Saturday, July 06, 2002

Unintentional consequence of stop-loss orders.
WAS ELVIS JEWISH? is the question asked by "Schmelvis."
LONG-TIME READERS know I'm fascinated by the MTV special where Vanilla Ice went psycho and smashed the set with a baseball bat. He has since gone on to get his butt kicked by Todd Bridges in "Celebrity Boxing." A Dallas alt-weekly has an interesting piece on Vanilla Ice and his "Sunset Boulevard"-style dreams. (Did you know that his one-hit wonder is still the biggest selling rap album of all time? Word.)
THEME PARKS HAVE gotten smart and now sell VIP tickets that allow line jumping. Slate's article on the phenomenon fails to note how the practice really originated with the Las Vegas line pass for the higher-rolling gamblers.

Friday, July 05, 2002

SO THE ONLY INSTANCE of July 4 terrorism was committed by a guy named Mohamed. What are the odds?

The silliest part of the story:
The shooting raised new questions about airport security because it took place in an area where ticketed passengers and others are not subject to a weapons search. At LAX and around the country, airport security has been greatly increased since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Only ticketed passengers are allowed to proceed to terminal gates, and they must first pass through metal detectors. But passengers can still go to some ticket counters near airport terminal entrances without passing through the metal detectors or being questioned by airport or airline officials.
For crying out loud, if you move the metal detectors to outside the ticket counters, all you do is ensure that the next attacker starts shooting at the queue for the metal detector -- not to mention inconvenience millions of Americans who will have to stand on line outside in various forms of inclement weather in exchange for absolutely no new protection. I don't see any problem with airport security: plainsclothes officers immediately fired upon the gunman and ended the attack. If there's a problem with security, it is with the refusal to more carefully scrutinize Islamist immigrants who openly express anti-American views. (last link via LA Examiner)

Thursday, July 04, 2002

SPEAKING OF Gary Farber, he links to this nifty applet identifying the most commonly used numbers, with an elegant display of quantitative data that would make Edward Tufte happy.
IS IT ME, or do you always confuse Charles Rocket with Sam McMurray also?
Gary Farber writes me to complain that I'm accusing Lileks of stealing from me. I certainly don't think that, though it's a sign of my poor writing skills that someone could reasonably come away from the previous post with that implication in mind. I will clarify.

First, even if Lileks did read my site, and even if he was inspired by anything I posted, I don't think that either of the instances mentioned constituted stealing. Anything he wrote was so wildly dissimilar to anything I wrote that it would have been ridiculous for him to credit or acknowledge me.

Second, I doubt that Lileks ever gets to my site. (In the case of the Sesame Street issue, though, my post was right beneath a post Instapundit linked to, and the only example in the Lileks article was a riff on one of the examples in the article about Sesame Street that I linked to.) The blogosphere has hundreds of intelligent people thinking about thousands of interesting things, and there's just bound to be overlap: H.D. Miller and I had coincidentally identical thoughts on Robert Fisk's quotation of Judea Pearl minutes apart, and Andrew Sullivan figured out the same thing a month later. Over half of Cathy Seipp's articles involve television I'm watching or books I'm reading. I don't think she's spying on me; we just have similar tastes. It's not surprising that someone who likes "Futurama" also likes "Family Guy" and George Saunders. It's still eerie when it happens.

If Lileks independently got the idea to write about Sesame Street, it's eerie; if the funny paragraph he wrote resulted from a neuron being jogged into place by something unfunny he read on my site, it's flattering. I get ideas from things I read on Instapundit or Volokh all the time. Nobody ever told me that that was stealing. I don't think it is, and I certainly don't think anything's wrong with it. If I knew that Lileks was getting one idea every other month by occasionally reading this site, my only reaction would be to be thrilled that we had that additional thing in common and be more aggressive in trying to invite him out for a drink next time he's in DC.
EUGENE VOLOKH has some dramatic July 4 thoughts on courage.
MARK STEYN suggests Osama is dead.
The alleged Suleiman insists that Osama, his Number Two Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar and "98% of the leadership of al-Qaeda are safe and are running their affairs perfectly." But, in that case, where are they? Holed up in the hills far from a video camera? Unlikely. Your average run-of-the-mill schoolgirl suicide bomber can make a farewell video. If Daniel Pearl's murderers can get access to a professional studio and editing facilities, surely "98%" of al-Qaeda's leadership can. If they could have, they would have -- if not Osama, then al-Zawahiri or Mullah Omar or any of the other hotshots who've been silent these last six months. They can't all be recuperating from kidney transplants.
Of course, the war is bigger than Osama.
ENTERTAINING SALON (!) piece debunking Deep Throat's debunkers. (via Jacobs)

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

PLAINTIFFS' LAWYERS CAN take pride that their pioneering efforts have shut down the dangerous Las Vegas trauma center. (Dangerous? Of course! Why else would so many patients die there?)
HOGWASH: Frivolous suit thrown out, sanctions awarded. The story mentions Robert Kennedy Jr., but not the other famous plaintiffs' lawyer, Civil Action star Jan Schlictmann.
AS WE CELEBRATE JULY 4, let's give thanks that we live in a civilized nation. Compare and contrast. I know it's not trendy to say "America is better," but, let's face it, America is better than this.
FEDERAL REGULATION AND WARNING LABELS NEEDED: Drinking too much water can kill you.
I'M CLEARLY NOT BEING direct enough about my nefarious motives for blogging.
A New Kind of Review
by "a reader"

I can only imagine how fortunate you must feel to be reading my review. This review is the product of my lifetime of experience in meeting important people and thinking deep thoughts. This is a new kind of review, and will no doubt influence the way you think about the world around you and the way you think of yourself.

Bigger than infinity Although my review deserves thousands of pages to articulate, I am limiting many of my deeper thoughts to only single characters. I encourage readers of my review to dedicate the many years required to fully absorb the significance of what I am writing here. Fortunately, we live in exactly the time when my review can be widely disseminated by "internet" technology and stored on "digital media", allowing current and future scholars to delve more deeply into my original and insightful use of commas, numbers, and letters.

My place in history My review allows, for the first time, a complete and total understanding not only of this but *every single* book ever written. I call this "the principle of book equivalence." Future generations will decide the relative merits of this review compared with, for example, the works of Shakespeare. This effort will open new realms of scholarship.

More about me I first began writing reviews as a small child, where my talent was clearly apparent to those around me, including my mother. She preserved my early writings which, although simpler in structure, portend elements of my current style. I include one of them below (which I call review 30) to indicate the scholarly pedigree of the document now in your hands or on your screen or committed to your memory:
"The guy who wrote the book is also the publisher of the book. I guess he's the only person smart enough to understand what's in it. When I'm older I too will use a vanity press. Then I can write all the pages I want."...
It is staggering to contemplate that all the great works of literature can be derived from the letters I use in writing this review. I am pleased to have shared them with you, and hereby grant you the liberty to use up to twenty (20) of them consecutively without attribution. Any use of additional characters in print must acknowledge this review as source material since it contains, implicitly or explicitly, all future written documents.
SUBTLE DEBUNKING of the new Wolfram book, and a good piece in Slate why the media is going so uncritically ga-ga over it.
DOES LILEKS read my site? I've been reading his for, oh, at least five years now, and his Washington Post free-lance stuff before that. I doubt that he's reading my site, but it's just eerie when he picks up on how Sesame Street is really aimed at adults or makes a remark about comparing "Spider-Man" to "Citizen Kane" a couple of days after I do. I'd certainly be flattered.
Morning simulator.
WELCOME, "Overlawyered" readers. Sorry things are a bit spare at the moment. Check the archives for the good stuff.
Walking fish phenomenon.
TWICE IN THE LAST FEW DAYS, Hooray for Captain Spaulding has referred to "Spider-Man" as "Spiderman," which makes me doubt his geek cred.
I E-MAILED VIRGINIA POSTREL about this WSJ article about red Swingline staplers, but she hasn't blogged it yet. So you saw it here first.
IN LAW FIRM MERGER news, O'Melveny & Myers tentatively beats out Kirkland & Ellis for New York's O'Sullivan firm.
INTERVIEWS WITH seven Andersen jurors.

Monday, July 01, 2002

LATEST TO LINK: Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
MY, THERE HAVE BEEN a lot of stupid things happening lately, no? The most prominent is the Ninth Circuit's pledge-of-allegiance decision. It's a legally stupid decision, and even if one agrees with it (or is sympathetic to it) in principle, it's a politically stupid decision. I can't really be bothered to mount up outrage against it; there are a lot of stupid things in the world -- why spend a lot of time on the obviously stupid ones? This is one that will be fixed by the Ninth or by the Supreme Court, and there has been the salutary effect of drawing attention to the dysfunction of the Ninth Circuit.

The worst part of the Pledge decision is that it overshadowed the Supreme Court's abolition of the death penalty for the retarded. At which point, you might as well throw in the towel; unless there is a Republican Senate and Justice Stevens is replaced with a judicial conservative, the death penalty will be gone by 2010. The recent decision is inexcusable, except as a stepping stone in that direction. I do predict a cottage industry of lawyers training defendants how to flunk IQ tests. I won't bother with the irony of the left claiming that IQ is meaningless, but relying upon it here. A New York district court judge affirmed his earlier stupid decision calling the federal death penalty unconstitutional. His grounds? He felt that studies showed that death penalty defendants couldn't get a fair trial. To which the natural response is, that's your job, bozo, and if you can't ensure a fair trial for a defendant, you have no business sitting on the bench.

I'd say more, but, as I mentioned, there's only so much outrage I can mount in any given week. And, unfortunately for readers of The Sound And Fury, most of my recent outrage has been reserved for a judicial opinion even stupider than the three I just mentioned. I can't go into detail, but it was one of those decisions that you could use to destroy an android on the old Star Trek show just by reading it to them.

Side note: "The Sound And The Fury" is the best novel of the 20th century; it was written by William Faulkner. "The Sound And Fury" has a similar, but different, title, and is this here web log thing. We're both playing off the same Shakespeare line, but are entirely different works, even if Benjamin Compson is sometimes more coherent than I am.

Happy Canada Day.
I'M ALWAYS FOND of a good screed against San Francisco, and Brian Emmett has one.

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Sasha Volokh talks about crossing a picket line of unionized projectionists who have complain about being locked out of their jobs. Sasha's at Harvard Law, and should know better than to refer to the picketers as being "on strike." Now, perhaps the union is making unreasonable demands, and the management is taking the only step labor law permits them; Sasha's experience of lack of projection problems is certainly anecdotal evidence of this, evidence consistent with the increasingly computerized projections systems now in play. (One reason we're seeing so many "opening weekend" records recently is because the new computerized systems allows a single print to be shown on multiple screens simultaneously.) But this isn't a case where union members are refusing to work; it's case where union members want to work, and aren't being allowed by management.

This will be relevant in the baseball world shortly: players get paid fairly evenly throughout the year, while owners get the bulk of their revenues from television during the playoffs. Thus, owners have the most leverage over players in March and players have the most leverage over owners in August/September. Management is refusing to state that they will not lock out the players in March if a labor agreement is not reached. The players may be faced with no choice other than to strike in August.
I JUST BOUGHT THE AD off the new Combustible Boy blog, but he hardly needs my help, what with three Instapundit links in under a week.