Lies, Damned Lies and Transcripts

Eugene Volokh and James Taranto believe they’ve caught Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in a lie. Reid, you may recall, attacked Justice Clarence Thomas on “Meet the Press” a few weeks ago, calling him an “embarrassment to the Supreme Court” whose “opinions are poorly written.” When later asked on CNN for an example of a poorly written opinion, Reid cited the Hillside Diary case and Thomas’ dissent, which he likened to “an 8th grade dissertation” compared to the dissent written by Justice Antonin Scalia in the same case.

The problem? Scalia didn’t write an opinion in the Hillside Diary case, and it’s difficult to see what Reid finds objectionable in Thomas’ brief opinion, which is reproduced on both blogs.

Of course, Reid’s counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, may have some ‘splaining to do of his own. Atrios excerpts a Center for American Progress report that “Frist participated in an effort to block one of Bill Clinton’s judicial nominees via filibuster, then lied about it.” He also spots what he believes to be another lie, this one in Frist’s words on the Senate floor yesterday.

“What,” wonders Atrios, “will we tell the children?”

Andrew Sullivan — who’s come under fire quite a bit this week, most cleverly from James Wolcott, who writes that Sullivan’s “sympathies keeps tugging him in so many different directions that he intellectually resembles Steve Martin in ‘All of Me,’ herkily-jerkily battling with himself as if being yanked by an invisible leash” — ruminates on a “depressing” quote from the director of Iraq’s new intelligence services, who says “the resistance is bigger than the U.S. military in Iraq.”

“The difficult truth,” writes Sullivan, “is that these fanatics can strike almost at will, even in the heart of the capital. They have infiltrated the Iraqi forces, when they aren’t murdering them … But do we postpone the elections? Almost certainly not. Do we watch as lines of voters are gunned down at voting places? Massive American presence around ballot boxes would be counter-productive. Infiltrated and terrified Iraqi security forces will be largely helpless. Is there some way through? Could the insurgents over-play their hand and help galvanize the electoral process? Will we somehow see the actual act of democracy achieve a change in public consciousness so that progress can be made? These are the hopes we have got to cling to. What else can we do?”

Finally, Chris Mooney passes along news that shouldn’t come as a tremendous surprise: A study showing a link between prayer and fertility is “now coming under extremely serious fire,” three years after the fact. “Why would anyone,” Mooney wonders, “have ever thought … that ‘research’ in this area should be taken seriously, given”:

1) the impossibility of designing a rigorous trial to test prayer given inherent subjectivity problems;

2) the absurdity of seeking to detect “supernatural” mechanisms of action through the naturalistic methods of science; and

3) the fact that the people who believe that prayer works don’t hold that belief on the basis of scientific evidence anyway, and thus can hardly be expected to change their beliefs in light of empirical data?

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.