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More on Gesturegate:

The Boston Herald reports:

"It's inaccurate and deceptive of [Justice Scalia] to say there was no vulgarity in the moment," said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who [photographed Justice Scalia's gesture]....

Smith said the jurist "immediately knew he'd made a mistake, and said, 'You're not going to print that, are you?'" ...

Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese's weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

"The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, 'To my critics, I say, 'Vaffanculo,'" punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means "(expletive) you."

Yesterday, Herald reporter Laurel J. Sweet agreed with Smith's account, but said she did not hear Scalia utter the obscenity.

In his letter, Scalia denied his gesture was obscene and claimed he explained its meaning to Sweet, a point both she and Smith dispute.

Scalia went on to cite Luigi Barzini's book, "The Italians," which describes a seemingly different gesture -- "the extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin" -- and its meaning -- "'I couldn't care less. It's no business of mine. Count me out.'" ...

The gesture typically means "I don't know" in Portugal, "No!" in Naples, "You are lying" in Greece and "I don't give a damn" in northern Italy, France and Tunisia, said David B. Givens of the Center for Nonverbal Studies ....

Defending the Indefensible:
Definition of Vaffanculo. Obscenity warning: NSFW.
3.30.2006 12:38pm
Josh_Jasper (mail):
He and Cheney should go quail hunting together.
3.30.2006 12:53pm
te (mail):
So, if this is true, then Scalia is a dishonest turd.

Yesterday EV asked how one goes about getting a correction from the AP, my question is how does one goe about getting a correction from Nino?
3.30.2006 12:58pm
Randy R. (mail):
Scalia has a lot to learn about what it means to be a judge. This incident, and the one last week where he openly ridiculed the notion that detainees at Gitmo would have a right to trial, and when asked about Geneva Conventions, replied, "Give me a break," show that he is an affront to judicial ethics.

I've clerked for two judges, and I known many more. What I learned from all these wise old men is what it means to be a judge. Not one of them would ever think of appearing partisan in any way, such as attending a dinner for Republicans, as Scalia has done. Not one would ever comment on a case publicly when it's still pending on the court docket. Ever afterwards, they tend to keep their mouths shut. They also knew that their personal behavior must at all times be above reproach and should never be questioned or questionable.

But most of all, they respected the judicial process. They showed me that a judge has extraordinary powers. His decisions can mean the difference between freedome and execution for a man, the difference between making a rich man a pauper, or a pauper a rich man. With such great powers comes great responsbility. And each of my mentors taught me that you must have respect for every litigant who appears before you. You must have respect for all the arguments, however ridiculous they may appear to you. Why? Because with respect comes a little humility -- you never know if the silly argument will win on appeal. (Of course, as one person pointed out, a good judge will give advise when a losing argument is being made. The difference is a subtle one, one that any experienced jurist can figure out).

One judge told me quite emphatically, that our system of liberty is build upon the respect people have for the courts, and that this is what's preventing riots in the streets. I thought that overblown in my youth, but with experience, I have found this to be true.

For a number of years, I worked on a project to help bring the rule of law to the former communist countries after the Wall fell. This project, CEELI, was enlightening. I learned just how difficult and yet important it is to have the populace understand the rule of law and respect the courts, not the streets, to solve differences.

And yet here we have Scalia, who attends partisan dinners all the time. He writes his opinions with scathing sarcasm at his fellow jurists, chiding them for being so stupid as to not vote as he wishes. His dissents are off-point rants. Who can forget his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas where he indicated that he would like to criminilize masturbation! He has openly declared hostility to an entire group of American citizens who seek redress in the court -- gay people. I was at the Supreme Court hearing of Lawrence, I only got to sit for ten minutes. But in that ten minutes, Scalia did nothing to hide his utter contempt for gay people. Read the transcript, and I can still hear his angry tone. He has repeated talked in alarmist terms about a supposed 'culture war' that America is facing, and he paints himself as a lead warrior.

The man is doing everything he can to cause ordinary people to lose respect in the judicial process. As conservatives here, I would think everyone would be appalled at his behavior. He is acting like a clown. How can anyone defend this? I don't care whether his gesture was technically an insult or whatever. A proper judge would have merely said, "if you would like to schedule an interview, please call my secretary," smiled, and than walked away. But that would require dignity and class, something this guy has none of.

The shame is that it is hurting our judicial system. Do we wonder then, when there are death threats against our judges? When Sen. John Cornyn says he 'understands why people would kill judges'? Once respect for our judicial system goes down the tubes, it will be difficult to get it back. Shouldn't ALL conservatives be concerned about this? Or is it okay, since the Supreme Court has issued a few decisions you don't like?
3.30.2006 1:01pm
Ray (mail):
I see that Cheney has already been mentioned so I guess I'm not the only one who thought of the VP's intended private response to Pat Leahy.

At the time Cheney voiced his candid thoughts, Kerry had recently dropped an F-bomb or two for purposes of pandering to the Rolling Stone readership.

Similar situation here. The Right typically disapproves of the Left's tendency to flaunt their vulgarity openly, and so when a conservative is "caught" being less than an Eagle Scout in an otherwise private situation, hypocrisy will be the cry.

Other than that, the Left's predictable reaction that is, who cares?
3.30.2006 1:05pm
te (mail):
And, in the interest of linguistic purity, I will note that the expression is transcribed incorrectly. It is not "vaffanculo". It is three separate words va fan culo [or cuolo, as it is sometimes spelled.] Its idiomatic and translates literally as va (go) fan (make or do) culo (ass or genitals).
3.30.2006 1:06pm
y (mail):
"Vaffanculo" is quite a strong obscenity in Italian. It's at least on a par with Cheney's statement to Leahy.
3.30.2006 1:10pm
J..:
The picture, fwiw, is available in the images /localRegional / folder at bostonherald.com with the file name scaliagesture03302006.jpg

While not exactly evidence of anything, in all events it is pretty funny.
3.30.2006 1:12pm
Dick Cheney (mail):
That reporter sounds like a major league a**hole.
3.30.2006 1:17pm
Ray (mail):

openly ridiculed the notion that detainees at Gitmo would have a right to trial, and when asked about Geneva Conventions, replied, "Give me a break," show that he is an affront to judicial ethics.


Would it be partisan for a judge to state openly that murder or rape is wrong?

These ideas that you've quoted; extending rights normally reserved for citizens to enemy combatants, and extending the Geneva Convention to cover terrorists are "fringe" ideas.

I've not kept a close eye on the more liberal elements of SCOTUS, but I'd imagine there's more than a quote or two out there by other judges on more realistic issues.
3.30.2006 1:19pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Oh my God, a judge said a naughty word.

Maybe.

How is it this didn't get mentioned for so long?
3.30.2006 1:21pm
CDebateAdmin (www):
Randy,

Nice try, but I'm not buying.

What about the Court's liberals, especially Ginsburg, speaking in front of liberal groups? What about the caustic dissents issued by the famous (or infamous) Court liberals Marshall and Brennan?

As for "respect for the Court", spare me. The Court gets as much respect as it deserves. When it bases its decisions on good law, then it deserves respect, even if I disagree with it. But when it bases it on mysticism, as it has done several times lately in Roper, Grutter, and Lawrence, then it does not deserve my respect. Any damage done to the Court's reputation in recent years is a result of its own poor reasoning. As I've said elsewhere, we're returning to the 1970s where the outcome was decided first, and the reasoning for the outcome second.

And as for Lawrence, Scalia's animosity was geared toward the idea of butchering the Constitution to find a sexual privacy right that extends to sodomy. There is indeed a gay activist agenda, as most homosexual activists would admit, so I find nothing wrong with his dissent in that regard.

Oh, and let's not forget Kelo and Stenberg, two of the most horrific decisions to be issued by the Court since Korematsu. The national outcry to those decisions was well deserved.

It's too bad the Court's liberals and its supporters can't handle harsh criticism. We who lean to the right have had to develop thick skin. Maybe the left-wingers should develop some too.
3.30.2006 1:22pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Nobody has focused on the important issue here:
David B. Givens of the Center for Nonverbal Studies ....
Who comes up with these things, and how does one get a job like that?
3.30.2006 1:23pm
CDebateAdmin (www):

Oh my God, a judge said a naughty word.

Maybe.


Exactly. I think I'll trust the honorable Scalia's recount of the facts here. The original reporter didn't hear Nino utter an obscenity either.
3.30.2006 1:27pm
Falafalafocus (mail):
I fully agree with Randy's suggestiong that Justice Scalia should not have been flirting with these questionable gestures. I don't know I can follow the direct causal chain drawn by Randy, however, that Scalia's antics is the root cause of threats and murders of judges. I may agree that "Gesturegate" does not do much to foster respect for the judicial system, but can anyone honestly disagree that Scalia would still be as newsworthy if the federal court system did not have its hand in nearly every major political event in recent memory, from Resdistricting, to Election recounting, to reexamining the death penalty pursuant to international law, to Kelo, not to mention Abortion, Newdow's kid, and the intelligent design cases.
I don't question that those cases can or are ripe for judicial examination. However, each time that the court steps into the political scene, it is seen as the quasi-judicial/quasi-political branch that it has become. Ordinary people don't look at the Supreme Court and think "wow, that's a group of people who do nothing but study the law." Instead, rightly or wrongly, they view the Court as a group of super politicians.
I imagine that such a view is the basis for why people like Jag_Jasper have an initial reaction to news such as this to then comment: "He [Scalia] and Cheney should go quail hunting together." So much for the hallowed halls and respected judiciary, Randy.
3.30.2006 1:34pm
Steve:
A lot of folks sure like to believe what they read on volokh.com about the Kelo decision, as opposed to what the Kelo decision actually said.
3.30.2006 1:39pm
CDebateAdmin (www):
I've read Kelo, and it is every bit as bad as it has been portrayed in the blogosphere.
3.30.2006 1:42pm
Jeek:
That this is even a story at all proves the arrogance and self-involvement of the press more than anything else.
3.30.2006 1:55pm
dunno:
CDebateAdmin:

There is indeed a gay activist agenda

And there's a activist gun rights agenda, and a. . .

Um, what's your point? That certain people who care passionately about issues being ajudicated have an "agenda"? Or that certain people with agendas do something about it? I'm unclear. In the fifties and sixties, would you have been so opposed to the civil rights activist agenda that kept pushing issues like school segregation at the Court?

It almost seems that you wouldn't have a problem with clearly defined agendas generally, or even taking action on them, but only that this agenda is "gay." Cooties.
3.30.2006 1:56pm
Falafalafocus (mail):
Steve,
I never suggested that Kelo was rightly or wrongly decided. But you must admit that it had both political and judicial ramifications beyond the scope intended. Let's say that you are right and that I, along with everyone else just doesn't "get it". Does that mean that the judiciary is thereby secure from charges of overreaching? If the goal of the judicial branch is to persuade through opinion and legal argument, then I humbly suggest that the fact that all of us folks don't understand and/or fundamentally disagree with the actions of the Court as a whole is at least as much of the cause of the lack of respect for the judiciary that so many decry as any speech or gesture of any judge or Justice.
3.30.2006 1:58pm
CDebateAdmin (www):
dunno,

I was responding to Randy's condemnation of Scalia's dissent. My point was that Scalia's dissent doesn't demonstrate hostility to homosexuals, because Scalia was absolutely correct in what he said, especially when he stated there is an agenda by homosexual activists. I wasn't criticizing the agenda or singling it out.
3.30.2006 2:15pm
DK:
I don't mind a judge saying a "naughty word", for anyone to say one at a Mass strikes me as really inappropriate and as not really being in the right frame of mind for receiving communion. I'm (just) an Episcopalian, but my understanding is that Catholics take Mass eve more seriously than we do. If the reporter's version of the facts is true, it would make me wonder whether Scalia can control his temper in any situation.
3.30.2006 2:22pm
Fran (mail) (www):
I think all bets are off with Nino regarding civility. He has realized that his attempt at non-activist judicial activism is essentially over. The court is certainly more conservative but not in the way he/Thomas would like.
Add to that the appointment of Roberts as chief justice and you get the very temper-mental El Nino'.
3.30.2006 2:35pm
FC:
Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.
3.30.2006 2:37pm
Randy R. (mail):
I have no problem wis a judge saying murder or rape is wrong. I would have a problem with a judge saying that a defendant accused of murder or rape deserves no right to a trial. I would certainly have a problem with a judge who said that a defendant is guilty of murder or rape before any trial has occured.

Having a trial, hearing the evidence, weighing the arguments -- these are sort of the bedrock of democracy and a free society. But maybe I'm stuck in a pre-9/11 mindset.

Anyone who claims that Lawrence v. Texas was based on 'mysticism' obviously hasn't read the case, and knows nothing of the arguments raised. Incidently, during oral argument, the Texas AG conceded that married couples can't be regulated in their private sexual decisions, to which Scalia rejoined, "They may have conceded it, but I haven't."

If you want your private sex lives regulated, I guess Scalia is indeed your man. What would Scalia regulate? Obviously, he would make masturbation illegal. Maybe he would sanction only certain sexual positions? Regular how often you have sex? Prohibit condoms -- afterall, his religion forbids any birth control other than the rhythm method.
3.30.2006 3:09pm
Broncos:
I think old people get cranky; the more so if they are cranky to begin with.
3.30.2006 3:13pm
Ramza:
DK:

The reporters question wasn't about the participation of Mass that Catholics attend every Sunday, but instead about the "Red Mass"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Mass

The red mass has some controversy around it, even if its much to do about nothing.

There was a thread a while back when some Catholics were complaining that Ginsburg (who is Jewish) no longer attends the Red Mass as a sign of goodwill after the Red Mass homily was about abortion.

http://volokh.com/posts/1139608327.shtml.
3.30.2006 3:22pm
Broncos:
And I know I've said this before (so I apologize if you've read it before), but although I think the argument that Romer and Lawrence were wrongly decided is sensible, I've never understood the depth of outrage they produced.

If I remember correctly, Romer held that pure animus towards a group was not a "rational basis" for governmental action; and Lawrence held that the concept of "liberty" restrained the government to subject an adult to *criminal punishment* for engaging in consensual sex - in his own bedroom - with another adult of the same sex. Do these two cases really demonstrate a lawless judiciary?
3.30.2006 3:25pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you want your private sex lives regulated, I guess Scalia is indeed your man. What would Scalia regulate? Obviously, he would make masturbation illegal. Maybe he would sanction only certain sexual positions? Regular how often you have sex? Prohibit condoms -- afterall, his religion forbids any birth control other than the rhythm method.
But this is a willful distortion of his statements. He has said, many times -- including in Lawrence -- that these issues should be up to a democratically-elected legislature rather than unelected judges. What he "hasn't conceded" is that the constitution gives him any power to say that states can't regulate these things.

As for mysticism, that was a reference to Kennedy's "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life," the statement from Casey quoted in Lawrence.
3.30.2006 3:25pm
raj (mail):
CDebateAdmin

My point was that Scalia's dissent doesn't demonstrate hostility to homosexuals

Some of us were born at night, but not all of us were born last night. Scalia's dissent (in Lawrence), along with some of his other public utterances, most certainly do "demonstrate hostility to homosexuals." Scalia may try to pussy-foot around the issue by claiming a distinction between homosexuals as persons and homosexuality as acts, but some of us are not entirely stupid. "Hate the sin and love the sinner" (the protestant version of this clap-trap) is just as idiotic.
3.30.2006 3:28pm
Broncos:
Oh, sorry... you said Roper, not Romer.
3.30.2006 3:28pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I used to find Scalia entertaining-- even though I come from the liberal end of the spectrum and disagreed with him a lot. I certainly don't believe that a Supreme Court justice has to be a stuffed robe. Also, I don't really have a problem with either Ginsburg or Scalia speaking before partisan groups (though I would have a problem with them making explicitly partisan speeches before those groups).

Scalia has improved the Court in some ways. He has made oral argument more incisive with his questions. He has written some very entertaining, forcefully argued opinions. And whatever one thinks of his judicial philosophy, he has reminded all of us, liberal and conservative, of the importance of text and original understanding. (Before he came in, there were actually some judicial opinions that interpreted the legislative history of statutes first, and then said something akin to "and the text supports our reading as well!".

All this is a preface to say that I think the guy is losing his marbles. It is really stupid to go out and make speeches in which you say how you are going to vote in cases. Yes, I know that the Justices have made up their mind more often than they would admit, but still, the appearance is terrible. Judges are supposed to hear the evidence and argument and then decide, and his statements contribute to the view of the Court as nothing more than a political institution. (Of course, maybe that's what Scalia wants us to believe. But it isn't really true-- for all the bluster about Lawrence v. Texas, which really seems to infuriate some conservatives, the fact is that the Court produces quite a few unanimous and 8-1 and 7-2 decisions, even on controversial issues; the party line votes don't happen as often as some would believe.)

The duck hunting thing was also stupid. Again, Scalia may have whatever view he has about executive privilege. But if you are pretty good friends with the Vice President, and others on the Court or not, you probably should bow out of the case.

And now we have obscene gesturegate. I am not saying he is necessarily lying, but it certainly looks like he is trying to sanitize something he did after he realized it looked unjudicial.

The more interesting question is why this is happening. I have a feeling it is a combination of two things: (1) Scalia has failed to convince his colleagues or the country of his judicial philosophy and the results of major cases that flow from it; and (2) Scalia has a huge ego and thinks he is smarter than other people and that people who disagree with him are not only misguided but are simply not blessed with the superior understanding that he has. Further, Scalia is by all accounts a very religious man, so (1) stings even more because he not only thinks that, for instance, gays and lesbians aren't protected in the Constitution, but that gays and lesbians are committing immoral acts that constitute the worst kind of sins, and that the traditional forms of discrimination against them were not only constitutional, but justified and proper. Similarly, he thinks that abortion is murder, and that the Court is not simply misinterpreting the Constitution but is enabling what he thinks of as a holocaust.

So, he sinks further in further into his own demented world, surrounded by the conservatives who adore the way he sticks it to the liberals and speaks their truths, and occasionally lashing out and making intemperate remarks as he gets more and more frustrated. Bottom line-- he is a tremendously important Supreme Court justice who will be studied for decades after he is gone, but if he can't control himself, it may be time for him to leave the Court.
3.30.2006 3:32pm
Broncos:
I thought that J. Thomas' dissent in Lawrence was telling.

J. Thomas joined J. Scalia's dissent in its entirety, but was forced to write separately to state that he thought the law was both "uncommonly silly" and constitutional. After taking the time to castigate the majority for taking sides in a culture war, J. Scalia saw no need to include this observation; forcing J. Thomas to write separately. J. Scalia has plausible deniability, but it is more probable that this omission is simply a signal of his own personal beliefs. (i.e. it isn't silly to imprison adults for engaging in consensual gay sex.)
3.30.2006 3:35pm
raj (mail):
CDebateAdmin

I think I'll trust the honorable Scalia's recount of the facts here. The original reporter didn't hear Nino utter an obscenity either

Maybe she (the reporter) wasn't in a position to hear El Nino utter an obscenity. But the photographer may well have been, since he caught the gesture on film head (or face) on.

BTW, El Nino is referred to "the honorable Scalia" only because of his office. That doesn't mean a whole lot. Actually, it means nothing.
3.30.2006 3:36pm
raj (mail):
Broncos:

I thought that J. Thomas' dissent in Lawrence was telling.

The most telling thing about Thomas's dissent is that he, the court's only Negro, was unable to understand the equal protection issue that even O'Connor understood.

Thomas: "equal protection for me, but not for thee."
3.30.2006 3:39pm
Mr L:
If you want your private sex lives regulated, I guess Scalia is indeed your man. What would Scalia regulate? Obviously, he would make masturbation illegal. Maybe he would sanction only certain sexual positions? Regular how often you have sex? Prohibit condoms -- afterall, his religion forbids any birth control other than the rhythm method.

Oh, look, ridiculous and infantile smear tactics. You obviously don't believe this, and neither does anyone who read what you wrote, so I guess the only possible reason for this little rant is to foul the debate in hopes that everyone will forget that your argument essentially boils down to: that you don't like a law, and since Scalia declined to declare it unconstitutional he must be a bigot. That's pretty much the textbook definition on how the courts should not work.
3.30.2006 3:40pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
By the way, just more generally, I do think Scalia is quite bigoted towards gays and lesbians. In Lawrence, Clarence Thomas-- who is NOT bigoted towards gays and lesbians but agrees with Scalia's position that sodomy statutes are not unconstitutional-- issued a simple dissent saying that the sodomy statute was a bad law but that it wasn't unconstitutional. Rather than joining that dissent-- which would have indicated that Scalia did not bear any animus towards gays and lesbians-- Scalia issued his own screed about how important sodomy laws are, how they reflect important traditional values and moral judgments of the community, etc. Essentially, he didn't just say that it wasn't unconsitutional to imprison a gay or lesbian individual; he said it was a perfectly good thing for a state to do.

JUSTIFYING a state's decision to do that-- as opposed to holding one's nose and saying that you have to do what you have to do, as Thomas did-- is pure hatred.
3.30.2006 3:41pm
Ray (mail):

Having a trial, hearing the evidence, weighing the arguments


Fair enough, but the larger point is that it has been highly questionable (up till now) whether or not the Gitmo guys warranted anything beyond a mil/trib in the first place. Thus my somewhat loose example of a judge making such comments about murder or rape in general, not the defendant's status or rights.
3.30.2006 3:51pm
Christopher M. (mail):
I will note that the expression is transcribed incorrectly. It is not "vaffanculo". It is three separate words va fan culo [or cuolo, as it is sometimes spelled.] Its idiomatic and translates literally as va (go) fan (make or do) culo (ass or genitals).

This is just wrong. It's standardly written as "vaffanculo" in Italian and when transcribed in English. (Compare 912 Google hits for "va fan culo" to 750,000 for "vaffanculo.") Maybe you're thinking of "vai in culo," another way of expressing the same basic thought?

Also, to describe it as three words is misleading, because it's a contraction of four: va'/vai + fa' + in + culo = roughly, go do it in the ass.

Finally, I have never heard "culo" used in reference to the genitals (as opposed to the anus or backside) but I can't say it's never happened.
3.30.2006 3:54pm
Wintermute (mail) (www):
3.30.2006 3:59pm
Ray (mail):

So, he sinks further in further into his own demented world,


Nothing ruins credibility quite like overblown statements.
3.30.2006 4:10pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Ray:

I think you are confusing the way conservatives view Scalia (as I noted in my comment, they view him as a hero) and how he looks to the rest of the country. I don't think that screeds in favor of states exercising their police power to throw gays and lesbians in jail for what they do in their bedrooms plays well to most of America.

And I also don't think a Supreme Court justice making intemperate remarks about pending cases, or speaking and gesturing obscenities towards reporters plays well to most of America. You have to understand there's a big difference between a politician saying and doing these things (although I think Cheney didn't do himself any favors when he used the f-word on the floor of the Senate to Pat Leahy) and a sitting judge saying and doing them, especially a Supreme Court justice.

This is, objectively, demented. And one of the reasons this continues to happen is that the conservative movement seems unwilling to criticize one of its heroes.

I don't see how my statement is overblown. I don't see any comment by you disputing any of the facts in my post which support it.
3.30.2006 4:25pm
bluecollarguy:
The commentary here on Scalia in Boston is pretty funny. Now for a few facts.

Scalia was giving an exclusive interview to a reporter for the Boston Diocesan Newspaper. The Herald reporter, Laurel J. Sweet invited herself to that exclusive interview. Neither Ms. Sweet nor the reporter for The Pilot heard Scalia utter an obscenity and Scalia emphatically denies it.

The photographer states: ""The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, 'To my critics, I say, 'Vaffanculo,' " punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said."

So one has to wonder, just who is Mr. Smith and why was Scalia speaking in a frequency that only Mr. Smith could transmit into signals interpretable by only Mr. Smith's brain?

Enquiring minds want to know.
3.30.2006 4:39pm
cfw (mail):
Any chance Justice Scalia is going through a reaction to being "passed over" for the CJ spot? Or a sort of mid-life crisis? Maybe he plans to retire and cares less now than he used to about reputation. I could not imagine CJ Robert or Justice Alioto, or any of the other current Justices, making the sort of gaffs recently committed by Justice Scalia (in Fribourg and before Boston reporter). Me, I could do it. But the Justices? Certainly unusual.
3.30.2006 4:41pm
Christopher C (mail):
I also used to find Scalia entertaining, for his cleverness, but now wonder about his behavior and fitness, in terms of judicial tempermanent, to serve on the Supreme Court.

The statements he made in Geneva, where he in effect preannounced his views on the latest Guantanamo case to be argued three weeks later, do not speak well of his efforts to maintain an appearance of impartiality. (This is wholly unlike the "murder" example cited above, because the Supreme Court was supposed to decide the lawfulness of these military tribunals; it is settled law that murder is illegal).

Then, Scalia played some game, during the oral argument on the case by getting up (when Roberts got up because the Chief had recused himself) to make people think Scalia too was going to recuse himself, and then sat back down. Why, what was the point? Maybe he thought he was being funny.

And, going duck hunting with Cheney (whose aim was apparently better then), and in particular flying on the VEEPs' jet, hanging out with him at the hunting compound, only a month or two before the energy commission matter was to come up before the Supreme Court, also made me wonder about his concern for appearing impartial. Yes, it is true, Cheney had no financial stake in the matter, and so, perhaps, correctly, Scalia didn't have to recuse himself. However, Cheney clearly had a significant political stake in the matter---e.g., he would have been embarrassed politically if all of his meetings with the Ken Lay, and the extent to which Enron influenced his proposed legislation, had been disclosed. I think it safe to say the other justices would not have been jetting around with the VEEP on a friendly outing, so close to the hearing on an important case. Scalia, however, doesn't care about such appearances, and apparently believes he can do no wrong, so he took umbrage at any suggestion that he should have recused himself, or that others might question his impartiality.

However, in defense of him getting mad at the reporter, I frankly don't see how a judge can be faulted for going to mass at a Church and think the question was stupid. A Supreme Court Justice doesn't have to forsake religion to join the bench. I think Scalia should have responded to the question by saying: "so are you suggesting I have to give up my religion, to be fair and impartial?" The gesture, though, seems childish in the extreme.

In fact, I think this gesture incident was another instance of him trying to be clever by playing some sort of game with the reporter: I think he well intended to have the reporter assume the worst by his gesture, but had a convenient, "innocent" explanation that he could use to make himself not look so bad. Why do I believe the reporter and not him? Because of the 2 witnesses. Yesterday, we only had one witness who contradicted him, the reporter, with the notion that he intended to make an obscene remark to her. Today, we have two who say that (one of whom claims to have overheard the obscenity, as well). Criminal cases have been built upon less evidence.

As for Scalia's anti-gay views, you would have to go back to Warren Burger's concurrence in Bowers v. Hardwick to find more anti-gay views expressed in a Supreme Court opinion.
3.30.2006 4:46pm
te (mail):

This is just wrong. It's standardly written as "vaffanculo" in Italian and when transcribed in English. (Compare 912 Google hits for "va fan culo" to 750,000 for "vaffanculo.") Maybe you're thinking of "vai in culo," another way of expressing the same basic thought?

Also, to describe it as three words is misleading, because it's a contraction of four: va'/vai + fa' + in + culo = roughly, go do it in the ass.

It is three separate words in Italian, it is not a three word contraction in Italian.

I don't know what Google hits have to do with whether something is right or wrong. I have no doubt that it has been bastardized by people attempting to transcribe the Italian phonetically - that does not make it correct. It's like writing pasta fazool instad of pasta fagioli. The former isn't Italian, but it is an attempt to trascribe the (correct) latter. It is sort of like saying that you would like writing that you would like to have a slice of peet-za or a pro-shoot-o sandwich.
3.30.2006 4:47pm
Randy R. (mail):
Mr. L.
I do indeed believe that in in ScaliaWorld, he would regulate the sex lives of all. What specifically makes you think that he would stop at regulating the sex lives of gays?
Read his dissent in Lawrence, and tell me what he specifically said about masturbation. In 2004, he stated said that the Holocaust was able to flourish in Germany because of Europe's secular ways. "Did it turn out that, by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America?" Scalia asked a congregation at Manhattan's Shearith Israel synagogue. "I don't think so." He has claimed that the government derives its moral authority from the Bible.

His speeches and decisions are quite clear about where he stands -- he sees a Culture War and he is a front line warrior. I can understand cases where we win and where we loose, but anyone calls says I'm upset just because he voted against me, then how about Scalia when he was forced to dissent in both Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas? Instead accepting the decision, in both cases he claimed that this is about a Culture War, and that the Surpreme Court has taken sides. It's deeply troubling to me when a Justice calls any group in America to be immoral and undeserving of even basic rights -- rights such as engaging in consensual sex. We used to have laws against interracial marriage -- even interracial sex! Clearly, we have moved forward from those times, and we still are.
3.30.2006 4:58pm
bluecollarguy:
Raj,
"Maybe she (the reporter) wasn't in a position to hear El Nino utter an obscenity. But the photographer may well have been, since he caught the gesture on film head (or face) on."


Certainly, and maybe the reporter from The Pilot was drunk which is why he couldn't hear any obscenity either. And being drunk his portrayal of Scalia as jocular during the incident is also clearly wrong. Actually Scalia grabbed his crotch, then put his left hand on his upraised bent right arm and said, roughly translated "%%^%*(&(**)*)^ You All".

Maybe......

in a parallel universe.
3.30.2006 4:59pm
Aultimer:
Civility is now officially dead in all three branches. The exec lost it at some point during the Gary Hart thing. It's been mouldering long before my time for the legistlative.

Past that, no biggie.
3.30.2006 5:16pm
BobN (mail):

Who can forget his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas where he indicated that he would like to criminilize masturbation!


A bit of juridprudence rendered all the more remarkable as it was typed with just one hand!

The man has "issues".
3.30.2006 5:48pm
BobN (mail):

It is three separate words in Italian, it is not a three word contraction in Italian.


Not to quibble, but one of the words is a contraction.

Va fa'n culo -- the 'n is for "un"
3.30.2006 5:50pm
bluecollarguy:
Randy,
"Scalia has a lot to learn about what it means to be a judge. This incident, and the one last week where he openly ridiculed the notion that detainees at Gitmo would have a right to trial, and when asked about Geneva Conventions, replied, "Give me a break," show that he is an affront to judicial ethics."



Do you really think you can teach Scalia anything about being a judge? Scalia has already written his opinion on Gitmo. It's called Rasul v Bush. His opinion is public knowledge, reiterating material already in the public domain isn't an affront to judicial ethics though it may affront those who disagree with his opinion. Such is life.
3.30.2006 5:54pm
hey (mail):
Raj,

So very, very illustrative of the actual beliefs of liberals. Don't restrain yourself, Raj, let it all out: "Justice Thomas is an Unlce Tom house nigger". Chant that a few times so that you'll feel better. Them darkies really need to remember who their representatives are, and what they are allowed to do in public life. To think that this uppity one believes that he has the right to his own opinion!
3.30.2006 6:15pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
What would Scalia regulate? Obviously, he would make masturbation illegal.

A commenter found this comment (not by me) ridiculous.

Leaving aside what Scalia "would MAKE illegal," is there any serious doubt that he would vote to uphold a state law criminalizing masturbation?

I think not. And there's just a huge gulf between people like me, who think that goes beyond what any gov't has the right to do, and those who read the Constitution, shrug, &say, "well, it doesn't say 'masturbation' anywhere in here, so I guess you don't have any rights in that respect."
3.30.2006 6:24pm
Christopher M. (mail):
I don't know what Google hits have to do with whether something is right or wrong.

Google indexes a lot of pages written by actual Italians, and they almost all spell it "vaffanculo." It's not some clumsy American "attempt[] to transcribe the Italian phonetically," it's the way the word is standardly written by Italians.

It's like writing pasta fazool instad of pasta fagioli.... It is sort of like saying that you would like writing that you would like to have a slice of peet-za or a pro-shoot-o sandwich.

No, because no speaker/writer of standard Italian would write "pasta fazool."

Here is the entry on "vaffanculo" in a reputable Italian dictionary. It is described as "comune," which the dictionary defines as a word "known by whoever has a high-school education" ("noti a chiunque abbia un livello mediosuperiore di istruzione"). Here (as long as the link works) is a page from a book on Italian usage, spelling it "vaffanculo."
3.30.2006 6:56pm
Walk It:
Folks:
I wouldn't worry about this guy too much.
With those jowls and body fat, plus the alleged fact that he's a smoker, I'd say the body is catching up with the mind, so to speak. He's not going to live to be an old man, capiche? The heart will explode inside him ... he'll beat himself. These popping off at the mouth statements indicate, to me, poor health and a lack of control, and no matter how smart you allegedly are, nobody can fool Mother Nature.

I agree with others though: keep this crap in a steam room, not in a Church.
3.31.2006 4:39am
Christopher M. (mail):
Not to stereotype (ok, well, a little) but it's kind of amusing to hear people on the left criticizing someone for using obscenity (or vulgarity, or whatever) inside a CHURCH. (Oh, the HORROR!) What are good ACT-UP leftists to think?!

And is Rabelais so very dead?
3.31.2006 4:59am
Randy R. (mail):
Today, it was reported that the Catholic Church fired the photographer. He was a freelance photographer for ten years, providing photos for the church newspaper. MY! What a strong moral position the church has taken!

Oh no -- don't fire priests because they sexually molest children. Don't fire the bishops who were complicit in all of it. No, fire the guy who proved what an ass one of your most prominent parishioners is.

The Boston catholic diocease is morally bankrupt.
3.31.2006 10:08am
Fishbane (mail):
I, for one, am appalled that a sitting SCOTUS Justice would apply foreign gestures to domestic critics.
3.31.2006 1:58pm