Lynn Woolsey, unconstrained by reelection, lets loose, and it’s not pretty

There’s nothing like a Progressive who’s not worrying about reelection.  If you thought Barney Frank’s moobs were repellent, wait until you get a look inside Lynn Woolsey’s brain.  The 10-term House Democrat from Marin County is retiring this year, so she finally feels that she can speak freely.  It’s not pretty.

For example, we learn why Woolsey doesn’t like Michelle Bachmann, who holds, not just a JD, but an LL.M. from the prestigious William & Mary School of Law:

“[S]he’s an idiot,” Woolsey said. “It’s not very politic to say that of another member of Congress, but she is.”

As it happens, I’m not overly impressed with academic credentials, since I think they often train people away from decency, logic and common sense, but I feel obligated to point out here that Woolsey’s education consists of . . . well, it’s unclear.  According to Wikipedia, she attended a lot of schools, but doesn’t seem to have emerged with any discernible degrees.  That’s okay.  She clearly had enough education to lose her decency, logic and common sense anyway.

Woolsey doesn’t like Newt Gingrich either:

“He would be the worst president on earth.”

She does concede, though, that he’s got a brain, which would make him more dangerous than the “idiot” Michelle Bachmann.

The Tea Party crowd don’t fare well in Woolsey world, since she sees them as an impediment to saving the world from climate change (never mind that the climate change narrative is unraveling before Woolsey’s eyes):

“Half of them have never held an elected office in their lives; they don’t know nothing,” Woolsey said. “They don’t know why they’re against what they’re against. They don’t know what is happening to our environment. All they know is it’s not something they’re supposed to support.”

Poor Lynn.  She apparently missed the poll showing a wide-spread belief that Tea Party members are better informed than your average 10-term member of the House of Representatives.  I guess it’s axiomatic that the ill-informed are always the last to know to that particular truth about themselves.

Lynn may not like Tea Partiers, but she does love the Occupy crowd:

“I love the Occupiers,” Woolsey said. “They’re such a breath of fresh air for me. I’ve been waiting for them for a long time.”

There’s nothing like a gang of Apple computer toting, drug-taking, dirty, vomiting, defecating, raping, murderous thugs to excite an aging Progressive politician.

Interestingly, Woolsey is not a Barack Obama fan.  Not only is he too conservative for her (“He’s a moderate president. He’s not a progressive.”), she thinks he’s not a very nice person:

“He is kind of a cold, aloof guy.”

Back in 2008, she was rooting for Hillary, both because she thinks Hillary is a more principled Progressive than Obama (there’s a scary thought), but also because she thinks Hillary has the cajones Obama lacks.

Woosley, apparently, isn’t the only one who isn’t thrilled about Barry.  Although Woolsey was speaking to an “overwhelmingly liberal” crowd, I think she sensed a certain chill in the air when it came to Obama.  How else to explain the fact that she felt compelled to tell those in attendance that they must vote for him in 2012:

“Do not stay home,” she said. “Any one of those other people — we thought George Bush was a problem, huh.”

I wish I’d been at Woolsey’s talk.  Seeing the Progressive mind unfettered is kind of like wading in an old swamp.  It looks ugly and smells bad, but there are still interesting things swimming in the depths.

Doug Ross publishes his annual Fabulous 50 Blog Award winners #fab50

Every year, blogger extraordinaire Doug Ross publishes a “fabulous 50″ list of top blogs for the year.  I’m very, very pleased to say that this year’s list includes, not only my own Watcher’s Council (with the nice addendum that “All 2011 Council members are winners”), but several other bloggers whom I count as friends.  In addition, there are a lot of familiar names that, I’m sure you agree, totally deserve to be on the list.

You should go check it out.  I bet that you’ll be pleased to see many familiar blogs/bloggers getting the recognition you think that deserve, and you might deserve some other blogs that deserve your attention.

Happy New Year!

It’s been quite a year and, frankly, one that I think lots of us could have done without.  Let’s hope that 2012 offers more in the way of positive excitement and good outcomes!

Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol

Yesterday, I did something I almost never do:  I saw a first run movie.  In this case, the kids and I joined family friends to see Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol.  I was not sanguine, because I’m not a Tom Cruise fan and because it’s the rare movie lately that doesn’t either bore or offend me.  Either I have a very low threshold for boredom or taking offense, or Hollywood is not doing a good job catering to my demographic — older but, God forbid, not old; female; a parent; middle class values; conservative politics.

I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed the movie.  Tom Cruise was Cruise-y and there’s just no getting past that, but this was a good vehicle for his chipmunk charms.  Considering that he was getting beaten about like a Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robot, his chipper good cheer in the face of continual assaults made him seem androidish, but it was still okay in a pleasantly farcical way.

The movie’s plot was ridiculous.  More than ridiculous.  Completely ridiculous.  Fortunately, I didn’t expect anything else.  The indestructible Tom Cruise and his sidekicks (pretty girl, clown-like tech guru, and angst-ridden other sidekick who drifted into the movie) saved the world in approximately two hours.  They battled their way through Russian prisons, dangerous tall buildings, dust, and parking garages.  It was all very exciting.

Credit for the movie’s entertainment value goes to director Brad Bird, who did several Pixar movies, most notably (in my mind) the delightful Incredibles.  Rather brilliantly, Bird took the same manic, kinetic humor that infuses his computer animated movie, and moved it, intact, into a live action film.

What really made the movie was the choreography.  Dancing?  No, there wasn’t any dancing.  When I say choreography, I mean the fight scenes.  They were as ridiculous as the rest of the movie, of course, since nobody, not even a crazy man hopped up on angel dust, could take the punishment the good guys and bad guys dished out to each other (and that’s not even considering violence by dust), but they were still really beautiful.  They flowed wonderfully, and one had the feeling of character movement, not just camera movement.

On the subject of camera movement, versus actor movement, one of the many reasons I dislike the Bourne movies, aside from the fact that Matt Damon is about dramatically inspiring as a chair, is the fact that Damon cannot move.  He’s a lumbering, lump-like thing.  Since he’s supposed to be a dynamic action hero, the only way to compensate for his static physical presence is to have the camera hop about maniacally.  It’s irritating and cheap.

In Mission Impossible, though, Tom Cruise, to give him credit, is a genuinely physical being, perhaps the most athletic major star since Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.  I know that there are stuntmen involved, but Cruise clearly does a lot of the stunts himself, and he radiates a physicality that lends itself very well to creative, dynamic, playful fight-scene choreography.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a couple of hours this New Year’s weekend, there are worse things to do than seeing Mission Impossible.  I would bring earplugs, though.  Not for the movie itself, which was too loud only a couple of times, but for the previews, which consisted almost entirely of things exploding at top volume.  I don’t know if next year’s crop of movies will be good, but I can assure you that they’ll be loud and combustible.

The last Watcher’s Council vote of 2011

This is the serious good stuff I’m reading right now:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

A tour de force post taking us from Google interviews, to self-esteem, to dancing men *UPDATED*

I have been brooding about an article I read the other day, one that describes the brave new world of job interviews.  According to the Wall Street Journal, many companies, having recognized that traditional interview techniques aren’t necessarily a good way to determine whether someone is right for the job, have moved on to brain teasers, intermingled with questions that the really stupid jobs counselor at your high school might once have asked:

Jim’s first interviewer is late and sweaty: He’s biked to work. He starts with some polite questions about Jim’s work history. Jim eagerly explains his short career. The interviewer doesn’t look at him. He’s tapping away at his laptop, taking notes. “The next question I’m going to ask,” he says, “is a little unusual.”

You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

The interviewer looks up from his laptop, grinning like a maniac with a new toy.

“I would take the change in my pocket and throw it into the blender motor to jam it,” Jim says.

The interviewer’s tapping resumes. “The inside of a blender is sealed,” he counters, with the air of someone who’s heard it all before. “If you could throw pocket change into the mechanism, then your smoothie would leak into it.”

“Right… um… I would take off my belt and shirt, then. I’d tear the shirt into strips to make a rope, with the belt, too, maybe. Then I’d tie my shoes to the end of the rope and use it like a lasso.”

Furious key clicks.

“I don’t mean a lasso,” Jim plows on. “What are those things Argentinian cowboys throw? It’s like a weight at the end of a rope.”

No answer. Jim now realizes that his idea is lame, but he feels compelled to complete it. “I’d throw the weights over the top of the blender jar. Then I’d climb out.”

“The ‘weights’ are just your shoes,” the interviewer says. “How would they support your body’s weight? You weigh more than your shoes do.”


How are companies coping with this new environment? In September 2009, the Labor Department reported that job seekers outnumbered job openings by 6 to 1. These unemployment numbers have spread riddles, loaded questions and multiple-interview marathons across the corporate food chain, into mature and less cutting-edge industries. Each year compiles a list of “oddball” interview questions (puzzles, riddles and the like) reported by members. In the most recent list, only about a quarter of such questions came from tech firms. The rest were from mainstream corporations, from Aflac to Volkswagen.

“If you could be any superhero, who would it be?”

“What color best represents your personality?”

“What animal are you?”

These questions, posted by job candidates on, aren’t from some wacky Silicon Valley start-up—they’re asked of applicants at AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Bank of America, respectively.

Before I go any further, I have to interject here that I was at the cutting edge of this trend.  A long, long time ago, when I was a young lawyer at a big firm, a young man came for an interview.  But this wasn’t any young man.  His former fraternity brother was one of my colleagues and was part of my social group at the firm.  We thought it would be a great joke to give this young man (I’ll call him “Tom”), the job interview from Hell.  That’s what you do to former fraternity brothers, right?

After much persuasion, the firm allowed us to co-opt an empty conference room and convene a “special panel” to ask Tom some follow-up interview questions.  His former fraternity brother was literally hidden behind a potted palm.

When Tom walked in and saw a row of men and women, all strangers to him, but all young, he suspected a gag, but as there was no way for him to know for sure, and as this was a law firm in San Francisco (read:  potentially wacky), he had to play along.  We started firing off questions:

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Are you a linear or a circular thinker?

What kind of superhero are you?

What kind of animal are you?

And no, I’m not simply copying my questions from the list of questions asked at AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, and BofA (per the above Wall Street Journal article).  Back in the 1980s, we still understood that those questions were jokes.

Tom bravely fielded the questions, and we let him in on the joke at the end. What’s sad is that today’s young interviewees walk into and out of that room knowing that it’s no joke.

I haven’t been brooding about that article simply because it brought up an old (and fairly amusing) memory.  I was actually thinking about what would happen if I had to face an interview like that today.  I’ve been looking for permanent work in desultory fashion, which means I want to start working again, but I’m thankfully not desperate for work.  I’m also a very secure person.  (I’m neurotic too, and I can tell you that being simultaneously secure and neurotic is one cool party trick.)

So what would I do if a prospective employer asked me really stupid, irritating question?  My instinct is that I would have nothing to do with it:

“Sorry, but I don’t play games.  I meet all the written qualifications for this job.  I’m also very intelligent, utterly reliable, completely honest, and a very pleasant person with whom to work.  Asking me questions about blenders or trees or superheroes will not give you any greater insight into my ability to do well in this job.  Sometimes, you just need to gamble.  Hire me for a six week trial period, and let’s see how it goes.”

I’m not the only seasoned worker who feels this way.  One of my friends went on a series of job interviews last year.  She complained to me about the stupid faux-psychological questions fired at her.  “Bookworm,” she said to me, “I just don’t have the patience for that stuff.  I told them that I can do the job, my resume proves I can do the job, and they either like me or they don’t.”

One of the consolations of aging is that insecurity lessens.  Watching my two children navigate their middle school and high school experiences is a good reminder that youth and insecurity are a matched set.  Considering their age, my children aren’t grossly insecure (a nice combination of a good community and, I flatter myself, adequate parenting), but they’re still constantly worried about the usual things that plague young people:  “Are these clothes right?”  “Do I look stupid?”  “Will anyone notice this zit?”  “If I hang with so-and-so will it help or hurt my social standing?”  As to that last one, I’m pleased to report that my children are sufficiently decent people that they do not reject potential friends merely because the friends don’t rank high on the “popular meter.”

I was infinitely more insecure than my children.  Immigrant parents, urban schools, a child-free neighborhood (I was the only kid on my block), thick glasses, and a diminutive stature all left me seriously questioning my place in the grand scheme of things.  Time, though, has a great leveling effect.  Over the years, I’ve come to terms with who I am.  I know my virtues and my failings.  I embrace the former and am reconciled to the latter.  As Popeye so aptly said, “I yam what I yam.”

It took me a few decades to get to this level of self-knowledge and security.  There are some life experiences, though, that accelerate a person’s knowing, and coming to terms with, himself.  I’ve often commented to my sister that military guys dance.  That’s not as stupid an observation as it first seems.  I love getting out on a floor and dancing.  I’ve got no training, it’s questionable whether I have moves, but I don’t care.  Dancing feels wonderful.  Sadly, middle class guys, for the most part, don’t dance.  Back when they were 13, they figured out that dancing wasn’t cool and the decades have done nothing to shake their unswerving belief that dancing makes them look less than manly.

So why do military guys dance?  (Scroll down for the last three pictures at the link.)  I’ll offer you four theories about why military guys dance.  Theories one and two are mine, theories three and four come from a friend who is actually in the military, so he’s probably more correct than I am.

Theory Number One, harks back to my post thesis, which gives it pride of place here:  Military guys don’t need to worry about whether they “un-man” themselves when they hit the dance floor.  By their willingness to put themselves on the front  line, they’ve proven everything they need to prove. They zoomed up to the top of the secure self-image mountain, without having to spend decades in insecurity purgatory.  They can dance, and they don’t care if you laugh.

Theory Number Two is the boredom factor.  Has their ever been a time in the military when the operative rule hasn’t been “hurry up and wait”?  When there’s nothing else to do, when they’re are no computer games to play, no TV shows to watch, no malls to troll, you dance.

Theory Number Three is that, living as they do in women free environments, military guys know how to make the best of their time in women’s company.  This means they’re more willing than civilians to go where the women go — and that’s the dance floor.

And Theory Number Four is, simply, the joy of being alive.  Neither urbanites nor suburbanites live on the thin edge.  Our biggest adrenalin rush is often slipping past a Highway Patrol guy when we’re going — gasp! — five miles over the speed limit.  For the men on the front line, though, joie de vivre is a very real thing, and it probably does make you feel like dancing.

UPDATE:  I’d love to see how the dancing Marines would have handled this interview.

President Allen West?

I believe I’ve mentioned on several occasions here that the more I hear from Allen West, the more I like him.  Is he ready to be President?  Is there time for him to step into the fray?

Allen West (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know that Zombie is not sanguine about the prospects for 2012 with the current Republican roster.

What do you think?

As for me, I’m trying to remind myself that, back in 2008, before ObamaCare made RomneyCare an issue, I liked Romney.

UPDATE:  Meanwhile, on the Left, speculation continues about Hillary in 2012.

All harassment is not created equal

Would anyone care to explain to Mr. Bookworm the difference between an extremist sect breaking its country’s laws by discriminating against women, and a country that has as an integral part of its law and culture murderous attacks on women, “witches,” children and gays?

He professes to be bewildered.

If you’re on Facebook, please take a minute to report a truly vile page

The truly vile page I referenced in my post title is Hundred Million Person Hate Israel.  Thankfully, so far it’s only got 30,000 people (out of a 100,000,000 goal) “liking” this incitement to destructive antisemitism, but cancers like this shouldn’t be allowed to grow.

If you have a Facebook page, you can report the site by clicking the above link, which will take you to the page.  On the far left hand side of the page, near the bottom, you’ll see a link saying “Report Page.”  Click on the link and go for it.  I submitted two reports on the page, one for anti-religious hate speech and one for racial/ethnic hate speech.

Also, if you scroll down the left hand side of the page, you’ll see two more related hate sites, one in French, and one directed against Zionism.  Feel free to zap those too.

Once you’ve reported the page, please ask your friends to do the same.

The Coming “Soft Dark Ages” — by guest blogger Charles Martel

This is an exercise in pure speculation. I invite all here to bring their own notions to the table.

An old friend of mine visited me last Saturday to catch up on things. We walked my dog and began a long conversation that ended later in my backyard over coffee and tea.

Bob is fascinated by history, and has been a long-time contributor to print and online history publications. So our conversations often veer off into that realm. Because we have developed a years-long habit of riffing on whatever thoughts come to our heads, we never know where one of our history threads will go.

We were discussing the dark ages, which not only were characterized by the disintegration of the Roman political order, but also the loss of an immense store of practical technological knowledge: agricultural practices and implements; construction techniques—it would take until the 19th century for Europeans to match the Romans’ road-building prowess—war machines; distribution and warehousing; science; art (which in Roman times was the realm of artisans, not self-absorbed “transgressive” pricks).  

I said that I think we are headed for a “soft dark ages.” That took him aback. “How are we headed there,” he asked, “and how would they be ‘soft’?”

I answered his last question first. They would be “soft” because unlike what happened in Roman times, we have the ability to store gigantic amounts of information in small spaces. One person can carry around encyclopedic knowledge on a flash drive. Multiply him by the millions, and you have a vast repository of recoverable knowledge that is private, widely dispersed, and replicated many times over. No matter how determined or persistent this era’s barbarians—Marxists, Muslims, Democrats, unionists, academicians—they simply would not be able to track down and destroy all modern technological knowledge.

But beyond furtive individual efforts at hiding and protecting the knowledge we would need to create a New America or a New West, there would be vaster, more organized, more collective efforts to protect knowledge until better days. I suggested to Bob three institutions or concepts that would become the next dark ages’ hallmarks: The new castle fortress; the new monastic life; and the new Europe.

1.  The Return of the Castle Fortresses

If the United States, Europe and China disintegrate, as seems likely, there will be a scramble for political power among the remnant provinces, states, and regions. Most power will be wielded by Marxist thugs and old-fashioned warlords, so it would not be surprising to see China devolve to its pre-Qin Dynasty pattern of warring neighbor states, or America’s big cities—Chicago, Detroit, Washington—and its Mexicanized rural regions, become brutal satrapies run by the people like Jesse Jackson, Bill Ayers, La Raza, ethnic mafias, and the like.

Europe could begin a too-late, doomed-to-fail ethnic cleansing of its Muslim underclass, but would probably slip either into fascism or dhimmitude. Poland, the bravest of the European nations, might be able to escape either fate, although that would be doubtful given its lack of firepower and its closeness to the greatest of all the European barbarian states, Russia.

But the barbarians would not win everywhere. Just as Old Europe in the dark ages had its bright centers of learning, protected by force of arms, there would be parts of the world that would not succumb to the new barbarity. They would become mankind’s new castles, fortresses of resistance where decency and unpoliticized science might still flourish.

These new fortresses will not have thick walls and deep moats, although their means of protection metaphorically will be the same. Their moats will be the ability of their computer geniuses to resist and thwart attacks upon their databases, and their walls will be heavily and well armed soldiers and citizens who will unhesitatingly destroy any physical threat to their sanctuaries.

Where will the new fortresses be? Either in lands that can protect themselves or are far enough away from the barbarians that they will be difficult to invade and hold. In the former case, Texas and Utah come to mind, states whose populations are already armed and whose economic infrastructures already lay upon solid technological foundations. More remote places, like New Zealand, Alberta, Baja California, could set up defendable dark age redoubts if they were properly armed, including with nuclear weapons.

There would be secret places, too. Large nations and corporations have set aside fortified places where they can stash tools, seeds, patents, rare materials, genealogies, and other irreplaceable items. Assuming that some of them will not be expropriated  by the new barbarians, these vital repositories of knowledge could be available for a later renaissance.    

2. The New Monastic Life

If the fortresses hold, they will become the new monasteries. Instead of patiently copying barely understood manuscripts from a fallen civilization, the new monastics will preserve the old science that they already well understand and attempt to build on it.

The ends they pursue will be the advancement of medicine (especially countermeasures to the barbarians’ chemical and biological weapons); the protection of personal data against spying or theft; the subversion of the barbarians’ computer and weapons systems (think Stuxnet); and the preservation of seminal texts that will one day replace the adulterated, denatured literature of the new emperors.

In contrast, the science of the barbarians will, because of barbarians’ nature, focus on predictable ends: refining the capacity to deliver death, whether it be through abortion, euthanasia, or mass murder against political opponents; improving methods of surveillance and the control of communications, “education,” and literature; honing tools designed to hunt down wealth or knowledge and expropriate it; and finding ways to increase the lifespans and sexual abilities of the rulers.

3. The New Europe

In the old dark ages, Europe itself was the physical locus of quiet scholarship and the preservation of old knowledge that later flowered into the Renaissance. In the “soft dark ages,” ones cushioned by the existence of fierce armed “monks” in well-defended freeholds, the New Europe will be a state of mind. In some ways, it will be how the Catholic Church sees itself: No matter where you go or what language you speak, there are the universal constants of the Mass and the Magisterium.

Similarly, wherever our new defenders of knowledge and decency find themselves — Patagonia, the Outback, the remote Rocky Mountains, the bowels of Obama-ite Chicago — they will share a common love of truth and real science. They will know how to detect falsehood and be indifferent to the barbarians’ enticements. Whatever secret handshake they develop, it will be something that the barbarians might know exists, but will, like their Vandal and Mongol forerunners, never understand.

How long will it take for the soft dark ages to run their course? Who could tell? My concern is that there remain a core of people who will resist the thugocracy, bloodlessly and not, until the thugs’ own fatal contradictions do them in. The United States defeated the Soviet Union because the USSR not only lived a lie, but because it had long before killed off its best and smartest people.

That pattern will repeat itself among our Marxist, Muslim, and academic brethren. But while they will be doomed to repeat a history of failure and debasement, our destiny will call for us to recreate the wonderful things that men once called “the West” and “America.”  

Watcher’s Winners, Christmas Edition

It was a good Christmas at the Watcher’s Council, with the usual solid, informative posts.  I had a hard time voting, because everything was so good, but I certainly agree with these winners:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Post Christmas Open Thread

My Mom finally consented to having me take over her finances, which is a very good thing.  She’s still compos mentis, which is a good thing, but she’s struggling more and more with the minutiae of daily life.  Her handwriting is degrading, she can’t find stamps, etc.

I’ve spent the morning wrestling with Quicken and Online banking for her various accounts.  I know that, once it’s all set up, everything will be easy, but setting it up is . . . whew!  One of the things I’ve discovered is that I need to go to her apartment and get more documentation than I currently have.

What helps is that my Mom saw this day coming, so I’m a signatory on all her accounts.  That’s irrelevant in terms of Quicken, of course, since I pay bills on-line, but it means that I can use my own information to sign up, and don’t have to figure out her Social Security and other information.

Anyway, this will all be good when it’s over, but it’s time-consuming now.  I’ve come to a natural stopping point (I haven’t torn out all my hair), so I’m off to the hospital to visit her.  Then to her apartment to get the needed documents, and then back home to try again.  I tell myself I’ll look pretty and edgy when I’m bald….

For those of you who have free time on your hands, enjoy this Open Thread.

A perfect example of self-defense, and sound good sense

Not only is this a beautiful example of self-defense (watch Derek Mothershead move in smoothly, disable the robber’s gun hand, and throw a powerful left hook haymaker at the robber, landing him on the floor), I just love Mothershead’s money quotation about this serial criminal:

If he wants money.  Get a job.  Work, like everybody else in this world.

A case regarding citizen journalists proves, once again, that bad facts make for bad law

When I first saw the headline — “A $2.5 Million Libel Judgment Brings The Question : Are  Bloggers Journalists?” — I have to admit that I felt a bit queasy.  When I write something snide about President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, or any of the other prominent Democrats I routinely criticize at this site, am I exposing myself to massive liability?  Well, probably not, because they’re public figures and we have enormous latitude to criticize them.  But what about a post I might write criticizing, not a political figure, but a local businessman.  Can he sue me . . . and win?

The answer, it seems to me, is that Mr. Businessman is just as likely to win against blogger as he would have been if, in the old days, I sent nasty letters to the editor, distributed flyers or otherwise widely and impugned his character.  If my statements are true, I win.  If they’re false, I lose.  I would have been at risk in the old days and I’m still at risk in the new if I choose to shout out lies from an electronic rooftop.

So why is the $2.5 million dollar libel judgment an issue?  Because the blogger in question sought to protect herself by claiming that she was a journalist, not a blogger.  She therefore contended that Shield Laws allowed her to hide her sources while successfully protesting her innocence in a defamation lawsuit.  When the judge said she wasn’t a journalist, bloggers got nervous.  After all, we bloggers consider ourselves a “new media,” providing information that the old media, usually for political reasons, often leaves on the cutting room or newsroom floor.  What’s unnerving is that, if we’re not journalists, even when we scrupulously present facts, we’re still at risk of litigation, something that has a very chilling effect even on the most honest writer.

As is so often true with legal cases, though, the details should be comforting — and this is true despite the fact that I think the judge committed a definitional error that must be redressed.  This case, though, is not going to be the one that makes correcting that legal error easy, because the facts really militate against the blogger.  By any standard, Crystal Cox, the defendant against whom the district court judge imposed the $2.5 million libel judgment, was not making any effort to conduct herself according to journalistic norms.  Instead, Cox was the journalistic equivalent of a vexatious litigant.

For those of you who have missed out on the joys of a vexatious litigant (“VL”), a VL is someone who uses the court system to dominate and harass enemies.  These people are often lawyers, and they will file in pro per suits (meaning that they represent themselves) against anyone who crosses their radar.  Since litigation is expensive, a perfectly innocent person might find himself targeted by a plaintiff who has dozens of cases going simultaneously, and who files hundreds of costly motions in each case.  The unwitting defendant can either settle immediately, even though he knows he’s being subject to judicial blackmail, or he must spend the money to answer the case and respond to all the discovery and motions.

While the judge in any given case may impose sanctions against the plaintiff, that’s an uneven remedy.  Eventually, though, if the plaintiff acquires a reputation around the courthouse, a judge can defang him by declaring him a “vexatious litigant” who can proceed in the Court system only with judicial permission.  Although it’s a draconian remedy because we are loath to deny people access to the civil court system, it’s still a necessary thing to do when someone uses the system, not as an instrument of justice, but as a tool for economic blackmail, humiliation and harassment.  As I noted, though, it’s a last remedy, not a first remedy, and a lot of people get badly burned before it goes into effect.

From everything I’ve read about Crystal Cox, her website, titled “,” was a one woman vendetta against a corporate Bankruptcy trustee and an individual employee, filled with hundreds of posts savagely attacking both of them.  Her claims against them, usually presented in the form of hyperbolic questions, rather than factual statements, accused them of fraud, illegal activity, theft, and just about everything else short of stealing lollipops from babies and using goats for impure purposes.  As the judge made clear in decisions written in both July and August, one would be hard put to classify Cox’s content as objective journalism.

Because Cox’s posts were so over-the-top, the judge concluded fairly easily that they couldn’t possibly be construed as anything other than pure opinion, which is protected under the First Amendment.  He was therefore inclined to dismiss the case against her.  One of her posts, however, had a gloss of journalistic objectivity and, more importantly, showed up at a site where it wasn’t published under the “ObsidianFinanceSucks” heading and where it wasn’t surrounded by dozens of other posts demonstrating that Cox has a monomania that leaves even her “objective” writing highly suspect.  It was in this context that the judge decided Cox wasn’t a journalist, and that her nasty post constituted good, old-fashioned defamation, akin to handing out a flyer in a shopping mall.

Where I differ with Judge Hernandez, although I think he made the correct decision regarding Cox, is in his effort to define objective journalism so as to deny Cox constitutional protection for her statements.  As far as I can tell, his definition puts most of our major media on notice that it’s at risk:

Cox tried to invoke the Shield Law, which allows journalists to protect confidential sources, but Judge Marco Hernandez ruled Cox was not a journalist and therefore not entitled to the protections. He wrote, “there is no evidence of any education in journalism, any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity or proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking or disclosures of conflicts of interest.”

While the New York Times, the WaPo, MSNBC and other traditional media sites can undoubtedly claim that their writers hold university credentials, it’s becoming increasingly questionable whether they subscribe to such traditional “journalistic standards . . . as editing, fact-checking or disclosures of conflicts of interest.”  Indeed, one of the things internet bloggers excel at doing is catching the MSM when it fails to follow those journalistic ethics (and one does wonder whether the MSM’s disdain for these basic requirements is something individual writers learn at those credentialed schools).

Given that the MSM so frequently falls very far short of what the judge considers to be ethical minimums, being affiliated with these “recognized news entities” in no way assures the reader that he can rely on the truth of the matter asserted in any given news report.  A reputable blog spot, one that rigorously edits, fact-checks and discloses, should qualify as journalism, and be entitled to all First Amendment protections, without having to pay lip-service to establishment conventions (journalism school, major media affiliation) that, in fact, do not provide any assurance that the content is honest, credible, complete or unbiased.

Since Cox strikes me as a monomaniac with a bee in her butt, I’m somewhat surprised that Eugene Volokh, who is one of the most reputable, insightful legal bloggers and new media journalists out there, is getting involved in this particular case:

Crystal Cox did not respond to our emails and phone calls seeking comment. It appears, however, she plans to continue to fight. She represented herself in the defamation suit, but now has legal help from UCLA Law School and blogger Eugene Volokh. He has taken the case pro bono in hopes of getting the decision reversed. Volokh has written about the First Amendment’s protection of the press, arguing it’s not solely intended for the media as an institution, but anyone doing the work of journalism.

Volokh is right as a matter of law, of course.   Judge Hernandez is simply wrong to define journalism to include only people who have trained in establishment schools and who write for establishment (i.e., Leftist) media, a bright line that would astonish and offend the Founders.

Based on what I’ve been able to glean from Judge Hernandez’s opinions, however, both of which quote extensively from some of the hundreds of posts Cox wrote for “”, Cox is the wrong defendant to use as a standard for expanding the definition of journalism to include citizen journalists writing at blogs.  Cox’s writing isn’t coherent, factual reporting, with full disclosure.  Instead, it’s a malevolent stew of opinion and hostility.  She’s a vexatious blogger, and a common law defamer, not a legitimate journalist.  Indeed, she’s a perfect example of bad facts making for bad law.  I’m just worried that, if Volokh pursues this, this bad law will be enshrined at an appellate level, rather than merely at the district court level.

Just because music — Hot Chelle Rae

I’ve spent a lot of time in the car with the children, which means a lot of time listening to their music.  I’ve grown quite fond of this one:

I have to admit to  finding very amusing how young and dorky these boys look, considering that they’ve had the top song on the pop charts for at least a week now.  The last time I thought boys that skinny were charming was, I think, back in 1974.

I’m at the point in my life where I prefer my bands a little more mature.

A lovely, lovely song to wish our military friends a Merry Christmas

You know what the number one song in Britain is this Christmas?  “Wherever You Are” a beautiful choral song, with lyrics based upon a poem drawn from letters between British service men and their wives, sung by those wives:

By the way, if you buy the song, not only will you have beautiful music to call your own, but you will also help support two military charities.

(Just FYI, America’s top pop songs this Christmas are not quite so inspirational, unless you really like Rihanna.)

Hat tip:  Gateway Pundit

Self defense and the police

I finally figured out the Second Amendment when Hurricane Katrina struck.  I mean, I’d always known before that the police can’t be everywhere and that they often show up to mop up after a crime, because the criminal and done and gone so quickly.  The knowledge that they’re out there is certainly a deterrent to crime generally, but it cannot stop all crimes specifically.  Knowing that intellectually was not the same as understanding that viscerally.  Hurricane Katrina brought the whole thing home:  with the best will in the world, it was impossible for New Orlean’s police to protect citizens literally left adrift by the Gulf’s raging waters.  Those with guns protected themselves.  Those without were vulnerable.

Mike McDaniel gets this.  A former police officer and current Second Amendment stalwart, he understands the limits of what the police can do, and the point at which the citizenry is responsible for its own care.  It’s a post that’s worth reading.  I don’t have a gun in my house for various reasons, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t think you shouldn’t have one either.

Topsy-Turvy Christmas Temps

Bummer! It’s two days before Christmas and there will be no white Christmas in Chicagoland, this year and the temperature will be above freezing. There’s not much snow north of here all the way to the Canadian border, either. Global warmening?

I called a good friend in Cali’s San Joaquin valley, today: turns out that their temperature right now is colder than here in Chicagoland. They are worried about pipes freezing at night.

I look at the weather maps and all the white Christmas weather appears to be south, in Texas and New Mexico. Even further south, the Aussies are suffering a record cold summer


So, what’s going on?

I know. Bush did it!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everyone! May we all enjoy a happy, prosperous and very normal new year.