Thursday, November 27, 2008

DC--NYC Trip Day 6

Gretchen drove us to Reagan National Airport and we picked our exceedingly expensive one-way Toyota Carolla rental car from Avis. We spent the ensuing six hours driving from DC to Antonella Delli Carpini's house in Hopewell Junction, New York. We experienced fairly little resistance, except for the long, dreadful hours in New Jersey (Garden State my foot).

Meeting Antonella's family was a real treat. They made us fettucini and meatballs for dinner. We ate. We talked. All was well.

DC--NYC Trip Day 5

We awoke and went to a Spanish Speaking sacrament meeting before heading into the city. We went by Union Station,
the Capital,

the Supreme Court,

and the Library of Congress.
We then went home returned to Gretchen's house, hung for a while, and packed for the next day.

DC--NYC Trip Day 4

Last day of the National Lawyers Convention started with a panel on second look doctrines enabling people and legislatures to overturn judicial decisions. Then on to an administrative law presentation on Chevron. Lunch afforded the best discussion an infinitely fascinating discussion between Michael McConnell (my legal hero) and Richard Posner about judicial decision making. McConnell is an originalist, while Posner is a judicial pragmatist who believes judges should make decisions based on their best policy estimations. The back and forth was lively yet restrained (both have great respect for each other). I learned Posner believes the Bill of Rights is "fluff." (An audible gasp echoed through the crowd with that statement.) Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

The rest of the day consisted of a debate on congressional regulation of judicial education trips authored by Russ Feinstein (D-Minnesota). Feinstein sent his aide Robert Schiff to defend the proposal. Poor Schiff, he was sorely outmatched by DC Appeals Court judge Raymond Randolph and UCLA professor Eugene Volokh. They pointed out the obvious problems with Feinstein's proposal, and exposed the fact Schiff didn't actually know what his bill meant. It was like watching two cats bat around a mouse before they dismember and devour it.

Final address was Antonin Scalia's. He spoke for approximately thirty minutes about originalism before taking five or six questions. Turns out his favorite operas are La Traviata and Madama Butterfly. Good stuff. And with that, the Convention was over. Three intellectually stimulating days that will keep me going for another year.

After the Convention, we all picked up dinner at an indian restaurant in Pentagon City.

DC--NYC Trip Day 3

Arrived a little late to the Convention this morning, but still caught the lion's share of a panel discussion on whether life tenure for judges is a good idea, and if not, what other system is preferable. Amazingly, this subject engenders much animosity among some law professors. University of Pennsylvania Professor Stephen Burbank was especially obnoxious in his advocacy for lifetime tenure. He described those who disagreed with him as engaging in "judicial navel looking" and "tendentious." Those who disagree with life tenure had good arguments, but I ultimately believe they're wrong in their assessment. Next, there was a discussion on judicial independence. On one side, Thomas Wells, President of the ABA, talked about how the Judiciary is under assault from all sides (blah, blah, blah). On the other side, 5th Circuit judge William Pryor talked about how questioning the Judiciary was a healthy part of democracy, and ultimately makes the Judiciary stronger. Unfortunately, the discussion devolved somewhat into how the ABA is a liberal partisan organization, but up to that point it was very interesting.

Lunch inlcuded a panel on civil litigation under the Robert's Court. Could have been interesting, but it wasn't.

The post-lunch talk by Mark Steyn, author of America Alone, the single most enjoyable presentation during the Convention.

Steyn, a Canadian who now lives in New Hampshire, talked about how he was brought before three Canadian Human Rights Councils because a few Canadian Muslims found some passages from his book insulting. (They didn't argue what he wrote was incorrect, just that they didn't like what he said and found it insulting.) It was a laugh riot. Steyn is a gifted story-teller with an insightful mind. The funniest portion of his talk was his description of returning to America after attending the HRC's kangaroo courts (his words, not mine). When the border guard asked Steyn the reason for his visit to Canada, he responded, "I was put on trial for crimes against humanity." The guard looked at Steyn, undoubtedly saw the smirk on his face, and said, "Well, welcome home." Classic.

Last panel of the day was about freedom of speech v. anti-discrimination laws. Interesting, scary but interesting. This was my first time seeing Andrew Koppleman. He's almost as utterly obnoxious and unwittingly uninformed in person as he is in print.

I skipped out on the Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecuture by Edith Jones to eat dinner with Dem, Gretchen, and Elliot. We ate at Old Ebbitt Grill near the White House.

Since this was one of Teddy Roosevelt's old haunts, I ordered one of his favorite dishes: calf's liver and onions (his favorite dish was fried chicken). It was quite good, little grainy and minerally, but very enjoyable.

Home it was after the meal.

DC--NYC Trip Day 2

Today started the first leg of our DC--NYC trip. I awoke early and Gretchen drove me to the metro so I could catch a train to the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention. After opening remarks by Mitch McConnell (R-Kenutcky), I attended a panel on judicial selection, then listened to an address by Michael Chertoff (Homeland Security Secretary). During lunch we had a panel on the International Religious Freedom Act, which was, for someone like me, an incredibly interesting experience. Next was a panel discussion on the implications of the reaction to climate change. (During this panel, I learned Obama wants to reduce US carbon emissions by 80% of 1991 levels by, I think, 2030. This sounds fantastically great, until one realizes those levels are equivalent to emission levels of such great industrial nations like Angola and Somalia. Ah, pipe dreams that will bankrupt the American economy and send us back to the dark ages: that's change you can believe in.) Next was a panel on the Heller case (Second Amendment case handed down this last term). After listening to the panel, I'm pretty convinced Scalia was wrong and the federal government had the contitutional authority to ban handguns from DC.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the annual dinner. After an exceptional surf and turf meal, we listened to Michael Mukasey (US Attorney General). About twenty minutes into his talk, he began to slur his speech. Ten seconds later, he slumped unconscious over the lecturn. We all gave an exasperated gasp, Secret Service rushed the stage, and people yelled out, "Is there a doctor in the room?" There was, which was lucky because it took paramedics fifteen minutes to arrive. We left after Mukasey was taken to the hospital. He was at work the next afternoon.

DC--NYC Trip Day 1

We started our trip to DC and NYC by flying to Baltimore. Before even getting on the plane, we had what we now affectionately refer to as our Dharma and Greg moment. (For those who don't watch much TV, "Dharma and Greg" is a show about an odd married couple. The wife, Dharma, is a new agey wierdo, and Greg is a straight-laced Republican lawyer. Good show. We recommend it.)

We sat down and this woman named Kim immediately turned around and attached to Elliot like a pitbull on a poodle. After interacting with Elliot for two minutes, Kim announced Elliot is a crystal child. Now, for those utterly ignorant regarding crystal children (don't feel bad, we were once one of you), they are kids with divergent DNA who will lead the world into a new age, an age without conflict, lawyers, or books. She then informed us our duty as parents of a crystal child is to get out of his way, and to let him teach us. Evidently, the reason Elliot loves dogs is because he can talk to them.

Things started going south when Dem put some lotion on Elliot. Elliot whined a little. Kim then said, "I want to let you know Elliot's talking to me right now. He says he doesn't like the lotion because lotion impedes his cells' ability to communicate with his environment. But, if you do insist on using lotion, you should believe the lotion will have no effect. That way, the lotion won't do anything and his cells will be free to fully interact with the surroundings." Kim's previous overall kookiness was almost endearing, but the lotion thing was too much for Dem. She saw it as an afront to her mothering skills (and she was right). Thankfully, we boarded the plane at this point.

We arrived in Baltimore around 10 p.m. We drove to Gretchen's house and fell fast asleep.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Another Fun Saturday

Saturdays are the only way I make it through the week. This morning we went for a hike on one of the mesas near Farmington (We're going to Texas next weekend, so we stayed close to home this weekend).

After our hike, we watched a San Francisco Opera broadcast of La Rondine by Puccini at a local movie theater. Angela Gheorghiu sang the Magda de Civry role, and was wonderful. Seeing this opera wet our appetite for The Damnation of Faust which we will see at the Metropolitan Opera in New York later this month.

To cap the day, we went through our standard "put Elliot to bed" routine. It consists of (1) reading a column of the Book of Mormon in Italian, (2) praying (whoever prays gets to pick the language), (3) Demaree reciting The Going to Bed Book from memory, and (4) turning on a children's CD.

No on 8 Hate, Cali Style

I've chronicled some of the actions taken against Mormons in the wake of Props 8's passage on my babbomormone blog. I warn you, some of the quoted material is vulgar, but it's worth reading. Say hello to tolerance liberal style.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting in New Mexico

Instead of braving election Tuesday, we voted early Saturday. To vote we simply filled out a registration card without showing ID. When we voted we fully expected to be asked for some form of ID, but no, no, no, they just asked our name. We were then allowed to vote. (Come to find out, New Mexico law prohibits poll workers from asking for picture ID.) I was floored. I could have been Victor from Moscow, or Alessio from Florence, or Jim Bob from Arkansas and they would have ushered me through to vote in a federal election. What kind of evil joke is that? You'd think we would care more about the integrity of our federal election system than to allow anyone, absolutely anyone to vote. Apparently, I was wrong.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reading is Fun

I just finished 1776 by David McCullough and How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. 1776 is classic McCullough: readable, engrossing, and somewhat vulgar — i.e., of or relating to common people. I think, however, John Adams is the superior and more insightful book.

As for Cahill, enlightening read. I think he plays fast and loose with some history, but absorbing this Everyman book was time well spent. Here is a short review I wrote on Facebook:

Thoroughly enjoyable and informative read. I had no idea the extent to which culture had declined after the fall of Rome (Dark Age indeed), and that Ireland was the savior of Latin literature. Keep in mind, Cahill takes us on a literary journey in this book. In this way, this is a different type of historical text: one built not so much on dates and socio-cultural minutiae as on personality shown through the prism of poems, epics, and biographies. This makes sense, however, since the story of Ireland saving civilization is the story of being saved through literature and determined individuality.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mitt Romney Political Rally

This morning, Mitt Romney came to Farmington and held a McCain–Palin rally. Neither of us much care for McCain, but we're big time Mitt Romney fans. In fact, I have a rather long-standing man crush on Mitt.

This was Elliot's first political rally, and he seemed to enjoy himself. A random woman gave him a flag, which he promptly put in his mouth.

After Mitt's "vote for McCain and all the other Republicans here present" admonition, he started shaking hands. We met him briefly (he's better looking in person than on TV, by the way); and, like every good politician, he acquiesced when we asked him to take a picture with Elliot.

Ah, Mitt. What a beautiful man you are. You might have lost this time, but we look forward to seeing you again in 2012.


October 31: Elliot's first Halloween. Demaree, in her infinite goodness, made Elliot's costume.

As you can see, we (read: Demaree) decided on a jack-o-latern. It was a cute idea. We filled it with crumpled newspaper, and put a makeshift stem on Elliot's head.

We all went to a trunk-or-treat at the church, where we ate chili dogs (yeah, I was surprised by that as well) and played some games. Good times.