Monday, March 27, 2006


If Ted Kennedy had done something like this thirty years ago, they'd still be attacking him for it:

Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.

"That's Sicilian," the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the "Sopranos" challenged....

The conduct unbecoming a 20-year veteran of the country's highest court -- and just feet from the Mother Church’s altar -- was captured by a photographer for the Archdiocese of Boston newspaper The Pilot, whose publisher is newly minted Cardinal Sean O’Malley....

Alas, there's no photo of this accompanying the article (which is from the Boston Herald) or at The Pilot's Web site. But if you're having trouble picturing this gesture, instructions are here:

partially close your hand, not quite curling the fingers, then bring your fingertips upward against your neck (knuckles face recipient), kind of popping off the end of the chin, then holding the slightly bent hand up at the recipient. maybe a little forward emphasis of the hand for a little extra oomph.

if i'm remembering this correctly, an accompanying profanity is "fongul!" (spelling?)

Yeah, that's the way I remember it from the old neighborhood. Never at a church, though. But I guess it's OK if you're a Republican.

No word on whether Scalia was questioned about the fact that he's apparently already prejudged a case that's soon to come before the Court:

...During an unpublicized March 8 talk at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, Scalia dismissed the idea that the detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions, adding he was "astounded" at the "hypocritical" reaction in Europe to Gitmo. "War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," he says on a tape of the talk reviewed by NEWSWEEK. "Give me a break." ...

Scalia didn't refer directly to this week's case,
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, though issues at stake hinge in part on whether the detainees deserve legal protections that make the military tribunals unfair. "As these things mount, a legitimate question could be asked about whether he is compromising the credibility of the court," said Stephen Gillers, a legal-ethics expert....


UPDATE: UPI says Scalia gave the photographer the finger. I don't believe that -- if that were the case, why would he bother to add the little footnote ("That's Sicilian")? (UPI also quotes him as saying that.) Not that it matters -- the gesture he used means pretty much the same thing.


UPDATE: The Italian expression that usually accompanies the gesture is this. (Not work safe, unless you have lifetime tenure.)

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