« November 2008 | Main | January 2009 »

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rather seeks trial to promote his revisionist history, but the world still can't look to CBS News for the actual truth

Charles Johnson and Glenn Reynolds are not the only ones who are dismayed by the "revisionist history" being pushed by Dan Rather and uncritically repeated by National Public Radio.

I played a small but enthusiastic part as one of bloggers who were scrutinizing Dan Rather, "60 Minutes," and CBS News during the 2004 Rathergate controversy. As I reminisced earlier this fall:

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 [Hewitt and others] appreciated the irony that CBS News had nevertheless thought enough of me some years earlier [when I was an associate at Houston-based Baker Botts] 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.

But there's still more in my "small world of Rathergate" department: CBS News is now being defended in Dan Rather's lawsuit against it by Jim Quinn of New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges. I also practiced in the Houston office of that firm for four years, the last three of those (1988-1991) as Quinn's partner.

Although we were in the same practice area, represented some common clients, and consulted on a few matters, Quinn and I didn't ever work together closely or get to know one another well, and I left that firm in 1992 to return to a Texas-based firm with whose partners I had far more in common. So I have nothing even remotely resembling "inside information," nor continuing connections by which I might even accidentally blunder into any. And the coincidence that more than a decade later, one of Quinn's former partners in a national mega-firm later became a conservative blogger critical of both Rather and CBS News creates no conflict of interest for Quinn or WG&M.

Quinn's had some early success against Rather and his lawyers, and in a November 2008 NYT article, Quinn was quoted confidently talking a good game about his client's odds:

Jim Quinn, a lawyer at Weil, Gotshal & Manges who is representing CBS, said in an interview that whatever Mr. Rather had learned in the discovery process would not help his case. He said it was the network that had gained the most ground, especially in persuading the judge to dismiss five of the seven original claims by Mr. Rather, as well any claims against individual CBS executives. CBS is believed to be spending about as much on its defense as Mr. Rather is spending.

Mr. Quinn also said CBS would consider asking for a summary dismissal of the case, once the process of discovery had concluded. “Either on summary judgment or at trial, we feel very comfortable we’ll succeed,” he said. “We feel the case is meritless.”

And if I may lapse for a moment into the kind of crude language Texas courtroom veterans often use when referring to "New York litigators," Jim Quinn is no only-motion-practice silk-pants candy-ass. He's got his share of scars and the legal street-smarts that can only be acquired by actually trying a fair number of significant cases to a verdict.

The problem, though — as I noted at length when Rather first filed his case, here and here — is that Quinn's hands are effectively tied by the fact that his client was spectacularly gutless in its dealings with the psychotic prima donna who for so long occupied its anchor chair. Quinn's defense for CBS News won't be that Rather and Mapes and their entire team were incompetent, biased frauds who committed the worst kind of journalistic malpractice to change the outcome of a presidential election and then, when caught, tried to cover it up. CBS had ample, compelling, even glorious "good cause" to fire Rather no matter what time term remained on his contract or what other terms it contained to guarantee his preeminence at the network.

But CBS didn't do that. Instead, it convened the Thornburgh-Boccardi Panel, whose ultimate report was far from a bare-knuckled or clear-eyed assessment of the culpability of Rather and CBS News' top brass. CBS News eased Rather out, rather than immediately throwing his sorry butt on the street.

And now, instead of defending itself against Rather by using the awesome mechanisms of the law to prove, once and for all, the essential truths of Rathergate — including the indisputable fact that the Killian memos were pathetically obvious forgeries — CBS News' defense is not that Rather is a crazed scoundrel and a national disgrace, but that CBS fully performed its contractual obligations to Rather. Thus, Quinn was quoted saying in April 2008 that

the contract issue left [after the pretrial rulings dismissing most of Rather's claims] relates to "whether or not we 'benched' him and whether he had sufficient time on 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II after he stepped down as the anchorperson."

"We obviously say we gave him all the time in the world," says Quinn.

So: No one can expect Quinn or his client to win this case via the righteous, straightforward path. CBS long since forfeited the absolute high ground, and it's left instead trying to stick to a comparative high ground, in which it must rely on establishing that Rather is merely being unreasonable and greedy (instead of crazed, corrupt, and paranoid).

This case may provide some fine moments of legal theater. But no one should labor under any misconceptions that it's even remotely about justice.

Posted by Beldar at 09:16 PM in Law (2008), Mainstream Media | Permalink | Comments (36)

Renewing Texas drivers licenses online

In consulting the Texas Department of Public Safety's website to find out the location of the nearest drivers license renewal office, I learned today that I, and many other Texans, are able to renew our drivers licenses entirely over the internet, paying by credit card and promising (via an online click) that we haven't incurred some new visual or other disability.

Being spared the inconvenience and indignity of appearing in person to renew my slightly-expired drivers license before embarking upon my annual year-end driving trek to the Panhandle was thus, to me, an unexpected Christmas present.

Thank you, Texas!

(In due course, during the new year, I'll probably ponder, and then grumble over, the marginally increased likelihood of unfit drivers who'd have flunked the in-person eye-test and stopped driving as a result — in particular if one such collides with my car. But having been spared today something I'd been dreading, I'm willing to let the gift horse's teeth go unchecked for the rest of 2008.)

Posted by Beldar at 04:50 PM in Law (2008), Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Blackberry Storm cellphone

I. Background: Curmudgeonly lawyer as early adapter

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was an early adapter for cell phone technology. That's when I was a big-firm lawyer who traveled a lot and who did not at all like being out of telephone contact or riding in ordinary taxis. I had the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, a/k/a "The Brick." I progressed through a series of upgrades to, in due course, the Motorola StarTAC, a/k/a "the Star Trek communicator."

But at some point — coinciding roughly with my flight from "BigLaw" to a more independent law practice either solo or in very small firms — I decided that I didn't like traveling so much, I didn't actually mind taxis, I was sick and tired of being so "in touch" all of the time, and I didn't want to be accessible 24/7/365 to anyone but my family. So for several years in the early part of this decade, I resolutely refused to carry a cell phone — any kind of cell phone, ever.

Colleagues found that perplexing and frustrating, and eventually, so too did clients — whose views I could less afford (literally) to ignore. So I bought a pay-in-advance ultra-simple El Cheapo™ cellphone whose most advanced feature was voicemail, and I used it for two or three years only to the minimum extent necessary.

I replaced it a couple of years ago with a Motorola KRZR K1m, which also did good duty as a personal MP3 player while I was traveling or exercising; it allowed me to keep up, barely, with my four kids and their increasingly phone-and-text-message existence as they moved into their teen years. And now I'm somewhat chagrined to report that I've fallen completely off the lo-tech wagon: It appears that I'm in the process of becoming a Crackberry Addict. So with my purchase of a Blackberry Storm, I'm back to being an early adapter.

II. Why not an IPhone?

The Blackberry Storm is a market reaction to Apple's IPhone, and the most obvious and significant feature of either is its touch-screen.

Blackberry Storm I'm content to be a somewhat distant fan of Apple. It's an innovative company that influences technology in indisputably important and mostly positive ways. But as a matter of principle, I utterly refuse to support it with my purchasing dollars because of its aggressive, toxicly-anticompetitive linking practices. I can't count the number of times I've rejected (and/or deleted) ITunes applications from various of my computers and other electronic devices because I refuse to subsidize a company who insists, for example, on maintaining a right to grant its permission before I can listen to a recorded song I've purchased. Thus, for philosophical reasons unrelated to Apple's comparative technological advantages, buying an IPhone was never something I considered.

Blackberry's manufacturer, however, "Research in Motion," has a fine reputation as an innovator and a nimble responder to its addicted customer base's wants and needs. I was willing to consider abandoning my stodgy old Motorola preference (rarely cutting-edge anymore, but rugged and adequately supported) in RIM's favor based on the dazzling features promised by the Storm.

I'd also had an extremely negative experience with the sole service provider for the IPhone, AT&T (as corporate successor to Cingular). Before the KRZR, I briefly used a Nokia product that proved in its first 30 days to have either a manufacturing or design defect — it was never entirely clear which — that Cingular refused to accept responsibility for. This led me to become, for the very first time in my life, a plaintiff in my own capacity in small claims court; I'm now prevented by contract from revealing the terms upon which that litigation was settled, but suffice it to say that I was once extremely unhappy with that company and I remain unlikely to deal with its cellular division by choice in the future.

It may only be the luck of the draw, but by contrast I've been comparatively pleased with Verizon Wireless' products and services, and Verizon is the exclusive U.S. service provider for the Storm. I ordered my Storm from a Verizon storefront operation on December 9, and despite their warning that it might not be delivered until after Christmas, it arrived at my house by FedEx on December 15.

III. The Storm's touch-screen and keyboard

The Storm is about the same length and thickness as my KRZR, and has the same glossy (but finger-print and smudge-prone) finish. The Storm is slightly wider. The workmanship seems to be very, very good.

I will not pretend that holding it to one's ear — like a classic old Ma Bell telephone handset, or even the more conventional clamshell cellphone handset — is natural and aesthetically satisfying. Instead it's like talking into a deck of playing cards. But that mostly misses the point. During my KRZR (or should I say KRZR-ier?) days, I became one of those people on the top of the Borg's lists of likely assimilation candidates — yes, one of those people often seen driving or sitting at a restaurant wearing a Bluetooth headset, with a flashing LED, in one ear. In particular, I love to type or pace back and forth while I talk on business calls. With my Storm, as with my KRZR, essentially all of my longer calls will be on a hands-free Bluetooth headset with the phone either on my desk or in a belt holster. So the Storm's shape — which, again, is all about the touch-screen — makes plenty of sense, and is no significant disadvantage.

Unlike the IPhone, the Storm's touch-screen is tactile, and you actually have to press on (not just touch) it to register your inputs. I have moderately large hands and fingers, and whether it's with a touch-screen or some sort of mechanical keyboard squeezed down into phone size, there's no chance that I'll ever match my computer keyboard typing speed and accuracy on any phone. (I'm an excellent touch-typist who can exceed 100wpm with superb accuracy on my desktop keyboard; indeed, my high school typing teacher once insisted that I had a promising career before me in law — as a court reporter.) That being acknowledged — and it's a nontrivial point, but an unavoidable one — I'm pretty happy with the Storm's touch-screen, and in particular with its keyboard, after a few days' use.

Look, I managed to burn neural pathways sufficient to let me poke the "7" chiclet-style button on my KRZR four times in quick succession for every occasion on which I wanted to include the letter "S" in a text message to my 17-year-old daughter. When it's oriented in landscape mode, the Storm's QWERTY touch-pad keyboard lights up before you actually press it; if you pay a reasonable amount of attention to that, and are willing to learn/burn your new neural pathways with both thumbs (which is vastly faster than using one index finger), you'll adapt to the Storm's keyboard pretty quickly. Blackberry's predictive typing software (suggesting what you really meant to say) is unobtrusive and useful, too.

Will I use my Storm to write 3000-word screeds — or, for that matter, to compose posts on BeldarBlog? Not likely. Will I write the Great American Novel on my Storm? Umm, no. But it's already clear that for text-messaging the kids (or letting a client know I'm running five minutes late to a meeting), using the Storm will be vastly better and faster than trying to text-message on a traditional cellphone.

And for uses other than typing, the Storm's screen is simply gorgeous. It's crisp and bright and clear in full daylight. Reading incoming emails is a pleasure. I have no expectation that my new cellphone will wholly replace either my laptop or my desktop computers. But in a pinch, it can do a lot of what they can do. And that's pretty cool.

IV. Other applications

I have a pretty beefy Contacts list that I normally maintain using Microsoft Outlook, and that represents a large time investment in data acquisition and capture. Motorola's proprietary "Phone Tools" software, while extremely frustrating in its Verizon-friendly versions (because of its ruthlessly planned inability to manage non-Verizon-purchased music files or other media files), did a decent job of synching that Contacts list to my KRZR. And I had grown utterly dependent upon — and extremely fond of — using my KRZR's voice activated dialing software with a Bluetooth headset. Being able to push a button on my Bluetooth headset and say, "Call Dyer, Sarah, mobile" to immediately reach my daughter's cellphone while I'm driving (without ever touching the phone itself) was a very important feature to me.

Fortunately, the Storm has the exact same voice activated dialing software. Its initial refusal to perform was remedied by nothing more complicated than turning the Storm off and removing, then reseating, the battery (causing the phone to do a hard re-boot). The voice activating dialing is now working flawlessly, and paired with a Bluetooth headset, it's worth more than the phone's weight in gold as far as I'm concerned.

Another outstanding app is the "Visual Voice Mail." With it, instead of simply getting an icon indicating that I had one or more missed calls and that I now have one or more voicemails waiting, I get a list of line items for each missed call with the number — and name, if it's someone from my Contacts list — along with a button on the touch-screen to push that permits me to immediately play (and replay and delete) just that particular voicemail message.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, that is a useful application. Being able to view and navigate this via the Storm's touch-screen — as opposed to through a voicemail menu — is a huge improvement in my ability to manage my missed phone calls. Being able to pick my clients' (and a few judges' chambers') voicemail messages to me out of a long list, and to listen to and respond to them immediately during a busy, busy day, is simply huge, and well worth the extra $3/month.

I did have one frustrating problem: Because I also use Microsoft's Office Live service to host my business website and business email, my Outlook 2003 Contacts are actually maintained remotely on one of Microsoft's servers, rather than as part of a local Outlook .pst file. Blackberry's included Desktop Manager CD has a straight-forward application to sync the phone's Contacts list to most personal information managers, including Outlook and Outlook Express, but it couldn't find the online version that I'm now using. I ended up doing a temporary work-around — exporting my Contacts data from Microsoft's server to a cvs file on my hard drive, then importing that into my (never-before-used) Microsoft Express, then syncing my Storm up to that instead of to Microsoft Outlook. That's the kind of kink that is to be expected, though, in a brand-new product. If you're not game for finding a work-around for that kind of problem, you probably ought to put off buying any touch-screen cellphone for a few more months.

Per Blackberry's reputation, I also had no trouble at all in configuring my Storm to download and display both my POP-account based personal email and my MS Office Live online-based business email accounts in separate (virtual) buttons on my Storm's touch-screen. The Storm always offers me the option to delete only the handset copy of the emails I read on it or both versions. And when I read through and winnow my personal and business emails on my laptop or desktop computers, the Storm syncs up to those changes in my email lists automatically too. So keeping my personal and business emails synced is going to be a snap.

(This, though, is where the "Crackberry" name comes from. You can of course configure the Storm to give you an audible tone whenever you receive a new email, and the temptation to review each one as it comes in is almost irresistible. I suspect I'll end up keeping the audible tone for my business email address, and suppressing it for emails that go to my personal and blog email addresses. It's either that, or ask one of Pavlov's dog's to make room for a new pallet in the cages.)

For my non-copy-protected music files, RIM's Blackberry Desktop Manager did a straightforward job of copying them into my Storm. I haven't messed much yet with the camera or video functions. And I haven't yet made any attempt to use the GPS/directions functions, and remain skeptical of those. As much a creature of habit (who rarely gets lost) as I am, and as reliant as I am on my regular video and still cameras, all those functions are frankly likely to remain in the "glad to know I have it if needed" capabilities. I also haven't yet worked on getting my Storm to act as a cellular phone modem for my laptop, but that's definitely on my "To-Do" list for those places where I can't get WiFi for the laptop.

V. Conclusion

I expect that Blackberry will be at least as successful as Apple has been with the IPhone in attracting people to write "third-party apps" for the Storm. And I don't want to rule out the possibility that some new, unforeseen use for the Storm will suddenly capture my affections.

And I'm also relying on Blackberry and RIM, frankly, to continuing investing in firmware upgrades. Some of the reviews of the Storm that I'd read reported that it was extremely sluggish and frequently buggy. Personally, I've only seen hints of that so far: Mostly my Storm has been responsive and quick, performing as it's intended to perform.

Nor would I want to oversell the Storm as being "simple" or "intuitive." The various menu trees are sound and well thought out, to the point where I've had many "Aha! That's how you do that!" moments already within my first week of ownership. But if you still have a VCR video recorder and its clock is flashing "0:00" right now, you probably ought not buy this cellphone.

Overall, however, I'm a happy camper. I'm convinced that my Storm is going to add to my personal productivity, and its frustrations so far have already been counterbalanced by its utility and coolness points.


UPDATE (Tues Dec 23 @ 6:40pm): After a few more days, I'm yet more pleased with my Storm, and sufficiently inspired to add a few more remarks to an already over-long review. The whole design is simply far more elegant, flexible, and powerful than I had originally realized — to an incredible degree for a product that's new in so many fundamental respects.

The main point worth supplementing has to do with the touchscreen: I'm becoming a genuine fan of this device, to the point that I'm now skeptical of other brands' conventional ones (meaning, mostly, the IPhone's). Two things I understand now that I really didn't before, and that were obviously not understood either by many of the early reviewers whose opinions I'd read:

  1. Once a particular area on the screen is highlighted — which the lightest touch will do — then the "strike zone" for the subsequent press-down (to achieve the tactile "click") is considerably larger than what's outlined. Trivial example: While touch-typing, my pinkie lights up the Q key but the actual press-down is about half on top of the Q, about half on top of the W. The Storm will reliably register that the Q "key" was pressed. Non-trivial example: I want to put a check-mark or dot into a tiny, tiny box or radio-button circle on a webpage I'm viewing in the browser, such as a "remember my data" box. The figure itself is too small by to press down upon by itself. But once I can see that it's been high-lighted by a touch, then my subsequent press-down in that general area — even if it looks like it would smush other "keys" or "figures" in the vicinity — will only actually activate that box or radio button. The overall point here is that being able to highlight without the equivalent of a mouse-click makes the touchscreen vastly more responsive to (and accurate for) relatively fat fingers in the real world than you'd think just from looking at the size of the keys or boxes or circles themselves.

  2. Related point: Because you actually do have to press down and get the tactile click, you don't have to be careful about random and erroneous touch-highlighting. In particular, during touch-typing, you don't have to worry about keeping your fingertips lifted up completely off the screen. If you've dragged a fingertip across the keyboard — accidentally highlighting the F and V key en route to the B key — it just doesn't matter: So long as the B key is highlighted before you complete the stroke with the tactile click, there won't be any mistakes registered. I had frankly underestimated how much more like an actual keyboard this feature makes the Storm's virtual QWERTY keyboard. If I'd bought an IPhone instead, would I have learned eventually to be bouncy-and-tappy straight-up-and-downy instead of a bit more sloppy? Oh, yeah, probably so. But then again, the number one complaint of my long-suffering piano teacher was that I never learned to do that well for her notwithstanding years of lessons and much scolding.

It's also become clear to me how much general Blackberry lore and protocol is designed into the Storm. I've spent some time browsing around the various online forums where the "power users" (i.e., most desperately Crackberry addicted) trade tips and hints. Even as a new and revolutionary product, the Storm is packed with non-obvious shortcuts. A trivial fer-instance: When you're typing an email address, if you just use two space instead of switching to the "symbols" screen twice to enter an "at"-sign and a period as part of the address, the Storm will presume that you intended that first spacebar press to be the @ and the second to be the dot before the address' .com or .net or whatever. A non-trivial fer-instance: When you're in an app what's likely to include text entry, you can open the virtual keyboard with a non-clicked touch-swipe from the bottom of the screen to the top, or close it with a touch-swipe from the middle of the screen to the bottom. That avoids having to press the "Blackberry" key and select "open keyboard" or "close keyboard" from a scrolling menu in those apps. Or — as I've chosen to do — you can re-program one of the "convenience buttons" on either side of the phone to toggle the virtual keyboard open and closed. (The defaults for those buttons are starting the voice-activated dialing and camera apps.)

Posted by Beldar at 10:01 PM in Technology/products | Permalink | Comments (11)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Beldar predicts that Blagojevich won't be impeached until convicted in court

This post may may make some people in Illinois mad at me. I'll have to risk it.

Prof. Ann Althouse is having fun ridiculing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's efforts both before the press and before the Illinois Supreme Court. Madigan is trying to persuade that court to effectively remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office based on an argument that he's "disabled" due to the allegations that have been made against him in the pending federal indictment being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Earlier, Prof. Althouse wrote: "Given that ‘conviction on impeachment’ is one of the specified reasons for inability to serve, using this procedure as an alternative to the impeachment process looks like an abusive power grab." Prof. Glenn Reynolds adds: "I agree with Ann Althouse. The way you get rid of a crooked governor is via impeachment. Why play games here? If the case is so obvious, that shouldn’t take long."

I agree with both Prof. Althouse and Prof. Reynolds. Even though it would remove the reins of power from the hands of a crook, using the "disability" provision of the Illinois constitution in lieu of impeachment would be legally, politically, and intellectually illegitimate.

But picking up on Prof. Reynold's point about impeachment, the question about whether Blagojevich is "obviously crooked" becomes "obvious to whom?" and "under what standard of obviousness?"

That Blagojevich is a banal, petty crook has been "obvious" to anyone who cared to see such things long before he was indicted and arrested. Under a practical, common-sense standard, that should have been obvious to the voters of Illinois who nevertheless elected and then re-elected him.

But elections have consequences. Among them is the fact that once a crook is elected, constitutional niceties must be observed to remedy the situation.

With respect to Gov. Blagojevich's liberty, he's guaranteed all of the process due under federal law to anyone accused of such crimes, and Fitzgerald — who wants a conviction that will stand up against any appeals — will ensure that he gets it. But another consequence of Blogojevich's election is that the people of Illinois will have to be punished with him as their governor until political pressure can induce him to resign, or he's duly impeached and convicted by the Illinois legislature.

The people of New York elected as their governor a habitual liar and whore-monger, but he at least had the decency to resign when caught. The people of Illinois elected someone far worse, and one of the respects in which he is worse is that when confronted with his crime, he hasn't had the decency to resign.

To impeach and remove Blagojevich from office, the Illinois legislature would have to act without benefit of the actual proof of these allegations which Fitzgerald will use, in due course, in court. Legislators would have to display the political courage and common sense to say, in so many words: "Even though these are so far only alleged crimes rather than crimes proved in court to the satisfaction of a jury backstopped by trial and appellate courts, we are going to use the discretion granted us by the Illinois state constitution to accept a lower, lesser burden of persuasion and proof than do the federal courts in criminal matters, and we're going to hold Gov. Blagojevich responsible for these alleged crimes now." They will have to listen to Blagojevich's fervent, hypocritical pleas that he's presumed innocent until proven guilty, and then they will have to say boldly in response: "True, but that's in court, and this isn't a court. We're already sufficiently convinced that you're guilty."

The political legitimacy of such an impeachment would be, and should be, subject to close scrutiny — by the voters who will, in due course, consider whether they wish to re-elect legislators who voted for such an impeachment. For that is the procedural check on legislatures which abuse their impeachment powers — a theoretical check, but one sufficiently effective that their impeachment powers remain very rarely used, and almost never abused. (That's the realpolitik reason, and probably the only reason, why Nancy Pelosi hasn't tried to impeach Dubya, even with Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.)


The ability to discern right and wrong is so uncertain among the voting public of Illinois, however, that incumbent legislators can safely figure that they won't be punished at the polls if they join Blagojevich's pious pleas of "innocent until proven guilty." Indeed, they may still more fear a backlash (either at the polls or, more likely, from other corrupt Illinois politicians, of which there will be no shortage even when Blagojevich is history) from doing the right thing by voting for legislative impeachment and conviction.

Indeed, the harshest criticism that can be leveled at the people of Illinois is the old truism that people generally get the government they deserve. To get a government sufficiently principled that its legislators will have the courage to impeach and remove an elected governor who's not yet been convicted in court, the public must first have voted for honest legislators who act according to principle. I frankly doubt that enough of those have been elected in Illinois.

Thus, my prediction is that an insufficient number of Illinois state legislators will have the courage necessary to impeach Blagojevich before he's convicted in federal court. That's likely to be many months from now. And that, too, is a consequence of awful electoral decisions made by the people of Illinois. It's a pathetic, tragicomic circus, worthy of the ridicule of decent people when viewed from almost any angle.

Yes, it's terribly unfair to the minority of Illinois citizens who've been outvoted by peers who preferred the likes of Blagojevich and the ethically challenged legislators who won't yet impeach him. Those good people — who number in the millions, but not sufficient millions — have my sympathy and respect.

But everyone who voted for these clowns is going to be stuck with them, and they richly deserve the government they've got. For them, I have no sympathy and no respect.

Posted by Beldar at 03:21 PM in Current Affairs, Law (2008), Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (34)

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:

  1. Click within the comment text entry field (which will start the bugged behavior, complete with whirling and never-stopping "progress" icons).

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  • Posted by Beldar at 01:55 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3)

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Unabashedly oldschool (tragically unhip) blogging

    For the record, in response to Wired's claim (h/t Instapundit) that blogs are "so 2004":

    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.

    Posted by Beldar at 01:41 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (21)

    Minnesota court of appeals affirms Craig conviction

    I wrote quite a bit last year about Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig (R-ID)'s pathetic attempts to withdraw his guilty plea for disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis-St. Paul airport restroom, and after reading the trial judge's opinion rejecting that attempt last October, I concluded that for purposes of any appeals, Sen. Craig was already toast. However, by continuing his appeals, Sen. Craig managed to stave off any Senate action to unseat him, and he's now served out all but the last few days of the balance of his term.

    Thus, today's decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals — which affirmed Sen. Craig's conviction and the trial court's refusal to reconsider it — is a belated epilogue to the melodrama of the Larry Craig story. Craig may, for appearances' sake, seek further review in the Minnesota Supreme Court or even the Supreme Court of the United States (since he insists that he, or the ACLU on his behalf, has raised federal constitutional issues). But today's decision — which the appellate court didn't even consider significant enough to warrant marking for publication in the bound volumes of appellate precedent — is plenty solid enough to survive further attacks, just as was the trial court's.

    Were I to struggle to extend my metaphor from last October, then, I supposed I'd have to say that Sen. Craig is now merely stale crumbs of toast.


    Previous posts on the Craig matter, oldest to most recent:

    1. The answer to the "Why was this a crime?" crowd on the Craig matter
    2. Craig "reconsidering" resignation; and his chance to withdraw his guilty plea is probably better than Beldar first presumed
    3. Has Larry Craig hired the part-time prosecutor who filed the complaint against him?
    4. Craig swears that on the date of his arrest, he "decided to seek a guilty plea to whatever charge would be lodged" against him
    5. In letter forwarding proposed plea, prosecutor Renz repeatedly reminded Craig of his right to counsel and warned that plea would result in "a conviction for Disorderly Conduct appearing on [his] criminal record"
    6. ACLU files silly brief in support of Craig's plea withdrawal
    7. Prosecution moves to strike ACLU amicus brief supporting Craig's motion to withdraw guilty plea
    8. Of pleas and piñatas: No surprises in prosecution's response to Craig's motion to withdraw guilty plea
    9. Craig plans to ditch hearing, but Renz should object to his affidavit as hearsay and force Craig to take the stand
    10. Just "one procedural question" for prosecutor Renz as he opposed Sen. Craig's motion to withdraw his guilty plea
    11. Is Craig's strategy "winning by losing," counting on colleagues and constituents to confuse "innocent until proven guilty" with "guilty (pending further appeals)"?
    12. Minnesota trial court rejects Craig's motion to withdraw guilty plea

    Posted by Beldar at 01:03 PM in Law (2008), Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (7)