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January 31, 2004

Class Action Madness

OK, I've done my Civ Pro course. It had a large class-action component. And yet I'm reading over an email from Verizon Wireless (my cell phone provider) telling me that I'm a member of a class that will now get a variety of coupons for a number of things I don't really need, that won't save me any/much money on overpriced or unneeded services, in compensation for acts that they are not admitting they did which I don't understand why I was injured by.

I tried reading the email they sent, honestly. Much as Verizon doesn't inspire passionate customer loyalty in me, I don't see how anything alleged in the email hurt me, certainly not to the value of the vouchers offered. Either I'm too dumb to be a law student, or the class action system is mad.

Does the Washington Post ever check its math?

The Washington Post is justifiable skeptical of President Bush's new proposals to spend $1.5 billion over five years to promote marriage. It's not a particularly conservative goal, as the Washington Post points out by mentioning exactly how the Gingrich Republicans would have responded to it. (Incidentally, that should just go to show the shape that the 'radical right' is actually in... but I digress.)

So why does the Post have to shoot itself in the foot by supporting its argument with a 3rd grader's understanding of statistics? After mentioning the $1.5 billion price tag, it goes on to say:

William J. Doherty, a University of Minnesota professor and a believer in government-sponsored marriage maintenance, is planning a demonstration project that will cost $1 million over four years: Do we really need 1,500 such projects?

But of course, no one is recommending a massed army of million-dollar research projects. Unless the proposal is so poorly designed as to be insane, the money includes allocations for research and, more expensively, implementation of the results in concrete social programs. It's inconceivable that the Post doesn't recognize this, so why make a rhetorical point so cheap that it detracts from the rest of an otherwise reasonable argument?

January 29, 2004

Virus as an 'Art Form'

Nick at En Banc is cheering the recent MyDoom virus, claiming that "[c]omputer virus design is the great under-recognized art form of the early information age." Let me respectfully dissent. Virus design is the overhyped destructive art criticism of the early information age.

Software design can be an art form, as anyone who's ever seen a few lines of particularly elegant code will appreciate. (Take a look at the source for this page for an obvious counterexample.) Good software gets every level of what it does correct: the code is commented and readable, the design is fit for the purpose the user requires, and as much as possible it fits the user's preconceived notions of how the program should work. Mediocre software is easy, but well-designed software shows signs of love.

Viruses, however, don't build. They don't serve a function for a user, they don't expand the functionality of other software--indeed, they do nothing for anyone. Instead, they exploit 'weaknesses' in software that already exists. Many of these weaknesses form the backbone of functions that are quite useful or artful in and of themselves. (Some of Microsoft's biggest security holes have been engendered by attempts to make sharing of information easier between non-technical users.) And because developers have to secure their software against anti-social jerks a few steps above script kiddies, the cost to build the real pieces of art rises.

MyDoom in particular isn't art but art criticism. If it has a statement or says anything at all, it's that (a) anyone using MSOutlook deserves to be preyed upon for not having sufficient security, and (b) SCO (the firm that is the target of the worm's denial of service attack) is evil. The first is an act of immature arrogance: "You aren't a Linux fanatic like me, so you deserve what you get." The second is what Nick calls "mob justice," though it's orchestrated by a mob of one, appropriating the time and services of millions of unconsenting users.

Such things shouldn't be dignified with the title 'art form.' Destroying the artwork of others (particularly, as MyDoom does, in order to make a political point against a party you disagree with) isn't art, it's vandalism, theft, and in the case of viruses that cause data loss, destruction. It leads to the expenses that vandalism brings to the real world: bars on windows, steel shutters on stores to make sure they don't get covered with graffiti. These viruses aren't particularly clever, they're parasitic upon the talents of others, and are acts of such moral bankruptcy that they deserve nothing approaching the compliment of 'art.'

January 28, 2004

Intolerance of Tolerance

Amy Lamboley quotes John Coleman on Libertarians:

Here’s the breakdown: On the negative side, Libertarians are crazy. Most became Libertarians because they have some social quirk that disallows them from participation in normal society — picture excessive drug use, Dungeons and Dragons play or fascination with the word “metrosexual,” for instance. They are strange. You can’t take them home to your parents, unless, of course, your parents are members of some druid cult. They frighten small children.

On the positive side, they may be weird, but at least they want to leave you alone. Putting most politicians in office is like putting Michael Jackson in charge of a day care facility — they might not do anything wrong, but you feel pretty uncomfortable leaving them alone.


As long as we're indulging in stereotypes, Coleman misses the best thing about Libertarians: among even the most raving, most are tolerant. I mean really, truly tolerant, not just willing to listen to those who don't want to gore their particular ox. A social conservative will yap at you forever about how wonderful the market is, but tell him your daughter's a prostitute and you're in for some stern looks. Similarly, your stereotypical liberal will tell you to do anything you want, so long as it makes you happy. Don't tell them that what makes you happy is going to Church. And talk to either of them about role playing and they'll want to condemn you to Hell (conservative) or a caring psychiatric institution (liberal).

True, some of it is socialization: if you've spent most of your life following the words, "No, I don't belong to the Liberal Party" with a long explanation of Hayek, you're less likely to be judgmental about someone who's main form of social interaction is rapper dancing [1]. But whatever it is, there's something to be said for it. I'm not a Libertarian, but I learned a long time ago that you hang around a group of them for a while, you're sure to learn someting.

[1]Rapper dancing "involves five people connected by short, two-handled, flexible swords (rappers) forming an unbroken chain", and has absolutely nothing to do with Mtv or Puff Daddy.

One Good Reason Not To Work In Washington

The Hill publishes a new rundown of the Senate Judiciary Committee 'hacking' scandal. (Thanks to The Legal Theory Blog for the link.) No real 'news' in it, but one very depressing paragraph:

Several Republican aides have said [Patricia Knight, Sen. Hatch's chief of staff] has close relationships with key Democratic aides, citing alleged friendships with Mark Childress, a top aide to Daschle, and another unnamed top aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

My god! An 'alleged friendship' across the aisle? What star-crossed friendships might these be? Horrors, horrors, we shall get the Prince and put an end to this at once!

I don't know Knight at all, but the 'aides' mentioned above should be ashamed of themselves. If she's not a conservative, fine. But having friends of differing political persuasions is not a sin punishable by hellfire and brimstone.

January 27, 2004

Strange Google Update

For those who care about such things, a brief discussion of Google's latest update, and how it's affected the blogs I read.

Google has updated its index and altered its Page Ranks. Yours truly has now been demoted from a PR6 to PR5. (Probably more what I deserve, as I've commented before.) Some other sites I watch, such as Serious Law Student, The Yin Blog,
and Ambivalent Imbroglio made what seems to be the same drop. En Banc remains PR6, unaffected.

Just a gut-level hunch here, but I think Google revised how it ranks links in comment fields from well-known blogs. (Many of these link back to the blogs of the commentators.) I've gotten more links recently than at any other time on my blog, and my readership is stable and growing. I wonder if somehow the fact that I leave a link when I comment elsewhere has worked against me?

That said, Letters of Marque and Stay of Execution both retained PR6. Both of them have had highly linked posts in the recent past, so it may be the effect of time. (My two most-linked, on Paris Hilton and Freddy v. Jason, are now quite old.) I'll update as I get some more information.

On a more lighthearted note

One of my classmates today said, "No news is good news." Which reminded me of an old line from a children's TV show, "No Gnus is Good Gnus with Gary Gnu!"

Amazing what your brain can dredge up. I couldn't remember what the show was, but a bit of research proved that it was from The Great Space Coaster. That should give you some idea how over the hill I am. Many of my classmates post-date Fraggle Rock.

Oh, and one of my classmates today referred to the law school as "The Glowing Box of Despair." Not exceptionally relevant tho this comment, but I thought it was a great phrase. See for yourself:

Wormwood, I Haven't Forgotten You

Dear Wormwood:

Please do not think that I've not heard your plaintive moaning with regards to our correspondence. "Yes, yes, we understand you like the technical aspects of blogging, and RSS is nifty tech. True, true, a postmodernism generator is cute. But you do remember, once upon a time, that you promised to blog about law school, correct? Have you really grown so big-headed that the point of our project has escaped you?" And your complaint has a great deal of merit, for which I have to apologize. My heart really hasn't been in it.

Partially, I think it's just the glumness one gets from attending a law school in a city with a harsh but graceless winter. New York doesn't have the Januarys I've loved in the past: cold, clean snows blanketing the horizon, wind whipping white 'dust' devils over ice-topped lakes.

Winter in the city is summer in the city with the annoyance of cracked lips and muddy boots. Even in a blizzard, it's almost as if snow falls from the sky pre-grey. Walking outside at night is an education in natural selection: oil-black rats are much more visible hopping through drifts of white. Frozen landscapes in the countryside are accompanied by a clean, almost filtered scent to the air, but here winter's only mercy is that large bags of trash left out on the street are too frozen to rot.

As I said, Wormwood, I've been writing about technology largely to spare you in case what I'm suffering is some seasonal depression. No point in inflicting upon you what is probably more vitamin deficiency than rational thought.

With that in mind, what has been happening?

Classes: I think most of my classmates would agree that the classes in the second semester at Columbia are much more theoretical than practical. Of the four major classes, Regulatory State and Perspectives on Legal Thought remind me more of undergraduate lectures in economics and philosophy. Not that this isn't interesting in itself, but it's territory that many of us have covered before. Indeed, my 12th grade government class read Hobbes, Locke, Aquinus, Rawls, Bentham. [1] Even in the face of good lectures or interesting reading, there's a certain 'been there' feeling that keeps me from feeling the same degree of excitement I felt when this was all fresh. (Then again, perhaps I'm temporarily jaded.)

Don't get me wrong: there's a good and solid argument for these courses, and I'm sympathetic to it. Given the role of lawyers in our society, as not only advocates but judges and politicians, it's for the good that we get a broader historical view, and that this is informed by economics. But they're not the 'classic' law school courses: property, evidence, etc. They're more familiar, and they don't inspire the same feeling of terror. (To be fair, that one is a lecture course, and the other rather kind in its Socratic method, goes a long way to explaining this feeling. I imagine that as exams get closer, the trepidation level increases.)

That said, there's still Crim Law and Con Law, with plenty of reading for them, particularly the latter. I'm certain that Con Law will become more engaging as the semester progresses. No matter how important Marbury v. Madison or McCulloch v. Maryland may be, they're difficult to read with any passion. So much seems so settled. [2] Still, these courses remind me more of last term, so that's good.

Grades: Finally all my grades are back. All I can say on this is that overall I'm pleased, and that so far the great law school maxim is true: you do best in the classes you were sure to do worst in, and vice-versa.

Job Search: A task on which I should have spent far more time already, I'm getting a few resumes out the door every day. One thing I'd advise, Wormwood, is that you start the process far more quickly than I did, because otherwise it will become that nagging task that you leave at the bottom of your list, buried under a huge pile of reading. It's just as important, and you should treat it as such. Progress on this front remains hopeful: I've had my share of interviews, and we'll see how it goes.

I hesitate to go further, Wormwood, as already I wonder if the blizzard that is rumoured to be arriving tomorrow and my chronic lack of sleep are combining to make what I'm writing less encouraging than it ought otherwise to be. In any event, I'm glad I did bring myself to mention a few of the things happening here at law school, before this descended into a purely political blog.

Yours,
AR

[1] Admittedly, my high school government teacher was a bit unusual: he taught a 'great books' curriculum and used Socratic method at least as well if not better than many of my professors at Columbia. But then, I'm not criticisizing the Columbia program as much as I'm explaining why I'm not feeling as engaged as in months past.

[2] At this point, I'd like to break with my common habit of not being overly critical of my courses to be scathing in one respect: the textbook Constitutional Law by Kathleen M. Sullivan and Gerald Gunther should never be inflicted upon any student, anywhere, possibly under 8th Amendment restriction. First, it has all the weaknesses common to the University Casebook Series. The book itself is a physically unhelpful size, nearly 8 1/2" x 11", impossible to fit alongside a notebook on a classroom desk. The formatting of the text is diabolical: it's extremely difficult to figure out what is a heading, a sub-heading, or what is not within a hierarchy of headings to begin with. By the time you get to the fourth or fifth levels, there is no way to keep things straight. A simple table of typefaces would go a long way to curing this defect. If a single effort was made in terms of helpfulness to the student, it certainly doesn't show.

While the weaknesses of the series aren't helpful at the best of times, the writing in Constitutional Law makes no effort at all to be accomodating. Even outside the cases (Con Law will never be for those who like plain language), the wording is unnecessarily prolix (two uses of 'exegesis' is sure to please wordhounds like me, but it's sadistic for a casebook), complicated, and in some cases just downright confusing. For anyone who has the casebook at hand, I put forward the second full paragraph of p. 78 of the 14th edition, a paragraph which would be better structured if the order of sentences within it were reversed. I'll concede that Constitutional Law is almost certain to be cryptic in many respects--no one who ever read Gasparini would accuse Supreme Court Justices of silver-tongued clarity, and their task is often more one of precision--but shouldn't a good casebook help, not hinder this?

Perhaps I'm missing something and the book will grow on me, but after 150 page, it's easily my least favorite casebook thus far.

Exam Watch Is Back

And for those in my section, you'll notice that Exam Watch is now back in the right hand column. By my calculations, I've just over 108 days of 1Lhood remaining.

January 26, 2004

New Book Link Feature

In another of my small efforts and cleanup (and procrastination from Con Law reading) I've straightened out my book list. It now appears in a drop-down at the top, instead of in the sidebar.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, I'm now linking to Barnes and Nobles instead of Amazon wherever possible, because their operating agreements are more straightforward. Just to make explicit what I implied in my earlier article, it's not Amazon's legal position (which is probably unimpeachable) that prompted the decision. Rather, I feel betrayed by the brand. Back when I was in web design, Amazon was always held up as a paragon of how one does business online: clear, straightforward, easy to use. It's a violation of everything I expected from them to find out that the most frequently asked question of Amazon associates (can I buy from my own store?) is not in the FAQ where it belongs, but buried in an Operating Agreement.

Ah well. I'm certain they won't miss the trivial amount of money they made from me, but it makes me feel better. That's the lovely thing about the market. And further, my Manhattan readers will be pleased to note that Barnes and Noble delivers faster here in Manhattan.

January 25, 2004

Postmodernism Generator

OK, this is cool. To see why, just load up the page, and hit 'refresh' a few times.

Cronjob Errors

Right, with any luck, the Columbia Continuum is up and running, though it's ugly as sin right now and needs to be beat about the head with some serious CSS work.

Since a technical hitch cost me two bloody hours last night, I'm going to put the details here, but don't read 'em if it's not your thing. (I need a new entry to make sure that the update function is working.) Thanks to Adam Sampson (author of Rawdog) for helping a newbie well beyond the call of duty.

I hate the UNIX text editor known as vi. To avoid it, I'd been editing a file called cronjoblist in Homesite. Then I'd upload the file and update my crontab file (the file that schedules things to automatically update) by using the command:

crontab cronjoblist

This was enormously foolish. As Alan explains:

There are three ways of representing newline characters in text files -- \n (the Unix way), \r\n (the Windows way) and \r (the MacOS way). Since cron is expecting lines to end with \n, it's reading the \r as an extra character, and running rawdog with "-w\r" as parameters; since rawdog has no idea what \r means as an option, it's giving the odd error message you're seeing.

So, until I can find my way around this problem, it's back to vi. Damn.

And a big thanks to Adam!

January 24, 2004

New Feature Coming Soon

As Serious Law Student has pointed out, there's now quite a few of us Columbia bloggers, most of us using MoveableType or Blog-City. Combine this with the fact that Blogger might finally be implementing RSS feeds, and some exciting things can happen.

So my new development project is The Columbia Continuum. What I've done is aggregated the RSS feeds of every Columbia blogger that I know so that, once an hour, you can see the latest and greatest links from our students. Don't let the poor formatting fool you: given a few days it'll look like the rest of everything on here. (Note that this is currently in an unstable dev state... check back if you don't see anything useful.)

I'm going to include all the CLS blogs I know of. If you know of any others, would like your blog to be included (or even excluded), just mail me.

More Dean Remixes

OK, give Dean his due. There is no other candidate in the race today that inspires this level of dedication. Wow.

January 23, 2004

Disputing the Communitarian Malaise--One Mouse Click at a Time

After utilitarianism, distributive justice, and libertarianism, we've now gotten to communitarianism as a normative theory for law and regulation. Much as I dislike the reading, Michael Sandel was certainly thought-provoking. (It's not often that I write "I WISH I HAD MORE TIME TO THINK ABOUT THIS" in the margins of my reading.)

That said, Michael Walzer's The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism, 18 Political Theory 6, 6-18, was a particularly frustrating and disappointing piece of work. The centerpiece of the reading focuses on "Four Mobilities" that are limiting the bonds of our communities: geographic mobility, social mobility, marital mobility, and political mobility. Walzer, writing in the heart of the internet explosion--academia--during the beginnings of the internet boom, sees these forces as eating out the heart of community, and places the blame squarely on a liberal society. What he doesn't mention [1] (or rather, dismisses in a single sentence) is that increased availability of communication has made those forces less destructive to a sense of community, at the same time that it changes our very ideas of what communities are. They're more communities of choice and idea, and less communities of geography, but this is simply a byproduct of the 'death of distance' [2].

To make the (lighthearted) point, I'd like to see if I can transcend Walzer's Four Mobilities during Reg. State itself. I can do this with the newest and most disruptive of communications technologies, Instant Messaging. The way I figure, I need:
1: Someone from one of my old homes (preferably England) to conquer Geographic Mobility.
2: Someone from a former social set (perhaps an ex-teacher, or someone from one of my non-white-collar jobs)
3: An ex-girlfriend (OK, it's not 'marital' mobility, but I'm not getting married for the sake of this point)
4: A democrat, preferably one who remembers me back in the days when I was a democrat. Since I was eight at the time, this may be most difficult. I'd consider this condition satisfied if I were chatting with someone who knew me when I was a more rabid Republican--say, high school.

Volunteers welcome. :)

[1] At least, he doesn't mention it in the reading we're assigned. We do admittedly have an excerpt, so it might be elsewhere in his article. If I'm doing a disservice to Walzer with this critique, my casebook is doing at least as great a disservice to me. I'm pressed for time at the moment, but over the weekend I'm intending to look up the whole thing on Westlaw and examine it more thoroughly.

[2] The tales of the 'death of distance' have always been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, tales of death by distance are pretty common, and generally shared by those waiting for a connecting flight at O'Hare.

Democrats, the Filibuster, and Theft

Not often can I say that I've scooped my local CLS blog-rival, the so-left-we-don't-blog-on-the-right-of-your-browser Filibuster. They've decided that the 'scoop of the year' must be this Boston Globe piece on how Republican's 'infiltrated' 'secret' files.

Of course, readers of this site will have been alerted quite a while ago that the 'hacking' consisted of nothing more than Democrats leaving their files on servers that hadn't been secured. By any reasonable definition of 'hacking' or 'intrusion' (and I'm sure my lefty-but-fair techie-blogger Len will back me up on this), taking a file from a folder you've been given access to just doesn't cut it. Furthermore, everyone agrees that the mistake was made because the Democrats hired their own technical consultants to revise the way the committee's computers worked, and those consultants screwed the pooch. [1]

This makes one ponder at the opening paragraph of the Boston Globe article:

Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

You see, 'secret' here means 'put in a folder where anyone on the committee can see them, and not labelled secret anywhere thereon' and 'infiltrated' means 'opening up the shared folder of your workgroup' (which some of you might think of as your G: drive if you're at Columbia).

Of course, the Filibuster mentions the story twice, and claim that the GOP 'stole' these documents. Since the Filibuster and the Columbia Political Union are part of my university, I'm going to throw down that gauntlet: find me a statute, make me a case, and given a decent grasp of the technical competencies involved show me how this is theft. (Note that the Globe either had fewer cajones or more caution than to call this activity 'stealing.')

Update: The Boston Globe continues its coverage, pointing to the Committee for Justice's fact sheet arguing no rules were broken. I'm not sure I buy that: there may very well have been some ethical rules broken. But if so, theft seems pretty extreme.

[1] Full disclosure: I received every bit of my formal training in how to be a Systems Administrator from the U.S. Senate. If the mistake is what the papers have said it was, this was a basic error. No one who received Senate training should have made this mistake.

Howard Dean is Nuts

No, no, it's not me who says this, it's MTV.

They've got remixes of Deans post-Iowa speech collected on their website, to the tune of Guns N' Roses Welcome to the Jungle, Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train, and with remixes by such folks as Aphex Twin.

Gives a whole new meaning to 'Shake your moneymaker.'

January 22, 2004

This Line NEVER Works

According to Tyler Cowen (or rather, one of his readers), many 'libertarians' are actually just conservatives trying to pick up liberal women.

Umm... has this ever worked?
(via Crescat Sententia)

No, No, NO!

Via the Curmudgeonly Clerk, I learn that to counter the silliness that is Babes Against Bush, there is now a new silliness: Babes For Bush.

Dear readers, in order to spare you risking your sanity by delving further into this controversy, I've done a quick study and will give you the principle points of contention in the War of the Babes:

  • Babes Against Bush don't wear clothing, at least not on their calendar. Babes for Bush seem to wear white-fitting t-shirts. If your primary interest is in porn, not politics, this is all you need to know. (You may return to Paris Hilton-searching now.)
  • Anti-Bush Babes [1] seem to look like they belong in porn calendars: hourglass figures, even tans, body jewelry, and even the possibility of the touch of the airbrush. Given that the typical feminist stand is both anti-Bush and anti- this kind of body image, I'll admit to some confusion.
  • On the other hand, pro-Bush babes seem to be less hourglassy (or wider on the bottom), post pictures of their family (fully clothed), and haven't quite gotten the whole 'we're getting men into politics by getting out of our bras' idea. These are more the girls you take home to Mom--or, if you're one of my younger readers, maybe they are Mom.
  • Babes for Bush have a slightly more nicely-designed website (better eyelines), in my opinion, but neither are winning awards.

That's probably far more seriousness than the entire issue deserves, but I'll keep you updated on the ongoing battles in the War of the Babes.

[1] Stop the chuckling, the joke's too obvious.

January 21, 2004

For God's Sake, Someone Shut Up Robert Nozick!

From today's Reg. State reading, Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick:

In a free society, diverse persons control different resources, and new holdings arise out of the voluntary exchanges and actions of persons. There is no more a distributing or distribution of shares [of resources] than there is a distributing of mates in a society in which persons choose whom they shall marry.

Strike this man off our curriculum immediately, before he gives the next generation ideas. His argument obviously cuts both ways, and let's face it, ugly people are discriminated against heavily in the selection of mates. [1] Good looks are, arguably, inherited from your parents as much as wealth, and certainly something which isn't related to the merit of the individual. So how long will it be before someone decides to start requiring dates with ugly people?

(Of course, fellow students might point out that I'd be a strong net beneficiary of this system, but I'm still wary in principle...)

[1] Perhaps not in the selection of marriage-partners, but that's another question.

Update: Wow, I didn't know Nozick had such fans, and that my sense of humor was so bad. To make it explicit, I know what Nozick is saying, and mostly agree with him. The post is a joke: I found it funny that while he's making an 'X is ridiculous, thus Y is ridiculous' argument, the flip side of that is that if you find Y is not ludicrous, you might re-evaluate your opinion of X.

Reading through the State of the Union Speech

I missed the State of the Union live, so I'm watching the webcast online. (Text and video can be found here.)

I'm going to agree with Balloon Juice, the best line of the night has to have been:

Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners, or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support. There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people.

A bit of a slap in the face to Wesley Clark, eh?:

And I would say to the Europeans, I pledge to you as the American president that we’ll consult with you first. You get the right of first refusal on the security concerns that we have.

UPDATE: My favorite partisan target, The Filibuster of Columbia University is amazed that the speech didn't appeal to their Democratic tendencies:

And does Bush really believe he can convince anybody of the WMD and budget BS he tossed out in last night's speech? Me thinks not, and I don't think that's the nakedly partisan part of me doing the thinking.

I'm attempting to determine just what part of the Filibuster is not nakedly partisan, but it's amusing to see them trying to distance themselves from it.

January 20, 2004

Positively Normative

Prof. Reg. State briefly covered the difference between normative and positive arguments in legal theory. A bit more detail on the difference between the two, as a nice stopgap until we get to it in more detail, can be found at the Legal Theory Lexicon.

I suppose I should just put a generic link to this page up at some point...

Here, here!

Puddles at 110 West 3rd complains about the poor spelling in my Criminal Law textbook.

No kidding. Let's hope Aspen does better next time--the spelling errors are getting annoying even to me, and I'm generally fairly relaxed about such things.

(In case anyone is wondering about the lateness of the hour of the posts: I have a fever, I've spent most of the day in bed, and I can't sleep at the moment. Upside is, I've finished half my reading for the week. Downside is, I won't remember it.)

The Strangeness of Google

[Sparked by an entry at Stay of Execution. If you've got any knowledge of the Google phenomena below, I'd appreciate it.]

Every so often, I do a 'strange search terms' entry, which highlights Google searches in which I'm a particularly high result, despite the fact that I really don't write on that subject. Whilst this is funny, it's also a result of my interest in search engines that goes back to when I used to (with the help of some very good researchers) do this professionally.

Right at the moment, I can't help but think that Google is giving more authority to bloggers than perhaps we deserve, and that other search engines or services that aren't as 'fine-tuned' may be even more deceived. There's no scientific basis for this theory--though if one of the experts I mention above can provide one, I'd be very interested. However, the ease with which I get references to uncommon terms, or even common ones such as 'Paris Hilton,' leads me to think that I now possess an authority greater than I warrant. Just gut feelings, but this is what I've noticed recently:

There are a number of ways of increasing your inbound links that have nothing to do with your authority on a subject:
The two primary culprits here seem to be trackback pings and, more importantly, comments. For instance, while the number of visitors I receive to this site has increased only marginally (about 20%) over the last few months, my PageRank has gone from 5 to 6, equal to blogs like En Banc and Crescat Sententia (though a rank below The Volokh Conspiracy). I don't have anywhere near their readership.

On the other hand, I have a loud mouth and a habit of commenting on other blogs. Doing a Google search for blogs that link to mine, I find quite a few hits that are nothing more than comments that I've left on others blogs. From this, it seems that I'm generating my own publicity, and indeed my own Google Juice.

I would think that Google would cut back on the 'authority' of such posts, and so long as most blogs keep a standard format (comments on pop-up or individual entry pages) then that's fine: the vast majority of 'self-generated publicity' can be weeded out by altering the search patterns of Googlebots. But what happens when the pattern becomes non-standard? For instance, over on Crescat I get an inbound link on both Google and Technorati whenever I post a trackback ping to their site. This would seem a bit more difficult to modify in Google's rankings.

When Google does modify things, my PageRank is likely to plummet
The caveat to the above should be that I'm judging PageRank solely on the Google Taskbar, which may not give accurate rankings. But at the moment, it seems to consider me a six, and I get a certain amount of perverse pride from that. Still, as mentioned above I think much of this is artificial, and I expect a plunge soon.

All told, I'm not sure this is a bad thing. As I've noted, many of my inbound links are for subjects on which I'm definitely not speaking. (My classic example is misty rain piercings, which for a while ranked me above not only most porn sites, but even above such more topical sites as SuicideGirls (warning: not work safe).) I'd rather have people coming here because they're interested in my personal experiences at law school or my political views, not in a sure-to-be-disappointed search for porn.

Further, getting rid of the 'Google Juice' one gets from comments would probably cut down on the activities of comment-spammers (those odd, random, and inappropriate comments you sometimes find here before I delete them), because a lot of the value would go out of them. So despite my pride, it might not be a bad thing.

Some of the best methods of 'audience building' may not be entirely above board
A couple of new bloggers have asked me recently, 'How do you build an audience.' My general advice is 'write often, write well, and fill your niche.' But obviously, one of the best ways is to increase your ranking on Google. And based on what seem to be my 'results', the best way of doing that would seem to be:

1: Make extensive use of trackback pings to other, higher-page rank blogs; and
2: Comment frequently on same. (Make sure that you leave your name and a link back to your site.)

On the other hand, I'm really not sure this is the best way to attract readers directly, and not something I'd suggest simply to increase one's readership. Not because it wouldn't work (I think it would), but simply because it would lead to a lot of irrelevant, banal, and uninteresting comments left by people who have little to say, and just want to push themselves up in Google's esteem.

Anyway, these are just guesses at what may or may not happen in the next few months. Anyone who has some more fact-based assertions, feel free to comment.

Now, I Didn't See THAT Coming...

Kerry Wins the Iowa Caucuses; Dean Is 3rd, Far Behind Edwards (From the New York Times)

I'll admit that I have absolutely no idea what this means, and since I'm running behind in the reading for my 9:30 class tomorrow morning, I don't have time to find out. But I sure as heck wouldn't have predicted it.

January 18, 2004

Dowd v. Dean

Oh wow. Howard Dean won't answer Maureen Dowd's phone calls.

Love, spurned. Tragic, really, tragic. So now she calls him a phony:

But a race rooted mainly in attacking the president may not take Dr. Dean far enough. Voters want someone who's been through the fire. They care about character. They want to know the evolution of the man, even if it's a myth.

Personally, I'm caught where to come down on this one. I mean, a good slam on Dean that you can't attribute to right-wing bias--how rare. On the other hand, Dowd here sounds like the editor of the high school newspaper who, annoyed that the quarterback she fancied won't take her to the prom, decides to rip into his on-field skills in her next column. You just can't take the woman seriously.

But I can see why he didn't give the lady a date: that fate would be worse. I mean, how silly would Dean look now if a flattering Dowd-piece in the New York Times showed up with scribbles of unicorns and rainbows, with all the i's dotted with hearts?

Bainbridge for Judge!

Now that Bush has chosen to push the big red button and start recess appointments for federal judges, we can start the 'who to appoint next' speculations. A mere day before I was going to suggest him anyway, Professor Bainbridge threw his hat in the ring.

Of course, you can't really throw your hat in the ring for this kind of process, but you can try to get noticed. Bainbridge is a libertarian-leaning thinker who opposes judicial activism (except when he's talking about wine, when he's a judicial activist). He's tough on parents who travel with ill-behaved children, he's kind to his dog, and he knows more about vintages than I'm ever likely to learn. What more do you need?

So, here's a great blogosphere candidate for a recess appointment. I think all of us right-leaning libertarians should link to his blog entry where he volunteers for the post with the text Potential Recess Appointment for Judge. If you're not a right-leaning libertarian, link anyway: Bush isn't going to recess nominate one of your guys, so you might as well help us out.

January 16, 2004

If Meat Makes You Impotent, Does Vegetarianism Make You Tacky?

Via Crescat Sententia, I find that CBS has nixed PETA's Super Bowl advertisement. (You, however, can see the ad online at the link.) Apparently the latest argument for vegetarianism is that meat-eating will make you impotent, and thus unable to star in a bad 70's-era porn film. (Note that since three vices--meat, tobacco, and alcohol--are all supposed "provoke the desire and take away the performance," I'm waiting to see the last vice fall: how long before sex makes you impotent?)

PETA's publicity men have been drinking out of the lead pipes again:

CBS has no problem airing commercial after commercial advocating the consumption of fried chicken, pork sausage, and fast-food burgers, even though eating these products is making Americans fat, sick, and boring in bed," says Lisa Lange[1], PETA’s Vice President of Communications. "Considering that our ad has all three of advertising's most popular elements-sex, humor, and animals-the network should jump on it.

Which is why you see soooo many ads that use bestiality, incest, and cockroaches as selling points. Simply put, there are certain types of sex, humor, and animals that a network will accept--and some they won't.

Sorry, PETA, but the problem is the ad is too tacky even for network television. And that's hitting a low standard.

[1] Who, we can assume, has never slept with a fat, sick, or boring vegetarian.

January 15, 2004

Extreme Keynsianism

Dear Wormwood,

So, second day of the Columbia Foundations of the Regulatory State class. I've looked over the syllabus, Wormwood, and I think that if you're wondering what to expect from the course, you'd be better served if you consider the class to be Economic Analysis for Lawyers and Policymakers. Maybe there's more to it than that, but the discussions of Pareto, Kaldor-Hicks, and even Jeremy Bentham are giving me flashbacks to my high school economics class.

So, let's suppose, dear Wormwood, that you're considering attending Columbia Law, you've just been accepted (it's about that time of year), and you're thinking, "I've got lots of time to prep. What I'd really like to do instead of hitting the beach and enjoying my last days before law school, or earning a little money to defray loans, is fill that huge hole in my educational history that I dug by never taking any course that bordered on economics."

Well, first, if you're thinking this, you need professional help. Go hit the beach, Wormwood, really: if economics were thrilling to you, you'd have studied it by now, and you'll have plenty of time. But supposing that you've just discovered your deeply buried love of economics, but being out of college you don't have any way to satisfy this burning desire, I suppose I should regretfully recommend a good book or two. Obviously, this is personal experience, but I've found the following to be helpful.

First, there's Economics by Begg, Fischer, and Dornbusch, a relatively accessible economics textbook with a good index and plenty of charts and graphs. This was my 'teach yourself macroeconomics' textbook that I used to prepare for an old AP test back in high school (so it's not too dense) and it's served me well ever since. If you think 'extreme Keynsianism' might be something in the X-Games ("hey dudes, Pareto just did a gnarly Kaldor-Hicks and a half pipe in that tube"), it'll put you right.

But supposing you want to spend some time on the beach during the summer. You want sugar with your cereal, or at least something closer to Dawson's Creek than Anna Karenina. You want intrigue, devious Senators, and high school politics. In that case, I'll recommend a book I've mentioned before, The Invisible Heart, the only romance novel ever published by MIT Press. I'll warn you, though: as a romance novel, it's a very good overview of economic policy failure. Prepare to cringe at the puppy-love flutterings of two people you'd never want to date.

But frankly, Wormwood, I'd recommend just hitting the beach. (For any current CLS students, I'm happy to loan either book.)



The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance
The Invisible Heart:
An Economic Romance

Economics
Economics

January 14, 2004

The Issue is Moot

Pity poor Professor Yin. In Iowa as he is, he's stuck in the midst of the current Democratic primaries, and suffering through a thicket of TV commercials. This is the first election since Bush I vs. Dukakis for which I will actually be in the United States, and I can't say I'm looking forward to the experience. I'm questioning whether I chose the right time to start watching TV.

The bright side is that he quoted an article by Judge Kozinski, which got me reading two very interesting pieces. The first, The Wrong Stuff, 1992 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 325, focuses on how to lose an appelate case if you really, really find that you have to do so. (Trust me, he's come up with a good reason why you might want to. You could end up on the Supreme Court.)

But better, considering that our 1L Moot Court is coming up and I know almost nothing about it, is In Praise of Moot Court -- Not!, 97 Colum. L. Rev. 178. Despite the atrocious title, he makes some compelling arguments against the way that moot court competitions are run: that they should focus more on the facts of the case; that they should work more with typical appelate cases instead of Supreme Court issues laden with policy; and that they should focus more on the brief.

Not having been in a moot court myself yet, it's impossible for me to say how right I think he is, but it's a persuasive piece. If you're a 1L facing the same challenge I am, you should take a look. Kozinski's never dull, at the very least.

I'm Not As Loved As Yesterday

Sadly, it seems that I'm not as well-loved as I used to be. Sure, I've got quite a few friends who think well of me. Google is being kind: my Page Rank's gone from five to six recently. But among African dictators, despots, and government ministers, I'm just not in favor.

Over the last few days, I've gotten about twenty of the 'Nigerian President' spam scams. (These, for the rare duck who's never gotten one, offer to cut you in on some financial transaction worth millions if you'll give them your bank account details in order to set it up. Or variations on the theme.) I have a soft spot for these things, because they're so patently ridiculous:

I promise that you will not regret helping us, you have my personal word of honor. My colleagues and I strive for the commitment to operate only on high standards of integrity and honesty. We need the same honesty and commitment to this transaction from you.

This from someone who's offering to help me defraud his government. How touching.

Anyway, as I said, I've gotten an uncommon number of these in the past few days, from a virtual Who's Who of Friends or Government-mates of Corrupt Former or Current African Administrations. But with every email, the status of my correspondent declines. I started with former presidents (or wives thereof, actually), and then cabinet ministers, and then at least treasury officials. Now I'm down to a former minister of Energy.

Apparently, I'm just not good enough for the big guys anymore.

Will Mr. And Mr. Jones Please Step Forward

Well, Bush proposes $1.5 billion for the 'promotion of marriage', as you will have seen if I'm not your first stop on the blogosphere. Amanda at Crescat thinks it's a collosal waste of money. Tyler Cowen wonders how conservatism has come to stand for subsidized marriage counseling. The sad thing is that Chris over at En Banc doesn't jump for joy, realizing the extent to which this means the battle for gay marriage is over. But I'll make that prediction, here and now: Bush won't back the Federal Marriage Amendment, and without that, it's a dead letter. This is another one of those battles that conservatives have lost, and unfortunately in the courts, not in the legislature.

Unlike many of his critics, I don't believe Bush is stupid, just as I didn't believe that Clinton was stupid. (Dishonest and not to be trusted around your daughter, maybe, but not stupid.) So far, Bush has been very successful at positioning himself with policies that, while ideologically impure, provide him with tactical advantage and increase his room for maneuver without causing ideological harm. Farm subsidies? They shore his electoral base and give his trade negotiators some serious leverage when asking Europe to reduce its Common Agricultural Policy. Steel tariffs? Again, help in West Virginia that anyone could see would be struck down by the WTO--and there they went. A drug benefit for Medicare? Sure, it's costly, but probably worth the price of stealing the issue from the Democrats for the upcoming election, possibly giving Bush a bigger Republican majority in Congress after 2004.

What does this have to do with $1.5 billion to promote marriage? There are serious policies which could promote marriage between couples in this country, and a thoughtful conservative might put them forward. (True, most of them are reforms which a thoughtful conservative would support at the state level, but one could put forward a 'marriage exemption' in the tax code or such.) All of these would cost more than $1.5 billion, the kind of money that, whatever Amanda may mourn, is lost in the rounding of Washington mathematics.

Sure, as Chris points out, the money won't go to homosexual couples, and I suppose we can get disheartened about that. But the only reason to put forth such a policy with so little effect is to defend your right flank when you know your left is about to capitulate utterly. My guess is that flight of several now-gutless Senators has not augured (haruspiced?) well for the passage of the FMA, and Bush and Rove know it. Hence, it's CYA time in the State of the Union.

I could be wrong. Bush may push the FMA in the State of the Union, call Congress to act, or even (this would be worth it just for the circus) call for the States to petition for a convention. But I doubt it.

As I've mentioned before, I support the FMA not because I have so much trouble with gay marriage, but because it might discourage future judicial activism. A firmer response from the executive or legislative to judicial encroachment on their perogatives would be nice. I'm a bit disheartened to this indicator that Bush isn't going to take a stand.

January 12, 2004

Return of the Strange Search Terms

In my break between ConLaw reading and Perspectives reading, I figured I'd pause to give you the latest strange Google paths by which intrepid, and probably confused, websurfers have found this site. As always, my commentary is left for the searchers, if they're still around.

  • I'll start by pointing out that due to my single Paris Hilton post, I've gotten the statistical majority of my Google hits. Not the statistical majority of my Google hits since last month, mind you, but the majority of all hits since the inception of the blog. Ms. Hilton, besides starring on horrible TV shows, is wreaking havok on my statistical sensibilities. It really gives you a sense of how, even if you're a moderately sized blawger, the porn universe is just so much bigger.
    Best searches include 'paris hilton video download', 'free paris hilton video,' 'admit it: you two are paris hilton,' and my all-time favorite, 'paris hilton karl rove,' 'paris hilton videotape having sex with the devil.'
  • Runner up: 'Who the hell is paris hilton.' Ignorance is truly bliss.
  • famous crazy people: this guy might have found what he was looking for, at least if he checked this out during exams.
  • Anne Coulter resume: Because, you know, I'm hiring...
  • Howard Dean god: it's his next step after he's gotten the presidency...
  • two years in hell to become devil: They're going to do it a year faster than me???
  • law misery depression: Well, someone was searching during exams...
  • British lapel sign of Iraq: Got me
  • What's Hell Like: Check back during this term's exams...
  • young female single professional blog: Check out Stay of Execution
  • Kill Limbaugh: Ooooh boy...
  • feminism lilo and stitch: Please tell me there's not a feminist interpretation of that lousy film...
  • have wild sex with the devil paris hilton: let the theologians among you ponder where to put the commas in that statement
  • become an assassin: a course not likely to be taught at Columbia Law School
  • history behind kissing cousins: no one admit to this one, OK?
  • it feels like I wasted my high school years: You and me both, mate...
  • solution to segregation in New York City: some people expect a lot from this blog
  • coffee bar construction materials
  • beautiful teacher in torture hell: someone's been watching the wrong kind of Japanese videos...
  • My most flattering non-Paris-Hilton sex entries: clever sex and where to find sex in New York City
  • And finally, the least complimentary search term: how to become an idiot

    Ah well, if the shoe fits...

So how does one get to Formalism?

Speaking of Prof. Solum, he's got his latest in a line of articles on formalism, Getting to Formalism. More a practical argument for how to move the judiciary towards formalist interpretation, he pushes for horizontal stare decisis in the Supreme Court. Unsure how I stand on that personally, but it's well worth a read.

For those new readers who didn't see my last post on its usefulness, by the way, I'd like to direct you to The Legal Theory Lexicon, also by Solum and of more immediate use to 1Ls. His last two topics, The Rule of Law and Positive and Normative Legal Theory featured or at least appeared in today's Perspectives class, so it's a helpful read.

First Day Down

Dear Wormwood:

So, the first day of classes are out of the way. For the sake of posterity, and so that I can see how wrong I am in my predictions by the end of the term, I'll record my first impressions.

Constitutional Law: Too early to tell, really. Today's lecture was mostly a discussion of 'what is a constitution?' As an obviously introductory session, I've not been able to get a grip on what the course is like yet.

Criminal Law: Based on the first day, the course reminds me a lot of Torts last semester. Only downside is that I took a lot of notes in a lecture room with 1970s ergonomics. I can see myself popping tylenol like a fiend by the end of the term.

The course itself reminds me of Torts simply because Prof. Crimlaw (like Prof. Torts last term) wants to focus on concepts and structure to a greater degree than just 'elements' of a particular criminal statute. I get a sense that, just as the Torts exam wasn't a standard issue-spotter, CrimLaw won't be either. How 'usual' this is I don't know: while Gilberts or other such guides suggest that this isn't the normal fashion of a law school course, my experience thus far is that there isn't a 'normal.'

(For the sake of honesty, I should probably note I got zapped in Socratic Method here today. Still, honesty is a highly overrated virtue in a diarist, so no point in dwelling on it.)

Perspectives in Legal Thought: By contrast, Prof. Perspectives eschews the Socratic Method entirely, which makes a big change. It's been at least seven years since I've taken notes on a pure hour-long academic lecture, and my note-taking skills have atrophied. About half-way through I was remembering the old patterns: if a professor says 'three reasons for X are', then break out the bullet points, etc.

Prof. Perspectives made the class sound fairly unusual for a 1L course, Wormwood, so you may find my impressions aren't much use to you unless you're looking at Columbia particularly. In rough overview, the course covers various controversies in the philosophy of law. To give a hint, tomorrow's readings are Aristotle and Plato. One good reason to look forward to the course: if you've read Prof. Solum's Legal Theory Blog but occasionally crave background for the discussion, this seems to be the course to give it to you. (Incidentally, Solum was quoted in the reading for today's text, in contrast to Scalia.)

Given that much of my interest in law lies in this area, I'm looking forward to much of the course. Some of the questions I've been asking for some time (e.g. why is legal education conducted as it is; what are the disadvantages to the rule of law) look to be raised over the next few months.

The only other impression I can give you so far is that the reading for this term looks, at first glance at least, to be literally crushing. I carried all my books from the apartment to my locker this morning, and for those of you still in the application process wondering what you can do to prepare for law school next year I can offer an unorthodox suggestion: take up weightlifting.

Dean Freaks

There's been a lot written on the Club for Growth's anti-Dean attack ad, which is admittedly quite clumsy and far of the mark. Sometimes people are their own worst enemies.

Still, I think a lot of the criticism ignores the fact that the ad will be effective. My friend Martin at Monograph or Ambivalent Imbroglio (the link above) are both approving, but then, they're not from 'red' or 'flyover territory' America. Dean for America is capitalizing on this, of course, and it will energize his base... but the 'Freak Show' ad is going to have its effect to, and it would be good for Dean to marginalize it. Dean for America:

Or what about those lattes? A report by the Christian Science Monitor (not the New York Times, mind you) notes that Michael Gerson, the president's speechwriter, does his writing in Starbucks. The words coming out of George Bush's mouth at any moment may have been written over a latte!

And, of course, is the most stupidly textualist way, Dean's right. But 'latte-drinking' is a pejorative to a lot of 'flyover' people, many of whom drink quite a few lattes themselves. These folks are to lattes what Madonna is to crucifixes: sure, they know what they're holding, but they don't take it seriously.

The Ambivalents of this world, and those too quick to dismiss the commercial, should take note of it anyway, and not just to mock. The commercial makes out Dean supporters to fit a demographic profile, and any good marketing man will tell you that while no such profile fits in all particulars, they can be valuable in describing your customer base. That description doesn't meet the core demographic of Iowa, but I wonder how closely it fits the bulk of Dean's support. Among Democrats, this kind of thing may not be effective, but in the general election, Dean will need a broader base of support. The candidate who lectures Southerners about the issues that must be important to them will make as many enemies as he does friends.

So tomorrow it begins again

So, tomorrow it begins again. New classes, a new set of students, a new set of things to blog about. The reading (what I've gotten done of it so far) seems... typical. The criminal law textbook seems a lot like Torts. (Those of you who remember how poorly I felt I did in that class will hopefully be pleased to learn that the result was a renewed confidence in how well, in the end, I understood it.) The first day's Constitutional Law reading reminded me a lot of Government class my last year in high school (also taught through Socratic method, and featuring every one of the readings bar the Pennsylvania constitution). I'm taking a break before looking at Perspectives.

I don't have time tonight to blog much, but here's the outline:
Classes:
Criminal Law
Constitutional Law
Foundation of the Regulatory State
Perspectives on Legal Thought
Moot Court

Exams:
Two results back so far. I have no intention of posting my grades, but I'm pleased. Then again, I'm not gunning for a perfect 4.0 average, so I'm pleased with a lot less than some. Suffice it to say that first term exams have convinced me that this law school thing is a doable endeavor. (Don't bruise the few moments of confidence I have, OK?)

New Distractions:
The weekend featured the purchase of a Win TV PVR card for my server, so now I've got a TV. OK, the dorm doesn't have cable and I only get broadcast channels badly through an indoor antenna, but it could be worse. Couple that with a forthcoming 80 GB harddrive and can you say 'build your own TIVO'?

As soon as I have some new exam dates, Exam Watch will be updated. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing everyone back at classes tomorrow. With any luck, I'll be back to fine blogging form, since I always seem more eager to write when I've got a lot of mental stimuli. It feels like it was a short vacation indeed.

January 11, 2004

For Those in My Con Law Class

OK, this is blog as public service announcement, so if you're not in my Con Law class, you can ignore it.

I've gotten a few emails from people who, like me, didn't pick up Prof. Con Law's materials for tomorrow's class. Thankfully, a friend loaned me her copy, so I've got it. (Thanks to said friend, by the way.) I was going to scan the materials in and post them here, but they all seem to be available online, so what I've done is link to the relevant sites instead.

Again, if you're not in my Con Law class, this is of no use to you, but if you are, feel free to pass it on. (Links are in the extended entry.)

Incidentally, I've not checked these materials for accuracy, but I'm fairly certain they're the same thing. Use at your own risk, etc.

The course pack made available by the professor contains:

The Declaration of Independence

The Constitution of Virginia - 1776 (This is 90% the same--it's missing the preamble in Prof's text, but is otherwise the same.)

A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth, or State of Pennsylvania - 1776 (Assignment is only Article IX.) OK, the Prof's Table of Contents says the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776, but the text he's provided is actually found in the 1790 Constitution, so that's what I've linked to.

Articles of Confederation - 1777

Constitution or Frame of Government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - 1780 (This one's a little odd, since the online version differs from the text slightly. The assigned text ends in the first paragraph of Part The Second, where it reads, "The people inhabiting the territory formerly called the province of Massachusetts Bay do hereby solemnly and mutually agree with each other to form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent body-politic or State, by the name of the commonwealth of Massachusetts." It goes no further than that.)

Hope that helps someone.

January 09, 2004

Too Busy

I always thought vacations were supposed to be restful. At least the tail-end of this one isn't. Between reading for classes, getting my resumes out the door, sweating about exam results (two in--more on that later), helping friends move apartments, and the various other check boxes feverishly multiplying on my task list, I've barely had time for my computer. Which, by the way, needs a complete rebuild.

Which makes it surprising that this week I'm guest-blogging occasionally over at Crestcat Sententia. How do I get myself into these commitments?

Spawn v. Sandman, Heard by Posner

When this opinion comes out, I've got to read it.

It appears that while I've not been looking Neil Gaiman has sued Todd MacFarlane for violation of contract, among other things. For those of you who don't keep up with comics, Gaiman is author of Sandman (artsy, gets strong reviews in places like the New York Times, largely responsible for putting comics into 'the better class of literature'), while Todd MacFarlane is mostly know for Spawn (violent, brooding, largely responsible for rehabilitating the angry, violent anti-hero). I'll tell you more when I get the time to read more about it, but here's a link to the 7th Circuit page about the case. It should be worth a smile, at the very least.

(Hat tip to Carey Cuprisin for the link.)

January 05, 2004

Secret Santa, Or Someone Trying To Save My Soul

Well, one day after I find myself with a good excuse to go buy Playboy, an anonymous benefactor with access to Lexis-Nexis sends the relevant George McGovern interview to me.

This has taught me two things:
(a): Lexis-Nexis has access to at least some articles in Playboy. While I guess it makes sense, I would never have thought of that on my own.
(b): The passage relevant to my last post regarding Dean is:

Howard Dean doesn't need any advice from me, although he is the only presidential contender who has sought it. I have been present only once to see and hear the Democratic aspirants for the presidential nomination, at the State Democratic Rural Conference in Lake Placid, New York. In terms of stage presence and audience reaction at this one event, I would have to give the nod to Senator John Kerry. But Dean also came across well. When he finished, Dean asked me to meet with him privately. He plied me with questions about how I thought he was doing. I told him he seemed to be doing fine and offered only one real bit of advice: Beware of excessive fatigue. That's sometimes the cause of political gaffes. The late senator Barry Goldwater once told me he came out against Social Security in St. Petersburg, Florida late in his 1964 campaign against President Lyndon Johnson because he was furious with his staff for scheduling a late-night rally when he was at the point of exhaustion. In a doubtful display of logic, Goldwater told me he was trying to punish his "damn staff" with this shocking attack on the program.

If I had felt qualified to advise Governor Dean, I would have urged him to stay with his current strategy: The way to beat George Bush is not to be like him. Dean should also hang on to his effective tagline, "I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."


Perhaps we can have McGovern put on the ticket for veep?

January 04, 2004

Temptations

As I've mentioned before, I generally don't like Googlebombing. It seems to go against the spirit of a system that works because, on the whole, it's not manipulated.

Still, over at Letters of Marque, Heidi's got a googlebombing project going to misdirect links to Brian Leiter. I think it's a superlative idea for exactly the opposite reason they do: they think he's a cool fellow, while I think he's insufferable. I'm tempted, I really am. And while I'm not putting their link up myself, if you feel like doing so, I'd not complain at all.

Beyond Parody

From today's Washington Post: apparently not only was Dean the only Democratic candidate to approach George McGovern for advice, but this fact was revealed to the world in an essay by the former candidate in December's Playboy.

How embarassing. Not the Dean revelation, but the fact that I now want to buy an issue of Playboy to read the article.

Ah, Content Management Systems

Toby Stern over at Crescat Sententia points to an AP fluke on the Washington Post site. Because it seems to be an error, I'm linking to the screenshot on Crescat, not the original link: that may disappear. The 'article' reads:

Please kill the story Limbaugh-Painkillers, V9991. Rush Limbaugh has not been charged with doctor shopping.

My guess is that someone typed an instruction into an article database by mistake: either an AP reporter placing it on a wire so it automatically got published on the Post's content management system, or the Post placing an article 'live' when it shouldn't have. Notably, the New York Times carries the same story in its feed. (The two sites seem to use a similar, if not the same, back end system, or at least a lot of the code looks the same.)

Oh, OK. Some of you don't care about the code, you want to know what the story is about. So much less interesting. It seems that the AP published a story stating that Limbaugh was accused of 'doctor shopping', and is now trying to kill the story. The error was made around 9AM on Saturday morning, and corrected at 5PM. But neither the Post or the Times have taken the story off their sites.

I wonder how either paper normally handle 'kill' orders from the wires. The temptation is to ascribe it to bias against Rush Limbaugh (I'm sure some will), but if it's not policy to leave the story and the kill, I'm betting it's just a mistake...

Now this is a new concept

One of my professors next term is, in fact, a blogger.

This poses some problems with my anonymity policies, since I've been careful not to identify my professors by name online. As you know, I don't identify anyone online without their permission, but he's non-anonymous online. But in any event, it's been interesting reading some of his views and knowing exactly what I'm getting into before I get started.

More to come after I've considered how to handle this particular discovery responsibly. Any professors reading this who have advice on how to blog about a professor who is also a blogger, I'd appreciate the guidelines.

January 03, 2004

Run the Un-named Nazgul as Democratic Candidate!

One last chuckle from George F. Will before bedtime:

Dean is why there is both good and bad news for Democrats in Newsweek's latest presidential poll. The good news is that George W. Bush is in a 46-46 dead heat when matched against an unnamed Democrat. The bad news is that the Democratic nominee will have, among other problematic attributes, a name, probably Dean's.

January 02, 2004

'Babes Against Bush' are back

Some of you may remember a post of mine in which I flippantly disregarded the importance of the Babes Against Bush (not work safe) website. Well, it seems that the head honcho of this particular site has been moved to comment. The best self-important howler:

The core mission of BAB was to make people aware that opposition to Bush _exists_, period.

Ah yes. In a world filled with Naom Chomsky, Michael Moore, Al Franken, the editorial page of the New York Times, one hundred celebrity pundit Crossfire-esque chat shows, and Saturday Night Live, it takes someone courageous enough to bare women's breasts to make people aware that opposition to Bush exists.

This morning, I took a deep breath, sat back in an easy chair, and tried to imagine what a grim view of humanity one has to have to think that such means are necessary to make people recognize politics. Try it, it's enlightening. Especially if you're still lightly drunk and need sobering up quickly.

January 01, 2004

Happy New Year!

A very happy new year to all my readers. Normal service will be resumed after Michigan (hopefully) pounds USC.

Giving The Devil His Due

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Howard Dean is Nuts (2)
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This Line NEVER Works (5)
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The Strangeness of Google (4)
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Bainbridge for Judge! (6)
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If Meat Makes You Impotent, Does Vegetarianism Make You Tacky? (10)
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Will Mr. And Mr. Jones Please Step Forward (3)
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First Day Down (3)
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Dean Freaks (4)
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So tomorrow it begins again (3)
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For Those in My Con Law Class (3)
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Too Busy (7)
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Spawn v. Sandman, Heard by Posner (2)
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Secret Santa, Or Someone Trying To Save My Soul (2)
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Temptations (10)
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Beyond Parody (1)
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Ah, Content Management Systems (2)
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Now this is a new concept (3)
A. Rickey wrote: Well, that answers that ques... [more]

Run the Un-named Nazgul as Democratic Candidate! (3)
anon wrote: Nah, the Democratic candidate just ... [more]

'Babes Against Bush' are back (11)
And wrote: breast... [more]

Happy New Year! (7)
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D.C. Noir

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A Clockwork Orange

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