Saturday, May 29, 2004

The George Bush narrative

John at Ex Nihilo links to, and discusses, this article from Mother Jones. Both the post and the article are interesting and worth reading.
Here is how Mother Jones characterizes the Bush presidency:
According to Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, & Co., the president of the United States of America is a great gentle warrior, the scion of a noble line: He’s a Texas cowboy descended from George Washington descended from the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. He’s a man of God and family. Truly, the story goes, he’s a simple man--wanting only to care for his own, tend to his plot of land, and go to church on Sunday.

I agree with John - the article's point is quite insightful. John goes on to point out that
What if, even in the haze of our "Reptilian brains" we are picking up on the truth of a situation through narrative. I am almost pessimistic enough to believe that everything in politics is a lie and a play (as the writer so obviously does) but the only reason the Bush narrative remains so effective (other than basic hatred of the left by many on the right and vice versa) is that it seems so real. Perhaps, in contrast to what the writer believes, it is real.

I'd like to write more, but it's crunchtime for my last final.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Help A Poor Guy Out

I liked these:

Borrow my car for the summer: '91 Toyota Pickup (manual trans, no power steering, no speedometer) needs love while its owner is away. Take care of it, use it as you wish, and try not to get it towed. No need to wash. Contact Dan Levine, dlevine - at - uchicago.edu.
___
Sublet my apartment: Large 1BR on Woodlawn and 53rd that its lazy renter hasn't subletted yet. Bargain price of $600/mth. Feel free to use the Jacuzzi. Wash. Contact Dan Levine, dlevine - at - uchicago.edu.

For Anyone Heading to LA This Summer

Avoid these beaches.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Story of the Weeping Camel

It's not about R.J. Reynolds, though they have reason to be sad too. Nope, this movie is actually about a camel. The trailer seems to contain just about zero dialogue (naturally), though the camels do get a few good grunts in. The movie reminds me of the great Police song (technically, "The Police"), "Behind My Camel," which coincidentally also contained no words. But, of course, no collection of songs about our dromedarian friends could be complete without mentioning the Elton John classic, "Camel in the Wind." Look for all of these hits and more on the Weeping Camel soundtrack, soon to be released by Death Row records.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Washingtonienne/Wonkette Interview on Fox News

The video is here. Anchor Brigitte Quinn seems very disapproving of the whole thing. Cutler seems nervous and keeps looking off camera. Wonkette is cool, as usual. All-in-all an odd mix.

Speaking of odd mixes, Reliable Source provides an account of a Heritage Foundation party with the following attendees:

Mike Starr
Douglas Ginsburg
Hillary Clinton

I always assumed the Heritage Foundation had special devices installed to repel Hillary from their presence. The fact that Hillary survived the night proves bi-partisanship isn't dead.

Anyway, if you want to read more on this whole Washingtonienne thing, The National Debate is covering it pretty closely. With pictures!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming Market

This chart shows the subscriber levels for the various games over the last few years.

The results are interesting, because you get a great view of how this market works. No one wants to go online and walk around by themselves. Thus, if a MMOG wants to survive, it looks like it needs about 100,000 subscribers by the end of the first year. All of the games that didn't quite get there puttered out, including big names like The Sims Online. I don't see a single example of slow growth - you have to burst through the ceiling right away or settle for a token subscribership and an empty playfield.

Note that this gaming market is much different than the normal "install it, beat it, move on" approach to games. With MMOG's the product is intended to last many years, and all of the profits come from subscription fees. Games like Anarchy Online are even willing to provide you a copy of their product for free.

The development costs are enormous. In the first few years, games were often virtually unplayable at launch, and people would lose interest before the company could funnel the subscriber fees into adding bandwidth. Consequently, in order to have a fighting chance, game makers realized they needed to bite the bullet and prepare for a huge subscriber-base up-front, even if it never comes. This is why the recent entries have all been "big name" licenses - Star Wars, Final Fantasy, and (soon) Warcraft. Without some goodwill coming in to the market, the barriers to entry are just too high.

But boy, if you can get off to a good start, there is a ton of money to be made in this industry. Everquest, which I thought was a lame duck, actually has more subscribers now (about 420,000) than it did in January 2001 (about 400,000). All of those players continue to pay over $10 a month for a game that is largely running itself at this point - the players are experienced, the world polished, the server costs paid off long ago.

Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XI looks like the MMOG industry's next behemoth with 500,000 subscribers and counting. Apparently a game called Ragnarok is also quite popular in many Asian countries.

Needless to say the behavior of this market is quite fascinating. As the most successful games get bigger and bigger, it will be interesting to see if the public starts to take notice. After all, 5,000,000 18-34 males playing Final Fantasy every night (as is the nature of these games) would have quite an impact on other media markets. Or perhaps no game will be able to hold more than 500,000 individuals' interest at one time. We'll see.

Boalt Is Better Than This

Per Ben's post below, I'm not sure what's more disappointing - the fact that these Berkeley students think it isn't even debatable whether the Geneva Convention really had in mind protections for nationless enemies without uniforms, or this argument that "we're all for academic freedom, but he was acting in some official capacity, so he's fair game."

What's the pedagogical system at Boalt? Do people ever have to defend arguments they might disagree with? Are students supposed to ignore statutory avenues if they don't sit well with their own predilections? Pretend ambiguity doesn't exist if they don’t like its implications? This group seems to think such an approach is "moral." Sounds intellectually dishonest to me.

And what's with this "official capacity" distinction? It should cut against their arguments. Yoo was asked to write this memo. This isn't some sua sponte work of an academic. Yet, these students think the former situation leaves him vulnerable, while the latter approach makes him invincible. Why? Apparently academic freedom ends at the classroom door – they can sack a professor for what he might think, so long as where he thought it is far enough away. I wonder what they’d think of such a rule if it was applied to a Middle Eastern studies professor espousing, say, the end of the Jewish state at a private conference? Ah, but such a hypothetical is too fanciful to be entertained.

Ultimately, this effort reeks of pretext. The goal is to get rid of a guy who will throw out perspectives some students don’t want to be exposed to. This attitude seems to be all too common at Boalt. I suppose the goal is that certain issues should never be debated. Certain ideas should never be given a chance to rise or fall, even if they reveal strengths and weaknesses in other arguments, or challenge students to think differently. These kinds of inquiries simply make people feel too uncomfortable. Better to suppress such ideas than to tackle them with superior reasoning, the local wisdom goes. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Or maybe their reason really isn’t pretextual – maybe the petition’s supporters really think Yoo caused the prison scandal, has blood on his hands, etc. In which case, these Boalt kids aren't just unprincipled. They're blind. Iraqis aren't "non-state actors." They are not the focus of the memo. Sure is fun to have conspiracy theories though, huh? Bowling for Columbine is a masterpiece, right? Better to be passionate than to be honest.

As a final note, I think it’s important to recognize that one doesn’t have to be a First Amendment absolutist to tolerate Professor Yoo. If Professor Yoo’s deeply held opinion was that “Asian people are stupid,” it wouldn’t be too hard to discover that this opinion was not built upon academic inquiry, but upon hatred and irrationality. We might think such an opinion unworthy of our attention, not because it is misguided, but because it is devoid of any real content. It substitutes hatred and biases for argument. It too values passion over honesty.

In stark contrast, Professor Yoo’s arguments are not irrational. It’s quite clear Al Qaeda is a different type of enemy than we’ve seen before, and Geneva may not have properly anticipated what protections such combatants might merit. It is entirely proper, not to mention quite useful for reformers, to recognize a potential gap in the law. Thus, unless some students can show that Yoo based his propositions on, say, a hatred of Arabs, not on this state of the law, there’s no good reason for effectively silencing him. In fact, you may be shooting reform in the foot.

Well Berkeley, after all this, if you still don’t want Professor Yoo, Chicago will keep him. We will even give him a chance to say what he thinks. We might come to the conclusion that everything he says is misguided, poor as a matter of policy, or just plain wrong. But whatever we decide, our institution will be the better for accepting his input and striking back with ideas, rather than with petitions to resign.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Snoop Dogg is Getting a Divizzle

That's a direct quote. From the AP.

That's too bad. I liked Snoop the family man. I wonder if this means he's leaving Claremont? I hope not; he's our second most famous resident, coming in just under Pamela Gann, who recently took over the top spot after winning the highly coveted "Jackass of the Month" award.

Also, having heeded Cosby's call, Snoop will stay in his children's lives. In fact, Snoop says he wants "joint" custody.

. . .

That joke is very funny if you're high, trust me.

Boalt's silly petition

So, here's the petition calling for Professor Yoo's resignation from Boalt's faculty. The comments are about as thoughtless, misguided, and reactionary as you'd expect, given their source. But here are a couple of my favorites:


Love y respeto a las personas who endeavor to reduce human suffering / Our grandchildren will play together / To those who use the law to increase or justify human suffering, countless eyes watch / we shall not forget


Or there's this one:

FREE PALESTINE FROM ZIONIST OPPRESSION


But most of them are like this:

I am outraged that a professor at my law school would participate in returning us to the lawlessness of pre-Geneva barbarism


(More links through How Appealing.)

News Aggregators

I've been using Newzcrawler for about a year now, and am generally pretty happy with it. But the other day I began to wonder if any other news readers were making their move. Turns out, FeedDemon is quite the program. It's much better looking than Newzcrawler, and makes for easier reading through an autopreview/newspaper layout system (you'll just have to try it to see what I mean).

Ultimately, I've decided to stick with Newzcrawler. It's free, it has a much better system for updating feeds, has a newsticker, and places article names in its pop-up balloon. These features won me over. I just wish they'd add the autopreview.

Then, I come to find this article, which compares the relative merits of the two readers head-on. If you're still deciding on a news reader, be sure to read it.

Last, I should note I also tried SharpReader. I must say I'm not too impressed, despite the good review Will linked to the other day. It's neither pretty or feature-packed. But if a bare-bones reader is exactly what you're looking for, give that a try, or go the web-based route.

But for goodness sakes, whatever you do, don't be aggregator-less. I've tried to impart this wisdom on co-blogger Ben, but he doesn't seem to listen. He says he has "better things to do," like "doing his work." I'm using quotation marks because I have no idea what these statements mean.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Google apology ad

Apparently Google bought the ad space for the search term "Jew" -- and used it to post an apology for the (potentially) offensive material the search raises.

Interesting response... This seems to me to be a reasonable solution to the "problem" (if it really was a problem), as compared against re-ranking search results to satisfy angry (even rightfully angry) groups.

Incidentally, the URL, "http://www.google.com/explanation.html" makes me think that this is the only "explanation" for offensive searches that they have made available (although possibly not).

You Learn Something New Everyday

From the University of Chicago student guide:

What should I call my professor?

It was pronounced publicly in the first issue of the campus newspaper, the University of Chicago Weekly, which came out the summer before the University opened: 'By mutual agreement between all the faculty and officers of the University now on hand, the uniform appellation of 'Mr.' has been adopted in mutual intercourse, thus doing away with all doubts and mistakes as to the proper title of any man connected with the institution.' This custom is also a form of, well, snobbery: since everyone around has a doctoral degree, it's not worth making a fuss over.

Do the undergrads follow this rule? "Professor" is definitely the term of choice at the law school, but then most of us came from other institutions.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

SNL Season Review

Check it out here. Just keep scrolling. I particularly like some of the quotes from this season. Here are a few choice ones:

10.11.03 -- Justin Timberlake as Jessica Simpson: "If I'm so retarded, how come my driver's license says 'functionally retarded'?"

10.18.03 -- Will Forte as Gary the speedreader: (after reading the Bible) "Pooooor Jesus..."

12.13.03 -- Chris Parnell as Joe Lieberman: "If you're looking for someone who can energize the party, Joe Lieberman is that cat. I am a hardcore, hip-hop, rock and roll candidate. I bring in the noise, and provided that it is fiscally responsible, I shall bring in the funk as well. And that, my fellow Americans, is fo' shizzle."

1.17.04 -- Chris Parnell as Simon Cowell: "Your singing is wretched and your outfit is ridiculous - I can see your vagina."
Finesse Mitchell as Kelis: “That’s called my stage presence!"

2.7.04 -- Announcer: "You're watching Bravo, the gay stuff and poker network."

2.14.04 -- Tina Fey: "Cartoon character Cathy finally got engaged to her boyfriend in today's Valentine edition of her strip. Meanwhile, Marcie and Peppermint Patty are moving to Massachusetts."

2.21.04 -- Jimmy Fallon: "This week, Georgia's board of education approved the plan that allows teachers to keep using the word 'evolution' when teaching biology. Though as a compromise, dinosaurs are now called Jesus Horses."

Fockering around

It appears that filming has finally begun on the eagerly anticipated (by me) "Meet the Fockers". It looks like Dustin Hoffman will be playing Focker the Elder while Barbara Streisand will be Mrs. Focker the Elder. It's bodes well that the IMDb listing does not give the first names for either character. I look forward to that revelation in the movie.

This may, unfortunately, be the sowing of the seeds of the demise of That's News. Brian, has expressed his feelings in re Babs, but if she's in Meet the Fockers I may have to defend her honor. I'm sorry it had to end like this.

In other news, Moammar Gadhafi is still a fucking idiot.

And that's news to me.

An Age-Old Debate Settled

Sorry Democrats, God is a Republican. Or so says David Klinghoffer in the LA Times.

"Today, the ideological struggles of liberals and conservatives mirror the clash initiated by Marxists and Freudians with 19th century individualism. Conservatives encourage individuals to make their own choices, except where those choices invariably harm the innocent (as in abortion) or undermine the pillars of civilization itself (as in gay marriage). Liberals see the function of government as parental, with citizens in the role of children too unaware and irresponsible to cross the street by themselves."

Hilarious. Let's see if I can help the liberals out here. Roleplaying time!

There's a "harming the innocent" exception to the free will nondelegation principle? We (liberals) wholeheartedly agree! We just think that exception also applies to people dying on the street from hunger. Or kids getting shot from their parents guns. Or people kept down by racism. Or workers dying from asbestos. Are you telling me these people aren't innocent? Are you telling me these people weren't harmed?

As for the second exception for "undermining the pillars of civilization," we think the fundamental pillar is one of tolerance. Thus, accepting gay marriage, Islamic culture, etc, are key to keeping civilization on its feet.

"Generally speaking, liberalism distrusts the individual, while conservatism trusts him enough to give him a chance to make the right, or the wrong, decision. If he makes the wrong one, he will have to answer to his own conscience, or to his God."

I'm pretty sure the legal system might have something to say too. But I digress.

I think Klinghoffer explains away far too much with his "exceptions." Pro-choice advocates are all about individual choice on that issue. Why don't most Republicans feel the same way? Because they think it's wrong. Ultimately, the Democrat/Republican distinction is a value conflict, not a disagreement on free will. Either group will lay off people when they think they'll make the right decisions, and both will act on those who have fled the flock. Kind of reminds me of that "God" character one reads of from time to time. He must belong to both parties.

Oh my goodness, God is John McCain!

Schwarzenegger's Saliva for Sale

Or at least it was, the LA Times says. Some guy fished the governor's used cough drop out of the trash and attempted to sell it on eBay for $500. Then the eBay anti-commodification police (I wrote about this a bit here) removed the listing.

Here's the most interesting part. It's not impossible to sell the cough drop. The seller just needs to have a purpose other than selling a body part. So if this guy sold the cough drop as a "collectible," that would be ok. I wonder whether one could sell, say, Jennifer Aniston's hair, so long as the seller phrased the listing as "collectible from another era: remember when Rachel's hair was a hit?" Or something like that. Clearly I'm not cut out for eBaying. Just goes to show you that when it comes to commodification rules, line-drawing is hard.

Justice Served on Streisand

Way back when I posted about Barbara Streisand's suit against the owners of this site. Two people take pictures of the California coastline for preservation purposes. Babs sued them because they happened to take a picture of her house. She lost. But as LAObserved noted yesterday, turns out she lost big. Almost 200K in lawyers fees went to the defendants. The court must have invoked the old doctrine of "fee shifting for rich hypocrites."

Mobile Law Office

Check it out at Overlawyered. With pictures!

Friday, May 21, 2004

7th Circuit Follies

From the oral argument of In Re K Mart, 359 F 3d 866 (7th Cir 2004):

Appellee's Attorney: The second thing I wanted to respond to was the Crawford case, Judge Posner's decision in a Chapter 13 with a plan confirmation . . .

Easterbrook: I didn't remind your colleague of it, but it is a decision of the Seventh Circuit, not of a particular judge.

Attorney: I apologize. It is the Court's decision. Judge Posner just happened to write it.

Later:

Attorney: . . . I think you have to read 363(b) in the context of the entire code.

Easterbrook: Ugg. Now I've got to read all of the decisions from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the entire Code. I won't have time to watch Survivor on TV!

The attorney, Steven B. Towbin, also mentions Professor Baird a few minutes later.

Setting up Easterbrook for a joke and having Douglas on your side? Guess who won?

But still, there are lessons to be learned here. 1. Judge Posner's opinions are in fact not his, but Seventh Circuit's opinions only. 2. Don't mess with Judge Easterbrook's Survivor-watching schedule. 3. Cite Professor Baird as much as possible. In fact, try only citing Professor Baird. Just file a brief consisting of his Bankruptcy book. Add anything more, and Judge Easterbrook will find some way in which your addition destroys federal jurisdiction. Even if it's just your signature at the end. Have Douglas sign it.

But if you're also looking to avoid violating local rules, just forget it. Your tie alone surely violates at least 17 local rules, which Judge Easterbrook will readily recite to you off the top of his head ("Let me ask you again counsel, because you're clearly not listening. In what way does that tie comply with Rule 30b, requiring Windsor knots? And don't even get me started on its warm hues, a clear violation of Rules 32(f), 0(c), and 273.15(k).")

I'm sure this is how the attorney for Illinois felt in this oral argument. You know things aren't going well when you're told your case is moot, you forgot to include a key (unpublished) lower court opinion in the appendix, and Judge Easterbrook at one point asks, in short, "are you calling me an idiot?"

In sum: if you ever have the pleasure of arguing before the 7th Circuit, don't say I didn't warn you.

Procrastination Aid

Tis the time of year again at the University of Chicago in which we are really supposed to do our work. This is also the time of year when procrastination aids are most desperately needed. Thus, I bring to your attention this site. Legos are here to help.

I recommend Drome Duel first, and then Supersonic AC if you're adventurous.

Little Miss Hooters Contest

Yep, you read it right. Girls 5 years old and under only. Have to dress up like a Hooters waitress. You can see commentary and pictures of the ads here.

The funniest thing about this idea is that South Park already thought of it. (from Instapundit)

Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle

"The Asian guy from 'American Pie,' the Indian guy from 'Van Wilder,' and the white guy who brought you 'Dude, Where's My Car?,'" now bring us this movie. It looks like the main characters scream and run away from things a lot.

I've never been to White Castle myself. If it's anything like Cracker Barrel, I'd just as soon keep it that way.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Supreme Court of Mexico Newspaper Ad

Apparently Judge Wolin started a trend. Read about it here. (from How Appealing)

Star Wars: Episode III Proposal

MSNBC has this article, entitled "Can Star Wars: Episode III be Saved?: Fire Lucas, fire Christensen and resurrect Ed Wood from the grave." Here's a bit of it:

"Maybe the best thing to do would be to get Anakin to embrace the Dark Side as quickly as possible, perhaps by forcing him to confront some terrible disappointment that will haunt him for the rest of his days. We suggest this two-line scene set in a Coruscant restaurant:

WAITER: Here’s your green salad, sir.
ANAKIN: What? You fool, I told you NO CROUTONS! Aaaaaaargh!

Anakin puts on his black helmet and storms off to his local county clerk’s office and fills out the paperwork to have his name legally changed to 'Darth Annie Vader.' (He later quietly drops the middle name, realizing it doesn’t help his macho image.) And then for the next two hours, it’s all special-effects spaceship battles, which is the real reason most of us will go to the theater anyway. Fade to black."

Sadly, it's far too late to fire anyone. The movie (probably titled "Birth of the Empire," btw) is mostly done. I wonder what Lucas thinks of the Lord of Rings films. Do you think he saw them and was like, "Wow, Fellowship of the Ring is almost as good as Phantom Menace!" Or do you think he realized that they upped the ante a bit? Not that Battleship Earth wouldn't have upped the ante for the Phantom Menace too.

Despite being secluded on that ranch much of the time, he does watch other movies. Plus, Trey Parker told him Phantom Menace sucked. So I think he knows, but he has this attitude like "hey, everybody told me the original sucked too, and then I made a quadrillion dollars." Well George, this time everyone is right.

I'll still see it though. (from Slashdot)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Virtual Church

Here's the website to try it out.

It's not what I expected at all. It basically seems like a 3D cartoony chat room for Christians. Except they can't vet everyone, so it's really just a normal chat room, complete with your usual helping of lunatics. Ship of Fools indeed. It also features some Phillip Glass-like errie/minimalist sounds in the background. Weird.

Obviously I don't really get it, but maybe its point is to make chruch seem really mainstream and hip. It is sponsored by the UK Methodists, after all. From what I understand, they're like the United Methodists here. Aka, their motto might as well be "We Make Religion Easy."

Bankruptcy

I love this quote from my bankruptcy book:

This is simply a requirement that creditors may not capture the entire value of a solvent debtor. Thus, this requirement is only as important as solvent debtors in bankruptcy are common.


Chuckle, chuckle. What a little gem! I've always thought § 1129(b)(2)(C) was amenable to sarcastic remarks.

"New York Minute" review

It's worth checking out Mr. Cranky's review of "New York Minute". Hilarious. The opening quote:

I would like anybody (teenage girls excepted) who thought this film would be even remotely tolerable to stand up now and walk to the middle of an open field far away from other people, because I can absolutely guarantee that you are about to spontaneously explode due to the overwhelming pressure of your own stupidity.


I leave it to our readers to determine whether his "The Olsen Twins Are Hot But No One Is Talking About It" thesis is accurate.

A Dissenting Opinion . . . By Press Release

Judge Wolin, of the District of New Jersey, issued this press release today. Here's a portion:

"A panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has decided by a two-to-one vote that my joint administration of three major chapter 11 asbestos cases should be terminated. These cases were assigned to me by former Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals Edward Becker. My responsibility was to take an intractable litigation problem cloaked with a sense of urgency and to dispose of it with dispatch.

. . .

The Court of Appeals gave lip service approval to the concept of experts employed to advise a district judge, but held that such confidential advice necessarily crosses the line into extra-judicial or ex parte knowledge. It is unclear how expert advisors are to be used, if at all, following the Court of Appeals' opinion in this case. The dissenting opinion criticized the majority for excusing the delay of almost two years before an objection was filed to my management of these complex cases. The majority refused to recognize the significance of the fact that attorneys representing committees of creditors and indeed the entire asbestos bar knew long ago of the supposed conflicts of my advisors.

The Court of Appeals' focus on complete transparency and actual notice to the exclusion of other considerations is an unfortunate development in the jurisprudence of complex litigation. These principles were developed in simpler times and for cases with but a few parties. Here, where the parties number in the hundreds of thousands, the decision in this case was profoundly impractical. I am convinced that it will work to the detriment of legitimate creditors – injured persons, commercial creditors, and debtors – willing to play by the rules and avoid the scorched earth tactics of a few, distressed-debt traders. The trust the judiciary has earned over centuries of honorable service is not wasted by the case management techniques I put in place. On the contrary, that trust is put to its highest use to solve one of our society's most difficult and intractable problems."

The only explanation for this press release is uncontrollablele hubris. A district judge has a right to do this only in the strictest sense - no lower court judge should be recurring to the press to critize a superior court about an active case. Now, the case will go forward without the Third Circuit having the last word. Like it or not, the Third Circuit answer is the right answer for a district court, at least until another appellate panel says otherwise. Call it a charade or a noble lie, that's how we do things in this country. Judge Wolin seems to have forgotten this.

Ironically, Wolin has vindicated the Third Circuit's decision - this is clearly a man too passionate about covering his behind to see the case objectively. Want proof of his motives? Check out this portion:

"The Court of Appeals, after a full examination of the record has found that I did nothing wrong, unethical, or biased. Moreover, their review has not revealed the slightest hint of any actual bias or partisanship by me. On the contrary, they found that throughout my stewardship over these asbestos cases, I exhibited all of the judicial qualities, ethical conduct and characteristics emblematic of the most experienced, competent and distinguished Article III jurist."

Apparently he forgot to add "But I flatter myself" at the end. Must be scrivener's error.

Lastly, Judge Wolin could use a little brush up on the Canons of Judicial Ethics. Canon 3A(4)requires that "a judge should accord to every person who is legally interested in a proceeding, or the person's lawyer, full right to be heard according to law, and, except as authorized by law, neither initiate nor consider ex parte communications on the merits, or procedures affecting the merits, of a pending or impending proceeding."

Can anyone name another judge who had this section thrown in his face recently? Answer: Thomas Penfield Jackson in the Microsoft recusal. You're in good company, Judge Wolin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Sweetest Box Score in All of Sports

ATLANTA TODAY SEASON
AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
J Garcia SS 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 .284
J Franco 1B 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 .255
C Jones LF 3 0 0 0 0 3 0 .238
A Jones CF 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .246
J Estrada C 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 .333
J Drew RF 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 .296
M Derosa 3B 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .201
N Green 2B 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 .222
M Hampton P 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .200
a-E Perez PH 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .200
Totals 27 0 0 0 0 13 0

ARIZONA TODAY SEASON
IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
R Johnson (W, 4-4) 9 0 0 0 0 13 0 117-87 2.43

Read more about Randy Johnson's perfect game here.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Standing on the Left? You Must Be on Vacation

Washington Post

When I first arrived in D.C., I had no idea there was a passing lane on escalators. On the west coast, this kind of thing is unheard of. In Seattle and LA, escalators are a place to congregate, relax, and hang out until you reach the top. I couldn't understand why all these people cared so much. It's like that Jerry Seinfeld routine:

"I'm always in traffic with the lane expert. You know this type of person? Constantly reevaluating their lane choice. Never quite sure, 'Is this the best lane for me? For my life?' They're always a little bit ahead of you, 'Can I get in over there? Could I get in over here? Could I get in there?' 'Yeah, come on over here, pal. We're zoomin' over here. This is the secret lane, nobody knows about it.'"

That's how I felt about these D.C. people. It's as if getting to the top of the escalator 2 seconds faster is going to decide the election. I think some people even feel their arrival at the top isn't assured. "The odds aren't looking that good, Paul. Look at that fellow, he's passing us! This is it, isn't it? We'll never see Foggy Bottom again! Oh god, oh god! Hurry Paul! Leave the baby! JUST LEAVE IT!"

But then I eventually became one of them. By 9 months, I knew never go near the middle of the orange, blue, or red lines during the day. The tourist hoards take too long to get on the trains, never know that you have to keep your ticket to exit the station, and, yes, don't respect escalator protocol.

In fact, when I went back to D.C. last year during interview season, I found that I reverted back to my old habits. I even felt a little naked without a Washington Post in my hands (they are, or at least were, only 35 cents in some places - what a steal!). Just goes to show you that Potomac fever wears off, but never really goes away. That's little consolation for the abandoned babies, mind.

God's Gift to Football - Mark Brunell?

The Washington Times seems to think so. I feel obliged to put this up because Brunell is a Washington Husky. If you want to read about a football player becoming a born-again Christian, go ahead and click on the link. But you shouldn't feel obliged to. I didn't really read it, to be honest. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Bad News for John Kerry?

His official campaign blog changed its name.

Old name: We Will Beat Bush

New name: The Official John Kerry Blog

Sometimes we all must make sacrifices for the sake of accuracy. Major newspapers excepted, of course.

John Cleese Interview

Read it here. Looks like he's got some good stuff coming, including a blog at thejohncleese.com, greeting cards with messages like "I'm extremely sorry I murdered your aunt. I really shouldn't have done it," and fine works of history:

CLEESE: . . . I'm writing an animated movie at the moment for DreamWorks.

SENIOR: What about?

CLEESE: Cavemen. And my son-in-law, he's now working in animation. He's written a very zany comedy. I just recorded the voice of Hitler.

SENIOR: Hitler? Really?

CLEESE: Returned to the planet to try and do good. He's learned a great deal. Though his temperament is still a little fiery.

Kucinich Update

And you thought we'd forgotten about him. According to the LA Times, the Oregon primary "may be" his "last stand." I think this is a last stand in the General Custer sense only. Call me a pessimist. But before he leaves the stage, Kucinich has this pearl of wisdom:

"I come from a spiritual perspective on this, seeing the world as one . . . I guess you could say when that happens, there's no exertion . . . I just have a real sense of joy about what I'm doing."

I can't help but think this Kucinich's version of bedroom talk. Any ladies out there who find this sort of thing attractive? I'm sure Dennis' cell number is on his website. But remember, he's looking for a woman who wants "world peace, universal single-payer health care and a full employment economy."

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s Dilemma: Diversity or Honesty?

The New York Times recently interviewed Cornell West and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on the legacy of Brown v Board. Most of the video consists of them agreeing with each other and criticizing Clarence Thomas (with one exception - Gates agrees that separate does not necessarily mean unequal). But this portion caught my interest:

Henry Louis Gates, Jr: If we could make these predominantly black schools excellent, would that be a satisfactory goal? I say yes. Because I don't think there's anything magical about being around white people, necessarily. Inherently.

Cornell West: Yeah, yeah.

HLG: It's good for a multicultural society to have as much integration [as possible], but unless we have economic integration, we're not going to have residential integration.

So wait, there's nothing inherently good about being around white people? I must say, I wholeheartedly agree. Many white people are boring. Some have no sense of humor too. There are some I don't even like. And what's up with the Friends thing?

But Henry, you can't say this kind of stuff. Once you admit that there's nothing inherently valuable about the skin color of those around you from educational perspective, you've repudiated the whole basis for diversity-based college admissions. This is the last argument pro-affirmative action people can use to justify rich black kids getting into colleges ahead of poor white kids, even if the white kid has a lot of potential and the black kid is boring, has no sense of humor, etc. And goodness knows the horrors reversing that system would bring! Please try not to be so honest next time, Professor Gates.

Come to think of it, another interesting part of the interview is when Gates discusses "diversity" at Yale. He notes that most of the black students are middle- to upper-middle class. Moreover, an uncanny amount are the children of Gates' fellow black students when he attended Yale. He concludes that affirmative action is no longer a "class elevator" so much as it is a "class bridge" (citing Lani Guinier), benefiting the children of those who utilized it a generation ago.

So affirmative action isn't even helping the poor black kids get in to the top schools. I'm sure there are few poor applicants, but I'm also willing to bet that if Yale focused more on bringing bright disadvantaged kids to the institution, and less on meeting racial quotas, the poor black students would have a better chance. But hey, it makes the admissions officers feel just as good about themselves to admit a rich black person as a poor one, so why should they care? They all need our help, after all. The important thing is to temper one's guilt with paternalism and subtle condescension.

What a crock.

Punitive Damages in the Extended Sphere

Governor Schwarzenegger's new budget includes a provision giving state government (through a trust) 75% of any punitive damage award. A representative for the Governor justifies this idea by arguing that "the money should go to the public good." I think this fits with some views on punitive damages, but not the Supreme Court's.

Of the various justifications for punitive damages, such as retribution (criminal law, anyone?), compensating for recurring misses, compensating for attorney's fees, compensation for social cost of bad conduct, and deterrence, none seem to be at odds with this plan, because none contemplate where the award goes. The pay-out could go to the victim, but it could just as easily go to California - the point is that it came from the defendant's pocket. That is, except for the view that punitives are for the lawyers, which the plan answers - attorney pay-off comes before the distribution to the trust, ensuring full payment (or at least priority payment).

So if the provision doesn't conflict with any of these views, what's wrong? To answer, it's important to read the Supreme Court's most recent punitive damages decision, State Farm v Campbell, 538 US 408 (2003). Here's the relevant discussion:

"For a more fundamental reason, however, the Utah courts erred in relying upon this and other evidence: The courts awarded punitive damages to punish and deter conduct that bore no relation to the Campbells' harm. A defendant's dissimilar acts, independent from the acts upon which liability was premised, may not serve as the basis for punitive damages. A defendant should be punished for the conduct that harmed the plaintiff, not for being an unsavory individual or business. Due process does not permit courts, in the calculation of punitive damages, to adjudicate the merits of other parties' hypothetical claims against a defendant under the guise of the reprehensibility analysis, but we have no doubt the Utah Supreme Court did that here." Id at 422-23.

I believe the proper conclusion to draw from this language is that the courts are not supposed to be compensating for misses. Courts are not to look to other cases at all. The Court is saying that punitive damages are about pay-outs in this case for this plaintiff. I don't think you can read language like "[a] defendant should be punished for the conduct that harmed the victim, not for being an unsavory business" to say anything less.

How does this analysis fit in with the usual justifications for punitive damages? Not very well at all. The best we can say is that the Court doesn't make clear that the plaintiff should receive the award, even if the award centers around their loss only. Thus, on retribution, social cost, and deterrence rationales, it might still be acceptable to send a portion of the award to the state.

But I think this is a stretch. Social cost and deterrence have their backbone in a view that the punitive aspect of the case isn't really about this case at all, but about past and future cases, respectively (retribution has its backbone in criminal law, where it should stay). The "social cost" for the victim at issue is already answered by their compensatory damages award. If we think this calculation inadequate, moreover, it would only justify providing punitive damages to the victim. But the large-scale social cost must be about more than that - it must be about past cases, moral/psychic externalities, etc. The Supreme Court in State Farm ruled these kinds of considerations out.

The same problem is even more evident from a deterrence rationale. It is quite impossible to conceive how a court could ask itself "how much money should defendant pay to make sure this never happens again?" when the Court commands that the judge focus on this case only, not “hypothetical claims.”

It is clear State Farm undermines much of our current thinking on punitive damages (and the "public good" M.O. for the California provision). But I think the Court’s views can be explained in part by noting the procedural posture of this case. It was not a class action, but a suit brought by a single estate. Thus, the facts provide inadequate information about all the other cases, victims, etc. One could conceive of an action in every state, in which each judge decides to deter the defendant from engaging in this kind of behavior again. Obviously, 50-fold over deterrence is not what we’re looking for, unless each judge is willing to divide his determination by some proportion, in deference to other claims. Such a system would be unwieldy, to say the least.

The answer, of course, is to have a nation-wide class action. Bring it everyone, and then let the judge grant a single award that will hit the defendant hard, but only once. Unfortunately, the both the current and proposed Rule 23 (which I discussed at some length here) just won’t make this work. Such a suit, because it does not have the unity and uniformity of interest of a 23(b)(2) action, must go the (b)(3) route, which requires any given plaintiff the opportunity to opt-out. So long as a significant number of plaintiffs do so, our central planning-minded judge won’t get his valuation right and the defendants won’t get peace. After all, if a case like State Farm teaches us anything, it’s that just one plaintiff, with just one jury, can cost a defendant a bundle.

Ultimately I think all of these issues show that judicial competency has its limits, and that the central planning aspect of punitive damages is best left to central planners (aka Congress). If you’d rather Congress didn’t take-on this role either, then I think you ultimately must agree with the Supreme Court. Let the class actions run their course, but if they only represent 5% of all victims, its better that punitive damages be tied down to the harm inflicted upon that 5%, rather than trying to compensate for the other 95% in some way. It’s an imperfect system, but better than the alternatives. Sometimes that the best you can do in an extended sphere republic.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Greece Struggles to Clear Hurdles in Sprint to Games

Los Angeles Times

Yeah yeah, the Greeks are slow, everything's going to hell, things won't be done, etc etc. We've all heard it. Some of it may be true. But that's not interesting anymore. What's interesting is why they're struggling. Let's take a look:

"Until recently, thousands of stray dogs roamed the capital, lounging in downtown's Constitution Square at the entrance to the subway or pacing at the foot of the Acropolis. Dogs hold an honored place in Greek mythology - in Homer's 'The Odyssey,' it was his hunting dog that recognized Odysseus upon his return after a 20-year absence - but today some Greeks have a reputation for dumping their pets when they tire of them or go on summer vacation."

This gives you a real insight into why the Olympics are going the way they're going. If the ethos is "if it's too much trouble, dump it!" when it comes to living things, don't expect to get a roof done. Here's more:

"It all began when a visiting Ukrainian coach was bitten by a mutt. And then someone started poisoning the dogs.

The uproar, especially from foreign animal rights advocates, was enormous. Greek officials denied that they were behind the poisonings and countered that they had launched a compassionate program of rounding up the strays and neutering, inoculating and cleaning them. If they are not adopted, the officials insist, they will be returned to their 'original environment.'"

You can't make this stuff up. Stray domesticated dogs returning to their "original environment." That's what my mom told me when our Persianan cat disappeared - "we took it back to its original environment, honey." What's the original environment for a domesticated, neutered, declawed persian? Not Persia, that's for sure. More like the East River. Nice try, Greek officials, I'm on to you. More:

"After the dogs came the prostitutes. The city wanted to crack down on legal brothels. The well-organized hookers union fought the move. After all, the Olympics could be a time of enormous demand. The battle continues."

The well-organized hookers union. Europe isn't quite like us, is it. But hey, it makes sense - imagine if they went on strike. That's some serious leverage! And it's another union in the pocket of the liberals.
...
(everyone say it with me now): Literally.

Blog Meme

As seen elsewhere, this list has been making its way around. Rather than copy the whole list, I'll just list the ones I've read:

Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Voltaire - Candide
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Wright, Richard - Native Son

26, unless I forgot how to count, and 35 of the 93 authors. Relatively high, given a pronounced aversion to li-fi, modern or "classic." Obviously, there's a great deal of subjectivity in how the list was calculated, and I'd quibble with a few of the selections. Notably, "A Tale of Two Cities" the only Dickens work, "Crime and Punishment", which looks like the work of a gifted amateur, to borrow Hitchcock's description of his first stab at "The Man Who Knew Too Much," compared to "Karamazov," "Babbitt" instead of "Elmer Gantry," the steaming pile of dog crap that is "Beloved," "The Call of the Wild" is fine for what it is, but it's not all that, "The Three Musketeers" over "Count of Monte Cristo" for Dumas, 2 Henry James selections, "Bartleby the Scrivener," Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier", and the only book on the list I've never heard of, Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior." Bah, I should come up with my own list sometime.

Irony strikes again...

...as Castro leads Cubans in a march, chanting "Free Cuba, Fascist Bush!" Read for yourself -- the article is absolutely hilarious.

Yasukuni

Consistency? We don't need no stinkin' consistency! The court battle over Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine, previously mentioned here, continued Thursday, as an Osaka district court found that those visits were not made in an official capacity, despite signing the register as "Prime Minister Koizumi" and traveling with an official entourage. No judgment was made on whether the visits were constitutional, though.

Relatedly, from the article linked above, PM Koizumi showed just how much respect rule of law virtues qua rule of law virtues have in Japan, as he expressed no desire to appeal the Fukuoka action, since he didn't have to pay any damages, even though it found his visit was unconstitutional. Readers are invited to suggest any U.S. political figures who have acted in a similar manner.

Point-counterpoint

The Onion has a new point-counterpoint.

Point: Killing Wheelchair-bound People With Missiles Is Justified If They're Terrorists

Counter-point: Killing Wheelchair-bound People with Missiles Is Awesome

Bork Bork Bork!

Have a knack for obscure languages? Always wondered what everyone was laughing about when The Swedish Chef spoke on The Muppet Show? Google has a search engine for you.

And no, it has nothing to do with this fellow.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Incredibles

New trailer for The Incredibles available now. Doesn't look as funny as the teaser seemed, but I'm sure it'll be terrific.

A tad bitter?

Is it me, or does Britney's boyfriend's ex-girlfriend sound a tad bitter?

"She can't wreck a home by herself, but if you're a real woman and you find out someone you're seeing has extra baggage, you say, 'Go home and take care of your business.' If she and Kevin want to be a couple, then that's fine with me. But there are two little kids she better be prepared to babysit. They might be perfect for each other. You both smoke, you both drink and you both cheated on significant others after three years. You guys are made for each other. Have a good life."


Not that she doesn't have good reason to be upset... But where was her publicist?!

Misleading title

This article is entitled "Pfizer to Pay $420 Million in Illegal Marketing Case," but the first sentence reads: "Pfizer Inc., the world's biggest drug company, has agreed to settle criminal and civil charges and pay fines of more than $430 million."

Huh. I suppose I could read on and see if there's a reason for the discrepancy.

On an unrelated note Peter responds to my post yesterday, explaining why I am wrong. I agree with a lot of what he says, which obviously didn't come through in my unforgivably short (and probably rude) post. There are still areas of substantive disagreement between us -- but I'll get to that later.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Perfect price discrimination

Peter, at Crescat, has a post on Jane Ginsburg's copyright theories. Frankly, this strikes me as a rather silly attack he has launched. First, Peter:

In discussing whether there ought to be any "fair use" exceptions to access rights, Ginsburg notes that "on the one hand, the 'market failure' genre of fair use should fade away in a world of perfect price discrimination and direct enforcement of copyright controls."

Let's take a step back for a second. Apparently it's standard stuff to invoke price discrimination as better than no-price-discrimination when dealing with monopolists... but still, one would think that the phrase perfect price discrimination would gave [sic] an author some pause. . . PPD is a world in which the monopolist gets everything, and the consumers are left just about indifferent between having been involved in the transaction and not.


Let's focus on that last sentence, in which Peter seems to lament that consumers are "indifferent" between being involved and not being involved in the transaction. Okay - that's accurate, but Peter's attempt to extrapolate from this fact goes awry. You would think, from his analysis, that society is no better or worse off with price discrimination. This is, unfortunately, wrong.

While it's fair to note that consumers are indifferent, this does not mean that society isn't better off. Ironically, Peter links to this piece discussing Judge Easterbrook's use of price discrimination. The point of Easterbrook's ProCD opinion--and of price discrimination generally--is that some goods just won't be made--or distributed--efficiently if there's no price discrimination. The author of the piece recognizes this ("In comparison with a monopolist charging a single price, a monopolist with a price-discrimination structure might be preferable.")

This is relatively intuitive: Price discrimination extracts consumer utility, so, by definition, there will be a higher income with price discrimination. But this also means that more goods will be made and that more people (those with lower willingness-to-pay people) get those goods! This is beneficial!

The concern over who gets the extra extracted income doesn't really matter -- that's a separate policy concern. Society would be better off if we had perfect price discrimination and we simply taxed companies and redistributed the money because companies would produce and consumers consume efficiently. The point is that people get what they want at the price they're willing to pay. This means no under- or over-consumption. This is a good thing.

Legos Make Everything Better

The Mariners lost in the 11th inning last night after being up 6-2 in the 8th. If you missed it, here's a Lego reenactment.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Scientology is a Cult

This article settles it once and for all. Check out this journalist's tour of a Scientology facility:

"At each turn, though, there is a quote on the wall from church founder L.Ron Hubbard, a helpful set of framed posters describing the 'auditing' process, a loaded literature table or a benignly labeled door. And lightly as she describes them, each feels like a chute deep into the church, down which she would happily but firmly push us if we showed the slightest hint of interest.

. . .

First stop inside the door after pleasantries is a heavily retouched portrait of Hubbard gazing wistfully off to starboard, over an inspirational quote about artists and dreamers - (no, not the one where he is reported to have said, 'Writing science fiction for about a penny a word is no way to make a living, If you really want to make a million, the quickest way is to start your own religion.' - it's actually something rather lyrical about dreamers shaping society.)

Next is a peek at Hubbard's 'office:'

Every Scientology center has one, the guide tells us, decorated in a way he would have liked. It is, I suppose, like setting a place at Seder for the prophet - a quaint devotion - although the room is a fairly sterile wood-paneled affair that feels like a set-dresser's portfolio piece rather than a tribute to a valued founder. There is a wall of books on screened shelves, brass lamps, leather furniture and minimalist nautical decorations including the crisp model of a schooner.

On to the lobby, a sort of French-aristocratic sitting room with plenty of gilt, a white grand piano, a trompe l'oeil ceiling and a sludgy-looking impressionist bronze bust of Hubbard."

Worshiping L. Ron Hubbard is almost as insane as it is arbitrary. At least Jesus makes successful movies.

(from LAObserved)

Most Cited Legal Periodicals

Nifty interactive database here.

Slavery apology

I had to read this article several times before I decided that it was serious. Was I wrong? I'm genuinely confused (but that's not really "news to [anyone]").

Monday, May 10, 2004

Crossing the Streams

This article says Sean Lennon, son of John, is dating Elizabeth Jagger, son of Mick.

I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, you have the genius of John Lennon and the coolness of Mick Jagger combined. That's good. On the other hand, neither Sean nor Elizabeth contain any of those qualities, so that's bad. But their (potential) child might, so that's good.

But ultimately, this relationship must be vetoed for reasons now obvious. Yoko Ono and Jerry Hall's genes must not unite. The future of our musical universe depends on it.

Need proof? Imagine Hall rapping to Feeling the Space.

Michael Moore, Liar? Nah...

But this article says it's true. We've toyed with the idea here and here, but that was just fun and games. I, like Michael Moore's other supporters, refuse to believe he's ever misled anybody. Oh, and don't forget to vote Wes Clark!

They Come in All Shapes, Sizes, and Ages

Check out this 75 year old scam artist from Chicago. She looks innocent from the picture, doesn't she? At least she has her health:

"Officials have said Gooch likely would have to be incarcerated at a jail with medical facilities. The defendant has said she suffers from kidney failure, chronic asthma, anxiety, depression, emphysema, arthritis and high blood pressure."

The Academy of Arts and Sciences' New Members

Continuing our coverage here and here of the AAS, here are the new members:

Philip Bobbitt (University of Texas, Austin)
George Fletcher (Columbia University)
Michael Graetz (Yale University)
Joel Handler (University of California, Los Angeles)
Daniel Meltzer (Harvard University)
Thomas Merrill (Columbia University)
Diane Wood (U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit)
...and the University of Chicago.

Congratulations to Judge Wood! Ok, and Merrill too, but only because he's an alum.

UPDATE: Tom says George Fletcher is an alum too. Fletcher gets a TNTM half-congrats, because he clearly doesn't spend enough time back at his alma mater.

Career Change

Screw law school, I'm going to Successful Beach and Shallow Water Metal Detecting University! HT to Far Outliers.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Quote of the Day

"I have to march because my mother could not have an abortion." - Maxine Waters at the recent abortion rally in DC.

Wanda Baucus - Bitch, Bipolar, or Both?

Excuse the language. But how else do you describe a woman who gets this riled up over mulch? If you hadn't seen the story previously, here's a short news piece on it.

The long and short of it is that Wanda Baucus, wife of Senator Max, a Montana Democrat, assaulted a lady because she got her mulch from some store loaded first. No need to worry, however, because Wanda now proclaims to Reliable Source that "virtually everything that was printed is false," which sounds like an airtight defense to me. Plus, Max says that he "stand[s] by her 110 percent. And she has my full support." 110% and full support? Can't do much better than that. Nothing less than 125% and "fullest support" could top it.

I wouldn't be picking on Wanda so much if Reliable Source hadn't reliably dug up a bit of background on Mrs. Baucus. Check it out:

"We wanted to ask about her cameo in a 2002 book recommended by an alert reader: 'Ciao, America!' by Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini, who lived a few doors from the Baucuses on 34th Street in Georgetown. On Page 222, the author recalls this scene just before he moved back to Italy:

'The senator's wife is venturing out into the open again, and took the opportunity to yell at our removal van. ('Get away from there right now! I'm a senator's wife!')'

Yesterday, we asked Severgnini, a columnist for the Corriere della Sera newspaper, for details. 'She was really the sweetest person as a neighbor for so many months. She was very sweet,' he told us, 'but on the day we had the removal van, she went berserk. I thought it was very un-American, un-Washington, un-Democratic and in very bad taste. It was simply a removal van and she was really very aggressive, shouting, 'I'm a senator's wife!' It is printed in my memory . . . The van was not blocking the street, and we had very little furniture.'

This all happened in April 1995; Severgnini's book, based on his diaries, was a hit in Italy long before it was reprinted here. Baucus, 56, told us: 'I don't remember any such thing. I would never run out and say that I'm a senator's wife because I try to hide the fact all the time . . . I would never, ever, ever ask a moving van to move from in front of somebody's house. Why would I do that?'

Because you're a psycho, maybe. But ok, I'll believe that she doesn't remember. I'll even buy that she didn't yell at this guy. But I will not believe that she tries to hide the fact that she's a Senator's wife. As anyone who has lived in Washington DC will attest, that is simply too outrageous to be considered. There is no such behavior. It is impossible. Social status cannot be hidden or denied in Washington DC. It can only be grown, spread, and then harvested for special treatment. It is the Dupont Circle of Life.

To conclude:

"Severgnini was unaware that his old neighbor was facing an assault charge, but called it 'historical justice.' In fact, when we told him, he exclaimed: 'That's amazing! Ha! Ha! Life is funny.'"

Sure is, Beppe, sure is.

Cracker Barrel Agrees to Plan to Address Reports of Bias

New York Times

"Cracker Barrel restaurants agreed Monday to overhaul their training and management practices after the Justice Department accused the country-style chain of widespread discrimination against black diners in about 50 locations."

Step 1: Name Change.

Ad Assails D.C. Cardinal for Stance on Communion

Washington Post

"A Roman Catholic antiabortion group launched an advertising campaign against Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington yesterday, attacking him for saying he is not comfortable denying Communion to Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and other Catholic members of Congress who support abortion rights."

But Cardinal McCarrick doesn't understand. If you let pro-abortion types take Communion, you might have to let all bad Catholics take Communion. For the first time, you might see people who are tardy on Confession get in on the action. You might even - and this is just a guess - see people who have had pre-martial sex come forward. Obviously, the Church can't let that happen. You've got to draw the line somewhere. Why not do it in the most politically-motivated, hypocritical way possible?

The Art of the Pool Report

Way back when, I linked to an article on the White House "pool report." Basically, certain journalists are assigned to write down every little thing the President does during periods in which it's difficult for a full compliment of journalists to cover him. Then, these journalists send out this info, the pool report, to everyone else, and they all use it for their respective stories.

Well, one of the best pool reporters, Bob Kemper, is leaving his post to work for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as this article notes. Check out some of his work:

"Consider his report on President Bush's St. Patrick's evening visit to the British Embassy to see a play called 'The Spider's Web,' featuring the president's sister-in-law, Margaret Bush. 'Was the play good? Who knows?' Kemper wrote. 'Was Margaret the spider? Who knows? Does the play have any chance of opening at the Italian Embassy any time soon? Who knows? You see, though [Bush] was reportedly at the British Embassy, your pool was at Cactus Cantina, a Mexican restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue.'"

Puzzler

Every week on Car Talk there is a new "puzzler." The puzzler from a few weeks ago, available here was quite intriguing -- in fact, so intriguing that I actually thought about it, answered it, and then checked back to see if I had gotten it right. Go ahead and read it. It's fun.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Two delightful pieces

Anyone with spare time should read David Currie's piece "The Most Insignificant Justice: A Preliminary Inquiry" at 50 U Chi L Rev 446 and then Frank Easterbrook's "The Most Insignificant Justice: Further Evidence" at 50 U Chi L Rev 481. A few choice quotes:

Eastbrook writes, "Some men achieve insignificance; others have insignificance thrust upon them." True enough. He follows it up with this footnote: "This is a Famous Quotation and therefore should be attributed to this article as follows: Easterbrook, The Most Insignificant Justice: Further Evidence, 50 U. CHI. L. REV. 481, 485 & n.12 (1983). "

HAH! And double points for Easterbrook excellent Use of Capitals!

Anyone acquainted with Professor Currie is aware of the low esteem in which he happens to hold most Justices. Easterbrook sums up that in Currie's world "at least seventy percent of the Justices are below average and a good fifty percent are in the bottom quintile?"

Double HAH!

In a statement striking for its accuracy and brilliancy, Currie writes that one way to approach the Most Insignificant Justice would be to examine how many stupid things the Justice says. How to measure? "[P]erhaps in a thorough study one should attempt to quantify it in terms of certain key words (e.g., "whereas," "party of the second part," "fairness," etc.) that all competent observers would agree are sure-fire indicators of an inferior mind."

A triple HAH would be insufficient!

Eastbrook ponders whether one can remain "insignificant" after one is awarded the title of Most Insignificant. He believes that being Most Insignificant is itself a significant accomplishment. He notes, however, that "Dean Gerhard Casper dissents from this analysis. He believes that the (in)significance of Justices is fixed by what the Justices themselves do, and that recognition of their (non)accomplishments cannot alter their relative position. The rest of my colleagues have not objected to the analysis in the text and therefore agree with me. Qui tacet consentire videtur. BROOM, A SELECTION OF LEGAL MAXIMS 85 (10th ed. 1939). (A translation of the maxim is on file with The University of Chicago Law Review. )"

I hardly knew which section to emphasize because it's all so delightfully witty.

A couple more.

First, Currie observes that "it is widely accepted among scholars -- though to my knowledge it has never been scientifically demonstrated -- that not all pages of words are of equal intellectual value."

Meanwhile Easterbrook wonders whether one can become insignificant if ones significant opinions or writings are only published posthumously. He notes that "Justice Brandeis had a whole volume of opinions published posthumously, A. BICKEL, THE UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS OF MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS (1957). (Query: How could the opinions be "unpublished" when they appeared in the very volume bearing that title?)"

Yes, how indeed?

Last Currie criticizes that "Clifford might as pertinently have begun by stating that 'dogs, in the constitutional sense, are dangerous mammalian quadrupeds that sully my lawn.'" If that quote confuses you, you'll just have to read the article.

Zagats and Naked Royalty

The LA Times food section has an interesting article entitled "Behind the '05 Zagat Results." (No link because paid registration is required, but the article is available on Lexis.) The gist of the article is this: Restaurateurs are asking patrons to vote for them in the Zagat survey, and that this undermines the efficacy of the guide. This strikes me as fairly stupid, even for a sub-par food section in a sub-par newspaper. Do any true gourmands actually turn to the Zagat guide for their food advice? Absolutely not. The ZG is good for one thing: Telling the reader which restaurants are “good.” As a rule, this maps perfectly to restaurants that are expense, but not at all onto restaurants that serve good food. Here in Chicago, I recently went to a highly-rated Zagat restaurant and received overcooked pasta with flavorless sauce. My co-diners were equally unimpressed. But there's a strong Emperor’s New Clothing aspect to the Zagat ratings: No one who spends bajillions of dollars at Fleur de Crap wants to admit that the food was mediocre and that they could do better dining with the common folk. All this is by way of saying that Zagat ratings aren't worth a hill of beans -- they're great for finding expensive places "known" for being good, but very little besides. Thus, to launch into hysterics as if this game-playing means the demise of some valuable institution is just silly.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Once upon a time, in the halcyon days of yore, there were 9 Rolos in a normal pack. Now, there are 8. 'Tis a dark, dark day in the world indeed.

More content sometime later.

Spider-Man Web of Ads Unravels

New York Times

Reading this article, it becomes clear that Sony and the MLB marketing people had no idea placing ads on the bases and pitching rubber would be offensive. The interviews with officials in the article basically boils down to "We thought this would be great, then we looked at some polls, and found out that everyone hated it." How out of touch with baseball can you possibly be? For these guys, there's no magic between the white lines. But for most baseball fans, that ground is sacred. Put things on the walls, name the stadium what you like, even putting small ads on jerseys is ok I guess (some teams have dabbled in this) . . . but don't mess with the field.

As this article notes, once you open the door to intrusive advertising, it's very tough to cut back. That's why Nextel can buy the right to name the Winston Cup winners' first-born child - "[Nextel spokeswoman] Schaefer said Nextel doesn't worry whether the company offends fans with its massive approach to advertising because of stock-car racing's tradition of sponsorship bombardment."

Let's hope baseball continues to take bit more tasteful approach. Advertising is necessary, but "a tradition of sponsorship bombardment" cheapens the sport.

That being said, I don't agree with Ralph Nader that "Fans are gouged, mistreated . . . ." I'm in sure in Nader's world consumers would get whatever they want, regardless of compliance costs, with a prize freeze to boot. Then, as President, he would appoint Justices who actually agree with Justice Douglas' concurrence in Lehman v City of Shaker Heights, 418 US 298 (1974) - "In my view the right of the commuters to be free from forced intrusions on their privacy precludes the city from transforming its vehicles of public transportation into forums for the dissemination of ideas upon this captive audience . . . ."*

This isn't about mistreatment. It's about keeping the "feel" of the sport, and thus keeping fans. The fans don't deserve any sort of treatment, they just deserve the right not to buy tickets if they think the sport is defiled. The MLB should be allowed to place ads in their games - if they couldn't, then you'd really see "gouging" on the ticket prices. But I think that if they do it tastefully, they'll keep fans while still exposing them to the ads. Hopefully the MLB and Sony's reaction to this situation signals some recognition of this. We'll see.


*If you're wondering, the Right to be Free from Advertising Clause is in Article XIII, next to the Right Not to Face 10 to 1 Punitive Damages Clause.

A Rent-Free Place, if You Can Find a Spot to Park

New York Times

This fellow couldn't afford his $900/mo apartment in Queens, so he bought a trailer and lives on the street for free. If you wonder how he could live in a place so small and cramped, read this. Of course, if he really wanted to go cheap, he could always take the library route.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Friends An Underachiever?

A lot of people watched the friends finale, no question about it. 52.25 million people to be exact, or a 25.9 share, according to this article. Sounds impressive, and it is for a given week. But as a finale/supposed large-scale cultural event, it's actually pretty disappointing. It wasn't even the highest rated Friends episode - the post Super-Bowl show takes that crown. Moreover, the Friends finale had half of the viewers of the *M*A*S*H finale (106 million to 52).

Of course, when *M*A*S*H went off the air, there were far less shows competiting for people's attention. There were far less things competiting for people's attention period. In fact, I'm not quite sure what people did in the 70s and early 80s. Talk to each other I guess. Without IM!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Souterfest 2004

Continuing my unprecedented chain of Souterblogging, here's an AP article entitled "Souther still a mystery after 14 years."

What I found interesting was the obligatory retirement rumor, supplied this time by David Garrow, who we all know is never one to overreact. Quote:

"Garrow said that because Souter dislikes Washington, computers and attention, a retirement in the next year is possible even though the second-youngest justice is in good health. 'This is not someone who is going to die in Washington, D.C.,' Garrow said."

I had no idea New Hampshire was totally devoid of computers. And, as the article notes elsewhere, Souter may very well die in D.C., given his statement that "the day you see a camera come into our courtroom it's going to roll over my dead body." Just thought I'd clear that up.

Mind boggling

Killing time this afternoon waiting for a package that never showed up, I went over and took a gander at ESPN's MLB stats. Barry Bonds this year has come to the plate 25 times in day games. 11 of those times, he's been walked. In his 14 official at-bats, he has 11 hits, for a batting average of .786 and an on-base percentage of .880. Yes, that's right, a .786 batting average, and an .880 on-base percentage. This is accompanied by a piddly little slugging percentage of 2.000. Of course, 25 times up is a ridiculously small sample size, but it's not every day you see an OPS of 2880.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Mariners Win in the Bottom of the 16th Inning

Who made it all happen? Who else?

UPDATE: Read this and you can pretend you were there.

Funny SNL Skit

If watching people laugh makes you laugh too, then check this skit out.

Credit where due

The Tribune (article here) rightly names Scrubs as the successor to Friends, and the best comedy on TV. I might take some issue with author's assertion that Scrubs is better than Arrested Development, which I also think is terrific.

The Numbers Game

Brian Leiter lists the law faculty now in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The raw number rankins are:

(1) Yale - 18
(2) Columbia - 14.5
(3) Harvard - 13
(4) Cal - 13
(5) U of C - 11.5
(6) NYU - 9
(7) Michigan - 5.5
(8) Stanford - 4.5
(9) Texas - 2.5
(10) Duke - 2
(11) Georgetown - 2

Re-ordered by percentage of faculty:
(1) Yale - 36 %
(2) U of C - 28.75%
(3) Cal - 26%
(4) Columbia - 18.25%
(5) Harvard - 16.25%
(6)/ (7) NYU / Stanford - 11.25%
(8) Michigan - 11%
(9) Texas - 6.6%
(10) Duke - 5%
(11) Georgetown - 2.5%

Monday, May 03, 2004

Peggy Noonan on Rasin in the Sun

The article contains quite interesting evidence of cultural change in America over the last half-century. I'll let you check it out for yourself here.

Oops!

I was very suprised to hear of Justice Souter's assault. But readers of Slate should be especially alarmed. Check out this April 27 Dahlia Lithwick piece (3 days before the assault):

"The Supreme Court is now regularly releasing audio transcripts of oral argument in 'big' cases; that is, the cases for which the big news organizations request audio transcripts. I can't see a downside to doing this for every case: It improves the press corps' reporting, listeners are engaged, and the process hasn't morphed the justices into nine lunatic Judge Lance Itos. Justice David Souter can still walk the D.C. streets unmolested, and the public can start to understand who these justices really are."

I think the only appropriate response is: oops! (from How Appealing)

Book review #2

In the misspent days of my actual-youth, I was quite a fan of Legos While I tended to make only relatively minor modification to sets (generally to make them more militaristic (read into that what you will)), the occasional odd building project was not out of my repertoire. And, then, the Internet. Lugnut! All sorts of bizarre and fascinating creations! But the best of these is The Brick Testament, Brendan Powell Smith's Lego depicitions of a number of scenes from the Bible. This eventually lead to a book, The Brick Testament: Stories from the Book of Genesis, 175 pages of illustrations of stories taken from the Book of Genesis. There's some overlap with the Genesis stories on the website, but there are also a number of stories in the book that aren't on the website, and vice versa. As a pure stand-alone book, I'm not sure I'd pay the $14.95 sticker or even the $10.47 Amazon price; as an alternative to a website tipjar, though, it's a great purchase, and I look forward to Story of Christmas: Brick Testament, coming out in December.

Book review

I wrote a long review of Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear, then decided it was too cloyed and hackneyed even for me, so I deleted it. It's very good, though, and he does an excellent job of providing a much-needed reality check for how to think about issues relating to security. In a way, he reminds me very of much of Richard Epstein, who said in Civil Procedure II that he looked not at the formalities of the case, but at what was really going on. Perhaps not the ideal textbook attitude for a Procedure class, even if it is the occasional mess that is jurisdiction, but I responded to it well there, and it's even more appropriate when there isn't the same level of formality. Relatedly, I've been a subscriber to Schneier's email newsletter for a number of years and found it to be quite excellent, even if it is sometimes too technical for those unskilled in the field.

Currently in progress is Adrian Goldsworthy's The Complete Roman Army, which probably won't get much more than a brief review.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Sex In The Cities, by David Brooks

New York Times

"Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago and several other academics have recently published a research project called 'The Sexual Organization of the City.' They've found that people construct highly evolved sexual marketplaces, venues where they go to find sex partners. These marketplaces, at least in cities, are incredibly localized; people are not inclined to cross ethnic, racial, sociological or geographical boundaries when looking for a bed mate. Each of these discrete marketplaces has its own rules, and the sex practices in one neighborhood may look nothing like those in the next.

The authors of the study culled data from thousands of interviews in several Chicago neighborhoods and compared behavior across the communities."

I found this statistic the most shocking:

"Shoreland [Laumann gave Chicago's regions silly names] is an affluent white neighborhood on the near northwest side. There is a large gay and lesbian population, and sex is more likely to be impersonal. About 43 percent of the gay men in Shoreland have had more than 60 partners."

There is absolutely no reason that this should make me feel inadequate, but it does anyway. I guess it's the realization I would make an awful gay man. But you know what? I'm ok with that.

But for you gay guys out there: are you sure you want to get married?

European Enlargement

While I find the European expansion both exciting and interesting, here's a little perspective:

"David Cerny [of the Czech Republic], sculptor, 36 (with "Baby" over Prague), views Germans darkly: 'It's like someone from New York talking about Texas. Except that Texas never attacked New York and killed a couple of million people.'"

We'll see how it goes. But it will certainly be interesting to watch.

The Circle of Garfield

Garfield was far and away my favorite comic growing up. I couldn't get enough of it. I had every single one of those little books, like "Garfield Rounds Out" and "Garfield Loses His Feet." I probably stopped at issue 20-something.

Well, now there's going to be a Garfield movie (trailer here). Garfield will be CG, and voiced by Bill Murray.

The choice of Bill Murray is interesting, as most males my age should recognize upon a little reflection. See, besides Garfield, one of the other big cultural influences growing up was Ghostbusters. Although we couldn't understand much of the humor, we all thought that movie was really, really cool. Lazers, ghosts, Stay Puff, Slimer, you name it. As you know, Bill Murray was one of Ghostbusters' stars, playing the scarcastic Dr. Peter Venkman.

But what made us even happier was the derivative cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters. Now we could watch Ghostbusters every week! But of course people like Bill Murray didn't have time to voice a weekly cartoon, so they brought in new people, including Lorenzo Music to do Venkman. Music had this great manner of speech which I can only describe as "sarcastic and lazy." It's quite memorable - even if you didn't watch the cartoon, you'd probably recognize his voice you heard it.

But Venkman wasn't Music's only job. What was Music's other cartoon voice-over claim to fame? Why Garfield of course!

Unfortunately, Music died of cancer in 2001. Thus, Murray is now stepping-in as Garfield, just as Music did for Murray with Ghostbusters. And now life feels complete.

Psychologists in Need of Therapy

Not a great week for the profession. First, Keri Dunn, the CMC hate crime prof, was charged with insurance fraud and filing a false police report.

Second, check out this piece on psychologist Lauren Slater in the Times' Sunday Book Review. Or just look at the picture. The lady has some issues.

Last, an Indiana child psychologist was accused on Thursday of sexual assaulting young girls.

Lawyers don't seem quite so bad now, do they? After all, looks like these psychologists are going to need a good one.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Rep. McDermott Forgot 'Under God', Civil Rights Act

Scrappleface

"Rep. Jim McDermott, D-WA, explained yesterday that he had omitted the words 'under God' while leading House colleagues in the Pledge of Allegiance because he had learned the Pledge before 1954 when the phrase was inserted by an act of Congress.

Later, a spokesman confirmed that Mr. McDermott also often forgets about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, because when he was in grade school it was still legal to discriminate on the basis of race."

The best thing about McDermott's explanation is that he thought this one was better than the original "I wasn't sure what the Supreme Court had said" excuse. He's a winner, that one.

In Re Scalia the Outspoken v. Scalia the Reserved - A Reinterpretation

This New York Times article largely consists of liberal law profs talking about Scalia, with Douglas Kmiec thrown in for good measure. Be sure to read the whole article. But let me present some of their statements.

"'He ranks with Holmes and Jackson as a writer,' said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, referring to Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Robert H. Jackson."

Or maybe he meant Sherlock Holmes and Jesse Jackson. Who's heard of those other guys?

"But Stephen Gillers, who teaches judicial ethics at New York University, draws a different comparison: 'Since World War II, I think it's fair to say, the extrajudicial conduct of only three justices have become significantly newsworthy in a harmful way: Fortas, Douglas, Scalia.'"

Oh come on. This isn't impeachment stuff. And if Gillers thinks it is, why didn't he include Rehnquist on his list? He went through the same thing 30 years ago. Fortas and Douglas had shady deals with "foundations" that in reality were interest groups paying them off, or so the story goes. Scalia just doesn't understand 28 USC 455.

"'His writing style is entertaining in the way that shouting matches on `Hardball' are entertaining,' said Mark Tushnet, a law professor at Georgetown. 'Nobody persuades anyone by shouting on `Hardball.'"

Quite right. Scalia's opinions have had little or no play in our legal culture or in the academy. His ideas on originalism, administrative law, etc, haven't influenced anybody. He's made no mark on the law. That's Antonin Scalia: never persuaded anyone. If only he'd settle down and write like Justice O'Connor.

"'When I worked for him, he had a set of principles, and those principles led to principled results, which were sometimes conservative and sometimes liberal,' said Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford who was also a law clerk to Justice Scalia. 'I don't understand anymore how his jurisprudence follows from his principles.'"

I'm pretty sure Lessig is actually talking about himself.

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