March 24, 2008

Themes from The Blogfather

Sung to the tune of Speak Softly, Love:
Squawk loudly, Sykes, I hold my sides before you speak
We hear your words, the violent shakes reaching their peak
You're in your world
We rest assured
Sharing hip musings and the cant of Esenberg
— with sincere apologies to Larry Kusic and Nino Rota

As I mentioned yesterday, Marquette Law Professor Rick Esenberg invited us all to view his appearance on Milwaukee squawker Charlie Sykes's teevee program, Sunday INCITE! It's with great regret I now announce that I couldn't stand more than nine minutes of the show and switched back to the eminently more edifying Bret Michaels: Rock of Love.

Not because of Esenberg, mind you, although his efforts to equate the campaign of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler with that of Burnett County Judge Mike Gableman nearly made me spit my juice all over the copy of The Anarchist Cookbook* on my coffee table. More on that in another post.

Charles J. Sykes, in short, is a buffoon, a performing ape. During the mercifully brief discussion of the Supreme Court election, Sykes managed to refer to Gableman as "Michael Gableman" or "Mike Gableman." But Butler may only be "Loophole Louie." Charming.

First of all, Louis is pronounced like "Lewis." Justice Butler earned the nickname during his days as a State public defender. It's a lawyers' joke, an affectionate moniker containing a playfully needling element. More importantly, it's a compliment to Butler's skills as an attorney, which further contributes to Sykes's inadvertent clownishness that he insists on using it.

Years ago, when scientists, notably the astronomer Edwin Hubble, first observed that the universe is expanding, the resultant set of inferences earned the derision of Fred Hoyle, a British physicist who scornfully dubbed them the "Big Bang" theory. Bemused astronomers, knowing full well that Hoyle's characterization was meant as a put-down, adopted the term and now, of course, Hoyle has been decidedly proven wrong.

A similar principle inheres in Butler's ancient nickname which he earned, incidentally, 25 years ago. Sykes simply needs to get over it. Either that or put up some evidence that Butler has adjudicated like a public defender during his 16 years as a judge (longer than Gableman has been a lawyer), which is quite obviously why Sykes continues to use the nickname. Needless to say, Sykes, nor anyone else, is going to come up with that evidence.

However, since getting over it requires the condition precedent of Sykes getting over himself, it's not going to happen. In the meantime, everybody should just point and laugh at him, because obviously that's what he wants. What other explanation can there be?

Of course there are many other reasons to point and laugh at Sykes. He provided yet another yesterday, responding to an item by Daniel Bice in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It seems that a lawyer called John O'Connor, who is involved in a case currently before the State Supreme Court, recently donated to Butler's campaign.

Bice thinks this is "a funny thing," partly because Justice Butler recently took the extraordinary step of disclosing the information where campaign contributions came from parties with business before the court. It's funny, alright, but not for the reason Bice is implying. It's funny because of why O'Connor was moved to make the contributions:
O'Connor said the donations had nothing to do with his case. He said he gave after pro-Gableman ads "pissed me off beyond description."
Who can blame him for that? It seems like an appropriate response to me, especially in light of our good friend, Dodge County District Attorney Steven G. Bauer's manifestly well considered decision to withdraw his endorsement for Mike Gableman who, as far as I'm concerned, can continue pissing lawyers off to his heart's content, if these are the effects.

Incidentally, Gableman's campaign website, under "Endorsements," still looks like this, as of this morning, despite DA Bauer's letter having appeared in print five days ago:

Sykes's response to Bice's item is also funny: "Justice for sale?" is the headline at Sykes's "blog," without the slightest hint of evidence as to whether the question is even called for, let alone the clear suggestion of impropriety on the part of Justice Butler. That headline, by the way, is Sykes's sole contribution to the discussion. Despite this, Sykes has earned his own nickname, "the blogfather," from some of his fawning acolytes on the right.

Why this is is a bit of a mystery, since Sykes's blog contains almost entirely copy-and-paste jobs from other blogs and the occasional YouTube clip of scantily-clad, booty-shaking females. (If Sykes does provide any meaningful public service at all, it's those.)

If you aren't pointing and laughing yet, I'll leave you with an example of Sykes's legal acumen, the substance of which practically precludes him from commenting on this Supreme Court race at all, except that would deprive us of grist for the comedy mill, and that's not such a good thing.

Some time ago at this blog, I discussed in some detail the case of State v. Knapp, which at one point was a centerpiece of the Gableman campaign. It appears to have been long since abandoned, perhaps because portrayals of the case by Gableman and his supporters were so embarrassingly misbegotten and just plain wrong.

In any event, Justice Butler himself discusses State v. Knapp during his interview with the Journal-Sentinel editorial board, which can be viewed by following this link. (It's excellent, by the way.)

I can't say whether J-S editorial board member Patrick McIlheran nodded off during that discussion too but if he did, he missed some good stuff. I say that because Butler's emphasis on the pertinent constitutional questions raised in Knapp was an almost direct reading of my original blog post. I flatter myself unwarrantedly to suggest that Justice Butler reads this blog — which I doubt — because, obviously, he wrote the opinion in Knapp.

Anyway, here's what Sykes had to say about Knapp (he does write his own stuff occasionally, in between shouting on the radio, just not at his blog):
What stunned the dissenters and many court watchers, however, was the court’s decision to ignore the specific decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case before it.
Now this is beyond merely comical, it's demonstrably idiotic, and if you want to know why, go and read my original post. Or, obviously, watch the Butler interview (which you should do anyway).

Charlie Sykes, I'm told, is actually taken seriously among a certain local demographic, which is as much a mystery to me as was initially the red-shift of galaxies to Edwin Hubble. Hubble eventually figured it out, but I remain at a loss to explain Sykes's apparent popularity, aside from as, of course, an occasionally entertaining performing primate.

* Note to the DHS: That's a joke; living as I do a short skip from Taco Bell, I have no need for any cookbooks at all.


Jim Bouman said...

So, on the invitation of (visiting) Perfesser Rick (I was really hoping for a glimpse of his halo), I went down to my partially heated basement, fired up the 19" Motorola and settled in to watch Sykes. It was something new for me (the bride and I have watched 20 movies from Blockbuster, some Favreball games and one Madness match each of Badgers and Golden Warrior Eagles in the past six months).

I'm with you, Tenant. After three toots of the Sykes on his Clarabelle horn and his invocation of "Loophole Louie," I had to snap that show off. Went over and heard a much more appealing show called "Power Remodeling," just in time to learn 'bout composting toilets.

They are really pulling out all the stops. They (WMC, and the rightwing claque on TV and Radio) realize this is do-or-die time.

Is anyone doing any polling?

My son is job-hunting in California, so I helped him get his request for an absentee ballot.

Lacking any hints about how close this could be, I think we should be not only blogging and debating, but arranging carpools to the polls.

Turnout, turnout, turnout.

Wonder how the MJS will finesse a Butler endorsement so that it includes the essential (to their plummeting "goodwill") butt-smooch of WMC?

illusory tenant said...

just in time to learn 'bout composting toilets.

So, really, when you changed the channel, you just switched from the figurative to the literal version.

If the J-S doesn't endorse Justice Butler, then the entire editorial board must have slept through that interview.

James Wigderson said...

I like "scantily-clad, booty-shaking females." I'm going to have to watch more often.

William Tyroler said...

Charles J. Sykes, in short, is a buffoon, a performing ape.

Would 100 apes yammering away for a year duplicate a Sunday Incite?

Unknown said...


I do like it when my blogs are entertaining, informative, snarky, and literary at the same time. keep it up Illy T!

William Tyroler said...

Presently burdened with nothing better to, I find myself unable to shake the image of Charlie Sykes as performing ape. And so the nagging thought arises: could iT possibly be related to Richard Posner, who shares the illusive blogger's allusive affinity for our simian cousins, e.g.:

Trial before an orangutan ... would deprive the defendant of a "substantial" right even if it were certain that a jury would convict.

No doubt there are limits to waiver; if the parties stipulated to trial by 12 orangutans the defendant's conviction would be invalid notwithstanding his consent, because some minimum of civilized procedure is required by community feeling regardless of what the defendant wants or is willing to accept.

Just wondering.

illusory tenant said...


Say, Counsellor, could you distill that Posner comparison down to two or three words so I can place it on my "vanity wall?" In, like, 48-point type.

William Tyroler said...

... draws Posner-like (strike)simians(/strike) similes.

Anonymous said...

Hope is alive.

Our spirit will neither swell unseemingly, nor be demolished, by today's accumulation of election data. Whatever happens, there will have been worse days and better, and there will be worse and better to come.

Much respect and gratitude is due to Justice Butler for his service; for his integrity, impartiality, and independence; for his admirable alloy of professionalism and humanity; and for his example and his tough forbearance.

Many thanks to all those who closed ranks and defended the shining promise of justice and democracy. Thanks for the inspiration, and the solidarity, and the future.