cavallo gets sleazier

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that you’re a skeezy lawyer who has, through a well-laid web of lies, managed to get your rapist defendants off the hook. (Perhaps like this guy I’ve been writing about — here, here, and here.) Let’s say you’ve managed to fib and twist enough to get a jury to declare a mistrial, despite videotaped evidence of your clients raping an unconscious, underaged girl. What can you do to top yourself on the Sleaze-O-Meter?
Well, here’s one idea: hire all the jurors who voted your way as $50-an-hour “consultants” to the defense team. Says the D.A.: “I think the reason they

law & order: suv

Speaking of “Law & Order” spinoffs: I love Ed Bark, the DMN’s TV columnist. He’s really quite good at what he does.
(Even if he, being mortal, can never top the divine Lisa de Moraes, the WaPo’s TV critic and one of the greatest writers of modern times. Here’s the top of her most recent column, fr’instance:
LOS ANGELES, July 23 — Childhood fantasy smashed today: Danny Bonaduce is now better looking than David Cassidy.
The two stars of “The Partridge Family” showed up at Summer TV Press Tour 2004 here on Friday to promote VH1’s “In Search of the Partridge Family” reality series.
Bonaduce looked ripped and relaxed in a tight black T-shirt and jeans. Cassidy was eating-disorder thin, wore a baseball cap that screamed “thinning hair” and has lost all trace of lips; he looked like Cookie Monster with a face wax. Everyone felt old.

Seriously, Lisa de Moraes is the bomb. She’s the most fun columnist in America.)
Anyway, back to Ed. I enjoyed his his piece in yesterday’s paper on the warring spinoffs of “Law & Order” and “CSI.” I particularly enjoyed this paragraph:
“We haven’t had real competition. This is real competition,” says Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, whose show will be entering its 15th season of prime-time combat. Its two descendants, Law & Order: SUV and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, also are ratings hits.
I presume that’s supposed to be Law & Order: SVU, as in “Special Victims Unit.” Then again, an SUV-themed edition of L&O could be just what the networks are missing. Jill Hennessy gathering evidence from a cup holder? Chris Noth going over misleading fuel efficiency data? Michael Moriarty summing it all up for the jury: “It may have begun as a Ford Expedition, but it quickly became a death expedition”? I’m telling you: ratings gold.

malthus, cross-x debate

Make Mine Malthus! Overpopulation panic’s eternal return, a piece in Reason.
For years, Malthus has been my own personal shorthand for illogical arguments taken to idiotic extremes. In high school, there were two kinds of debate: cross-examination (two-person team debate on issues of policy) and Lincoln-Douglas debate (solo debate on issues of value and philosophy). I was an L-D debater, in part because the cross-xers seemed so dedicated to the advancement of stupid arguments.
The most common was Malthus. Malthus, for the non-debaters among us, was a 19th-century economist who wrote a famous essay called “The Principals of Population,” in which he argued that an increase in human population meant certain global doom. He was primarily concerned with food shortages, but he used his food shortages to call for, basically, mass death. Helping poor people was evil, for instance, because keeping them alive will just encourage them to have lots of sex and spawn more poor people, furthering the world’s problems. He was a big fan of famine, plague, and war.
(The money quote: “Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases: and those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders. If by these and similar means the annual mortality were increased … we might probably every one of us marry at the age of puberty and yet few be absolutely starved.”)
Anyway, cross-x debate involves building arguments both in favor of and against a given topic. (Last year’s topic: Resolved: That the United States federal government should establish an ocean policy substantially increasing protection of marine natural resources. This year’s: Resolved: That the United States federal government should establish a foreign policy substantially increasing its support of United Nations peacekeeping operations. Wonky shit like that.)
If you were a lame debater who couldn’t come up with a real argument, you could always make up some stupid Malthusian line of “reasoning.” As in:
– “Well, increasing U.N. peacekeeping activities would likely reduce the global threat of war. That would likely save many lives. But Malthus says saving lives is bad because it contributes to global overpopulation. Therefore, we should not increase support for U.N. peacekeeping.”
– “Well, protecting marine natural resources would probably mean improving the quality of seafood stocks in future years. That would mean better continued access to seafood for future generations. Seafood is more likely than many foodstuffs to contain freaky bacteria that can kill an unsuspecting diner. But Malthus says that increased bacterial death is good for dealing with overpopulation. Therefore, we should protect our marine natural resources.”
You get the idea. Malthus is the hack debater’s ultimate fall back. No matter what the topic, anything — increased gum chewing! deforestation in the Pampas! a new “Law & Order” spinoff! — can be twisted into being pro-death and thus pro-Malthus.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a discussion forum for cross-x debaters. Do a search for “Malthus” — at the moment, it generates 324 hits. For the marine natural resources topic, a popular argument appears to have been “whale Malthus,” which claims that there are just too many whales and we need to start nuking them (!) to keep their numbers down, for their own good.
(While it’s not strictly a Malthus argument, I love this attempt: “He also talks about if all whals got together, not even half the whales in the world to exact, could swin in one direction and shift the tides and mess up the climate so how. It is some major stuff!” Killer whales, indeed!)
Anyway, these people are the reason I was a Lincoln-Douglas debater.

media appearances

Media update: I’m supposed to be on KEOM (that’s 88.5 on your FM dial) tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. I’ll be talking about Navigating Your School, our back-to-school section.
Then, Wednesday morning, I’ll be on Fox 4‘s morning show “Good Day Dallas,” sometime during the 7 a.m. hour. Hmm, I might need a haircut before then.