Mississippi’s GOP Legislature barely failed to pass an income-tax cut this past session. But I’m confident that in a few years, we’ll have bankrupt universities and the other benefits that Republicans have brought to other states.
So Barry Bonds’ conviction was overturned, probably a good thing. The en banc Ninth Circuit issued a short per curiam reversal, followed by a plethora of separate opinions. Judge Fletcher’s concurrence in result only caught our attention:
In the government’s view, any truthful answer given in the course of civil or criminal litigation, if intended to influence, obstruct, or impede the administration of justice, violates the omnibus clause. At oral argument, the government made terrifyingly clear the result of its reading of the statute. The government contended that the obstruction statute criminalizes a truthful but intentionally evasive or misleading answer to an interrogatory in civil litigation. The government also contended that the statute criminalizes a truthful but intentionally evasive or misleading answer during appellate oral argument:
Q: I think it’s a common experience among all of us on the appellate court to ask of the lawyer in front of us in a criminal case that’s come up on appeal: “Counsel, could you please explain to me what happened at trial?” and for the lawyer arguing from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to say, “Your Honor, I was not the trial attorney.” Now, sometimes that’s an evasive answer. They may well know the answer, but it’s true that they weren’t the trial attorney. . . . Has the lawyer just committed a crime? . . . [T]he answer that I just hypothesized was designed to put me off the track. . . . A truthful but evasive answer.
. . .
A: I think that would be obstructive, Your Honor.
When asked how many San Francisco lawyers it planned to throw in jail, the government declined to specify.
Mississippi lawyers would fare no better.
… A platitude in Bonds’ statement rankles:
I am humbled and truly thankful for the outcome as well as the opportunity our judicial system affords to all individuals to seek justice.
For “all individuals,” read “all individuals who can afford to go to trial, appeal, and then seek en banc rehearing.” The rest of us plea-bargain even if we’re innocent.
I’m behind on my book reports …
Kim Gordon, Girl in a Band – irrationally, the news that Thurston & Kim were getting divorced seemed like a prophecy of my own divorce. If they could split up, what chance did the rest of us have? Gordon’s memoir, an angrier book than it pretends to be, gives us some insight into how things were never quite that perfect (of course they weren’t), but the whole book feels a bit remote and thrown together. One suspects that she could write a much better book 10 years from now, and I hope she does. Still, a quick and fascinating read.
Viv Albertine, Clothes Clothes Clothes Money Money Money Boys Boys Boys – that’s what her mom told her was all she cared about, and the title ironically concedes the point. Albertine was of course guitarist for the short-lived Slits, an iconic UK punk band. The book is more satisfying than Girl in a Band, perhaps because the author has more perspective, but also because Albertine is such an attractive, candid, & engaging writer, describing her adolescence, the punk years, and her failed marriage in such a way as to remind me of Thoreau’s remark in Walden: “I require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life.” Enjoyed this book much more than I expected to.
Richard Frank, MacArthur – a short, judicious biography for a series on American generals. Frank pulls no punches on this strange, vain, brilliant man, while refuting many of the myths purveyed by admirers and by enemies. Does nothing to improve my opinion of MacArthur’s overrated generalship.
Magda Szabó, The Door – not done yet with this quietly weird Hungarian novel about a woman writer and her mysterious housekeeper. Their reluctant, deep emotional connection is fascinating. Szabó foreshadows like it’s going out of style, which normally annoys me, but she’s pulling it off thus far.
Renata Adler, Pitch Dark – her followup novel to Speedboat, somewhat less fragmented than the first book but somehow less effective, I thought. The style is that of someone so avowed not to falsify the truth that she refuses to turn her miscellany of memorable experiences into a narrative. Pitch Dark actually makes more concessions to narrative, but those seem to me the least impressive parts of the book. Still, full of sharp observations and razor-sharp prose.
Renata Adler, After the Tall Timber – the new collection from NYRB of her journalism, including representative essays on the 1960s civil rights marches & counterculture, on movies (including the notorious takedown of Pauline Kael), and on the law (her essay on Bork, written during the confirmation hearings, is superb, as is her withering attack on Ken Starr). A brilliant mind with no tolerance for bullshit; her motto might be M. Teste’s, “stupidity is not my strong suit.”
Courtney Barnett – the starmaker machinery has aligned itself behind this Aussie singer-songwriter, but that doesn’t take away from her talent. I’ve had her new album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, and the earlier Double EP on shuffle the past few weekends. If you don’t like quick-thinking, free-associating songs about asthma attacks, lonely daydreams, and the perils of supermarket vegetables, these songs are not for you.
Jennifer O’Connor – heard of her when it was announced she was opening some shows for Neko Case (that’s Saint Neko to you, bud). Another singer-songwriter, her songs are much more sober & less flashy than Barrett’s, but I at least need that in my life sometimes. I’ve been listening to Here with Me (which is what is said to count with her as a relatively happy album) and I Want What You Want.
… what have you been reading or listening to, Gentle Reader?
TBA is unavoidably detained in the day job, and we haven’t been able to blog the Weill developments. Jane has them, including the HCPDO response and the complaint filed against Judge Weill by his former court administrator, who paints a picture of Captain Queeg in black robes. Paragraph 11 refers to Alison Kelly as the judge’s “former confidant[e].”
Of course, a complaint tells only one side of a story. But things are getting downright reality-TV down at Hinds Circuit.
Listening to Galaxie 500 and thinking of my favorite Paul de Man passage:
It would be unfortunate, for example, to confuse the materiality of the signifier with the materiality of what it signifies. This may seem obvious enough on the level of light and sound, but it is less so with regard to the more general phenomenality of space, time or especially of the self; no one in his right mind will try to grow grapes by the luminosity of the word “day,” but it is very difficult not to conceive the pattern of one’s past and future existence as in accordance with temporal and spatial schemes that belong to fictional narratives and not to the real world. This does not mean that fictional narratives are not part of the world and of reality; their impact upon the world may well be all too strong for comfort. What we call ideology is precisely the confusion of linguistic with natural reality, of reference with phenomenalism.
–“The Resistance to Theory.” Fictional plots have protagonists, antagonists, rising action, climax, resolution. Life is just one damn thing after another.
The April 3 TLS mentions that Leonard Cohen “is an ordained Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk,” and reprints a charming poem he wrote about his teacher:
I never really understood
what he said
but every now and then
I find myself
barking with the dog
or bending with the irises
or helping out
in other little ways.