Law, politics, pop culture, sports, and a touch of Oregon.
About this site
Comments When you submit a comment, it won't be published until approved. This is to cut down on comment spam. However, I will also edit or block comments that are profane or offensive.
No Legal Advice Although I may from time to time discuss legal issues on this blog, nothing that I post should be construed as legal advice, nor as creating an attorney-client relationship between you and me. In fact, there's a good chance I'm not licensed to practice law wherever you are. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
Personal View This blog is neither affiliated with my employer nor hosted by it. It is maintained through TypePad, and I pay the hosting fees. Nothing that is posted here should be construed as anything other than the views of the particular author of the post.
The other night, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (yes, if I watch a late-night talk show, it's Leno's) had a pretty hilarious skit with Trevor Moore and Mikey Day. Basically, the two guys sit around in some L.A. location like Universal City and Dare each other to do goofy things with passersby.
In this particular sketch, Mikey challenged Trevor to go pick up women . . . using only lines from the HBO series/George R.R. Martin book series "Game of Thrones." It starts at 1:09:
This got my demented mind thinking, "Hmm, what if Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Mitch McConnell were locked into a room and had to negotiate a federal budget while preceding every assertion/demand with dialogue from 'Game of Thrones'?"
OBAMA: Winter is coming. We need a federal budget that won't raise taxes except on the rich, that reduces the deficit, that preserves Social Security and Medicare, and that jumpstarts the economy.
MCCONNELL: There is only one god and his name is death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: "Not today." You already got your tax increase. No more. It's time for budget cuts.
OBAMA: Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word. The American people support raising taxes on the rich.
MCCONNELL: If I look back, I am lost. No more taxes.
PELOSI: When you play the game of thrones, you win or die. We Democrats will be happy to take back the House in 2014 at this rate.
RAND PAUL (interrupting): A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is. More transparency on your kill lists and drone strikes!
BOEHNER: A man who won't listen can't hear. Can we talk spending cuts? We need to reform our entitlement programs. We can't afford what we're promising.
REID: A Lannister always pays his debts. Social Security is perfectly fine. It's got all those U.S. Treasury bonds in the Trust Fund!
BOEHNER: A mad man sees what he sees.
REID: Is it so far from madness to wisdom?
BOEHNER: Minds are like swords, I do fear. The old ones go to rust.
DARRELL ISSA (interrupting) Do the dead frighten you? Why the Benghazi cover-up?
OBAMA: Some truths did not bear saying, and some lies were necessary.
PELOSI: A true man does what he will, not what he must. We got the Affordable Care Act through, and we'll get our budget through.
MCCONNELL: Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.
(ten hours later, with no agreement)
OBAMA: I swear to you, sitting a throne is a thousand times harder than winning one.
Tonight's episode of NBC's "Grimm" relied heavily on an impending execution for narrative drama . . . . Of course, the show makes a big deal about its Portland setting (much appreciated!), with shout-outs to local institutions like Voodoo Donuts and the like. So whereas I wouldn't ordinarily nitpick too much about the finer legalities (okay, maybe I would), this is an instance where reality and fiction clash too much to ignore.
Specifically: (1) Governor Kitzhaber has issued a moratorium on all executions during his term in office, which lasts for two more years, so in fact, there would be no execution at all; and (2) the only two people on Oregon's death row to be executed since 1976 were "volunteers" -- meaning they waived their appeals.
I guess it's possible that the show takes place in the near future . . . .
I occasionally see snarky references from (liberal) friends to the effect that the Bush Administration ignored warnings during the summer of 2001 that al Qaeda was going to attack the U.S. Usually, this is a reference to an August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, in which the CIA reported:
Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."
Al Qaeda members -- including some who are U.S. citizens -- have resided in or traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks.
Two al-Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were U.S. citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.
A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a ---- service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.
Left unsaid in these snarky criticisms is what exactly the Bush Administration should have done given what was known at the time. There's no actionable intelligence about any specific target. Should we have locked down all commercial aircraft? And the report alleges that Muslim-American youths are being recruited for attacks, but with no specifics, not even a designated part of the country. It's hard to believe that Bush critics would actually want action of the sort depicted in the movie "The Siege," where the US government rounds up Arab-Americans (and non-Americans) in New York to be detained in concentration camps. . . .
Anyway, the Independent (UK) has this explosive report about the killing in Libya of US Ambassador Chris Stevens:
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted.
Now, I'll grant that "senior diplomatic sources" may not be the equivalent of a CIA briefing item. They may be disgruntled sources.
On the other hand, if the report is true, the quality of the warning seems much better than that in the Aug. 6 PDB. Rather than having to defend the entire US commercial air system, as well as federal buildings in New York, as well as targets of "other attacks" (talk about CYA!), the Independent report identifies a specific class of targets: our embassies.
I should say, just as I find it unfair to blame the Bush Administration in retrospect for not acting (how?) on the Aug. 6 PDB, I think it would be unfair at this point, without knowing more about the alleged warning, to blame the Obama Administration. After all, who knows how often there may be warnings of this sort, making it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
But . . . if you're going to blame President Bush for not acting on the Aug. 6 PDB, I don't see how you can not also blame President Obama for not acting on this warning, unless you think the warning was never made.
Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, emailed: “This is absolutely wrong. We are not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”
This is interesting, if you focus on the statement that there was no "actionable intelligence." It's possible that there was a rumor or generalized warning that we might be attacked, but nothing that you could act on -- in other words, something much like the Aug. 6 PDB.
Paul Ryan is a pretty fit dude, but his best marathon time is just over 4 hours, not just under 3 hours, as he claimed on a radio show, only to correct his misstatement later. A number of my Facebook friends have linked to the New Yorker article that I've linked to, with comments ranging from "What a SCUMBAG" to "Paul Ryan even lies about his marathon times. At least he's consistent."
First of all, speaking as a hardcore runner, I find it pretty hard to believe that Ryan just misremembered his finishing time, especially when he ran only one marathon. Misremembering your time as 2:50ish instead of 4:00ish is sort of like if I told people my 5K PR time is 16:00 instead of 21:27 (shaving ~25% off the time). 21:27 is pretty decent for local races, but it's nothing special. 16:00 isn't Olympic caliber, but it's damn fast.
Okay, so assuming he lied, is he a scumbag? Does the fact that he lied about his marathon time predict or demonstrate anything about his performance as a politician?
I don't know, but it seems to me that for those who believe that he is a scumbag, or that he's inherently untrustworthy as a politician, I'm curious whether they held the same view of President Clinton as a result of his lies about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
After all, both could be said to have lied about "personal matters" -- that being Clinton's primary defense. But now consider the differences:
(1) Clinton's lie hurt someone else's reputation: Lewinsky. She may have been the aggressor in pursuing the relationship, but she was not lying about it, and she was not a deluded stalker. (I mean, she may have stalked him as prey initially, but she caught her prey.) Ryan's lie, on the other hand, did not harm anyone else.
(2) Clinton's lie was not solely a private matter, as it ultimately came about in a civil lawsuit. One can argue that the lawsuit was politically motivated (whatever that means), but there is no "my litigation adversary has bad motives" exception to allow you to give false evidence. If there were, defendants in employment lawsuits would always claim the right to lie because their opponents were financially motivated. One can also argue that the Lewinsky affair was consensual and thus not relevant to a sexual harassment lawsuit (a fairly persuasive argument, to me) -- but the district judge overruled this objection. There is no "I disagree with the judge's ruling" right to lie in civil litigation. Ryan's lie has nothing to do with any lawsuit or any other matter, legal or otherwise.
(3) Clinton's lie was, at times, under oath.
Now, I should say that I don't think politicians -- particularly Presidents -- should always feel obligated to tell the truth. President Carter dissembled when, on the eve of Operation Eagle Claw (the Iran hostage rescue mission), he was asked by Senator Byrd whether the U.S. was going to take any military action against Iran. Carter said that before mining the harbor or bombing Tehran, he would consult Congress. Technically true (he didn't lay mines or drop bombs) but very misleading. Yet, given the overriding need for mission secrecy, this lie seems to me not only acceptable but most likely called for.
But those are lies made for the perceived benefit of the nation, not for the individual politician's reputation or image. Both Clinton's and Ryan's lies were made with the apparent intent to benefit themselves, not the country. They are a similar species in that sense. But on the three key dimensions I identified above, Clinton's were worse.
To be clear, I don't mean to suggest that "OMG Clinton lied, impeach him, remove him from office!!!" is called for. Not do I mean that Ryan's lie is aboslutely irrelevant. As a runner, I certainly view it as a negative. And one could acknowledge that Clinton's lie was bad without seeing it as overriding everything else that one might admire about his accomplishments. My point is just that people who are out to denounce Paul Ryan as a liar, but who attempted to excuse Clinton's lie (as opposed to placing it in some kind of balance against his positives), should perhaps reevaluate their previous lack of outrage.
Check out this little spat between former Celebrity Apprentice contestants (not on the same season, though) John Rich and Clay Aiken:
Aiken posted the following comment on Tuesday evening while apparently taking in the Republican National Convention: "Playing drinking game with my brother now. We drink every time we see a black person on screen at the RNC convention. #soberasamormon."
Rich responded, "CLAY! You should be ashamed for racist comments like THAT! WOW." He noted, "I wonder how long it will be till @clayaiken takes that idiotic post down. Clay, you're better than that...I hope."
When Aiken did not respond, Rich fired off yet again: "And to finish it off, hashtags soberasamormon? I thought your charity was for inclusion, not EXCLUSION. What happened?"
Aiken, who competed on Apprentice this year for the National Inclusion Project (a charity that encourages an integrated environment for disabled and able-bodied children), did respond to that one. "My charity is. Why isn't your party?" he asked, adding a winking emoticon.
Hey, I think I know what happened! Clay Aiken must have been watching the first night of the Republican National Convention on MSNBC, which apparently cut away from every almost every single minority RNC speaker last night. NBC's video archive of notable speeches includes ones by Ann Romney, Chris Christie, John Boehner, Bob McDonnell, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and Nikki Haley (who is part-Indian; Asian Indian, that is), but not ones by Artur Davis or Mia Love.
It's always preferable to presume lack of malice where possible. I liked Clay on American Idol and The Celebrity Apprentice. So let's give him the benefit of the doubt and figure that he was watching on MSNBC and that's why he's "sober as a Mormon." (HIS WORDS, NOT MINE)
It got me wondering, however, what the overlap is between people who agree with McKibben, and those who are similarly terrified about the massive unfunded liability that the federal government faces with regard to Medicare (not to mention Social Security). Both problems share the feature of requiring significant economic pain now in order to forestall (potentially) greater economic/other pain in the future.
I'm genuinely curious what the overlap is. I haven't canvassed this, but off the top of my head, the only prominent blogger I can think of who has affirmatively expressed concern about both problems is Megan McArdle.
Chris Cilizza, a Washington Post political reporter, runs a fun and interesting blog at The Fix. He has a post up today that takes a close look at independent voters and sorts them into four categories: disguised Ds, disguised Rs, detached, and defibrillators (true independents).
Well, I've voted for both Democrats and Republicans (and others) for the White House, so I'd think I'm not really a disguised D or disguised R, but you never know.
Here's why I think I match up with the true independents, whose policy preferences are:
62 percent want to hold the line on spending rather than spend more in an effort to create jobs;
A majority favor legal abortion and gay marriage;
Most volunteer that “neither” party does a better job representing their views on taxes, or foreign policy. They feel especially strongly that neither party is working for them on the economy and the deficit.
That is 3 out of 3 for me. I especially agree with the last policy point.
By contrast, I'm about 0.5 out of 2 with disguised Republicans, maybe 2.5 out of 6 with disguised Democrats, and about 2.5 out of 5 with the detached crowd.
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger is on his way to become the next president of Reed College. I'd call him my "former colleague" except that we haven't really been colleagues; rather, I'm more like his replacement here at Lewis & Clark, having inherited the core criminal courses he taught, as well as his office.
The move from being the top law enforcement officer in the jurisdiction to college president may seem unusual, but there is some precedent for this kind of move. Back when I was clerking in San Diego for a federal judge, the U.S. Attorney there was Alan Bersin (coincidentally, a former partner at Munger Tolles & Olson, the law firm that I would later join as an associate). In 1998, Bersin became the Superintendent for the San Diego Unified School District, and then later, the California Education Secretary.
Like probably most of you, I do not like getting calls from telemarketers at any time, especially near the end of dinner. However, there are two random callers that I do like to get called by -- political pollsters, and the Nielsen rating agency.
(I've never been one of the Nielsen raters with the device that automatically measures what you watch, but I have twice been asked to keep a written journal of what I watched for a week. It should be obvious why I'd instantly agree to help Nielsen -- can you imagine what primetime TV would look like if there were more Nielsen viewers like me? There would be lots of reality TV, yes, but none of that Bachelor crap; lots of serialized action-adventure/mystery/thriller/sci-fi; and basically no sit-coms.)
Well, Nielsen did not call me yesterday, but Gallup did. Often you can figure out what the pollster is getting at from the questions, but this one was interesting. There were quite a few questions about how satisfied I was in my job, my health, etc. More questions about how many days in the past week that I ate 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables, and how many days that I exercised at least 30 minutes (ha!). One question kind of stumped me -- whether health problems had kept me from doing what I wanted to do at any time in the past six months. There was the calf that I pulled during a 5K . . . and the bout of metatarsalgia in my right foot that I finally seem over . . . but both of those are running-related, so not seemingly within the spirit of the questions.
Then, there was a shift to questions about the direction of the economy, which you can imagine I had a field day answering. And finally, demographic questions. It was easy to answer that I belonged to neither party, but then when the pollster followed up with, do you lean toward one party or the other, I suggested that he could record it as lean Democrat on social issues, lean Republican on fiscal issues, but apparently the survey database wouldn't accept that, so I went with no leanings, which I suppose is true in a way, if you consider that my leanings cancel each other out.
Anyway, there you have it. I feel like my responses to a poll like this matter far more than my actual vote does, since the statistical sampling means that I am speaking for a larger number of people within the demographic category (ha ha, independent moderate -- the deciding group). I am a moderate, hear me roar!