Media savvy


Carbonite freezing.

Nerfherder

Thx to /film

For the coward pictured below.

About to rue the day

Today, the DPS released the security video of the arsonist who almost succeeded in burning the Governor’s Mansion to the ground.

Anyone with information about the possible identity of the person depicted in the video or picture above is urged to call investigators at:

512-506-2849,
512-506-2861,
512-506-2862, or
Crime at 800-252-8477.

Thx to the Austinist

Where the magic happens

Both SCOTX Blog and the Texas Appellate Law Blog have discussed the Court’s new digitization project which–thanks to some equipment on loan from Thomson, Reuters, West & Law–has now made available for free oral argument audio going back to 1990. West will later make written transcripts linked to the oral argument video (currently available for free via live streaming or archived back to March 2007) text-searchable and available via a subscription.

SCOTX Blog notes there may be curious errors in some of the older (i.e., pre 2004-05 term) oral argument mp3s that result from the old practice of flipping the cassette tape over upon which the audio used to be recorded. This job was always delegated (perhaps unwisely) to the briefing attorneys, who sometimes forgot to flip the tape over in a timely fashion.

Most appellate attorneys will undoubtedly make good use of the audio archives while dutifully preparing for an upcoming oral argument, but for those of you who may be as easily entertained as I am, the online availability of the audio recordings presents a unique opportunity to listen to cool old matchups like, say, the epic showdown between former Chief Phillips and former Justice Hankinson last year in Crown Cork, or former Justice Enoch‘s oral argument in a cause that revisited an opinion he wrote when he was on the bench.

Thx to Blake Hawthorne, SCOTX Blog, and the Texas Appellate Law Blog

Say it aint so

Success ruins everything.

David Lat, a former AUSA and federal circuit clerk who I first began to follow in mid-2004 when he anonymously ran the Article III gossip blog, Underneath Their Robes (one of the seminal progenitors of the modern legal blog) until he was outed as the proprietor by Jeff Toobin. He went on to serve a stint editing Wonkette, and then became the founder and editor in chief of Above the Law, which has grown into the lowly law firm associate’s blogospherical check on BigLaw shenanigans.

Well, due to his success at ATL, Lat has been promoted to oversee all of ATL‘s parent company’s sites; thus reducing his ATL blogging load substantially and forcing him to:

brush my teeth, put on clothes, and schlep into an office each morning.

We here at the SMSB wish him well and curse thank him for seeding our own little degenerative blogging afflication. It’s not often that a person can create and ride a sea change in a profession, but Mr. Lat certainly has and we thank him for his diligent, entertaining, and status-quo-shattering work over these last few years.

Thx to the
BLT

Now that\'s zealous advocacyAnd now looking like a sane person

Covington & Burlington (former) partner David Remes submitted his letter of resignation this past Friday after making worldwide headlines (which generously noted his firm affiliation) for dropping his pants to reveal his stylish tighty-whities in Yemen–of all places.

Remes apparently pulled the disrobing stunt to somehow show mistreatment of prisoners at GitMo (the indefatigable “liar, liar, pants on fire” defense perhaps?), but may have just wound up mistreating every unfortunate soul who can never forget the sight of him in his underpants.

Thx to the WSJ Law Blog

Farewell

Tony Snow, former speechwriter for President H.W. Bush and Press Secretary to President G.W. Bush, passed away today after his long bout with colon cancer.

Tony was the most articulate and effective press secretary I’ve seen, and by all accounts, one of the most decent men inside the Beltway. He not only was the founding host of Fox News Sunday and a syndicated columnist, but the winner of the inaugural “Crawlin’ Kingsnake Trophy” (for which he beat out Bob Schieffer).

One of the things I always respected and admired most about Tony was his ability and willingness to take on the Whitehouse press corps and expose the liberal bent of their questions. He was very good at it:

GREGORY: It’s kind of a totality question, though. How you can hear these things and not conclude that it’s rejection of the President’s policy?

SNOW: Well, number one, “stay the course” is not the policy.

But you need to understand that trying to frame it in a partisan way is actually at odds with what the Group, itself, says it wanted to do. And so you may try to do whatever you want in terms of rejection, that’s not the way they view it.

GREGORY: I just want to be clear. Are you suggesting that I’m trying to frame this in a partisan way?

SNOW: Yes.

And this podiumslapping of Jim Axlerod of CBS News was a classic as well. Axlerod asked Snow if the White House was “isolated and out of touch” in what they say about Iraq and the politics of the war on Capitol Hill, to which Snow dryly replied:

No, no more than I think people look at you and think you are focused on defeat.

He was articulate and quick on his feet–much more so than his pathetic predecessor–and enjoyed as much friendly banter with the press corps as he did heated exchanges. A great example of the latter was when he chided CBS’s Harry Smith that he couldn’t “have his own facts,” and an amusing example of the former was with Bill Plante of CBS News:

Plante: Are you going to say you’ve met those benchmarks? You’ve met almost none of them.

Snow: You’re going to find out exactly what people have said when the report becomes available — within the next week.

Plante: If it’s about the benchmarks that you’ve laid out, there are very few that have been met, or they have been met in the most vaporous way. We’ve seen progress in the alliance between most of the sheikhs opposed to Al Qaeda. Oh good.

Snow: Again I’m not going to rise to the bait –

Plante: It’s vaporware.

Snow: Vaporware? What is vaporware?

Plante: Vaporware is software that has been promised but hasn’t yet been delivered.

Snow: I see. I was afraid it had to do with bodily functions and –

Plante: Oh no.

Snow: I was a little worried about it.

We only wish that Tony–as he told Helen Thomas when he left the Whitehouse last September–had lived to make “life a living hell” for another Whitehouse Press Secretary when he was her age.

Thx to Tony Snow for his service to our country

Sure looks like infringement to me

Mars, Inc., parent company of the M&Ms brand, posits that briefs, a cowboy hat and boots, and a guitar is not enough. Therefore, they argue, they can profit from their blatant appropriation of the likeness of the Times Square “Naked Cowboy.”

Riiiiight. Good luck with that defense.

Thx to Jossip and the NY Post

Ruh Roh

Austin has a long and tortured history with the perpetually-advertised transportation nirvana that is purported to be commuter/light rail.

Well, I have to admit enjoying a little grin reading in this morning’s Statesman that a cadre of officials from the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration in town to discuss granting waivers to operate commuter and freight trains on the same railroad with Capital Metro experienced a minor mishap.

The commuter railcar in which they were riding (at the blazing commuter speed of 5 mph) derailed briefly. Thankfully, no one was injured in the incident, save for maybe the reputation of Capital MetroRail (whose predictable motto is “All Systems Go”).

Thx to the Austinist and the Statesman

Beeeeeer

It must indeed be the End Times when the erudite George Will finds himself agreeing with Homer Simpson: Beer is the root of western civilization.

So says King George in his op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post:

No beer, no civilization …. The development of civilization depended on urbanization, which depended on beer.

Will credits his thesis to a recent tome by Steven Johnson entitled, “The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.”

Speaking of Duff Beer, the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse used to serve it (and it was surprisingly good as well), but not sure if they still do.

Thx to George Will and Volokh

Officially incompetent

After the leaders of both houses of the Texas Legislature sent a very strongly-worded to the State Auditor in late February calling for review of TxDOT‘s “questionable accounting procedures,” including TxDOT’s projection of a $3.6 billion shortfall by 2015 without accounting for some $8 billion in already-approved road bonds, and its admission of $1 billion “error” in its budget forecasting, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission (the “Commission”)–charged with recommending every twelve years whether targeted state agencies should be done away with–unsurprisingly issued a stinging rebuke of TxDOT early last month:

Sunset staff found that this atmosphere of distrust permeated most of TxDOT’s actions and determined that it could not be an effective state transportation agency if trust and confidence were not restored …. Significant changes are needed to begin this restoration; tweaking the status quo is simply not enough.

In its report, the Commission called TxDOT “out of control” in pursuing its toll-road agenda. So disgusted with TxDOT was the Commission that it recommended abolishing altogether the five-member Texas Transportation Commission which oversees the agency and replacing it with a leaner executive structure composed only of the agency’s executive director and a single commissioner. The final major recommendation of the Commission was that TxDOT undergo sunset review again in just four years’ time, instead of the normal 12-year review cycle.

Thx to the Statesman

Little did I know twenty years ago when I first illicitly saw Predator that it was not just a classic action movie starring both the Terminator and Apollo Creed fighting an alien, but that it was also a veritable breeding-ground of future politicians.

Well, consider this. Not only have two of the cast gone on to be elected governor, now a third is considering a run for the Senate from Kentucky. Billy the tracker from Predator (Sonny Landham in real life) is gathering signatures so that he can challenge current Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell as an independant.

If he’s even half as tough in real life as he was in Predator, he’d have my vote.

Billy Bada$$Almost unrecognizable

Thx to Shenanigans

I’ve probably already derived too much jurisprudential pleasure from analyzing the SCOTUS plurality opinion handed down this past April in Baze v. Rees, No. 07-5439, slip op. (Apr. 16, 2008 ), but the Onion has only just begun to analyze its merits.

* * * WARNING, NSFW LANGUAGE * * *

“I am the Law!”

Thx to Volokh

Tough

First, any man who at any point in his life wore a fu-man-chu mustache, you just gotta like.

Also, below are some excerpts from an interview former CBS News correspondent Bernie Goldberg did with Tim Russert for Goldberg’s 2003 book, Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite. Read through these excerpts and tell me if you can picture any current journalist from any network uttering these words. I sure can’t. We’re definitely gonna miss Tim.

GOLDBERG: I think a lot of people have seen a fairness in you that they’re not used to seeing on the networks, and I’m wondering how much you think your blue-collar background has to do with it.

RUSSERT: There’s no substitute for it, Bernie, believe me. I’ve worked on garbage trucks. I drove a taxi. I tended bar. I delivered pizzas. I worked with liberals, conservatives, blacks, whites; that’s how you grew up in this interesting world, and people were always simply judged in the end on their quality as a person: Did they tell the truth? Did they honor their commitments? Did they show up for work on time?

* * *

And I also believe that going to the schools I did—St. Bonaventure school, Canisius High School, John Carroll University—these are not fashionable, elitist schools. These are schools where you learn to read and write and learn right from wrong. But they would never wave a wand and say, this is the way you must think.

The key to it was always respecting another person’s view and never suggesting that anyone had a monopoly on correctness. And that should be the centerpiece to being a journalist. You don’t go out there bringing to your profession an attitude that you know what is right for the country or you know what view is the progressive one or the appropriate one to have.

* * *

It’s just central to a journalist that we not adopt a code of correctness that this is the preferred position on the issue.

* * *

There is no preferred position. One cannot be dismissive of one person as extreme and find another acceptable just because of how you define liberal, conservative or mainstream.

* * *

It really is fascinating to me when you talk to political figures and to some journalists, they’ll say the center is here—if you are for abortion rights, for gun control, for campaign finance reform, that’s a mainstream position; and those opposed to it are on the fringe. And that’s just not the way reporters should approach issues.

* * *

Whenever we were going through the whole situation with President Clinton on a variety of issues involving his veracity, I would say in the newsroom: What if President Nixon had said this? And people would sit up [because they hadn't thought of it that way]. You have to apply a single standard.

GOLDBERG: And to those who say journalists shouldn’t wear red, white and blue ribbons, that by doing that somehow you’re taking the government’s side in some debate or another — which I don’t frankly see, by the way . . .

RUSSERT: It is imperative that we never suggest that there’s a moral equivalency between the United States of America and the terrorists. Period. I’ll believe that until the day I die. I have talked about being a journalist—but also being an American. And first and foremost, you’re an American. I want a debate about national security, and who defines national security. I understand all that. But in the end, you have to make judgements, and on that day I made a judgement that five days after the most horrific event of my lifetime and of my journalistic career, that for me to say to the country I too am part of this, I too have experienced this gut-wrenching pain and agony, and I too have enormous remorse and sympathy, with not only the people who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in the field in Pennsylvania, but all of us—we’re in this together; this isn’t covering Democrats and Republicans or the Bills versus the Redskins; this is us. The Taliban doesn’t believe in the First Amendment.

I’m an American and then I’m a journalist.

(emphasis added).

Thx to NewsBusters and Tim Russert

What to do when your print divisions are floundering?

Not realizing that mutual linking actually drives advertising revenue by boosting web traffic rather than detracts from it, the AP recently came out with a shockingly obtuse pricing scheme that purports to charge blogs up to $12.50 for as little as 5 excerpted words from an AP story.

Forward thinking

Apart from the obvious and dubious legal veracity of such a proposition, the AP apparently failed to consider or conceive of the potential reciprocal effects of such a policy.

New logo?

Prominent blogger Michelle Malkin recently calculated the amount the AP would owe her under its own pricing schedule for its quotation of her content to be $132,125.

She did the same calculation for Patterico and found the AP potentially owes that site $188,750 under the AP policy. Patterico commented on the AP’s use of Patterico‘s content, remarking:

So am I going to be an a[$$] and threaten to charge them, or sue them, or demand that they remove the quotes? Of course not. They benefited from my content and I benefited from their link.

Thx to Michelle Malkin and Patterico’s Pontifications

The accused

Last month, the Texas Appellate Law Blog had a great post on the (believe it or not) benefit legal blogs offer to the legal landscape at large. I would add one other entirely unexpected yet undeniably valuable benefit to that list as well, as evidenced by the media fracas over Chief Judge Alex Kozinski‘s recent travails.

I have purposefully stayed away from writing about this story because it struck me from the beginning as likely a bogus “scandal.” I was wrong to do so, but not because the story had any merit, but because it turns out the blogosphere actually served to get the truth out.

In brief, the L.A. Times published a story at the urging of a disgruntled litigant who—as is frustratingly all too common—insisted on lambasting the four trial judges and at least six appellate justices (including Chief Kozinski) who held against him of bias and judicial misconduct. Riiiight. The L.A. Times story revealed that Chief Kozinski had various files stored on his family’s server that the paper framed as pornographic and even as examples of beastiality but that were really just so much ribald and off-color humor.

As Professor Volokh explains:

And some of the files contain what is basically—if what I saw at Patterico‘s site is representative—visual sexual humor. There are some spoofs, for instance of the MasterCard commercials, some puns, some absurdities. Kozinski, or someone in his family, apparently got them sent to him, and decided to save them alongside a bunch of other stuff he found interesting or amusing.

* * *

Jeez, folks, Kozinski has a quirky sense of humor, and keeps some joke pictures and videos on his computer rather than throwing them away. I’m sure they aren’t the kinds of things some people would enjoy seeing. But he wasn’t trying to show them to those people! He was just minding his own business, keeping some files on his own private server. And now it’s a national news story.

Chief Kozinsky’s wife put it even better:

The reporter describes the handful of comic-sexual items as follows: “the sexually explicit material on the site was extensive.” He then includes graphic descriptions that make the material sound like hard-core porn when, in fact, it is more accurately described as raunchy humor.

* * *

The fact is, Alex is not into porn—he is into funny—and sometimes funny has a sexual character.

So, the only real controversy at issue as a result of all the hubbub was that Chief Kozinski was presiding over an obscenity trial when the story broke. However, any traction that valid potential conflict rightly had was quickly defused when, within just a few days of the story’s printing, Chief Kozinski recused himself, declared a mistrial, and called for an investigation into the controversy surrounding his stored web files.

Which, after much exposition, brings me back to my original point. If one were to have only read the L.A. Times story, you would have thought the Chief of a federal circuit was keeping porn on his work computer and making it available to the public. It was not until the legal blogosphere started investigating further that it came to light that the evidence upon which the story was based had been shopped around to several media outlets for months by a disgruntled litigant, that the files in question were not really pornographic at all, and that the “website”—really a server subdirectory—upon which they were stored was not meant to be publically accessible.

So, after entirely too much prologue, my point is that the legal blogosphere can even—in rare instances—be useful in combatting slovenly reporting by major news outlets that only serve to tar and tarnish the reputation of non-political actors as are most appellate courts and jurists. Chief Kozinski himself has now recognized that the legal blogosphere may serve at least one useful purpose—providing fuller context and facts after a media hit-piece has been released—after having once famously derided the utility of legal blogs:

I hate ‘em. Hateful things. . . . I just think it’s so self-indulgent, you know. Oh, I’m so proud of what I’m saying, I think the world instantly wants to know what I’m thinking today. People wake up thinking, hmm, what does this person, whoever the blogger in question is—I wonder what great thoughts have come into his mind this morning that I can feel myself edified by. I can’t really have breakfast, really enjoy my day until I hear the great thoughts of Howard Bashman—I don’t think so. I go for months without ever knowing what Howard has to say. So I don’t know. I find it sort of self-indulgent. And I find it so grandiloquent.

By the way, Chief Kozinksi is absolutely correct on this point: all of us legal bloggers are—to some extent or another—at least partially self-absorbed and hubristic. Why else spend valuable billable time opining on topics about which no one asked our opinion?

On a much smaller scale, I have felt forced to use this blog in much the same fashion as Patterico and Above the Law have used theirs on this matter to combat the all too numerous instances of the Texas media blindly parrotting the tripe constantly spewed forth by Texas Watch. I have no idea if my hopefully somewhat-cogent rantings have had much of an impact, but it is my pleasure to stick up for our vastly-underpaid and supremely-talented judiciary when it is ethically restrained from responding on its own to such baseless bilge favored by Texas Watch and now the L.A. Times.

Thx to Above the Law and Patterico’s Pontifications

Jacka$$

How bad does one’s political blunder have to be to not only force the end of a previously promising gubernatorial bid, but to impact a presidential race almost two decades later? Very, very bad indeed.

Many here in Texas have distant and dusty memories of the West Texas oilcatter and Aggie, Clayton Williams, who ran unsuccessfully for governor against Ann Richards in 1990. His campaign was going fairly well until he started lobbing rape and drinking “jokes” against his opponent who had publicly acknowledged struggles with alcohol.

Classy

Perhaps almost as unforgivable as his tasteless broadsides against Governor Richards, Claytie also made headlines when he refused to shake her hand before a debate in Dallas.

Well, John McCain‘s army of vetting wizards apparently failed to uncover these obscure political nuggets in Claytie’s past when they scheduled a fundraiser for Senator McCain at Claytie’s house in Midland. Senator Obama‘s team was quick to point out Claytie’s unsavory past, and McCain rescheduled the fundraiser, but decided to keep the $300,000 or so already raised with Claytie’s assistance.

Thx to the Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Texas on the Potomac

We\'ll miss you

Much has been written last week and this weekend regarding the untimely and shocking passing of Tim Russert by folks far more eloquent than I. All I can do is thank him and his family for the many years of Tim gave us that set the bar against which modern journalism should and hopefully will measure itself henceforth.

Before the advent of the DVR, I had many a Sunday where I agonized over having to turn off Meet the Press in order to get everyone to church on time.

May Tim rest in peace and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Maureen, and son, Luke.

Thx to Tim Russert for his integrity, objectivity, and unmatched acumen

Blast from the past

Yesterday, former Justice Thomas clerk and hopefully-not-former syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham posted the following message on her website giving some insight into why she has been suddenly absent from the airwaves for the past week and a half:

NOTE TO LAURA LISTENERS

Due to contractual obligations, for the present time I am unable to reveal why I am not currently hosting The Laura Ingraham Show. Rest assured, this absence is not of my choosing, nor is it health or family related. I am ready, willing and eager to continue the conversation we started seven years ago about politics and the culture. (Heck, if cancer couldn’t keep me off the airwaves for long, nothing will.) Keep checking the site for a schedule of my appearances on the Fox News Channel. All queries regarding my on-air status should be directed to Talk Radio Network’s management at 541 474 2297 or send an email. Thanks for sticking with me, and…Power to the People!

Just breaking this afternoon, Laura will make her second foray into hosting her own cable news show. She was one of MSNBC‘s first hosts, headlining Watch It! which came on right after Imus. Beginning next week, she’ll host Just In during the 4pmCT timeslot on Fox.

Best of luck to her both with her new show and with her old one as well.

Thx to TV Newser

Bada$$

Since leaving office, national appellate star and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz has been busy beginning to build the U.S. Supreme Court and national appellate practice at Morgan Lewis.

Well, the “U.S. Supreme Court” end of that effort may have just gotten an ill-timed kidney punch from one of Cruz’s new partners, Daniel Johnson, Jr., in the firm’s San Franscisco office.

Nice assist

Johnson, a mid-70s graduate of Yale Law School was recently interviewed for a story by the American Lawyer examining whether Justice Thomas‘s black Yale Law contemporaries faced similar employment struggles as he initially did.

Johnson’s less than eloquent, on-the-record response to a question regarding whether Thomas’s argument that Yale’s affirmative action program made his law degree worthless?

Bullsh[!]t.”

Lovely. Just as Cruz is attempting to organize and lead a first-rate national appellate practice at his new firm, one of his own partners hauls off and profanely insults—in writing—one of the five votes for which Cruz will be vying on a regular basis.

Thx to the WSJ Law Blog and the American Lawyer

say it ain\'t so

We here at the SMSB are huge fans of former Justice Thomas clerk and current syndicated radio host, Laura Ingraham. So we are intrigued to read today that she might be leaving her hugely popular radio show, right at the height of its popularity.

Her absence from the airwaves this week coupled with her appearances on several Fox News shows makes it more likely her departure is related to a contractual dispute than a health concern. Plus, this eyebrow-raising email was sent by one of her producers over the weekend to a guest scheduled to be on the air Monday:

From: Tom Elliott
To: Donny Pauling, Craig Gross
Date: Sun, Jun 1, 2008 at 3:48 PM
Subject: Tomorrow

Hey, guys –

Bad news. We’re going to have to take a rain check on tomorrow’s segment. I’m unable to provide a lot of detail, but the short story is that Laura will not be hosting the Laura Ingraham show for the foreseeable future. This just developed over the weekend, so I apologize for the late notice. Could someone please contact Ron, or should I? Whatever’s easiest. (I don’t have an email address, and don’t really want to bother him on a Sunday.)

I do hope we’ll still be able to air this segment; it likely will just have to wait a little while.

Thanks,

Tom

Tom Elliott
Executive Producer
The Laura Ingraham Show

Thx to Radio Equalizer

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.