This may be the worst prose I’ve ever read in mainstream journalism.

Writing so bad I had to blog it for posterity. Worse even than Tom Friedman. Why on earth did the New York Times hire this guy? Or does the “Chicago News Cooperative” tag at the top mean that it’s just a wire service?

An excerpt (avert your eyes):

Mr. Vrdolyak’s perpetual state of freedom seemingly underscored a comment he once made to the WBBM-Channel 2 reporter Mike Flannery: “I treat everyone as though they’re wearing a wire.”

But he was too slick by half or, better put, by $1.5 million, in dealing with Stuart Levine, the corrupt political insider at the heart of the government case against Rod R. Blagojevich. Mr. Vrdolyak pleaded guilty in 2008 for involvement with Mr. Levine in a $1.5 million kickback scheme involving the sale of a Gold Coast property owned by Roosevelt Franklin University.

And, with Houdini-like aplomb, he wound up free. Judge Milton I. Shadur of Federal District Court stunned many by imposing a sentence of mere probation, concluding that the university hadn’t lost any money. He also was sympathetic to pre-sentencing letters on Mr. Vrdolyak’s behalf, none of which were initially released. But when they were, they included a testimonial from a curious appraiser of personal morals, the Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

The government appealed and last week appeared before a three-judge panel of Mr. Posner and Daniel A. Manion and David F. Hamilton, the latter being one of President Obama’s first judicial picks. But Judge Manion and Judge Hamilton were potted plants in the dominating presence of Judge Posner, the prolific (about 40 books) and eclectic (antitrust, sex, the Bush-Gore election) author-blogger termed “the most mercilessly seditious legal theorist of his generation” in a 2001 New Yorker profile.

The brutal, impatient and democratic candor of the most-cited legal scholar was unceasing. (Mr. Obama has called his onetime University of Chicago Law School colleague the judge he would most want to argue before.) Surely, the government desired a judge other than Milton Shadur to resentence Mr. Vrdolyak, Judge Posner declared. “He’s made up his mind,” he said. “The business of the letters. With a person like this, you could gin up 1,000 letters.”

“Vrdolyak took a lot of money for a corrupt purpose. It’s the attempt to corrupt the bidding process that’s the important thing,” Judge Posner continued. If a judge takes a bribe from a litigant he was going to rule for anyway, that’s still a crime, right? he asked rhetorically.

Does he know what “aplomb” means? “Brutal, impatient, and democratic candor?” What’s democratic about it? How has the guy’s not being jailed before “underscored” anything? Did he really need to tell us that Posner’s rhetorical question was a rhetorical question?

Oh, weird, some googling suggests that it is a wire service, but that the hopelessly tortured prose was written by an actual journalist.


5 Responses to “This may be the worst prose I’ve ever read in mainstream journalism.”

  1. eric Says:

    Also, “Roosevelt Franklin” was one of the Muppets in the early days of Sesame Street. Roosevelt University in Chicago is named after an obscure U.S. politician named Franklin Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.

    Gratuitous obscure personal fact: years ago, when I taught college in Prague, one of my students–a refugee from the civil war in Croatia–was Eddie Vrdolyak’s cousin. He tried to enlist me in running guns from Prague to Split, which, to my eternal regret, I declined to do.

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    That’s amazing. What exactly did he want you to do? Actually cross the border with a trunk full of weapons?! And who were the guns for?

  3. eric Says:

    Yeah, he used to drive down in a big Mercedes with a trunk full of guns. They were for his friends, who were involved in the fighting (I was never sure which side they were on, and I didn’t want to ask). He said he thought I’d find it interesting to go along because I was a sociologist.

    I wonder what became of him. Probably either dead or fabulously wealthy.

  4. jane Says:

    well, “houdini-like aplomb” is perfectly fine, though i agree that phrase doesn’t fit with the sentence.

    i think the lede for the story is more quotable, considering this is supposed to be the new york times:

    “Richard A. Posner’s handshake can be limp and his air that of a somber mortician. But his words are like the red beam of a sniper’s laser scope. They soon may target the larcenous heart of a Chicago political legend, the former Alderman Edward Vrdolyak.”

  5. eric Says:

    Oh good lord, that is an opening worthy of Bulwer-Lytton. Though I must admit that Posner does resemble Michael Heath as Mr. Sowerberry

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