Friday, April 30, 2004

Bad TNI

Today, the UofC Japanese Law Society made a trip to the University of Illinois for a conference on Japanese law. Given the inherent difficulties of conference blogging, particularly not live, aided by only poor notes, and a few barely-skimmed, let alone completely digested, papers, I won't blog about the conference. Instead, I'll write about the Spring 2004 issue of The National Interest. (Why, you may ask, was the point of the preceding? Why, to give JLS another link, of course.)

In the days of my misspent slightly-younger youth as an international relations undergraduate major, I read Foreign Affairs on a regular basis, since it was, well, the preeminent periodical on popular scholarly writings in the field of international affairs, continuing the habit after I graduated. Over time, though, I grew steadily more disenchanted with FA, and the last issue I purchased was the November/December 2000 issue, in which a mere 11 of the 13 articles were of the sort, "If only we had more money/political will, we could do this good thing 'X'." I had a lot of free time at my job, enough that I could have calculated 11/13 is .846153 repeating, but I had better things to do with my time than reading whining by people who should've grown up long ago (nothing personal, mind you). Having drudged my way through most of the other international affairs journals, Foreign Policy, Wilson Quarterly, etc., and found them wanting, I finally bought my first copy of The National Interest a few weeks ago for a bit of light bedtime reading (yeah, I'm weird, if you couldn't tell already) when I stopped into Borders to buy Neal Stephenson's The Confusion (which I, confusingly, thought came out two weeks after it actually did). Of the 22 of the 23 pieces in TNI that I've bothered to read thus far, 14 of them are uninteresting and/or suffer from a major, fairly obvious weakness, all listed under the "Articles" category, it's pretty depressing. I mean, I was interested in Morton Abramowitz's article on why Iraq didn't matter all that much, or the three defenses of NATO, or Mark Krikorian on immigration reform, or Walter Russell Mead's piece on U.S.-German relations, or Sam Huntington's excerpt from his forthcoming book, but try as I might, I just couldn't. For my limited time and dollars, this sort of miss ratio is just unacceptable. Maybe it's time to give Foreign Affairs another chance; I'll let you know after I check out the May/June edition.

More content tomorrow (Sat.), probably, during breaks from the 58-question midterm Ben is also enjoying.

Games!

For anyone who's really bored, but also wants to play a fun game that teaches about the tragedy of the commons, check out "The Tragedy of the Bunnies," courtesy of The Institute for Humane Studies.

While you're there, check out yet another political preference game, called Politopia. Not a very interesting one, but I do like the Tragedy of the Bunnies.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Yes, Some Students Live in the Library (But Not Like This)

New York Times

The kid lived in the basement of a NYU library for months and wrote about it. No big deal, says this guy:

"'N.Y.U. doesn't attract just smart students, it attracts smart, eclectic students,' said Mr. Beckman, the university spokesman. 'We had a film student who wanted to film a couple performing a live sex act in front of a class. We had students who set up a swimming pool in their dorm room. Now we have this fellow.'"

I see the eclectic part. But if public sex and swimming pools in rooms makes one smart, then I've been giving frats too little credit.

Smooth Criminal or Just Good Friends?

Michael Jackson has issues. Today he left the left the Nation of Islam. He's already ditched his attorneys earlier this week. I think he's just bored. Got to be startin' somethin . . .

Sumo

The banzuke for the Natsu (Summer) tournament, beginning May 9, was released on Monday and is available online. Asashoryu is at the top, of course, as he looks to continue his 30-match winning streak. Chiyotaikai is the top ozeki, followed by Kaio, unchanged from Haru thanks to their identical 13-2 records. Kyokutenho is the West (lower-ranked) sekiwake after his fine performance in March. Asasekiryu jumped to East M-#2 after his stellar 13-2. Mongolian Hakuho, winner of the juryo division in March, makes his makunouchi debut at the tender age of 19 in the East M-#16 position. In other gaikokujin makonouchi news, Kokkai rises to the East M-#7 and and Kyokushuzan falls to West M-#8. Last but by no means least, Bulgarian Kotooshu, winner of the makushita championship in March, makes his juryo debut at East J-#10, which means he now as a profile online. Perhaps the most notable information there is his height, 2.03m (nearly 6'8") and weight, 135kg (297 lbs). These might be fine numbers for an NFL defensive lineman, but he's exceptionally tall and quite light for his height for a sumo wrestler. Take, for example, Asashoryu, who is 184cm/140kg (6'/309 lbs). Akebono was of a similar height, 6'8" per this article, but clocked in at a quite hefty 515 pounds. Kotooshu is still fairly young at 21, so there's time for him to bulk up, but unless he's quite gifted technically, his future is probably somewhat limited.

And that's enough Thursday morning quarterbacking for now. Back to work, and probably no more sumo until the competition begins in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Meanest Senator

This Opinionjournal piece bought to my attention another reason to support Toomey today - Specter is the Senate's meanest member, according to this survey of hill staffers.

I like this list a lot - it seems to track what I heard when I was in D.C. pretty well. I especially like the Patty Murray - Barbara Boxer - Rick Santorum lineup for "No Rocket Scientist." I talked about Rick earlier, so skip that. Patty Murray is my home-state Senator, so I know her well. Yes, personally. Ok, no. But if you don't know her, just imagine Hillary Clinton without all the baggage that comes with accomplishment and minimal intelligence.

And you all know Barbara Boxer. But if you don't, score one for you.

One thing about the poll suprised me, though. In the House, Barney Frank got "Brainiest" and "Funniest." That's all fine and good, but what about "Meanest?" I've heard that Frank is very cruel to his assistants, staff, etc. behind the scenes. You'd think that would've showed up in the staffer poll. Maybe the Right-Wing Conspiracy fed me bad info.

Anyway, one thing's for certain: Specter is a jerk. Let's hope he goes away.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Toomey v Specter

For the past few weeks National Review has been obsessed with the Toomey/Specter Republican Senate primary in Pennsylania, which occurs tomorrow. And for the past two weeks I've had no idea why. National Review columnists have been writing things like "Specter hurts Bush," "this election really matters," and "Tomorrow, Pennsylvania voters will have an opportunity to save the conservative movement from what could be its largest obstacle over the next six years." Geez, are you sure? Here I am thinking this is just a Republican primary in one state between two people most Americans haven't heard of.

I mean, yeah, Specter is probably the most moderate Republican in the Senate, but he tows the line enough, and, most importantly, he ups the Republican count to 51. As long as he calls himself a Republican, you at least get the benefit of the buffer. It's not like six more years of Specter is going to destroy natural law once and for all, causing dogs and cats to get along, allowing the Cubs and Red Sox to win the World Series, and making all of us marry farm animals. How can I be so sure? Because even Rick (did someone say bestiality?) Santorum supports Specter. Things can't be all that bad.

Pat Toomey, of course, is a self-professed "real Republican." But if Specter is more likely to win the state in November (and the common wisdom says he is), why take the risk? This seems to be the Bush camp's point of view, and mine too. Until today.

This anonymous National Review piece made me realize why I should be rooting for Toomey tomorrow. Specter will become chairman of the judiciary committee next term. That is, unless the Republicans lose the Senate, which is very unlikely. I don't want to see a Specter chairmanship. It's not the place for a moderate. Why? Because Pat Leahy isn't moderate. The last thing we need is Specter and Leahy in agreement on judges whose only crime is holding a personal conviction that abortions are bad. Judge Pryor wouldn't have a prayer. Leon Holmes doesn't. You really need the chairman rooting for you these days if you're at all controversial. I think Hatch does a pretty good job, and John Kyl will too if he gets it. Specter won't.

Of course, many people don't care about this judges stuff, so if you have a good reason to vote for Specter, be my guest.

But for our registered Republican readers from Pennsylvania who follow the judiciary committee (and there are many of you, I know - thanks for the gifts), do your duty. Vote Toomey. For me.

That that make you go hmm

From the most recent World Wide Words, this CNN story...

"Sharka, a two-ton white rhino, got amorous with Dave Alsop's car when he stopped with three friends to take pictures of the animal mating with his partner Trixie at the West Midland Safari Park."

Sunday, April 25, 2004

AP Copyright

This article describes the MPAA's new initiative to stop kids from downloading movies off of the internet. Check it out:

"In the past year, the Motion Picture Association of America has spent approximately $200,000 to launch its program called 'What's The Diff?' to combat digital piracy. Despite the criticism, the trade group plans to continue the program next school year.

The 45-minute class is taught by volunteers from the nonprofit business group Junior Achievement, and reaches about 900,000 children in primarily disadvantaged schools from Boston to Los Angeles. The volunteers, some of whom work in the entertainment industry, talk with students about the liabilities of downloading music and films from the Internet.

. . .

Students learn to repeat the program's motto: 'If you don't pay for it, you've stolen it.'"

So you're saying it's free? Sweet!

I can tell, just by the name, that this program is the lamest thing ever. It reminds me of "Butt Out," the anti-smoking troupe from South Park. You can watch some of their routine here, and listen to some more here, here and here. You'll get the idea.

But wait. Unlike Butt Out, the disadvantaged school kids (many of whom probably don't even have high-speed internet) in the MPAA program have an incentive to cooperate. Imagine if you were to win . . . "a selection of 21 Hollywood classic DVDs, valued at $250"!!!!

I'd stop downloading in a dead man's heartbeat.

Boeing's New 7E7

Based upon the description in this Tribune article, it sounds like Boeing made some nice improvements this time around. For instance, they've created an open space when you enter the plane, and vaulted (for a plane) ceilings. The windows are much larger, and have an electronic dimming system. The rows are designed 3-2-3 so that you have a better chance of having an empty seat next to you. But perhaps the best innovation is the overhead compartment design. You'll just have to see that one for yourself. Here's a video.

Toby Young's Slate Diary on LA

Young is an English food critic and former writer for Vanity Fair. He's visiting LA for three months to write a book. Always entertaining to get an outsider's point of view on what LA is like. Here's a section I found interesting:

"I'm supposed to be on a three-month sabbatical from my day job—I work as a restaurant critic for the London Evening Standard—but I've found it impossible not to cast a professional eye over the restaurants here in Los Angeles. I've eaten out almost every day since I arrived, and my conclusion, for what it's worth, is that the worst restaurants in London are far worse, the ones in the middle aren't nearly as good, but the best—the very best—are better.

. . .

So, anyway, I didn't like the Ivy, and I've been equally unimpressed by the Palm, Morton's, Dantana's, and the Ivy at the Shore. (Not all visited on this trip.) I can't be sure my judgment hasn't been affected by being seated in Outer Siberia in every single instance, but my gut feeling is that the chefs just don't have access to the quality of ingredients that their equivalents do in London. I remember having a conversation about sourcing with the manager at Club Gascon, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Clerkenwell, and he told me that the sweetbreads on the lunchtime menu had been bought at the Rungis wholesale food market just outside Paris that morning. The reason the food is better at London's top restaurants is that Britain is closer to France.

However, once you drop down a couple of notches, L.A. knocks London into a cocked hat. The restaurant I've been most impressed by so far is the Cheesecake Factory in Brentwood. I had a cobb salad there last week that was every bit as tasty as the cobb salad I had at the Ivy, yet it was brought to my table in half the time and it was a quarter of the price. In Britain—indeed, in France—there just aren't any midmarket restaurant chains to match the quality of the Cheesecake Factory. And there are dozens of similar chains in this country that are equally first-rate. When it comes to this kind of food—good, solid, dependable fare at reasonable prices—America leads the world.

. . .

In conclusion, then, the distance between the best and the worst in L.A. isn't nearly as great as it is in London. In terms of your taste, if not your income levels, America is essentially a middle-class society. Britain, on the other hand, is still dominated by its traditional class system."

You can read the rest here. (from LAObserved)

Saturday, April 24, 2004

You Don't See This Everyday

Thankfully. Look here. (from Wonkette)

UPDATE: This too.

Frasier is Republican

Or at least this Opinionjournal interview with Kelsey Grammer makes it seem that way.

The other day, I was trying to figure out who the "out" Republicans in Hollywood are. Here are the ones I remember (note: some of these people are only rumored Republicans):

Ronald Reagan
Arnold
Bruce Willis
Mel Gibson
Demi Moore
Sly Stallone
Dennis Miller
Clint Eastwood
Charlton Heston
Pat Sajak
Fred Thompson
Ben Stein
Kurt Russell
Bo Derek
Jaclyn Smith
Trey and Matt of South Park (found another article that says so; more here)
The Rock (Dwayne Johnston)
Ted Nugent
Jim Belushi
Dennis Hopper
Jane Russell
Chuck Norris

Some dead people:
Bob Hope
Jimmy Stewart
Frank Capra
George Burns
John Wayne

And, as a bonus, here's Carmen Kass, a model possibly running for an Estonian EU Parliament seat. If she does run, it will be under the "Res Publica" conservative party.

I'm sure I've left some people out, but probably not too many. Feel free to comment and add a suggestion.

Zinn and Chomsky's DVD Commentary for the Fellowship of the Ring

A taste:

"Chomsky: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. 'The world has changed,' she tells us, 'I can feel it in the water.' She's actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

Zinn: Of course. 'The world has changed.' I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn't changed. Not at all.

Chomsky: We should examine carefully what's being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the 'master ring,' the so-called 'one ring to rule them all,' is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor.

. . .

"Zinn: You view the conflict as being primarily about pipe-weed, do you not?"

Very funny. Read it in full here. I found all this while reading another fake Chomsky thing via Instapundit. Enjoy.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Things Heard In The Seventh Circuit

Judge Posner in a trademarks case: "What if you named your camel Richard Posner?"
Kanne (I think): "'The Law's Majesty' is what he'd name it." (laughter)
Counsel: (paraphrase) "I don't think that would carry trademark significance absent secondary meaning, sorry your Honor."
Posner: "Well that's reassuring."

Hear it here.

Book Non-Recommendation: "Now is the Time to Open Your Heart," By Alice Walker

This National Review piece brought this New York Times book review to my attention. Michiko Kakutani, take it away:

"If this novel did not boast the name of Alice Walker, who won acclaim some two decades ago with 'The Color Purple,' it's hard to imagine how it could have been published.

'Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart' is a remarkably awful compendium of inanities. There are New Age inanities: 'She had an instinctive understanding, perhaps from birth, that people and plants were relatives.'

Feminist inanities: 'She had seemed to feel, and to wonder aloud, about the possibility that only women, these days, dreamed of rivers, and were alarmed that they were dry.'

Flower children inanities: 'What would happen if our foreign policy centered on the cultivation of joy rather than pain?'

And plain old bad writing: 'The moment I stood in front of any one of his paintings, she elaborated, my bird nature became activated. I felt I could fly!'"

And here's my favorite:

"So Kate sets off on an all-women boat trip down the Colorado River. She tells her therapist: 'I cannot believe my dry river, that we have been discussing for months, and that is inside me, is unconnected to a wet one somewhere on the earth. I am being called, she said.'

Oooh, a river metaphor. Deeeeep. Like . . . a river!

Conclusion: "Now is the Time to eBay This Book."

But heed Jay Nordlinger's warning:

". . . watch Kakutani: She will have to counter this was a fire-breathing slam of some conservative or conservative-leaning book. William Raspberry and Richard Cohen — two Washington Post columnists, as it happens — do this: If they publish a column that is a little right-leaning, or that may give comfort to conservatives, they make up for it with about three wildly left-wing columns in a row."

Well, sometimes conservative books are awful.

Those Silly North Koreans

Overlawyered notes the National Lawyers Guild's take on North Korea: "That Kim Jong Il regime, so misunderstood -- if the poor dears misbehave, it's only because the evil United States drove them to it."

This position is quite similar to that of a speaker we had at the law school some months ago named Bruce Cumings. He described how the North Koreans enjoy bullying and threatening us because it makes them feel good. But he also noted they are apt to pull back on occasion and pretend to be reasonable. Cumings then said something to the effect of "this is just how they are." The North Korean government is very insecure, you understand, so their emotions sometimes get the best of them. Cumings then noted that the answer to the problem wasn't to judge them, but to understand them. He used the word "misunderstood" a lot, as I recall.

All this talk makes me think that the term "rogue states" just doesn't capture their essence well. They aren't like Mad Max; they're more like Molly Ringwald. Some candidates to replace the term:

Passive-aggressive States
States With Anger Issues
[insert 80's John Hughes movie title here] States
States Whose Father Didn't Love Them
"God, you just don't understand mom!" States
States Who Didn't Take Their Ritalin
Unpopular States
States Who Identify With Winona Ryder (then and now)

I'm open to better suggestions.

I was a Supreme Court clerk for THIS?

The aforementioned Mike Danton, nee Jefferson, is being represented by St. Louis lawyer Bob Haar. Who is Bob Haar, you ask? Well, he's this guy. Stanford, Balliol College, Oxford, on a Rhodes Scholarship, Yale Law, clerked for first Leventhal on the D.C. Circuit, then Associate Justice Rehnquist. And now he gets to be the defense attorney in one of the stranger cases I'm aware of.

I don't have anything insightful to say, I just thought this was interesting. And no, I am not, nor was I ever, nor will I ever be, a Supreme Court clerk.

Rest In Peace

CNN and Reuters (at least) are reporting today that former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman had been killed in action in Afghanistan. Tillman, for those of you who don't recall or know, left the NFL as he was entering the prime of his career to join the Special Forces. He gave up millions of dollars a year, and has now paid the ultimate price. Fare well, noble soldier.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming outage.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Ditching Diversity: Will elites return to racism?, by John Derbyshire

National Review

Not a huge Derbyshire fan myself, but I liked this article. He essentially argues that the high-IQ types will soon rebel against diversity and multiculturalism, but because they're unprincipled, they might very well become racists instead. I don't if any of that is true, but it's an interesting read.

However, one part is a little off:

"And then there is the fact, not quite respectable to mention in polite company, but indubitable none the less, that quite a number of our cognitive elites are Jewish. American Jews have been great supporters of multiculturalism, for reasons perfectly easy to understand. If Jews collectively learned a lesson from the 20th century, it was the terrible danger inherent in being the one conspicuously successful minority in an otherwise-homogenous society. So: The less homogenous the better! Bring on multiculturalism! Unfortunately, if you open the doors of your nation to all the cultures of the world in the early 21st century, and invite them to "celebrate their diversity" on your soil, you might find that an alarmingly high proportion of them are Muslims with viciously antisemitic opinions. Multiculturalism? Hmm, let's rethink this..."

I think this oversimplifies things a good deal. Besides the obvious "Jews don't all think the same thing" critique, I don't see how there could be a prevalent strain of relativism in a community that has seen evil in it's clearest form (and continues to see it to this day in Israel). Oh sure liberalism is popular, and inclusiveness makes everyone feel good, but when push comes to shove, Jews aren't going to tow the ultra-liberal line and say terrorists are "misunderstood." I think we would see a fairly united front on that question.

In fact, one of the most interesting thinkers on this subject was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who eventually came to the University of Chicago - Leo Strauss. In Natural Right and History, he sought to understand what mindset could bring about the horrors he'd seen. You probably know the rest. But if you don't, suffice it to say the conspiracy began.

If you'd like to read a little Strauss, if for no other reason than to see what gets Brian Leiter so hot under the collar, here's a link:

You Can't Say He Didn't Warn You

So Dylan sold out big time with these Victoria Secret commercials. But can you begruge him for fulfilling a 40 year old dream? (from Reliable Source)

Most Influential Law Professors

You can nominate profs here. But do you really need to? People like Brian Leiter already tell us which professors are the most influential - getting cited a more than anyone else is a good proxy, I'd say.

However, this new survey doesn't mention whether the influential professor must be living or not, so perhaps nominations like this one will make the survey more interesting. (from Instapundit)

Newdow

Will over at Crescat has a very nice synopsis of the yesterday's talk / debate / yelling match / comedy club routine feature Dr. Newdow and Jay Sekulow. Check it out if you're at all interested in what the parties to the Pledge of Allegiance case are thinking.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Infringement or not -- You decide!

Check out this really, really nifty site that lets you listen to samples of songs from famous copyright cases.

Good for dozens of minutes of fun, at least. Guaranteed!

If you're easily overwhelmed, be sure to check out Acuff-Rose Music v Campbell (if only for the lyrics of the copying song) and Bright Tunes v Harrissongs. Another very interesting comparison is Baxter v MCA, where I think the similarity is clear... but clear enough for infringement?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Over-representation...

Will & Co. are going at it over at Crescat regarding "over-representation."

In his most recent post, Will writes that "[The author in question] could have spoken strictly by saying 'the people of the big agricultural states' or 'voters in such states' are over-represented, which they are."

Are they though? If the Constitution creates a body--call it "the Senate"--in which various groups are going to be represented by geography rather than population, I know that "representation" (in terms of voters per Senator) won't be equal. Saying people are "over-represented" seems to make a judgment about the amount of representation that is desirable (I derive that judgment from the "over" part), and that somehow the group in question exceeds that desired representation.

But, it doesn't strike me as being that clear cut. At least there's an argument to be made that voters are represented exactly correctly -- their strength may be disproportionate to their numbers, but does this make over-representation? The constitutional scheme created a Senate based on geography, so it strikes me as wrong to say that there is over- or under-representation. For example, if state X had 80 million voters and three representatives and state Y had 20 voters and two representatives, those is state X are over-represented by Constitutional standards. If both X and Y had two senators, their representation is exactly as called for -- no more, no less. No state is over-represented, but neither are any "voters" or "people," as Will suggested.

How Appealing, Hosted by Legalaffairs.com

See for youself. If this assures How Appealing a long and fruitful life, then this is a happy day.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Why Am I Blogging So Late?

Because the Mariners are in the bottom of the 14th inning, tied 1-1 with the A's. And now we've won. ON A BALK!

My Boys Have All Grown Up . . .

How do you know the grunge era is officially over? Look here.

You thought "live TV" meant "live TV"?

If you did, I don't blame you. But check out this bit from IMDB's Movie and TV News:

TV bosses had to reshoot guest judge [Quentin] Tarantino's reaction to singer Latoya London's performance so the show didn't feature his expletive when it aired on Wednesday night. The usually live telecast was canceled at the last minute when chiefs at Fox TV decided to air a live broadcast by President George W. Bush's instead. Regular judge Paula Abdul says, "He said 'I have three words for you LaToya: F***ing power house.' When we were done, they said, 'It's a wrap. Everybody leave,' and we took our microphones off and said goodbye to the audience, and we're all leaving and then: 'Everyone back to your seats.'"

I wonder what would have happened if the show had been live?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

This Gun's for Hire

There's a lot I want to blog on, but I spent my blogging time (1) walking 12 miles, followed by (2) wondering how I could have been so stupid as to walk 12 miles, particularly without sunscreen, but this is just too bizarre to not post anything on.

Following the St. Louis Blues' defeat to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Blues forward Mike Danton (formerly Mike Jefferson) was arrested for taking part in a murder-for-hire scheme. Here is the criminal complaint. This is Danton's co-defendant. Danton's agent is a guy named Mike Frost (NHLPA agent file), see this article for some of the controversy surrounding him. I may have more to say about this later.

Public Service Announcement

Since it's a nice day here in Chicago, I decided to go for a walk along the lake. I can now report with a fairly high level of authority that walking roughly 12 miles can leave you tried. This is especially true when you haven't very much recently. That is all. We now return to your regularly scheduled random blogging.

New Iraq Exit Strategy: Let's Bring Back Hussein, by Bill Maher

Los Angeles Times

"Here's an idea that I know is going to ruffle some feathers, and I agree it's not ideal, but just consider for one moment: We bring back Hussein.

Let me finish … yes, he would be nasty about it, like he always is, and brag how he defeated us again, but seriously, I think we can work with him now. Rumsfeld did before. It's just a matter of them getting back the nice vibe they had in the 1980s.

And honestly, he's tanned, rested and ready. He's had time to think, time to recharge his batteries. And speaking of charged batteries, no torture this time! We want Hussein the efficient administrator, not the brutal dictator."

I'll go with it, but Bill Maher has to go to Iraq and present political counterpoint to add some diversity. I hear that's a tough job.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

The Onion's Influence

It's now an international news source.

I can see how the Chinese writer would be confused. I mean, The Onion is a publication, parading as a newspaper, that in fact makes stuff up. In China they call that "the press." (from Andrew Sullivan)

By the way, Andrew Sullivan has the official response to Osama's truce here.

Dalai Lama: Modern Spiritual Leader or Sellout?

You decide (but not without a leading question first). Be sure to check out the picture on the front page of the Orange County Register too.

How I Spent Summer Vacation: At Getting-Into-College Camp

New York Times

"How far can the frenzy over college admissions go?

Far enough, apparently, to have high school students flocking to a brand-new kind of summer program — college admission prep camps.

No campfires. No hiking. Just hours a day of essay writing, SAT preparation, counseling, mock admission interviews and a potpourri of workshops and college visits, all intended to give high school students an edge on the admission process."

But a voice of reason interrupts:

"'This is just sick,' said Bruce Poch, the dean of admissions at Pomona College in California. 'I can't imagine how it's going to help, and it sounds like such a ridiculous waste of money that it distresses me that parents would be so obsessive-compulsive.'"

We're very proud of you, Bruce. Kids, read this (at least the David Brooks part).

Friday, April 16, 2004

5000 Hits

I know it's a modest amount for many sites, but quite a milestone for us. When I started this site in November of last year, I expected to get a hit or two a day, and only if my mom could figure out how to get here. Now we have 30-40 regular readers, and if Crescat, How Appealing, or Legal Theory Blog blesses us with a link (besides their much-appreciated permalinks), we can see 10 times that. Thanks to them.

Also, many thanks to Ex Nihilo, Digitus Impudicus, and Son of the Revolution for their permalinks.

Lastly, thanks to Ben, Tom, and Lauren for being great co-bloggers. It's been much more fun to do this since you guys signed on.

PS: What about the prize, you say? Here you go. Be sure to print it out.

Wi-Fi on Planes

The competition for this technology is heating up, as this article explains. It looks like costs will generally range from $10-$30, depending on the length of the flight and the amount of bandwidth/services you want.

Hopefully these efforts, combined with the increasing number of planes with power outlets (although I've only seen it once, on an American Airlines flight), will ease that "cut off from the world" feeling I always get when on a plane. Oh, there are other people on the plane, sure, but I don't care about them. Unless they're on my buddy list, that is.

Career choices

This, err, umm, interesting article about Jenna Jameson is in today's Times:

"On this day, Ms. Jameson had on a modest blue cashmere Louis Vuitton sweater, jeans and pink patent leather Louis Vuitton boots, along with as a 9 1/2-carat diamond wedding ring and a 13-carat canary diamond from her husband. She looked like any other affluent Scottsdale homemaker, except that her surgically enhanced 32 double-D breasts seem disproportionate to her 110-pound, 5-foot-7 frame. (Her chin implant, on the other hand, is nearly imperceptible.)"

The article notes that since she met her current husband (about five years ago), she has only had sex with him and other women in her films. I can't decide whether that statement is funny or admirable, or maybe both.

Her father also makes an interesting point: "'You have two choices when one of your offspring takes a nonsocially acceptable job...You can either completely divorce yourself from them, or support them. I chose the latter.'"

That sounds like good fathering to me. I think that's advice even Dr. Laura would approve.

He comments also that, "Everybody has sex... The only difference is that Jenna lets you watch and makes a lot of money." I guess that's a fair point, right? Maybe not... I mean sure that the only difference, but it's a substantial difference!

On the other hand, I guess being in the porn biz entails serious risk as well, so maybe it's not for me.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Cleaning House

Over time I've collected some links that I intended to post on, but you know how that goes. I thought I'd just put them out there for you, in case you'd missed some of these interesting stories (many are from How Appealing, of course).

Law

This guy passed the bar. It was his 48th try.

This guy didn't show up for work. Unfortunately, "work" that day was oral argument in front of the California Supreme Court. (from How Appealing)

This guy shouldn't have showed up for work. (from How Appealing)

I've heard Newdow is a very weird guy. Here's proof.

The Ninth Circuit is following in the Seventh’s footsteps (for once), releasing its oral arguments’ audio online. The only catch – the audio for a given argument is only stored for three months. Still cool, though. One hopes the lower federal courts will go the video route more often too.

Judge Easterbrook has some good thoughts on proposed Rule 32.1, concerning unpublished opinions. (from How Appealing)

Supreme Court cases come from all kinds of people. Some have websites. (from How Appealing)

Curious how often the Justices recuse themselves? See here. (from How Appealing)

Here's an article on a Supreme Court case I'll be working on this summer a little bit. And yes, little means little. But I'm still excited.

Here's a ranking of the most business-friendly state legal systems. Mississippi juries have not been kind to the corps, that's for sure. (from Jurist)

Entertainment

I can't wait to see Peter Jackson complete the series with The Hobbit. Let's hope this project doesn't get derailed somehow.

P Diddy says he's quitting as an artist. Why do all these rappers quit? Is their music really so banal that they feel like they've done everything after a couple of albums? The answer: yes. Now Outkast, that's a real group.

Speaking of real groups, Coldplay are the real deal. Can't wait for their new album in 2005.

Politics

Teresa Kerry brings a lot of things to the Kerry campaign. Class isn't one of them. I mean really, "asses of evil"? (from Instapundit)

I've had the good fortune of attending pretty politically-balanced institutions. Others haven't been so lucky. Perhaps this should be required reading.

Ahh, that feels good.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Hall of Fame Monitor

For you baseball stats junkies out there, check out this site (part of baseball-reference.com, the best baseball stats site around). It assigns number values to certain achievements in the hopes of predicting who will be elected into the hall of fame. It looks like they've tweaked the numbers pretty well - just about everyone with a score over 130 is in, or will likely get in. Meanwhile, all the players floating around 100 have a shot, which is what the site's creators intended. It also gives you a different perspective on some players who are in, but may not have deserved it all that much. Yes, I'm talking about you, Dave "Beauty" Bancroft.

Of course, the cross-century comparisons are flawed a bit by the dead-ball, player strength, etc, but they do include a lot of transcendent statistics (aka awards, team performance, etc), which help. Plus, the old players have advantages too, such as wins for pitchers (the 2-day rotation helps), stolen bases, and the like. So maybe it all evens out.

Oh, and since you're curious, Ichiro is already at 81. Only Albert Pujols has a higher score after 3 years in the game. Since many of the site's calculations are based upon bulk (longevity seems to be a big factor in hall of fame selection, even if the player wasn't all-that most years), all that's standing in Ichiro's way is time. Well, that and a half-dozen more 200 hit seasons. (from Mariner Musings)

Bush Apologizes!

So says Scrappleface. Read it here. (from The Corner)

Citechecking Silliness

It's one thing to be liberal. It's another thing to be an uptight liberal. It's a whole 'nother thing to be forced to read one uptight liberal after another for a citecheck. The article I'm handling has the intellectual diversity of a Chinese election. For example, this cite to Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi's The Two-Income Trap was just too much for me:

"Conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr. describes the bankruptcy process as follows: 'What has caused the acceleration of bankruptcies is the painlessness of the operation plus little avenues of abuse attractive to high-class bankrupts. . . . You come back one day from the corner lawyer and say, Whee! I don't owe anybody anything!"

Cute. What's so awful about that statement? One of bankruptcy's primary purposes (when dealing with individuals) is to give debtors a fresh start, and to do so as quickly and seemlessly as possible while paying off your creditors. This is generally a positive thing for people. But don't tell Warren and Warren that:

"We are not sure who was on Mr. Buckley's interview list as he developed his insights into how families respond to financial failure. We are pretty sure it was not one of the thousands of children who have just lost the home they grew up in. We also suspect it was not one of the millions of devastated parents who are watching the symbols and security associated with their children's place in the middle class crumble away. But we know that every person who read that column and who did not call Mr. Buckley to task for his cheap cynicism helped make life a little harder for a whole lot of children and their parents."

Hey, some people like cheap cynicism! One can only imagine what Warren and Warren would say about Mel Brooks. He's probably "made life a little harder" for everyone. Goodness knows Springtime for Hitler has done the world nothing but evil. Laughter related to serious matters must not be tolerated.

But the larger problem with Warren and Warren is obvious: these middle-class people were going to lose their stuff anyway! Bankruptcy isn't some evil device that causes kids to lose the shirt off their backs (in fact, 11 USC § 522 essentially forbids it). Filing for bankruptcy is a humbling act, no doubt, but generally a positive thing for individuals financially. After all, the bankruptcy code's exemptions allow individual debtors to keep property they would otherwise lose to creditors (even the "home they grew up in" is saved in many instances). Thus, even if bankruptcy doesn't always have the "Whee!" factor Buckley describes, it's certainly not the apocalyptical event the Warrens make it out to be. If anything, bankruptcy helps avoid the "crumbling away" of middle-classness a heavy debt-load is sure to cause. What the Warrens really care about are the effects of economic distress generally, not what happens to families when they petition for bankruptcy.

Nothing is worse than being uptight and wrong (I should know!).

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Us and Them

If you want to read about the real Us / Them divide, check out "Friend Buys Computer Just Like That" over at The Onion. I confess, I relate to Cheng -- except that I don't know that I could be friends with that Trask character. No sir -- not for me, thanks.

The nature of the Bill of Rights

Michael Chabon is one of my favorite authors. His piece today in the New York Times discusses the "disillusioned" nature of the Bill of Rights:

"We justly celebrate the ideals enshrined in the Bill of Rights, but it is also a profoundly disillusioned document, in the best sense of that adjective. It stipulates all the worst impulses of humanity: toward repression, brutality, intolerance and fear. It couples an unbridled faith in the individual human being, redeemed time and again by his or her singular capacity for tenderness, pity and all the rest, with a profound disenchantment about groups of human beings acting as governments, court systems, armies, state religions and bureaucracies, unchecked by the sting of individual conscience and only belatedly if ever capable of anything resembling redemption."

He goes on to compare this to the nature of the teenage mind. Very, very interesting. Go read the whole thing.

"Jewish Museum"

This Tribune story is entitled "Hungary Foils Alleged Jewish Museum Plot," but is about an alleged bombing of a Holocaust museum. I wonder why they refer to it as a "Jewish museum"? Maybe because the animus behind the would-be bombers is that the museum is focused on, or frequented by, Jews? Or maybe because the Tribune views the Holocaust as something that happened to "Jews," and not as something broader. Personally, I think the equation of the two offensive, but I'm not really sure why. Maybe because it minimizes the Holocaust... maybe because bombing a Holocaust museum seems worse than bombing a "Jewish Museum."

Monday, April 12, 2004

The Academy of Arts and Sciences: Law

I was interested to see which Chicago Law people were members. I don't know if the AAS is anything more than a bunch of hoity-toity people rewarding other hoity-toity people, but "they" say it's prestigious. Here are the Chicago guys (and yes, they are all guys):

Baird
Currie
Dam
Easterbrook
Epstein
Helmholz
Levmore
Meltzer
Mikva
Posner
Stone
Strauss
Sunstein

Note that Nussbaum is also a member, but in philosophy. And you could throw some of the econ-law guys in there if you really wanted (ahem, Coase). I won't count these people.

13 in all. I count 163 members total. That means 1/12 of all members are at Chicago, which I think is pretty good. Plus, Scalia, McConnell, and Bork all have close ties. They would put us at 1/10th.

Now, of course, the discussion must devolve into a competition, or else it wouldn't be interesting. Compare our numbers to, say, Northwestern (1 member), and we look real good. Yet, Harvard and Yale beat us, so now we don't look so good. We might suck even. But Virginia has 2, so now we look fantastic. But NYU has 9, which is too close for comfort. But Stanford has 5, which is like one less than we have on our 4th floor. But Columbia has 14. Conclusion: We need more! My nominees:

Fischel (really should be on there already, based upon what Ben tells me)
Landes (I think he's omitted on a technicality - not a lawyer)
Hamburger (wrote famous book that changed an area of con law. Perhaps one more book needed?)
Hutchinson (seems like he knows all, and Helmholz made it as a legal historian, so why not?)
MacKinnon (only because she's famous, I don't know if she's any good)
Picker (wrote important parts of the UCC)
E. Posner (up-and-comer. Watch out!)
Sykes (I hear he's impressive. Can't help him much more than that. Ben?)
Alschuler (I guess he's important in crim law)

I think this is a good list of people who aren't so young that they have more promise than accomplishment, and yet aren't so old that their opportunity has passed them by. Ok, Landes is a little old. But the rest are right there. Whoever is in charge of whatever, make this happen.

Does all this have a little air of braggadocio to it? Rest easy, friend.

First of all, I am assuming my entire audience is Chicago people. This is because only Chicago people read this site. I think that fact puts me on pretty firm ground re: my first assumption.

Second, I am not a member. Ben can't become a member because of his extensive criminal record. Tom already turned down their offer - the sumo code places him above such pleasantries.

And last, never forget that all of us at the law school might be compensating for something.

More on corporate obligations

I see my link from yesterday has gotten some attention. To respond to the interesting responses... First, it could be that I've misunderstood (I often do), but I think Carey and Heidi are speaking orthogonally. Heidi seems to be focusing on the corporation qua corporation and Carey seems to be talking about corporate officers. Let me start by responding to Heidi, although I think that my previous post really dealt with Carey's category (even if I missed his main point... sorry!). Heidi writes:

...I don't think there's a lot you can do to change the fact that corporations serve their shareholders. So far we agree!

But this doesn't mean that you can't manipulate what's in the shareholder's best interest.
We agree on this too -- this is the basis for my comment that I don't think you really need to worry about corporate directors following the law -- just set the penalties right and their obligation to shareholders will take care of the rest.

Continuing, "As an example: a corporation may want to maximize shareholder profit. In the absence of rules about taxation, it may very well choose not to give the government any money. Shocking? Not quite. And yet--rules about taxation exist. They punish corporations for the "honest mistakes" that Ben finds so shocking to the conscience. Screwing up on your taxes is essentially strict liability."

Now this is totally wrong, unfortunately. I have no problem with punishing the corporation -- obviously that's necessary to my non-regulatory approach (discussed more below). But, Carey was talking about punishing corporate officers, not corporations. To quote the man himself (I've now learned that Carey is, in fact, male): "It's a sad fact of human frailty and intellectual limitation, but the sad result is that the human beings running the corporation are too often not held accountable for even their honest mistakes--let alone their calculated misdeeds."

There's a huge difference between what Carey is saying and what Heidi is saying. Punishment of the corporate officers carries with it the whole parade of horribles I mentioned before (principally, that no one is going to lead the corporation). Punishment of corporations is, as I said above, just fine (so long as we recognize the costs to society). Those issues aside, Heidi's approach ignores the disconnect between punishments and benefits: When one cheats on one's taxes, the benefits redound to the cheater. If GM's CFO cheats on GM's taxes, he benefits only obliquely -- but if you adopt Carey's approach, he takes the whole brunt of the punishment. That, I think, is bad policy. At the least, we should avoid talking at cross purposes.

Moving on to Carey's point, made here. I quote: "But accountability requires more than mere openness. In the case of government, it requires an active electorate who will take note of the behavior of officials and respond to mistakes and misdeeds in whichever way they think is most appropriate. This response can vary from simply noting the mistake and filing it away in memory, to writing a letter expressing disapproval, to voting against an elected official in the next election, to starting an impeachment drive or a campaign to have an appointed official fired."

Fair enough -- I'll agree that corporate managers should be "accountable" to their shareholders, to the extent that that means that they should be punished for poor performance. But let's be very, very careful here: The differences between corporate governance and political governance are, to put it mildly, big. The political values that we care about (equality, for example) just don't matter when we're talking about corporations (and for good reason). We care, for example, that individuals in a democracy are treated according to a one-person, one-vote rule. But there are no large corporations that have adopted such an approach. Rather, corporate governance is about getting those with economic incentives to make the corporation's decisions, as we (reasonably) think these people have the right set of incentives. My point simply is that in the end, it's not clear what "accountability" is left that is appropriate for the corporate setting. Largely this is because corporate law is founded on the "Wall Street Rule" -- you don't like a corporation, you sell your shares. It's easy, and if enough people do that, it will punish management sufficiently (because stock values go down and the company becomes vulnerable to takeovers). The main point, lest we lose the forest for the trees, is that accountability, while good in politics functions differently with corporations.

This slides nicely into my last point, which is simply that we should control corporations through incentives. Let me explain what I mean: Say we want GM to stop polluting some river -- and we decide as a society that we're willing to sacrifice greater wealth, more jobs, higher pay, etc. in order to stop this polluting (we should always recognize trade-offs!). There are a variety of ways to approach this situation, but as I read Carey he would at least partially advocate some sort of "accountability" for corporate officers who decide to pollute despite the law. My point is simply that there's no need for this. If the corporate officers decided to pollute, this simply means the penalty is too low. Rather than setting criminal penalties, or something that distorts other behaviors, just raise the penalty. At some point it will become wealth-maximizing not to pollute, and as long as the managers recognize their first duty is to shareholder wealth-maximization, everyone is the better. Once we start with individual punishments, community allegiances, etc, we get into a world where the whole purpose of a corporation is put at risk -- we no longer know what managers should do (obey the law, or listen to shareholders?), what corporations are (entities which are required to obey the law, or a series of contracts, in which case the duty is still to maximize wealth), etc.

So those are some thoughts... I'm very curious to hear responses.

Citecheck Funnies

For some fun reading check out Carolyn Merchant, Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World (Routledge 1992). You can find the book by looking for its cover: it shows some sad-looking native people standing in the jungle holding a sign (no doubt provided by the photographer; I mean, if they're so native, where'd they get the sharpie?) which says: "TIMBER COMPANY: YOU ARE SELLING OUR HOME." One could imagine an addendum to the sign: "TIMBER COMPANY: YOU ARE SELLING OUR HOME TO MAKE THE PAGES FOR THIS BOOK."

Merchant (great last name, huh?) then dedicates the book to, who else, "the Earth." I'm sure the Earth appreciates that. Next, under "Acknowledgments," Merchant notes that "Many people, as well as other organisms and the entire planet, have made this book possible." Where the hell is my cut then?

You get the idea.

Response to "Corporate Obligations"

Check out this semi-interesting, but ultimately incorrect post about corporate obligations. My response:

Carey is correct that individuals are moral actors and they should be held accountable when they do bad things. That's both clearly right and not interesting. No "conservative," or anyone else, thinks that Ken Lay should be immune from regulatory policy, or that his actions were excusable or desirable. (After all, Fact #3 about corporations shows that Ken Lay really screwed over the one group he was supposed to be protecting!)

So the post is a nullity in terms of content, except for the odd non-sequiturial conclusion tacked on. The conclusion, that we should have iron-clad regulations, doesn't seem to follow from the lack of openness. Because "Carey" doesn't really discuss why we should regulate further, it's hard to respond appropriately. If the purpose of further regulation is to make society better, that's silly for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that it is futile and antithetical to the concept of corporations that exist (again, per Rule #3) only for shareholders. As I've posted before, when a corporation is answerable to both its shareholders and society, really this just means that the management has free reign to do whatever they want, because they can always find some constituency to whom they are legally accountable to explain their actions.

It actually appears that Carey is a big fan of openness qua openness, but at least to me it's unclear why this is good for corporations. This seems like something that could be adequately addressed through the market. If a company doesn't report its income fully, then investors will back off. It's in a company's interest to be as open as shareholders require (or will pay for, to be more exact). No more, no less.

That, at least, is an interesting debate, but lots of the other stuff Carey says is just wrong, for example, his / her conclusion that those running a corporation aren't "held accountable" for their "honest mistakes." But that's just silly. First, I'd like to know who would volunteer to run a corporation under the Carey-rule of liability for "honest mistakes." I think it's clear that without limited liability for corporate officers, no one, but no one, will serve. Why expose yourself to massive liability by running a corporation? What makes this doubly silly is that Carey has the gall to compare this to a political-type accountability -- but we all know that politicians, for example, aren't (and shouldn't be) exposed to liability for mistakes they make. If Bush's EPA head chooses the wrong benzene limit, it could cause gajillions of dollars of damage, but Bush doesn't have to pay -- at least not with money.

The interesting question, I think, which Carey takes as a given, is Bainbridge's #3, which insists that directors "act within the law." Frankly, I don't see why they should have to. I think that if society wants to control the corporation's activities, it should do so through the obligation to maximize wealth, not by creating new constituencies (i.e. duties to the community).

More to follow...

Antitrust and Texbooks

The Tribue in an article here discusses Gov. Rob Blagojevich's assault on college textbook publishers. Of course, the arsenal of any attack whose basis is "I don't like how X is sold" is the antitrust laws, whose loosey-goosey formulation make them amenable to free-spirited, civic-minded politicians out to score some cheap points. (Sarcasm intended.)

Governor Blagojevich states, "College is the time for our young people to explore those subjects that spark their interest, but that journey could come to a screeching halt due to what looks like price gouging." Actually that quote came from a released statement, which makes it doubly laughable. Or it would be, if accusations of "price gouging" weren't serious. The article notes, at the very end, that textbook publishers make a modest profit on their business. Even if they were making hayloads of money, all the same arguments that apply to the development of drugs (i.e. high fixed-costs, very low marginal costs) apply with equal (if not greater) force here. Low marginal-cost industries are an easy target for politicians because the politicians, unlike the publishers themselves, can take a quaint myopic view that paints the textbook publishers greedy capitalist demons.

The accusations are also dangerous because they encourage enterprising politicians to devise idiotic "solutions." Case in point (from the same article): "the [education] board may look at whether state-led volume textbook buying, on the model of Blagojevich's effort to import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada--would bring savings." So now we're talking about getting the state into the business of buying books in bulk and then distributing them... This proposal actually really causes me physical pain. It's just such a bad, bad, bad idea for all the reasons that free markets are good... The government just isn't good at responding to market forces, and given the low profit-margins recouped by the publishing industry, it doesn't seem like much benefit would redound to society. In this second-best world of ours, I would much, much rather have the government subsidize textbook purchases than get in the business of buying and selling. (It should go without saying that I would rather the government not be involved at all...)

There's a lot more to say about this, but I leave that to Tom or Brian. For now, it's sufficient to say that antitrust laws in the hands of politicians are dangerous. If something expensive because it costs a lot to make, antitrust laws simply cannot help -- this category of goods is simply beyond their jurisdiction.

TV Quake Film Has Experts Shaking -- Heads

Associated Press

"In NBC's disaster epic '10.5,' massive quakes topple the Golden Gate Bridge, send the Pacific Ocean sloshing over Los Angeles, swallow trucks and chase trains. An attempt to stop the temblors by fusing the San Andreas fault with a series of atomic explosions fails.

. . .

Howard Braunstein, executive producer of the miniseries, acknowledged that the film is meant as 'fun entertainment' and plays loose with the facts."

All well and good. But this is the part I like:

"Asked whether he consulted scientists in developing the project, Braunstein said: 'Not really. We went on the Internet for backup research.'"

Glad to see NBC uses the same time-tested research techniques utilized by 8th graders everywhere. Not that real movies are much better (Sam Houston was at the Alamo? I guess we don't remember it as well as we thought!).

The real question is: why bother? Perhaps this internet research consisted of going on imdb to find actors and actresses who haven't worked in a while, but were once mildly famous. Kim Delaney and Beau Bridges seem to fit the bill nicely.

All in all, I'm anxiously awaiting '10.5,' but in the same way I anxiously await a real earthquake.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Beating the Airport Lines, Part I: Check-in

. . . continuing on. Ok, you've entered the airport, and now you see that big ol' line wrapping from here to Santa Fe. What to do?

1. Stay calm. Most people forget this one right away. Some seem incapable of following it. Don't be that person. Corollary: be nice too. Believe it or not, all laws of courtesy and respect for humanity still apply in an airport, unless some unique aspect of the airport compels a different result (aka, if you have an "A" card on Southwest, don't tell an old lady with a "C" card to go in front of you. The Southwest people don't like that). If you can only understand things once they're compared to legal concepts (poor you), think of the Butner principle in bankruptcy.

2. Don't get into the first line you spot. You see, because you're calm, you don't feel insecure about not having a line right away. You don't need the line. You're you're own line, damnit. You'll join another line only when it suits your interests.

3. Look for electronic check-in. "But I have a bag I need to check!!!!!!!!" you say impatiently. That is why you fail. Many airports have at least one post where you can check a bag and check-in electronically. This includes the crazy Southwest section of Midway Airport. Look through the vast sea of people for the group of electronic check-in machines, and then look for the only guy Southwest guy not doing anything. That's where it is. These terminals are vastly underutilized. But that's ok, because now you know.

4. Look for the "preferred customer" line. Most airlines have one. It's usually very short. "But Brian, I'm not a freaking preferred customer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I fly only to attend cousins' confirmations and bar mitzvahs!!!!!!!!!!!" Once again, that is why you fail. Since I fly a lot I have some kind of "preferred status" with an airline or two. Let me let you in on a secret: they don't ask. I can't remember one time I've ever been asked what my "MVP number" was for, say, Alaska Airlines. Same goes for the others. They don't expect you to remember. Just act like you belong. They're busy. They'll just check you in. If for some reason they don't, feign the confusion on everyone else's faces (see step 1) and move on. You still have more options.

This step is the only one that's on the ethical borderline. I'm a little ashamed of it. But only a little. We'll make it optional.

5. Check the sky-cap line. Sometimes this line is worse than the line inside, but it often isn't. Shell out the $3 and save yourself the hassle of rolling your bag around in 5-inch increments for 40 minutes.

6. If all else fails, compare the lines inside. There's often more than one, and one is usually significantly shorter than the other. If I were you, I'd take the shorter one.

That's my 6-step program for getting past the check-in line at the airport with your sanity intact. If anyone knows of any other great airport line advice, be sure to comment. But by advice, I don't mean "cut in front of old people. They don't seem to notice."

Check out this site for future installments on airports, including "Airport Ethics" and "Beating the Lines, Part 2: After Check-in."

Ouch!

The Department of Ouch! presents: Jeremy Blachman's trip to the basement.

New York Minute

The Department of Movies That Once Released We Won't Know How We Lived Without presents: New York Minute. Even Eugene Levy and Andy Richter can't withstand the awful stinking power of Mary-Kate and Ashley (and Jack Osbourne). Maybe it's my imagination, but it looks like one of the Oslens spends the whole movie in a towel. Isn't it wrong for Michelle Tanner to be wearing a towel around? Danny would not approve.

Subservient Chicken

From the Department of Subservient Animals: Subservient Chicken. Enjoy.

Blogging From The Airport: Beating the Lines

. . . ok, they've called my boarding group up. But trust me, there are ways. More later.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Currie Quip

Professor David Currie has the honor of teaching Con law to Brian, Tom and me. Lucky guy. And talk about cool clerkships, Currie clerked for Judge Friendly and Justice Frankfurter (during the session when the Court decided Baker v Carr). Also of note, Currie has published 27 articles just in the University of Chicago law review.

Point being, today in class we were discussing Yakus and Professor Currie, discussing Justice Rutledge's dissent (which was joined by Justice Murphy), quipped, "Rutledge was a good judge. And Murphy... was in good company."

It's not a good sign when that's the best thing you can say about a judge...

Koizumi and Yasukuni

IE just flipped out and ate my post, so I'll try to recreate it. Yesterday, a Japanese district court ruled Prime Minister Koizumi's 2001 visit to Yasukuni Shrine an unconstitutional mingling of state and religion. When told of the ruling, Koizumi said, "I don't understand why visits are unconstitutional." For those of you who are interested, Art. 20 of the Japanese Constitution (English version here) reads, in relevant part, "The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity."

For those of you unfamiliar with Yasukuni-jinja (Shrine), it has an English web site in addition to the Japanese one. Basically, it's a shrine to Japanese war dead from the Meiji restoration in 1867 until the end of the World War II. Most controversially, it includes the 8 Class A War Crminals, headed by PM Hideki Tojo, who were executed by the Allies. Visits normally occur on Aug. 15 in honor of Japan's surrender in World War II. On a personal note, I visited Yasukuni in the fall of 1998, and found it probably the most disturbing place I've ever been to. The question of how you should honor participants in what was basically an orgiastic death cult for the last year of the war is a difficult one, of course, but it's still a little bit unusual to see what are essentially flying bombs and swimming torpedoes, particularly when they were used in (generally not very successful) efforts to kill your countrymen. After visiting there, though, I can see why Lee Kwan Yew said that allowing Japan to participate in overseas military peace-keeping is like giving whiskey-filled chocolate to an alcoholic.

"Front-Runner's Fall"

An interesting article from the Atlantic Monthly, "The Front-Runner's Fall" about Dean's campaign. I tend to find behind-the-scenes articles interesting... Reading between the lines there's an odd mentality, not unique to the Dean campaign, but I think endemic in politics generally. The author writes, "exhausted and unbriefed, Dean was forced to admit, under fire from Al Sharpton, that he had never hired an African-American to a cabinet post during his time as the governor of Vermont." Personally, I think that's an odd way to convey what happened. I'm sure Dean was tired, and it may be that Sharpton was going at him, but even so -- the end result was that Dean made a truthful statement (gasp!). I'm curious what being exhausted has to do with it... and I don't understand how briefing Dean would have changed his truthful answer (although I suppose he could have pointed out that his cabinet "looked like" Vermont). Anyway, I think the article displays an interesting mentality -- worth a read.

Also, check out P.J. O'Rourke's article about John Kerry, available here. (Courtesy of Ex Nihilo. Also, Will points out that P.J. has a new book coming out!)

SportsNotReallyCenter

I just noticed this Slate column that captures why SportsCenter is often replaced by The Blank Screen Show around my house. Excerpts:

In contrast, the current roster of Dan-and-Keith wannabes offers all the critical distance, and all the journalistic detachment, of a Gatorade commercial.
[...]
Pro basketball offers a telling test case in the decline of SportsCenter because it is at once the most heavily hyped and the most decrepit major sport.

True, so true. HT to WSJ's Daily Fix (non-permalink).

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Today's Journal

Make way, lawyer driving!
Today's Wall Street Journal, p. D2 (article here, chart not included), contains a chart showing vehicle accident rates by profession. At the top, unsurprisingly, is student (152 per 1,000), followed by medical doctor (109), lawyer (106), and architect (105). The other side of the list? Politician (76), pilot (75), fireman (67), and the champions of safety, farmer (43).

Building codes
According to this B1 story on converting old office buildings to apartments, it's mentioned that the New York City Building Code requires ventilation (apparently 27-752) and light (perhaps 27-735, same link, but it's not clear how difficult this is to comply with) for a room to be called a bedroom. Ah, government regulation. I mean, how do other cities possibly get light and ventilation into rooms with NYC's Building Code.

Whoops
In the subheading of this B1 story, the capital of Colombia is referred to as "Bogata." They do, however, get the spelling correct in the article.

Local heroics
E-Pos and John Yoo have an op-ed attacking the "International" Court of "Justice" for its recent death penalty decision attacking the U.S. ("scare quotes" mine), and suggest the U.S. take its ball and go home before the ICJ tries to steal it again. Hey, I like to be flippant, what can I say.

OOPS: Here's the op-ed link. Alas, they didn't put it for free on OpinionJournal.

Aren't you (non-existent) glad I don't do this every day.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Baseball Season Begins!

Actually, it kinda began a few days ago, but it feels like it began today. Let me put a few things out on the table now:

God/Ichiro will really take-off this year, batting .350 and staying strong through September.

Jamie Moyer will come close to 20 wins. Freddie Garcia will too.

Raul Ibanez will get some attention. Rich Aurilia won't.

Radical prediction: Both John Olerud and Edgar Martinez will bat around .300, hit around 25 home runs, and score around 100 runners. They've only been doing that every year since the dead ball era (aka the '80s).

Oh yeah, I guess there are some other teams too. Here's some more crazy guesses:

Some superstar-laden team will win the AL East, while some minor league team will win the AL Central.

There won't be a subway series. You know, between the Cubs and the White Sox. No one takes the red line between those two parks anyway. Why start now?

Pitchers won't even bother will Barry Bonds. 600 AB, 600 IBB. He'll end the season batting 1.000, or .000, depending on what your childhood was like. Ok, just saw him hit a game-tying home run. He'll get some of those too somehow.

Cubs, Cardinals, and Astros fans will all contend that their team is by far the best in the NL Central long into October, despite the fact that only one of those teams will still be playing.

The Braves will win the NL East again, all this Phillies nonsense notwithstanding. Atlanta just doesn't know how not to.

The Padres will feel much better about themselves now that they have new digs. They'll need it, since they're still a bad team. I guess Arizona will win the NL West. I don't really know. That's what the smart people say.

Ken Griffey Jr. will get hurt again. Oh wait, that's already happened!

(Real) radical prediction: The Mariners will win AL West. Anaheim will be a wild card (and thus the peace between my girlfiend and I will be kept until October). Tough luck, A's and Red Sox.

By the way, check out Espn Page 2's day by day predictions. I can't top that.

I end with a nice point Peter Gammons made (paraphrasing): with all this talk of money taking over baseball (like always), it's useful to remember where the crown has ended up the last three years: with the Diamondbacks, Angels, and Marlins.

What a great game.

Rice Testimony

This whole Condaleeza Rice testifying snafu is really baffling... I just read this article at CNN, "Photo may have nudged Bush on Rice testimony." The photograph in question "shows Adm. William D. Leahy -- White House chief of staff under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman -- appearing before a congressional panel investigating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, spokesman Al Felzenberg said."

The article continues, "Felzenberg said commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow faxed the photo Monday to the White House counsel's office to show there was a historical precedent for Rice to testify publicly and under oath." But if a photo of a National Security Advisor testifying is evidence of precedent, does that mean that no matter what Rice says now--no matter how strenuously she insists that this is a one-time act--that a simply photograph is enough to transform her testimony into precedence? Admiral Leahy may have also insisted that his testimony not become precedent -- but the funny thing about precedence is it just needs to exist. After that point it's kinda hard to control.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Citecheck Funnies

In the course of a citecheck you inevitably run across a few interesting things. There are just too many cases and law review articles, and the law's characters are just too weird, not to run across something. I know Ben agrees with me on this. Last time, I ran across this person, for example. This time, I've run across an article by this person. Somebody explain to an ignorant American how this name can possibly exist. And I'll need something more than "he's French." Perhaps there's nothing more to say.

Ah, but I kid you, Mitchel de S.-O.-l’E. Lasser.

Southern U Scandal

The scandal at Southern University (see CNN article here) is not "news," but I still feel compelled to comment on the administration's handling of the problem. CNN (or the AP, actually) quotes the Chancellor as saying, "I strongly suspect when we start revoking grades, we'll start revoking degrees." Does that strikes anyone else as lukewarm?

In an interview with NPR, the Chancellor was more specific. When asked what had happened, the Chancellor replied that, "Well, I guess some people got a little anxious to get some good grades and chose the wrong path and may have found themsevles in considerable trouble because of it." Excuse me? Some people got a "little anxious"? The Chancellor explained that, "we will revoke those grades, and any degrees had because of those grades," after necessary hearings, if the charges are proven.

Taking a step back, it has become national news that hundreds of SU students obtained their degrees fraudulently. I can't believe how blase the administration appears to be. There are hundreds of students walking around with degrees they didn't earn and don't deserve - this simply isn't a matter of excusable immaturity or "anxiety." For the sake of the thousands of alumni and current students whose degrees deserve to be respected, nothing short of total expulsion (for current students) or revokation of degrees should be acceptable. Or at least, that's what I'd do.

Dancing/Conducting Robots

Get your fix here. Kinda funny. Kinda creepy too.

Conan's future

Check out this should-read article on Conan O'Brien's future. It's quite in-depth and very interesting. Unless I am mistaken, Brian and I are in agreement that Conan's show might not work at 11:30. It's just a little too... quirky. That said, the article floats the possibility that Conan might be toying with an 11:30 show on Fox. If any network has the viewer demographics and ability to whither the firestorm the "masturbating bear" brings, it would be Fox.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

On Language On Recusal

William Safire wonders whether a judge "recuses himself" or simply "recuses." Scalia seems to prefer the latter approach (in his recent memorandum, he wrote: ''I do not think it would be proper for me to recuse.''), but I'm pretty sure the former is more common.

A judge from my home state of Washington offers this insight:

". . . [T]o recuse is to challenge the judge. In response, the judge may or may not disqualify himself; he does not recuse himself. Recusal is the process that results in the judge's disqualification."

This statement, if true, would mean my paper on the subject is stuffed full of mistakes - I used the terms interchangeably. While it is entirely possible (likely even!) that I wrote a paper full of errors, I think I have good support for my choices this time: Justice Scalia. Check out these portions of Liteky v United States, 510 US 540 (1994), in which Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, last spoke on recusal in a published opinion:

"Petitioners appealed, claiming that the District Judge violated 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) in refusing to recuse himself." Id at 543 (emphasis added).

"Since 1792, federal statutes have compelled district judges to recuse themselves when they have an interest in the suit, or have been counsel to a party." Id at 544 (emphasis added).

Until Justice Scaila responds to this post and explains himself, I'm going to stick with his earlier choice in my future recusal writings. Stare decisis and all that.

Frakes returns

As I was clicking around watching trailers, I found the trailer for "Thunderbirds," an "Action and Adventure / Family" movie (IMDB here). The exciting part? (You might want to sit down for this.) Thunderbirds is directed by none other than Jonathan Frakes.

Fascinating.

SW DVDs

Will Baude over as Crescat has noted my post last night celebrating the release of the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD. While I share his attitude that seeing only the "Special Edition" version on DVD is lamentable at best, and I will certainly be keeping my VHS copies of the movies as they were actually made, my joy should be nothing more than an expression of my strong preference for DVD as a superior format. Should the Real Edition be released on DVD at any pont in the future, then the "Special Editions" shall be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Yoshi!

I have NO idea how it took me this long to find this out, but the originai Star Wars trilogy is being released on DVD (Amazon link).

UPDATE: To everyone reaching this post directly from Crescat, I totally agree, as I said here, or just scroll up a little bit.

Thoughts on the Peloponnesian War

As I mentioned more times than I cared to count, I was going to write a post on Donald Kagan's The Peloponnesian War when I finished it, so, well, here we go. As a book, it's good, I liked it. I'm afraid my copy of Thucydides is still sitting on my shelf, the same place it's been for the past four years. I don't have much to add to the details of the book either in the Amazon reviews or in this New Yorker article, but I will make a few comments anyway.

Normally, when you think of a long, drawn-out war, it's a war of attrition, where one side gradually grinds down the other side to a point where it's quite clear that one side will "win" the war, or at least improve its strategic position compared to the status quo ante bellum (see, now you know where "status quo" came from, if you didn't already), and it's just a matter of how long the one side will keep fighting. To use the War of Southern Stupidity as an example, the secessionists could not have achieved their strategic goal after Gettysburg, but it took until Appomattox for them to acquiesce to that reality. The Peloponnesian War was nothing if not a long, drawn-out struggle, as the 431-404 B.C. date span suggets. However, It was not quite like that archetype. For Sparta to defeat Athens, they needed a navy that could defeat the Athenian navy. They had the rare naval success, but as late as Callicratus and the battle of Arguinsae in 406 B.C. didn't have a navy that could grant them the strategic victory they needed to break Athens' overseas empire. Without some fancy constitutional manipulation to put Lysander back in charge of the Spartan naval forces, giving Sparta access to the Persian Empire's financial resources they needed to build a new fleet, it's not inconceivable that Athens could have emerged victorious, or at least achieved a stalemate. At least implicitly, that raises the question of precisely what the war accomplished, besides killing a few people, but I don't know enough about post-404 B.C. Greece to give a vaguely credible answer.

I was reminded time and again throughout the book that Europe, and the Hellenistic world in general, is really friggin' small. The whole of modern Greece, for example, is just a tad smaller than Alabama, which is the 23rd-largest state. Athens and Sparta themselves were not more than 50 miles apart as the crow flies, and what major land combat there was took place in that piddly little area between the two countries.

To be fair, it was not a constant 27 year struggle. In some respects, it's the ancient version of the Hundred Years War. There was always tension, and always hostility, but the level of intensity of armed conflict was fairly low for much of that time.

When I picked up Geoffrey Parker's Success Is Never Final, review here, one of the things I was hoping his book would deal with is how the origins of the modern state came when a monarch needed to keep his country operating when he and his army were in the field for an extended period of time. Back in the days of really yore (the 5th century B.C., namely, in the days of Victor Davis Hanson's yeoman farmer), the campaign season was shortened by the need to take care of crops and the difficulty in properly supplying and moving an army beyond the campaign season (roughly April-October). The kind of thing you (I, at least) don't really think about these days.

I have long been a fan of reading history. For almost as long, I've wondered just what it is I'm getting out of reading history. What lessons, truly, can you draw from a 27 year war fought by two city-states in a piddly part of Europe over two millennia ago? As the New Yorker article inked about indicates, the standard narrative was Athens-Sparta = U.S.-U.S.S.R. But to make that parallel, should we look at the war itself, or would it make more sense to look at the years before war broke out, from say, Salamis, Marathon, and Thermopylae, where the Greeks fought the Persians (US+USSR v. Nazis) to the start of the war? Or should we compare the Hellenic world and the contest to draw in the Persians to break the deadlock to George Kennan's idea to protect the key industrial bases of western Europe, Japan, and the U.S.?

Does that mean we should take a more atomistic approach to interpreting history then? What to make of, say, the Melian Dialogue, which is still read in International Relations classes? How much can be extilled from the background historical context? To the extent you can extill anything, what does that tell us? That human relationships are universal across time? That humans haven't learned anything in over 2400 years?

Personally, I'm more comfortable with the atomistic approach, which is largely how history is done, anyway, but almost all I read is the works of grander scope. I'm not sure what, if anything, that means. As the preceding paragraphs suggest, I don't claim to have any answers, but I'll go on reading history all the same.

Next up, though, Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear: Thinking Seriously About Security in an Uncertain World. It won't take nearly as long, and I'll almost certainly have something to say about it.

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