Category Archives: Humor

When Bad Things Happen to Good Justices: Justice Breyer Falls Off Bicycle, Part III.

It could not have happened to a nicer justice: Justice Stephen Breyer reads to children on Dr. Seuss Day in 2003. Picture via NPR.

Whenever you hear about a piece of bad news befalling a Supreme Court justice, eight times out of ten it’s going to be about Justice Stephen Breyer. The 74-year-old has been the victim of quite a few strokes of bad luck since stepping into the public eye, including a 1993 accident in which he was struck by a car while biking in Boston and suffered a punctured lung and several broken ribs, a 2011 fall off his bicycle that resulted in a broken collarbone, and not one but two home robberies in 2012 (one of which involved a machete-wielding stranger). On Saturday, the Supreme Court issued a press release stating that Justice Breyer had been involved in yet another bicycle spill, this time fracturing his right shoulder and necessitating surgery. Breyer is currently recuperating at a Georgetown hospital and is expected to be released early next week.

Perhaps partially because of his unlucky streak1 and partially because of the “lull” in Supreme Court news this weekend–oral arguments for this term just wrapped up on Wednesday and the press corps is still anxiously awaiting the Court’s opinions for affirmative action and same-sex marriage–Justice Breyer’s accident has received rather heavy coverage in the media. With all of his bike mishaps, I’m a little surprised that someone hasn’t already set up a Kickstarter campaign for getting the man a Segway. Given Breyer’s reputation as the Court’s most cheerful and optimistic justice, though, and the fact that his previous falls don’t seem to have stopped him, I’m sure Washington, D.C. residents will be seeing him zipping around on his bike again in no time. The jury’s still out, however, on just how long it will take before Justice Antonin Scalia–his long-time sparring partner and the sarcastic, temperamental yang to Breyer’s eager, sanguine yin–teases his colleague in public about this.

  1. On the bright side, it hasn’t been all bad news for Justice Breyer this month, as the francophile was recently inducted into France’s ultra-exclusive Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques. []

Our national irrationality

Adam Gopnik examines his native country (the United States) and three adopted ones (Canada, Britain, and France), and attempts to locate their core irrationalities:

Let me start with my own country – don’t worry, your turn is coming. The core irrationality of American life is its insularity, which can be captured in three words: The World Series.

This is, of course, the annual championship of the American-invented game of baseball, a championship played almost exclusively in American cities and, until recently, entirely by American players – yet still referred to, without a hint of irony, as the global championship.

In all my years in the US, not once have I ever heard any American who found this name mildly ironic, or even strange. It is not even a rueful national joke. It’s just a fact of life, and when you point out its absurdity, you get a puzzled look.

It isn’t just baseball. The winners of the Superbowl in our US version of football cry out “We’re world champs!” as the gun sounds – and they do the same at the end of the American championship of the world sport of basketball.

When Americans play other Americans in American cities for an American audience, the world championship of whatever sport they are playing is thereby decided.

The real irony is that there is an actual world championship in baseball – and Americans do very badly at it. No one cares. It is broadcast on an obscure cable channel and no one pays any attention as the Dominicans or the Japanese triumph.

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House Republicans are coming around. Slowly. Finally.

Today's New York Times front page.
Today’s New York Times front page.

Light at the end of the tunnel? One can only hope. But whatever the reason — political expediency, acknowledgment of a battle lost, cynical opportunism, or something else entirely — it’s an encouraging development nonetheless. Considering that the foundation of Obama’s healthcare law was a Heritage Foundation proposal, it’s about damn time.

UPDATE: Happy April Fool’s Day.

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Strangers passing “In the Dark:” Sam Lim and I discuss Episode 9 of The Americans

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Jay: Wow, I think I can safely say that this was the best episode all season. Normally, I’m against using plot twists for the sake of using plot twists, but in this case I think they actually got it almost perfectly right. Agent Gadd is one of those characters who the show never even slightly hinted might be a villain, and yet here we are.

The best part about this surprise is that it puts a lot of central characters into some very vulnerable positions. Most obviously, Nina is screwed. But the genius of this scenario is that Gadd can’t move too quickly to eliminate her, because Stan’s a savvy veteran (having been undercover with white supremacists for years) and might catch on to anything strange happening to Nina — especially considering his romantic/sexual attachment to her, which Gadd obviously knows about. At the same time, Gadd himself is on thin ice, precisely because Stan is such a consummate professional (minus the small detail of his affair with a confidential informant) and may be quick to catch on to Gadd’s double-crossing of his own agency.

I also loved Amador’s creepy stakeout of Martha’s place when Phil came over again. I do have a slight beef here, as usual: there’s absolutely no way Phil would take off his mustache, wig, and everything in his car right after leaving Martha’s place, even if he thinks there’s no way anyone could see him. Relatedly, it’s highly unlikely Amador could actually see anything in the dark of night like that, even with his binoculars. But OK, I’ll let those small details slide. Whatever the realism or lack thereof, the fact that Amador now knows A) Martha is sleeping with someone else and B) this guy is clearly not whoever he tells Martha he is, the stage is definitely set for some big surprises. Continue reading Strangers passing “In the Dark:” Sam Lim and I discuss Episode 9 of The Americans

“It’s a Magic Word:” Tweets from the Eminently Quotable DOMA Oral Argument

Today, the Supreme Court heard two hours of arguments in United States v. Windsor, with fifty minutes allotted on the technical question of standing–namely, whether the DOMA case should even be before the Supreme Court at all–and sixty minutes on the merits. Though the Prop 8 case on Tuesday seemed to get the lion’s share of media attention–pictures of the line and the protests outside the Courthouse this morning show a smaller audience than yesterday’s–initial reactions and reports indicate that the DOMA argument and subsequent press conference from plaintiff Edie Windsor are 10,000% more quotable. A collection of tweets recapping the day’s events:

Supreme Court Reactions: Tweets from the Prop 8 Oral Argument

Oral argument for the California Proposition 8 case has ended in Washington, D.C., and the Supreme Court audio and transcript are now up. It’s pretty inconclusive from today’s session what kind of ruling the Justices are going to come up with, but that didn’t stop the Twittersphere from exploding into varying degrees of rage, joy and punditry. Here is a brief recap in tweet form, culled from legal commentators, journalists and the rest of the peanut gallery: