across the board. After all, “equality” is the new buzz word, right?
Now, the title had promise and, aside from the fact that Wesley J. Smith and I agree that penalty pricing insurance is wrong, there’s a lot of stupid in there to mock. However, most of it boils down to a smug and slightly sweaty man in his basement typing “hoors” over and over again with one palsied hand. Which is disappointing.
However, let us forge ahead, for today, today it is in the comments that the real gold lies. Read the rest of this entry »
I do not know what the Democratic Party spent, in toto, on the 2004 election, but what they seem to have gotten for it is Barack Obama. Let us savor.
– Peggy Noonan, “So Much to Savor”, Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2004
And now we dance…
H/t to Mike
I know there are more important things upon which I could be spending my time than pointing and laughing at Peggy Fucking Noonan.
After all, this is a woman whose job duties apparently consist entirely of getting properly whacked on Percocet and Dubonnet, sitting down at a computer and jabbing at random keys until the word count hits 1200, and then wandering off to fellate the mouldy corpse of Ronald Reagan which she has stashed behind her office door. I’ve seen apes in zoos flinging their shit at the wall who could churn out a more coherent column (although most of them now seem to have gotten jobs at The Washington Post).
However, it’s early Saturday morning down here in the upside down world of Oz, I’m stuffed to the gills with deep fried cheesecake with yuzu jam and honey-infused Jack Daniels, and I really can’t be bothered to rouse myself for anything other than shooting at big, dumb fish in a tiny barrel.
Peggy it is then.
Peggy thinks that the Joe Soptic Super PAC ad is an appalling personal attack that makes Obama “look perfidious and weak” and so he should disavow any such combative behaviour, but she also seems to think that Mitt should stop being so nice, take his gloves off and start fighting back. This seems a little inconsistent, but it’s hard to type and make a coherent argument at the same time, especially when you have your pearls clutched in one hand and a mason jar of gin in the other.
This somehow leads into the two following paragraphs, a mishmash of patronising and pointless pablum, studded with odd metaphors and cultural references, which I would describe as the height of Peggy’s inanity if I didn’t already know what nuggets of gold-plated crap are coming up further down the page.
The ad’s cynicism contributes to a phenomenon that increases each year, and that is that we are becoming a nation that believes nothing. Not in nothing, but nothing we’re told by anyone in supposed authority.
Everyone knows what the word spin means; people use it in normal conversation. Everyone knows what going negative is; they talk about it on Real Housewives. Political technicians always think they’re magicians whose genius few apprehend, but Americans now always know where the magician hid the rabbit. And we shouldn’t be so proud of our skepticism, which has become our cynicism. Someday we’ll be told something true that we need to know and we won’t believe that, either.
Of course, it’s always possible that Peggy will be the one telling us and we won’t believe it because we won’t have a fucking clue what she’s talking about. Anyway, after that Peggy dumps on Mitt a bit more for being a wussy man, before she starts talking about the last thing she remembers with any clarity, the Reagan years, when men were men and Peggy was always a little bit damp.
Some of the unperturbed sunniness you see modern political figures attempting to enact may be traceable to Ronald Reagan, the happy warrior who set a template for how winners act. But the Reagan of the 1950s and 60s was often indignant, even angry. When he allowed himself to get mad, or knew he should be mad and so decided to feign anger, it was a sight to behold. “I’m paying for this microphone,” he famously snapped to the moderator of the 1980 primary campaign debate in Nashua, N.H. He didn’t win that crucial state by being sunny.
A lot of politicians misunderstand this part of their art. A few months ago I talked with a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. I asked to hear the outlines of the candidate’s planned appeal to voters. The candidate leaned forward and said with some intensity, “I’m going to tell them I can get along with people. I can work with the other side.”
This was a great example of confusing the cart with the horse. Why would anyone vote for you, especially during a crisis, only because you play well with the other children?
Now, you might assume that Peggy’s point is that behaving like a smug prick looks presidential if you are a Republican but, in fact, she’s somehow building herself up to a lament about the lack of discussion of issues by modern politicians.
What are your issues, where do you stand, what will you do when you get to Washington? If you believe in something and mean to move it forward the people will give you a fair hearing, and if you make clear that you hope to make progress with the help of a knack for human relations, that’s good too.
But this cult of equability, this enforced, smiley, bland dispassion – Guys, we’re in a crisis, you’ve got to know how to fight, too.
And you’ve got to fight on the issues.
Both candidates wasted some time this week calling each other names in a sort of cheesy, noneffective, goofy way. “Obamaloney.” “Romney Hood.” Actually goofy isn’t the right word because goofy is fun, and there’s no wit or slash in what they were doing.
Calling Mr. Romney’s economic plans Romney Hood was dim because everyone likes Robin Hood, so Romney Hood sounds kind of like a compliment. Now and then the foes of a candidate accidentally do him a good turn.
Can you guess what’s coming next? No, not Zombie Reagan, but the very next best thing!
The Soviets thought they were disparaging Margaret Thatcher when they called her the Iron Lady. She was cold, wouldn’t bend, couldn’t compromise. The British heard the epithet and thought: Exactly! And exactly what we need!
An admiring nickname meant as an insult was born. Mr. Romney should go with it, lay out how he’ll save taxpayers from the predators of the liberal left and call that Romney Hood.
God does not love me enough that Mitt Romney would start calling himself Romney Hood.
But he and his supporters should drop the argument that if we don’t change our ways we’ll wind up like Europe. That’s a mistake because Americans like Europe, and in some complicated ways wouldn’t mind being a little more like it. In the past 40 years jumbo jets, reduced fares and rising affluence allowed a lot of Americans, especially the sort who vote, to go there. The great capitals of Europe are glamorous, elegant and old, the outlands are exquisite. What remains of the old Catholic European ethic that business isn’t everything, life is everything and it’s a sin not to enjoy it, still has a lure. Americans sometimes think of it as they eat their grim salads and drink from their plastic water bottles.
What the Jesus pole-dancing fuck? That’s just beyond parody. I don’t know whether to start with the grim salads, or the exquisite European outlands, or the majestic awfulness of “a lot of Americans, especially the sort who vote“, so I’m just going to suggest that you go back and read that paragraph again, carefully savoring every word. That is prize winning, Grade A, pure Bolivian crap.
From there, it’s all downhill I’m afraid. Nothing could reach the heights we have just scaled, and I don’t really have the will to pick through Peggy’s remaining effluvia when I can hear a liquid breakfast calling me. I’ll just note that Peggy seems possessed of twin ideas.
First, that our President never talks about important issues, when he has spent the last three and a half years (and more) talking about nothing else.
Second, that Mitt might actually have the ability or the will to talk about issues, when it is increasingly clear that he knows nothing about anything beyond the sheltered worlds of his family, his companies and his church (where his word was law and no one ever questioned him), that he can’t talk about any of his alleged achievements because they’ve all been poisoned at the root and that, even if he wanted to talk about issues, every single one leads unfailingly into a discussion of his taxes or his business practices or his flip-flopping.
When Americans go to Europe they see everything but the taxes. The taxes are terrible. But that’s Europe’s business and they’ll have to figure it out. Yes what happens there has implications for us but still, they’re there and we’re here.
What Americans are worried about, take as a warning sign, and are heavily invested in is California—that mythic place where Sutter struck gold, where the movies were invented, where the geniuses of the Internet age planted their flag, built their campuses, changed our world.
We care about California. We read every day of the bankruptcies, the reduced city services, the businesses fleeing. California is going down. How amazing is it that this is happening in the middle of a presidential campaign and our candidates aren’t even talking about it?
Mitt Romney should speak about the states that work and the states that don’t, why they work and why they don’t, and how we have to take the ways that work and apply them nationally.
Barack Obama can’t talk about these things. You can’t question the blue-state model when your whole campaign promises more blue-state thinking.
But Mr. Romney can talk about it.
Both campaigns are afraid of being serious, of really grappling with the things Americans rightly fear. But there’s no safety in not being serious. It only leaves voters wondering if you’re even capable of seriousness. Letting them wonder that is a mistake.
Peggy – Mitt is screwed. He knows it. We know it. Even Ann Coulter and the Red Staters know it. The person who doesn’t seem to know it is you.
The boys over at the Corner have made themselves nice, dimmed the lights, gotten out the lotion and the scented candle, and have settled in for a quiet night giving Vice-President Paul Ryan the tongue bath of his life.
To be sure, each of Romney’s finalists or near-finalists has merit. But Ryan would benefit Romney’s candidacy in unique ways. Here are just a few:
* Picking Ryan would excite and unite the party.
* By putting Ryan on the ticket, Romney would add the party’s single best spokesman on three huge issues: Obamacare, the budget, and the debt. Imagine Ryan debating Joe Biden — or Hillary Clinton.
* By adding such a heavyweight to the ticket, Romney would convey to the electorate how high the stakes are in this historic election.
* The pick would also show strength. By making it, Romney would (rightly) indicate that he’s not afraid of being overshadowed by anyone.
The 23-year age difference between Romney and Ryan makes them seem more like natural complements than like rivals, and by all accounts the chemistry between them is excellent. Moreover, younger voters are increasingly disillusioned with Obama, and putting the 42-year-old Ryan on the ticket would encourage many of them to give Romney a second look.
Because the only thing that would excite the young peoples more than one smug lying merchant wanker with helmet hair is two of the fuckers sitting there, looking like an outtake from the Chuckles and Bozo Variety Hour.* Read the rest of this entry »
In the excitement of yesterday’s big gay leap forward by President Obama, we appear to have missed mentioning Jonah Goldberg’s useful article where Jonah helpfully takes Joe Biden to task for abusing the words “literally” and “figuratively”.
The problem is that Biden insists that he does know what it means. One of his favorite ways to emphasize his seriousness is to say, “and I mean literally, not figuratively,” as if “literally” meant “I’m really serious” and “figuratively” connoted some effeminate lack of conviction. He says JFK’s “call to service literally, not figuratively, still resounds from generation to generation.” He told students in Africa, “You are the keystone to East Africa — literally, not figuratively, you are the keystone.” “The American people are looking for us as Democrats,” he has said. “They’re looking for someone literally, not figuratively, to restore America’s place in the world.”
I think Jonah is doing us all a service here because as we all know there’s literally nothing more annoying than some idiot saying something like “It literally blew my mind” or “He’s literally such a pain in my Oshkosh-Scranton corridor”.
I suspect we could all do with a quick refresher on the difference between “literal” and “figurative”. So here, if you will bear with me, are two illustrative examples:
“Jonah Goldberg was lying when he claimed, on the dustjacket of his latest book, “The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas”, and the NRO website, and his publisher’s website, that he had “twice been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize”, when in fact his name had merely been submitted twice by his publisher for consideration.”
“Jonah Goldberg is a lying douchebag with the morals of a badger on crystal meth.”
I suggest that you print this post out, so that if you ever get confused as to the difference you can refer to it and it should clear everything up.
If ever there was a person in desperate need of a good high colonic (preferably administered orally), it’s James Taranto, not least for the insufferable habit of referring to himselves in the first person plural.
This week the collective Jameses hove into view already clutching at their very best pearls and fanning themselves frantically for the vapors, emitting a stream of non sequiturs, calumnies and links so baffling they hurt to read, all in order to convince us how non-u that horrible man in the White House is.
There’s been a lot of talk of late about how “cool” Barack Obama supposedly is. But people are starting to notice the man has no class.
And the Jameses’ evidence for this assertion? That Obama dares to go on holidays when poor people are suffering.
The Jameses cite John McLaughlin, who has apparently conducted focus groups with “blue collar and Catholic voters” in Pittsburgh and Cleveland who are “stuck taking depressing ‘staycations’ because they can’t afford gas and hotels“. McLaughlin (as translated by the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard) manages to come to the stunning realization that if you spend several hours with voters letting them complain about the fact that they won’t get to spend five days next to a warm, piss-filled pool in Florida this year, they will eventually blame all sorts of people including the rich, the president, the government, bureaucrats and those lazy lucky duckies the unemployed.
He found that they tend to think Mitt Romney is “too rich,” but “there is a start of resentment of the government.” In Bedard’s words, “voters were also lumping in the president’s vacation spending in with the General Services Administration’s Las Vegas scandal and federal spending for those who aren’t looking for work.”
Apparently, if Obama had any class he would stay in Washington and never venture out. Or something. I confess I am not quite clear on the Jameses’ logic here.
That matters not however because, horrifyingly, the Jameses then call on their ultimate source to tell us all how dreadfully beyond the pale Obama is. Can you see? They speak her dreaded name. There is a silence then, as if the universe paused in horror, and she comes, tentacles quivering in the eldritch light, mandibles dripping with venom, waving a mint julep (heavy on the whiskey, light on the mint and the julep) and screaming, always screaming.
Obama is also notorious for his golf outings. Blogress Ann Althouse, another swing voter (she has admitted supporting Obama in 2008), notes that George W. Bush was “savaged” for going golfing “when Americans were fighting and dying.” Michael Moore made hay of it in his 2004 agitprop film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” notwithstanding that Bush had given up golf in 2003 on the ground that it was unseemly: “I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong message.” Althouse opens her post with a story about the latest casualties in Afghanistan.
Frankly, getting Ann Althouse to comment on class is a little like bringing in Harold Shipman to fix your lumbago and, if you think that simile doesn’t make any sense, I challenge you to do better after you’ve read one of Althouse’s articles in full.
Althouse further criticizes Obama for his appearance earlier this week on the NBC show “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” in which, as Althouse notes, “Obama performs 5 minutes of a musically sexualized speech about students. . . . It’s wearing down my sense of the outlandish.” We watched part of the Fallon video and found it to be a head-scratcher. The president seems to be making a serious policy argument (in favor of extending subsidies for college debt), Fallon is sucking up to him, and somehow it’s supposed to be a comedy routine. We guess you had to be there.
The horror, the horror.
The student-debt debate has underscored another unattractive aspect of Obama’s presidential style: his tendency to be always and indiscriminately on the attack. The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman notes that the president not only personally attacked two Republican congressmen, Missouri’s Todd Akin and North Carolina’s Virginia Foxx, but grievously misquoted both of them.
Helderman dryly notes that “it is somewhat unusual for a sitting president to single out individual rank-and-file members of the opposition party for criticism and scorn in public speeches.” She quotes Speaker John Boehner: “Frankly, I think this is beneath the dignity of the White House.”
But is anything beneath the dignity of the Obama White House? This, after all, is the same president who has ignorantly blasted the Supreme Court and Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee. The only difference in his attacks on Akin and Foxx is that he is manifestly punching down. What next? Will he go after private citizens?
Oh ha ha, he’s doing that already, as our colleague Kim Strassel notes:
This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled “Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney’s donors.” In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having “less-than-reputable records,” the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that “quite a few” have also been “on the wrong side of the law” and profiting at “the expense of so many Americans.”
Strassel likens Obama’s demonization to Richard Nixon’s “enemies list,” which “appalled the country for the simple reason that presidents hold a unique trust.” It’s an apt comparison, but even Nixon delegated much of his attack-doggery to his vice president, Spiro Agnew. We guess Joe Biden is too goofy for that role so Obama has to do it himself.
Responding to your political opponents and engaging in petty name calling is so déclassé. You’d think Obama would know his place. He’s just like that dreadful Richard Nixon, who we seem to recall was a Democrat.
It seems to us that Althouse is on to something in suggesting that part of the reason Obama conducts himself in such an unseemly way is that the mainstream media are largely Democratic partisans, inclined to give their man a pass. True, there are plenty of alternative media voices now, but it’s relatively easy for a leftist president to dismiss them and continue to enjoy the adulation of the so-called mainstreamers, who have also been suggesting lately that Obama is a shoo-in for re-election because he is so likable.
The McLaughlin findings point to the risk that that isn’t the case. Obama could end up losing because sycophantic media encouraged him to act in such an unseemly way.
Holy shit. I just, can’t even … Apparently the Wall Street Journal is an alternative media voice now, and the news media that has spent the last three years inserting its collective nose carefully into President McCain’s arsehole every Sunday morning is sycophantic because it had a vague realization that the participants in the Republican primaries couldn’t find their own arses with a torch and two well trained bloodhounds.
There’s a parallel in the way the media have strained to play down bad economic news. A couple of hilarious examples come from NPR’s website today: A homepage title asked: “Is Slow Growth Actually Good for the Economy?” (The actual story, which has a less risible title, pretty much answers in the negative.) And an NPR “Special Series” is titled “Looking Up: Pockets of Economic Strength.”
Remember when the economy was strong and there were pockets of poverty? In November, it is possible the voters will.
So there you go. James Taranto says that Obama has no class because poor people are dumb and smelly. Or something like that.
To which we can only respond that James Taranto is a poopy head. He doesn’t give a shit about making a logical argument, so why should we bother?
Now we’re off to watch youtube videos and think about how superior to everyone else we am.
Uncle Rupert has taken the stand. The Guardian is liveblogging. Murdoch seems to have been told quite clearly by his lawyers that his doddering oldster act from last year’s parliamentary committee isn’t going to cut it in front of someone who actually knows how to question a witness.
Robert Jay QC (counsel assisting the inquiry) is taking quiet delight in quoting unflattering views of Mr Murdoch to him for his response. If that wasn’t enough to make me want to get into Mr Jay’s pants (and, frankly, it is), his questioning seems to be focussing on two quite interesting themes so far.
First, he is carefully exploring the relationship between Murdoch and British governments, starting with a lunch between Murdoch and Prime Minister Thatcher in 1981 when Murdoch was bidding for the Times. Murdoch maintains that the meeting was entirely appropriate. It was simply to inform the PM about his bid, and nothing to do with asking for favors.
Jay suggests a slightly different take:
Jay asks: “President elect Reagan, Baroness Thatcher and you were all on the same page politically weren’t you?”
Murdoch: “I guess that’s true.
“Was part of that meeting to demonstrate how much you were “one of us” to use Mrs Thatcher’s term? “No,” says Murdoch.
Asked why it was important for Thatcher to have a meeting with him about the possible takeover, Murdoch says it was “perfectly right that she should know what was at stake”.
Wasn’t the meeting all about the trade unions, asks Jay?
Murdoch: “I didn’t have the will to crush the unions, I might have had the desire but that took several years.”
Murdoch bluntly denies that he ever asked a Prime Minister for anything, but Jay’s clear implication is that Murdoch doesn’t need to ask.
The other aspect of the questioning goes to Murdoch’s frequent statements that he runs a decentralized business and allows his editors to set their own agendas without his interference in any way.
Lord Justice Leveson seems to find that idea a little questionable:
Leveson: “You have been on the world stage for many years, you have seen many editors come and go, your press interests have extended. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if those who worked for you recognised that you had an appreciation of events that it would be important for them to understand and they should therefore take a different line only with caution?”
Murdoch: “I would hope so. Our editors have generally been very long serving.”
Leveson says he wasn’t suggesting there had been a big turnover of editors. It ends there.
It’s going to be a long day, and Jay is a very skilled questioner. I’d be very surprised if things don’t get stickier for Rupert as the day progresses.
For all of their esteem as the “swing” members of the court, the reputations of both former Justice Sandra O’Connor and current swingman Anthony Kennedy should forever be diminished by their having made up the majority. As John Paul Stevens said at the end of his memorable dissent:
…[T]he majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.
Fallows’ suggestion of term limits or a compulsory retirement age seems perfectly reasonable to me. I know full well that at my age I shouldn’t be permitted to operate heavy machinery, use sharp knives or radically alter the political, social and economic landscape by means of arbitrary and partisan judgments handed down with no respect for either established precedent or good manners.
And yet Clarence Thomas, if he so wishes, will be on the Supreme Court till the day he dies, no matter how decrepit or deaf or bug crazy he becomes, sitting on his fat arse day in and day out on the public dollar, catching the odd three hour cat nap between intermittent bouts of comparing toy soldiers with Sammy Alito, giving Roberts wedgies, giggling behind the bench because Scalia wrote “boobs” on every page of his case brief, and conspiring to destroy the fabric of society.
I don’t dispute that extreme age sometimes brings great wisdom, or that compulsory retirement would have robbed us of the later careers of many fine jurists – Brennan and Marshall and Stevens spring to mind. Nonetheless, and in the absence of any statistical evidence to support them (because it’s time for a drink and I can’t be bothered finding it), I think the arguments for the change are good ones.
If the only effect of mandatory retirement was ridding America of the ridiculous spectacle of judges defying age and illness and boredom merely to keep a seat warm until there is a new President, then it would be worth it. We would still, happily, be able to gossip about which judge looks ill, which is always such a satisfying discussion to have over several bottles of scotch after an exhausting day trying to peg Skittles at Kennedy from the public gallery and not get caught.
The Supreme Court needs new blood, new ideas and, frankly, the odd judge who was born after the Eisenhower administration. Courts should (as much as possible) reflect the aspirations and the diversity of the society they serve, which is a little hard when three quarters of the bench doesn’t know or care what IUDs or DVDs or CFCs are.
I suspect that mandatory retirement would assist in this regard, not least because every year more and more women (pdf) (and with any luck more non-white, non-straight, non-bigoted persons) are managing to lie, cheat and backstab their way into the corner offices and onto the bench (they are lawyers, after all). There’s a good chance that some of those new judges might come with a uterus and a conscience attached.
Of course, changing the rules for the Supreme Court would require a constitutional amendment which, even if it got up, would probably be held to be unconstitutional by a 9-0 decision of the Supreme Court applying the doctrine of Faciens quod volo, canes feminam. Still, a girl can dream.
Fallows also has up a number of fine posts on the filibuster, including this good summary of its history, which he ends with this:
For now this last thought, from a reader with family ties to George Norris, the long-time “progressive Republican” U.S. Senator from Nebraska:
[My ancestor] Senator Norris filibustered the old fashioned way, as it were. (His stand that no politician should invest in any asset except US bonds to avoid any bias also contrasts sharply with politicians today.) I did want to point out that, if the Democrats lose the Senate, then I predict that the Republicans will simply change the rules*, thus eliminating the problem. At that point they will cheerfully switch sides, and then ram it down the throat of the Dems. My favorite line of Krugman’s is that the Republicans “are serious men”, by which he meant that they played a tougher, and longer, game than their opponents.
* To clarify, changing rules during a session requires a 2/3 vote, but it is generally understood that every two years, at the start of each new Congress, each House can set rules for itself by majority vote.
The Republicans will not only change the rules, they will boast about how they got rid of the filibuster those dreadful Democrats were always using to subvert the will of the people, at least until they lose control of the Senate again, at which time the filibuster will become a vital tool for liberty which those dastardly Democrats have been suppressing.
Because Republicans are perfidious, pernicious pricks, and lying is what they do best.
Image: A Judge Going to Court – Thomas Couture (1815-1879)