another exaltation of Slate

I have raved before about my love affair with Slate, and I’m going to do it again. In class tonight, actually, one of my fellow political science doc students said something about how Slate and Salon are the only two news sources worth reading online (to which another doc student said, “Don’t forget about The Drudge Report!”).

Anyway, in the case of both NPR and Slate, my favorite reporters are those who cover the Supreme Court. For Slate, that’s a woman named Dahlia Lithwick, a woman whose sense of humor delights me in ways those who aren’t fascinated by the law will never, ever understand. Her latest piece, published Feb. 21 about two cases challenging the Clean Water Act, is no exception; I find it to be an excessively humorous recounting of the musical chairs that ensued with Justice Alito taking his place on the bench.

Here’s an excerpt, the part that made me laugh out loud (you try explaining that to the person next to you!):

Duck in to “watch” an oral argument, and you have that cozy familiar feeling of visiting your grandma: Close your eyes and you know just where the porcelain ballerina is, which is why today’s visit feels like a trip to grandma’s, except for some reason the couch is on the roof.

I knew that Alito would be in, O’Connor would be out, and all the justices would shift their seats like teams swapping sides during a volleyball game. But that hasn’t prepared me for the whole matter/antimatter feel of it: Justice Stephen Breyer doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself, having migrated from the right side of the court to the left. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg looks smaller now that she isn’t occupying the corner office. Justice Samuel Alito, who asks one question three minutes into oral argument then remains silent for the rest of the case, can’t seem to sit still; twitching, shifting, gulping his water, and trying out the various rocking settings on his chair. It’s like he thinks we are all staring at him, which we are.

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