Monday, October 25, 2010

Thus flagged Anderson

Real life has begun to impinge upon TBA to an unprecedented extent, and it appears the best course is to suspend this occasionally humble blog indefinitely.

Many thanks to our 7.3 readers who disregarded the warning quotation from Montaigne in the sidebar. We commend to you the various blogs linked thereunder.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

O'Donnell shocks audience with having read at least part of Constitution

Christine O'Donnell had a campus debate with her Democratic opponent:
"Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?" an incredulous O'Donnell asks her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons. The audience is heard laughing in the background. "Let me just clarify, you're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"

"Government shall make no establishment of religion," Coons responds.

"That's in the First Amendment," O'Donnell says.
O'Donnell is, of course, correct; the First Amendment does not say "separation of church and state."

She's weaker on the later amendments however:
Later, O'Donnell was asked if she would support repealing the 14th, 16th and 17th amendments. She knew the 17th Amendment, but could not remember the others. "I'm sorry, I didn't bring my Constitution with me… Fortunately, senators don't have to memorize the Constitution. Remind me of what the other ones are."
It's good she knew the 17th, since it's why she has even a snowball's chance in hell of becoming a U.S. senator.

The AP story gives some amusing commentary:
Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.

"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.
Political scientists don't have to memorize the Constitution either, I gather.

This will be all over the conservative blogs as a "gotcha." Rightly so, I'm afraid.

... The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause does amount to "a separation of church and state." Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 719 (2005) (Ginsburg, J.). Justice Thomas's concurrence in that case disagrees:
Congress need not observe strict separation between church and state, or steer clear of the subject of religion. It need only refrain from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion”; it must not interfere with a state establishment of religion.
So O'Donnell should not be any more, or less, shocking than Clarence Thomas.

Maybe it evolved from his BMW?

North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre apparently can't remember who exactly gave him a dark blue 2010 Porsche Panamera.
... But come now, haven't we all sometimes forgotten where one of our Porsches came from?

(Political Wire.)

-- As NMC points out, people like Mayor Pierre are why Janis Joplin needed a Mercedes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Art World Relieved As Thieves Steal Pretty Terrible Late Period Renoir Work"

CHICAGO — The art world let out a collective sigh of relief Tuesday when it was announced that thieves had made off with one of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's more god-awful late-period paintings, 1919's The Great Bathers (The Nymphs). "The palette was too rosy, the brushstrokes were something out of a college art class, and Renoir's gift for capturing his subject's inner mystery seemed to have completely abandoned him--in short, it was garbage and I'm glad it's gone," said Malcolm Stewart, a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, which has done little to assist the police in their investigation. "This is the best thing to happen to Renoir's oeuvre since he painted his impressionist classic The Umbrellas, which was actually an inspired piece of art and not just decorative schlock." Stewart added that he wanted the thieves to know that Renoir's 1910 painting Jean As Huntsman could currently be viewed in the museum's front lobby next to several easily accessible exits.
... Actually, I think it is (was?) in Philadelphia, not Chicago.

Not a great painting, but I've always liked the playful figure on the right.

Or did The Onion mean this one?

'Cause yeah, that one sucks. Though it's in Philly as well. And 1918, not 1919.

Torture for fun *and* profit

We've often had occasion to report on the doings of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the architects of the American torture program. Their theory of "learned helplessness" derived in some part from the teachings of the respected psychologist Martin Seligman, a former APA president, who has "denied any involvement in the program, insisting that his contacts with Mitchell and Jessen were innocent."

Thus Scott Horton, who picks up on some news about Seligman: He's had a $31 million Pentagon contract dropped in his lap.
Army contracting documents show that nobody else was allowed to bid on the resilience-training contract because “there is only one responsible source due to a unique capability provided, and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.” And yet, Salon was able to identify resilience training experts at other institutions around the country, including the University of Maryland and the Mayo Clinic. In fact, in 2008 the Marine Corps launched a project with UCLA to conduct resilience training for Marines and their families at nine military bases across the United States and in Okinawa, Japan.
As Horton says, "it is becoming easier to understand APA’s awkward silence and inaction on the issue of psychologists involved in torture and acts of official cruelty."

Meanwhile, Dr. Seligman's most recent books appear to be Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment and (with a co-author) Character Strengths and Virtues.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"why did florida put brantley back in"

Your search - "why did florida put brantley back in" - did not match any documents.


•Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
•Try different keywords.
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•Try fewer keywords.
•Examine Urban Meyer's brain for tumors or injuries.
... Really, after that scoring drive after the half, I thought Florida had figured its game out. Apparently not.

Mississippi State is now The Best Bad Team in the SEC.

What do bears rebel against, actually?

Picking up I guess on the tenuous Faulkner connection, Michael Schaub at Bookslut notes the Ole Miss mascot change:
Speaking of Southern cities that I love, some quasi-literary news out of Oxford, Mississippi: Ole Miss is changing their mascot from "Colonel Reb," a faux-Southern anachronism who looked like he started every sentence with "I do declare" and used frighteningly out-of-date terms for African Americans, to the "Rebel Black Bear," named in honor of a short story by William Faulkner. The school's sports teams will still be called the Rebels, but there's signs of increased tolerance in the Magnolia State. Just consider one of the other finalists for the new mascot:

In a university poll . . . 42% liked Hotty Toddy, a muscular human who would serve as a symbol of their school's pride.

A muscular, proud human named "Hotty Toddy." So the big tough SEC school almost ended up with a mascot that the University of Fire Island and Cal State-West Hollywood both rejected as "too gay." Oh, Mississippi, you confuse me, but I love you.
TBA still thinks Admiral Ackbar would've been ideal for the Rebels. Certainly would've made Ole Miss's mascot The Most Diverse As Fuck Mascot Ever.

A fractal career

Benoît Mandelbrot has died, age 85.
When asked to look back on his career, Dr. Mandelbrot compared his own trajectory to the rough outlines of clouds and coastlines that drew him into the study of fractals in the 1950s.

“If you take the beginning and the end, I have had a conventional career,” he said, referring to his prestigious appointments in Paris and at Yale. “But it was not a straight line between the beginning and the end. It was a very crooked line.”
Wikipedia gives us a concise definition of his famous set:
The Mandelbrot set is a mathematical set of points in the complex plane, the boundary of which forms a fractal. The Mandelbrot set is the set of complex values of c for which the orbit of 0 under iteration of the complex quadratic polynomial zn+1 = zn2 + c remains bounded. That is, a complex number, c, is in the Mandelbrot set if, when starting with z0 = 0 and applying the iteration repeatedly, the absolute value of zn never exceeds a certain number (that number depends on c) however large n gets. * * *

When computed and graphed on the complex plane the Mandelbrot set is seen to have an elaborate boundary which, being a fractal, does not simplify at any given magnification.
"Does not simplify at any given magnification" is, I think, as good a precis of modern life as any.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I know they can *vote* in Chicago, but still ....

Mississippi Supreme Court justice, and Fifth Circuit nominee, James Graves spends 20 pages explaining why it's perfectly all right for a dead person to file a lawsuit.

Fortunately, it's a dissent.

Unfortunately, two other justices signed on.

Now he tells us

General Hugh Shelton, chair of the Joint Chiefs 1997-2001, has a memoir out:
His bottom line: "President Bush and his team got us enmeshed in Iraq based on extraordinarily poor intelligence and a series of lies purporting that we had to protect American from Saddam's evil empire because it posed such a threat to our national security." (474-475)

Just in case you weren't paying attention, he elaborates on that charge later in the book. "Spinning the possible possession of WMDs as a threat to the United States in the way they did is, in my opinion, tantamount to intentionally deceiving the American people." (488)
Thanks for waiting until 2010 to share, General.

Tom Ricks has more posts on Shelton's book here and here. Shelton does not admire Rumsfeld.

An easy win

O'Donnell debated Coons in the DE Senate race, and probably "won" by not falling apart. Her repair campaign seems to be working in some quarters:
While Mr. Coons had broader range on issues and current events, he sometimes seemed mean-spirited. When Ms. O’Donnell asked whether a company he was connected to would benefit from the clean energy bill, he scoffed, “It was difficult for me to understand from her question what she was talking about.”

That could just serve to reinforce Ms. O’Donnell’s image, which has had deep resonance this election season — that of an ordinary person trying to bring common sense to Washington.

That appealed to Alexandra Gawel, 23, a sociology major at the university who has worked her way through college as a waitress.

“She is someone I can relate to,” Ms. Gawel said, outside the debate hall in the late afternoon. “She’s not had everything handed to her.”
Sociology? My goodness. Maybe Ms. Gawel can do a senior thesis on the quasi-religious character of how we evaluate candidates for public office.

But really, whoever her handlers are, they are lazy folk:
She stumbled when asked what recent Supreme Court decision she most objected to, asking first for some examples, and then saying, “I’m sorry, I’ll put it up on my Web site, I promise.”
Uh, hello? Didn't Katie Couric ask Sarah Palin that, in the most infamous interview of living memory? O'Donnell should've been ready for every question Katie asked, including which newspapers she reads.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

He forgot that the Eskimo child needs 8 glasses of water a day.

I am outraged that no one in Washington is concerned that a gun in the home of the 1 in 110 Eskimo children with autism who have 28 words for snow and are kidnapped 50,000 times a year is 42 times as likely to kill a member of the home who is divorced (as half of once married people are) and needs a computer that doubles in speed every 18 months in order to compensate for using only 10% of his brain supplied by the diminishing 20% of oxygen that comes from rain forests! It’s no wonder that U.S. companies spend 50 billion dollars a year teaching reading and math when Sex Panther works all the time 60% of the time! In closing, I summarize my message simply: My friends, one is indeed the loneliest number.
-- Keith Humphreys on "vampire numbers."

Mississippi, the blue state

Blue on this scale, anyway.
The latest stats from the dating/hook-up site, OK Cupid, find almost no gay users looking to hook up with straights, and a geography (see above) of sexual curiosity. The bluer the region the fewer the straight users interested in a same-sex experience.
Mississippi is not difficult to find on this map:

TBA must confess to inbred conservatism here.

(And, as Sullyblog asks, "What's up with Oregon?")

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Well, "one top Democratic staffer," anyway

Kevin Drum finds conclusive proof that the Democrats are dumber than bricks:
... some of President Obama's allies have begun to question his sustained attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long claimed bipartisanship but is being increasingly identified as a GOP ally. * * *

"The White House may reap the whirlwind," said one top Democratic staffer. "What are we going to do next year if a Republican Congress is making baseless claims about President Obama?"

Monday, October 11, 2010

All press is good press, right?

German readers can now tsk over the benighted ways of Mississippi:
Eine Gerichtsposse regt die USA auf: Weil ein Anwalt zu Beginn eines Prozesses das Gelöbnis auf die amerikanische Flagge verweigerte, schickte ihn der Richter für fast fünf Stunden ins Gefängnis. Die Empörung darüber ist groß, der Gescholtene zeigt sich uneinsichtig.

Tupelo - Wenn Richter Talmadge Littlejohn seinen Gerichtssaal in Tupelo, Mississippi betritt, erwartet er Respekt. Auch für die amerikanische Flagge. Doch als er am Mittwochmorgen die Anwesenden bat, das Treuegelöbnis auf Fahne und Nation zu sprechen, blieb ein Mann im Saal still. Littlejohn forderte den Anwalt Danny Lampley auf, den Eid ebenfalls aufzusagen. Aber der schwieg beharrlich. Für den Richter ein klarer Fall von Missachtung des Gerichts - er schickte Lampley hinter Gitter. * * *

Im Jahr 1943 hatte der Oberste Gerichtshof der USA entschieden, dass Schulkinder das Gelöbnis nicht sprechen müssen. Dieses Urteil wird meist so interpretiert, dass generell niemand gezwungen werden kann, das Treuegelöbnis zu leisten.
Thanks for the international attention, Judge!

Obama gets the book thrown at him.

Via Political Wire, here's a photo of a book being hurled at Obama during a rally:

Can't tell what it is, but thankfully it's not Atlas Shrugged, which would've elevated a mere prank into assault with a deadly dull weapon.

Click through for the story, including the possibly unrelated naked man.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Death of an ethicist

We are belated in noting the death of Philippa Foot, mainly out of sheer ignorance about her. Kenneth Anderson, who has better taste than any other boot-licking enthusiast for unlimited executive power in my cognizance, has a nice appreciation. And the NYT obit (via 3QD) gives some notion as to her importance:
In her early work, notably in the essays “Moral Beliefs” and “Moral Arguments,” published in the late 1950s, Ms. Foot took issue with philosophers like R. M. Hare and Charles L. Stevenson, who maintained that moral statements were ultimately expressions of attitude or emotion, because they could not be judged true or false in the same way factual statements could be.

Ms. Foot countered this “private-enterprise theory,” as she called it, by arguing the interconnectedness of facts and moral interpretations. Further, she insisted that virtues like courage, wisdom and temperance are indispensable to human life and the foundation stones of morality. Her writing on the subject helped establish virtue ethics as a leading approach to the study of moral problems.

“She’s going to be remembered not for a particular view or position, but for changing the way people think about topics,” said Lawrence Solum, who teaches the philosophy of law at the University of Illinois and studied under Ms. Foot. “She made the moves that made people see things in a fundamentally new way. Very few people do that in philosophy.”
The obit goes on to discuss her notorious contribution to ethical philosophy, The Trolley Problem.

As her maiden name was Bosanquet, and she like the philosopher Bernard Bosanquet was English, it beggars imagination that the two were completely unrelated, but I find nothing on point.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Good clean SS fun, that's all

You don't have to dress up like a Nazi or celebrate the SS to be a GOP candidate and "Tea Party favorite," but it's evidently not any kind of disqualification, either:

Second from right there is Rich Iott, running for a House seat in Ohio, who enjoys "re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II."

The actual Wiking unit has a history as grisly as that of other Nazi divisions. In her book "The Death Marches of Hungarian Jews Through Austria in the Spring of 1945," Eleonore Lappin, the noted Austrian historian, writes that soldiers from the Wiking division were involved in the killing of Hungarian Jews in March and April 1945, before surrendering to American forces in Austria.

"What you often hear is that the [Wiking] division was never formally accused of anything, but that's kind of a dodge," says Prof. Rob Citino, of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas, who examined the Wiking website. "The entire German war effort in the East was a racial crusade to rid the world of 'subhumans,' Slavs were going to be enslaved in numbers of tens of millions. And of course the multimillion Jewish population of Eastern Europe was going to be exterminated altogether. That's what all these folks were doing in the East.
Iott quit three years ago, "after his son lost interest." The group has a website with a justification of their interest:
Nazi Germany had no problem in recruiting the multitudes of volunteers willing to lay down their lives to ensure a "New and Free Europe", free of the threat of Communism. National Socialism was seen by many in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other eastern European and Balkan countries as the protector of personal freedom and their very way of life, despite the true underlying totalitarian (and quite twisted, in most cases) nature of the movement. Regardless, thousands upon thousands of valiant men died defending their respective countries in the name of a better tomorrow. We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.
Three of four of those named countries were, of course, conquered and subjected to Nazi Germany. Perhaps this casts some light on the "freedom" so dear to the Tea Party?

... Some of the comments at the Atlantic link are a hoot:
Once he's elected, no doubt Iott will be able to use his knowledge and re-enactment of Wiking history to help him bring some good, clear thinking to the debate on health care.

After all, the first medical officer for the Wiking Division was that internationally famous expert on fair and balanced health care -- Dr. Josef Mengele.


Well we will see his ad very soon

I'm not a Nazi
I'm you


Someone has to quote Walter Sobchak here.
"Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, but at least it's an ethos."

Why can't Obama argue?

Michael Tomasky on what's wrong with Obama:
Once again, as was the case after September 11, and as has so often been the case recently in American politics, the Republicans have succeeded in branding the Democrats as not merely elitist but somehow alien and un-American, and the Democrats, from the President on down, have had almost nothing to say about it. One had thought, watching Obama’s well-run presidential campaign, in which his team responded to most attacks quickly and efficiently, that the Democrats would not let themselves be so misrepresented again. But here we are.

My own answer to the question of how things got this bad has less to do with whether Obama should have been more liberal or more centrist than with his and his party’s apparent inability, or perhaps refusal, to offer broad and convincing arguments about their central beliefs that counter those of the Republicans. This problem goes back to the Reagan years. It is a failure that many Democrats and liberals hoped Obama could change--something he seemed capable of changing during the campaign but has addressed rather poorly once in office.
Word. Tomasky doesn't so much explain the phenomenon as observe it, but it's a damn good question.

Angelo in robes

I've been too busy to read Andrew Sullivan's blog lately, but a Saturday-morning glance yields yet another of those examples I cherish:
[I]n 2006, [Washington State Supreme Court justice Richard B. Sanders] signed an opinion denying marriage equality to gay couples--because they have “more sexual partners” and because other courts have found that monogamy is “the bedrock upon which our culture is built.” Meanwhile, he’s been divorced twice, and this election season it became clear he has multiple simultaneous girlfriends. He doesn’t see anything inconsistent in any of that.
But at least he's not icky, I guess.

Friday, October 08, 2010

I guess Obama wasn't a nominee for this one.

TBA assumes its readers already know who won the Nobel for literature this week. Paris Review notes the event and has put up its 1990 interview with Vargas Llosa. I don't envy the Nobel committee its job, but it's sobering that V.L. is just now winning when they've been giving the prize away to pretty much any weirdo they could find who happens to live in Europe.

Oddly, for someone I haven't read because his work sounds too much like social reportage for my taste, the one book I have read by him is his book on Madame Bovary, which I recall as being very fine indeed, a model of its kind. (Yes, it's Bovary Month at TBA.) There's a little l'art pour l'art in his soul.

O, how our profession hath changed since then!

In the index to Bentham's Works, the entries under "lawyer" include "the only persons in whom ignorance of the Law is not punished," "least of all men exposed to the operations of humanity," "their interest in technical jargon."
-- Asa Briggs, The Age of Improvement 1783-1867, p. 92 n.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"A mere shadow of freedom" -- yep, that's what we got here

Some days I pause a moment to read the quotation from Justice Jackson that I've posted above my desk:
To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
-- West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, June 14, 1943.

... And y'know, the word still hasn't gotten out to everyone:
BE IT REMEMBERED, this date, the Court having ordered all present in the courtroom to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegience, and having found that Danny Lampley, Attorney at Law, failed and refused to do so, finds said Danny Lampley to be in criminal contempt of court ... and is hereby ordered to be incarcerated in the Lee County Jail.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED, that Danny Lampley shall purge himself of said criminal contempt by complying with the order of this Court by standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in open court.
NMC witnessed this. The guy was sprung after 5 hours, apparently sans pledge.

I've heard numerous reports lately of berserk chancellors waving the criminal-contempt wand like Mickey Mouse in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Are the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Commission on Judicial Performance going to do anything about this? Let me check my Magic 8-Ball:

... Here's where you can find a complaint form for the Commission on Judicial Performance.

Being an American requires courage ...

(Via Judge Primeaux.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Adventures in Constitutional Citation

Article 14, section 263A of the Mississippi Constitution is the amendment defining "marriage" as being "only between a man and a woman." It was enacted in 2004.

Article 14, section 263 of the Mississippi Constitution was the provision voiding a marriage between a white person and a "negro or mulatto" with 1/8 or more of "negro blood." (How Nuremberg can you get?) It was repealed in 1987.

"Endless noise, signifying nothing."

That's what Atlantic journalist-blogger (and war-with-Iran booster) Jeffrey Goldberg found himself getting from Haley Barbour at a "Washington Ideas Forum" which, despite the second word in its name, invited Barbour to speak. "I asked Barbour if he thought the Republicans could have it both ways -- black support and worship of the Confederacy -- at the same time." You can click through for Barbour's responses, if you want to do that to yourself.

Goldberg's conclusion:
The true, spin-free, answer, obviously, is that the Republican Party would rather not risk offending mythopoetic white Southerners by calling the Confederacy what it actually was -- a vast gulag of slavery, murder and rape. As an electoral strategy, it's a fine one -- an immoral one, but a practical one, something that has worked for the Republicans for more than 40 years (though the gains it has made in the South have been tempered by losses in the Northeast and elsewhere). But what I don't understand is why African-Americans, in the south as well as the north, don't simply rise up as a collective and say: No more. That's it. Stop the veneration of evil men.

Just imagine if this discussion was about the Holocaust. Do we really think the world would allow Germany to venerate the Nazis? Well, slavery was the Holocaust of the African-American experience, and yet, here we are, listening to respectable governors of large southern states rationalize the celebration of evil.

I'm so interested in this issue I'm going to keep pursuing it -- the two sides of the issue, actually: The seeming black acquiescence to publicly-endorsed Confederacy-worship, and the reasons some white people -- and their leaders -- feel compelled to perpetuate such worship.
Good luck with that.

The "gulag" reference is one I've thought of. Subdivisions around here are often named "Plantation Pointe" etc. Visiting a black physician and his family in a knockoff Greek Revival mansion, in one such subdivision, I completely lacked the nerve to ask how *that* felt. Not too awful, I gather.

At least, not any more!

Famously, LBJ in an early campaign is said to've directed his manager to spread the rumor that his opponent had committed carnal acts with a pig. "But nobody will believe that," said the manager. "I don't want 'em to believe it," retorted LBJ; "I just want to make that son of a bitch deny it."

Now in 2010, we have the spectacle of the Republican Party's candidate in Delaware for the United States Senate, releasing a TV spot in which she denies being a witch.

(H/t Orin Kerr.)

... TV time is a good idea for O'Donnell; her ease upon the eyes is one of her few assets. OTOH, if one is denying being a witch, is a black dress on a midnight-blue backdrop really the way to go?

Davis v. Wall

We've noted the new Bovary translation by Lydia Davis, which apparently will be replacing the excellent Geoffrey Wall version in Penguin Classics.

I haven't read the Davis version yet, but I wanted to play the translation-review game of picking a passage and comparing the renderings.

Here, Charles's first wife, mortified after some financial irregularity is exposed, departs this earth:
Mais le coup était porté. Huit jours après, comme elle étendait du linge dans sa cour, elle fut prise d’un crachement de sang, et le lendemain, tandis que Charles avait le dos tourné pour fermer le rideau de la fenêtre, elle dit: «Ah! mon Dieu!» poussa un soupir et s’évanouit. Elle était morte! Quel étonnement!

Quand tout fut fini au cimetière, Charles rentra chez lui. Il ne trouva personne en bas; il monta au premier, dans la chambre, vit sa robe encore accrochée au pied de l’alcôve; alors, s’appuyant contre le secrétaire, il resta jusqu’au soir perdu dans une rêverie douloureuse. Elle l’avait aimé, après tout.
This is a good touchstone passage for ruling out some poor translations, that smooth over Flaubert's brutality here. "Elle était morte! Quel étonnement!" is darkly comical. I wish I still had my first copy of the book in translation, which did something awful here.

(What follows is premised on the accuracy of the foregoing text, which is a large assumption; Wall and Davis may've each used a different critical edition.)

But the damage was done. A week later, as she was hanging out the washing in the yard, she had a seizure and spat some blood, and next day, as Charles turned his back to draw the curtains, she said, "Oh! My God!" heaved a sigh and passed out. She was dead! How astonishing!

Once everything was finished down at the cemetery, Charles went home again. There was nobody downstairs; he went upstairs to their room, saw her dress still hanging over the foot of the bed; then, slumped across the escritoire, he stayed until it was night, adrift in a troubled reverie. She had loved him, after all.
But the blow had struck home. A week later, as she was hanging the wash in her yard, she began spitting blood, and the next day, while Charles, his back turned, was at the window closing the curtain, she said: "Oh my God!," sighed, and lost consciousness. She was dead! How astonishing it was!

When everything was over at the cemetery, Charles went back to his house. He found no one downstairs; he went up to the second floor, into the bedroom, saw her dress still hanging at the foot of the alcove; then, leaning on the writing desk, he remained there till evening, lost in a sorrowful reverie. She had loved him, after all.
Wall describes the empty downstairs with "There was nobody"; Davis's following the French gives us the more poignant "He found no one downstairs."

Davis is generally more literal, though both translators make the strange choice of the imprecise "A week later" for Flaubert's "Eight days later."

Wall interprets her as having a seizure, perhaps following Eleanor Marx's "she was seized with a spitting of blood," which is not the same thing as a seizure, but does try to do something with the "fut prise" that Davis simply omits; Davis's "began spitting blood" also implies that it continued through into the next day, which I had never inferred. "Passed out" is closer to the dictionary sense of "s'évanouir" than "lost consciousness," but the former in English at least implies something less severe, like too much to drink. The French connotes fading or vanishing away, which is hard to match in English. Still, I wouldn't import "consciousness" into the sentence. And it's a loss that the clichéd "heave a sigh" for "pousser un soupir" is abridged by Davis into merely "sighed." That was unlikely to be lazy writing by Flaubert.

The odd thing is Davis's expansion of the text's "Quel étonnement!" into "How astonishing it was!" Not only does that expand on the text, I'm not even sure that's English. Who would say that?

As always, translation is a mug's game. But I don't think Penguin needed to replace Wall's version, which I hope finds a good home elsewhere.

... (And without reprinting the preceding paragraph, where Charles's parents confront this first Mme Bovary about the disappearance of her fortune, Flaubert has the wonderfully mundane "On s’expliqua. Il y eut des scènes." Wall translates the first sentence as "Questions were asked," which is fair enough, but Davis mysteriously renders it as "They had it out," which is so bizarre as to make me wonder whether we are indeed looking at different French texts. Marx's "Explanations followed" is not bad either.)

Counsel, heed thyself

NMC gives the rundown on the judicial ballots in Lafayette County, and mentions that Tom Levidiotis is running for circuit judge.

"Where did I see his name recently?" I wondered. Westlaw to the rescuse: Jones v. State, a MCOA decision on August 24:
¶ 3. At trial, Jones was represented by a court-appointed attorney, Thomas C. Levidiotis. On January 10, 2003, Levidiotis filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, a motion for a new trial. The motion was denied on January 24, 2003.

¶ 4. Now, Jones claims that he informed Levidiotis immediately following the verdict that he wanted to appeal his conviction and sentence to the Mississippi Supreme Court. However, a notice of appeal was not filed within thirty days. M.R.A.P. 4(e). Jones has provided copies of two letters he purportedly sent to Levidiotis, where he inquired about the status of his appeal--dated February 27, 2003, and November 19, 2003. These letters are included in the record, but neither letter is authenticated.

¶ 5. When he heard no response from Levidiotis, Jones filed a complaint against Levidiotis with The Mississippi Bar. In response, on February 15, 2004, Levidiotis sent a letter to Jones. Levidiotis told Jones that he had sent Jones a letter, dated January 12, 2003, that indicated his duties as Jones's counsel terminated upon Jones's conviction. Levidiotis said that the January 12th letter warned Jones that he would not file an appeal unless he received specific written instructions to do so. In addition, Levidiotis told Jones that it had been more than a year, and the time for Jones's appeal had passed. The letter also contained the following statement: “I advise you to ask the ... Court for leave to file an out of time appeal. Since I no longer represent you, I am unable to act on your behalf unless specifically instructed by the Court.”

¶ 6. Thereafter, on June 3, 2004, Jones filed a pro se motion for appointment of new counsel to file an appeal. A copy of Levidiotis's February 15th letter was attached to the motion. The only apparent purpose for Jones to request appointment of counsel was to appeal his conviction.

¶ 7. Two years later, on May 31, 2006, the circuit court entered an order that granted the motion. The order stated, in part, that “[t]he Court found the Defendant indigent and that he should be permitted to appeal, in forma pauperis, to the Supreme Court of Mississippi, and that the Court should appoint counsel for the Defendant for appeal purposes.” The circuit judge appointed Levidiotis to represent Jones “for appeal purposes.”

¶ 8. On June 2, 2006, Levidiotis filed a notice of appeal and other pleadings required by the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure. Then, on June 5, 2006, Jones was granted permission from the circuit court to proceed with his appeal in forma pauperis.

¶ 9. On July 17, 2006, this Court on its own motion dismissed Jones's appeal as untimely filed. We determined that Jones's post-trial motion was denied on January 24, 2003, and the notice of appeal was not filed until June 2, 2006. Therefore, the notice was not timely filed. We also stated that the docket failed to indicate that a motion for permission to file an out-of-time appeal was filed or granted. As a result, Jones's appeal was dismissed. No further pleadings were filed with this Court.

¶ 10. On August 10, 2006, Levidiotis sent Jones a letter informing him that the appeal had been filed and subsequently dismissed by this Court as untimely filed. The letter stated: “Having done what my order of appointment required I regard my representation of you for appeal purposes as finally terminated and completed effective this day.” Levidiotis failed to note that he had failed to follow his own prior advice that a motion for permission to file an out-of-time appeal was necessary before Jones could proceed on appeal. * * *

¶ 17. Levidiotis's letter to Jones stated that his representation was complete upon Jones's conviction. This was not a correct statement of the law and Levidiotis's obligations to this client, Jones. Rule 6(b)(1) of the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure states: “Appointed trial counsel shall continue as defendant's counsel on appeal unless relieved by order of the trial court, or, if the appeal has been perfected, by order of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals.” The record contains no order by the circuit court relieving Levidiotis of his duty to represent Jones on appeal. * * *

¶ 20. The circuit court determined that Jones was not entitled to relief under his motion for post-conviction collateral relief. We find this to be clearly erroneous. Levidiotis's own letter clearly set forth the procedural steps necessary to attempt to resurrect Jones's appeal. Upon his appointment as Jones's counsel for appeal purposes, Levidiotis should have promptly filed a motion for permission to file an out-of-time appeal. The filing of this motion would have required the circuit court to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Jones could “show by a preponderance of the evidence that he asked his attorney to appeal within the time allowed for giving notice of an appeal.” Dickey, 662 So.2d at 1108. Then, Jones would have to show that Levidiotis failed to perfect the appeal and that such failure was through no fault of his own. Id. Levidiotis failed to follow his own legal advice.
Win some, lose some, eh?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mme Bovary, c'est ... qui?

The judicious Brooke Allen admires Lydia Davis's translation of Mme Bovary, comparing it favorably to the Geoffrey Wall version, which I had thought the best available. We will have to give Davis's Flaubert a spin.

Davis muses on her predecessors here and here, at the previously-unsuspected Paris Review Blog.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Left-wing miscellany

Too busy today plotting how to come down on my favorite state agency like a ton of bricks, but here are a couple of blog comments worth saving, one by me --
I think we're coming to the unpleasant realization that Obama, while he's done some good things and is probably a good person, may not be a good president. For the Dems to get hosed in this midterm -- not just lose seats, but get hosed -- is an appalling political failure, and we thought politics was something Obama was good at. Maybe he's just good at running against Republicans who pick insane veeps and Democrats who hire Mark Penn.
-- and one not:
By all means worry about expenditure. I suggest you start with the US military budget – here’s a thought, get rid of one of the strategic nuclear defense lines? Submarines, missiles AND bombers? Pick two.

Oh, and you can probably get by with a few less carrier fleets.

Then come back to me about unwed mothers and healthcare.
As Yglesias notes, we could cut 1% off the Defense budget and thereby double the FBI's entire budget, which might do more to keep us safe from terrorists, dollar for dollar.

... Oh, and Krugman compares Keynesian economics w/ That Other Kind in view of recent events. No, you'll just have to click through to find out who wins.

Counterfactual: The tragedy of 1776

Looking back over my Lenin post, I guess my attempted point is that Russians honor a mythological Lenin, the man who liberated them from the tsars and brought them into the 20th century. Sort of as if Robespierre had triumphed and sent his enemies to the guillotine, and then governed the Republic for 6 years thereafter.

That is of course a dubious notion of Lenin, but comparison with our own history may at least defamiliarize us a bit. Was 1776 a good thing?

Had the Revolution not occurred or been quashed -- had Washington been captured in New York and hanged, his army jailed or routed, say -- what would've happened? Would America have followed a Canada-like path?

Most importantly, in hindsight: would slavery have been abolished (more) peacefully, without 600,000 dead in a civil war? Surely, Britain could have finessed abolition so that, however unhappy, the South would not have actually risen in arms?

Assuming that history isn't so disrupted that WW1 still occurs, does America join the war in 1914, not 1917? THAT changes the whole 20th century right there. The war surely ends much sooner, without the revolutions of 1917 (sorry, Lenin). Fewer war debts, fewer Allied dead weighing in the scales vs. Germany. Almost certainly, no Hitler and no USSR.

No telling of course what monsters would arise in their places; but I'm sure it's not a novel counterfactual, and it's worth considering.