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August 31, 2004

Ad Hominem Attacks At Amazon

Now, normally I don't have much disagreement with Professor Bainbridge. But in his latest piece, he suggests that Amazon.com's decision to suspend their rule against ad hominem attacks is politically motivated:

Although the announcement implies that the policy shouldn[']t apply to any books about presidential politics, Unfit for Command appears to be the only political book as to which the policy has been lifted. Bias? If this annoys you too, why not buy a copy? You'll let Amazon know that you're not dissuaded by their bias (and support this website at the same time!).

(I'll let you go to his website to buy your copy, if you want.)

Let me suggest here that Amazon's motivations might not be bias, but simple mercy. I can't imagine that any book currently on the market is as likely to provide a source for ad hominem attacks--from both sides--as this one. As of today, there's 1,465 customer reviews, and I can only see it increasing.

To put that in perspective, Ann Coulter's Treason, out for much longer, has 1,934. Maureen Dowd and Hugh Hewitt's latest have only about sixty or so. Bill Clinton's My Life only clocks in at the mid-500s.

I wonder if at least one motivation for Amazon's shift in policy is the worry that whoever had to edit all the reviews for ad hominems would simply up and quit in revolt. Of course, were this the case, some honesty would be in order. Amazon's policy statement should have read:

Important note from Amazon.com: We've decided to suspend our normal customer review policies and rules for this title. For example, we usually prohibit ad hominem attacks. Frankly, we can neither afford to manually edit this bile, nor write software smart enough to separate the merit from the mudslinging. Besides, as of this morning, there were 732 reviews of this book, and we've only sold four dozen copies. We don't know where you guys are buying this tome, but either it's not from us or most of you have never actually read it.

Therefore, short of obscenities, reviews on this book are now a free-for-all. We take no responsibility for the following discussion. It's not clear that anyone else has. Have fun! We're going out for beer.

Looking at it, this strategy might have worked much better for Amazon. As of this writing, three of the top four reviews are not about the book at all, but complaining about Amazon's "biased" policies.

August 30, 2004

Dear Wormwood: Get A Job

[Note to my Columbia Readers, especially in my 2L class: This is one Letter to Wormwood that needs your help. I'm not certain I got all of the marketing items listed at the end of this entry precisely correct, and I'm sure I left some off. If you happen to have any to add, please be sure to comment.]

My dearest nephew Wormwood,

Your churlish complaints that I've stopped speaking about law school cut me to the core. Certainly you realize that classes don't start for another week? And besides classes, there really is nothing to write about that I can write about.

I mean, what can I say about Law Review? No one applies for a job on a law review because they figure days cite checking in a library will be a spiritually rewarding experience. Heidi expresses some of the exasperation well, but really, one can't complain. The job is what we all signed up for, and we knew what that meant when we started. And were I to speak of any of the articles, I'd probably be breaching some blood-signed confidentiality contract and invoking the wrath of professorships everywhere. No, Law Review will have to wait until I have more significant advice for you.

And of course, there's Columbia's Early Interview Program, which finished last week. Twenty-four interviews over five days, with barely a weekend in the middle. Fortunately I love my suits and managed to find enough ties to match together. (How did I leave all my ties in Michigan?)

Now, Wormwood, you may be wondering exactly what this hiring process is, and why I am interviewing in August for a position starting next May. Let me explain, as if you were an untutored innocent, exactly how a larval lawyer goes from 1L to employment. In the first term, or early in the second, of his 1L year, the young lawyer searches for a summer job which will be fulfilling, rewarding either pecuniarily or mentally, and thanks his stars for what he gets. This job may have little to do with his eventual future, except that it should look good on a resume. (Indeed, I suggest you look for something broadening instead of lucrative, that you choose experience over salary: this is one great opportunity.)

No sooner has the soon-to-be 2L returned from his summer employment than he begins interviewing with as many law firms as he can to secure a position in his subsequent summer. Most all of these interviews will occur in the context of some "on campus interview" (OCI) program. Columbia's is called EIP. Over five days, you go from room to room in a vast hotel, having twenty-minute sessions with lawyers from a number of firms of your choice.

These interviews will hopefully lead to 'callbacks,' in which the lawyer-to-be visits the office of a more limited number of employers, hoping to garner offers of summer employment. From these he then chooses a firm. The expectation is that after he has completed a meritorious 2L summer, that firm will offer him a full-time position.

Yes, Wormwood, you're cunning enough to have seen the implication of this. When the budding 2L is interviewing, all he has to show his future employer is a resume with a bare summer of experience; the possibility of having been accepted to a journal; and his 1L grades. His subsequent employer is likely to choose him based on a mere third of his academic experience. For this reason, some have questioned why there is a third year of law school. Others have questioned why firms and schools use a system that ignores two-thirds of a student's academic credentials, and that puts almost unseemly competitive pressures on 1Ls. Wormwood, if you find out, please drop me a line.

Others have covered the EIP process in more personal detail. (UPDATE: Link and commentary here removed at target's request.)

So what are my tips on interviewing, choosing firms, and securing a job? Why would you want to ask me, dear Wormwood? I don't have a job yet, so certainly you should wait until I've proven that whatever advice I might give works. And as mentioned, I'm not going to discuss any of the particular firms I interviewed with: they may very well read my letters to you. But certainly, I hear you cry, I should give you something. Why else do you read all the non-law screed I write?

You have a point. So what can I give you to help you light your way as you consider your choice of firms? What can I say about each organization which is completely in the public domain, about which no firm could begrudge me reporting? How might they consider this letter to be free advertising?

(Oh, Wormwood, remember that in my past life I was partially a marketing man.)

Over the period of EIP, almost every firm had some literature to distribute to potential employees. Many had hospitality suites in which tired law students wishing to rest could sit, sip coffee, and discuss options with human resources staff. And quite a few handed out what I can only term the swag of the legal seas, the catch of the candidates, the booty of the potential breadwinner: marketing goodies. Part of the public face of each firm, I give you the following (certainly non-exhaustive) list of what I and others picked up.

  • Pens constituted by far the most numerous marketing items. Wormwood, after last week I may never need to buy a ballpoint pen again. McKinsey & Co. (a consulting firm), Paul Hastings, Skadden Arps, and Linklaters have all contributed to my stock of writing equipment. And for the most part, these weren't cheap. Lawyers write a lot, dear Wormwood, but I may not get through these beauties in my entire career.
  • Lawyers are also stressed quite a lot. I can only assume that this stress is behind what is probably the second most-common marketing giveaway: squeezy foam toys. Again, Linklaters came through, providing a nice little ball. Another firm (perhaps my readers can enlighten me?) was giving away a starfish, and I believe it was O'Melveney & Meyers providing little squeezy globes, the continents nicely done in short fuzz. Probably the most noticeable, and noticed, squeezy toy came from Stroock, however. A short, squat penguin, the little waddler bears the slogan, "We may dress like other attorneys, but the similarities end there."
  • On the other hand, some firms broke the mold and came up with original and innovative swag. Greenberg Taurig, for instance, bound its marketing brochure into a small hardcover, like a children's book. Latham & Watkins took the whole 'stress' motif to a new level, handing out little pillcases filled with antacid, analgesics, and earplugs. But again, Stroock put forth the 'must see' goodie in this category: they'd had 'baseball cards' printed of their partners, and handed them out in wrapped packets, complete with cardboard-like stick of gum. Sounds silly, but at least it's unique. And just think: everyone who gets a callback can easily study up on their interviewers.
  • UPDATE: My fellow classmates are a fine source of information, Wormwood. Camille has kindly reminded me that O'Melveney was also distributing staplers, as a useful compliment to the squeezy globe. Alison points out a slinky from Kramer Levin, and suggests that the starfish was from King & Spaulding. And Avi points to a water bottle from Goodwin Proctor.

Is this list complete? Of course not. Over the next few days, I'll be certain to update it, Wormwood, particularly as my friends leave their own stories in the comments. But with any luck, this gives those that come after me a bit of an introduction to some law firms, their websites, and their marketing. This is by no means complete, but it should give you somewhere to start.

Yours,

S.

RSS and Blogspot

Some of you will notice an odd prejudice in the blogroll on the homepage here at Three Years of Hell. If you look very closely, you may realize that I include very few authors who use Blogger or Blogspot.

Before anyone starts gathering for a large class-action lawsuit, let me explain. Unlike a lot of sites, I like to syndicate headlines. In other words, I link not to the individual blog, but to their top-three headlines at any given time. This gives me an idea of which of my favorite blogs have been recently updated, and which are growing a bit moldy. The trouble is that I do this through a technology called RSS (Really Simply Syndication). Unfortunately, the 900 lb. gorilla that is Blogger backs a different standard: ATOM. Up until now, it's been very difficult for me to integrate these feeds into my website, and I'm not about to rewrite the relevant MoveableType Plug-in. (Hell, doubt I could. --Ed.) "How can I get an RSS feed?" has been one of the most common questions I've been asked by Blogger...erm...bloggers.

Today, I'm happy to say that betwixt Ann Althouse and myself, we managed to come up with a fix. Or rather, we've tested the FeedBurner service, and it seems to be working. You'll note that Prof. Althouse is now on my RSS list.

I'm leaving detailed instructions for how to use this system to generate RSS (instead of using the SmartFeed service, which won't work with some readers) below. But if you happen to be one of the people I read most often yet haven't added to the mix, this would make it much easier for me to link to you.

(Oh, and if you're a new Columbia 1L looking to be put on either The Columbia Continuum or my blogroll, please do email me. I really need to get this place updated.)

NOTE: There's a lot of services out there that do various XML conversions, or will scrape your site to make RSS. I'm not necessarily recommending FeedBurner, because I don't know much about them. I don't know who owns them, I'm unfamiliar with their privacy policy, and for all I know they're owned by the Devil Incarnate. (Hell has the best techs and the worst tech support.) Basically, 'use at your own risk.' This is how we managed to get Althouse up and running.

Right: how to do this.

a) Go to http://www.feedburner.com. Enter the name of your ATOM feed at Blogspot. Almost all the time, this will be your URL with "atom.xml" after the URL. For instance, Chris Geidner's site (http://lawdork.blogspot.com) has an ATOM feed at http://lawdork.blogspot.com/atom.xml.

b) On the next page, if SmartFeed is enabled, click the box next to it to disable it. (Or use it, but I don't think it works with my site. I'm being greedy here.)

c) Scroll down to "Additional Services" and find "Convert Format Burner." Select this service.

d) In the dropdown at the bottom of this section, select "RSS 2.0" as your format.

e) Click on Next. On the next page, create an account. (PLEASE see warning above: I'm neither endorsing the service nor do I know anything about what you sign away when you give them an account. See the FAQ here.)

f) That's pretty much it for creating the feed. Now you have to figure out what the feed URL is. If you log onto your new control screen and look at your feed, you'll see a link that says "Publicize." If you click this and follow a few steps, you should have a snippet of code you can paste into your website. This will tell those of us who want to add you to our blogroll the URL we need.

g) Last but not least, write a short entry on your blog announcing the new feed, so that those of us who read you know to update our own sites.

Hope that helps!

Christmas in Cambodia, Texas Lt. Governors Who Travel Through Time

One thing about Law Review articles: at least in theory, someone's checked the substantive facts behind every single sentence. We've gone to the sources, checked out their pedigree, and in general tried to make sure stuff stands up.

Now if only you could say that for the media. The latest "where were you in 1968" story (answer--not born yet) involves former Lt. Governor of Texas Ben Barnes. In an internet video, he's quoted as saying:

I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I’m not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. And I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do, when you're in office you helped a lot of rich people. And I walked through the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been because it was the worst thing that I did was that I helped a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard and I’m very sorry about that and I’m very ashamed and I apologize to you as voters of Texas.

(emph. added) Prof. Yin's co-conspirator gleefully points this out and asks when Bush will apologize. But let's not just pick on Prof. Heller. Maybe he read Molly Ivins, who's lived in Texas long enough she should know better. Or maybe the New York Times, which reports on this at face value. Anyway, this comes down to another of those stories that gets analyzed in blogs but not the media.

So what's wrong with this picture? Well, I'm not the first to point this out--no one credit me for originality--but it's pretty obvious. Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes takes office in 1969. Whereas even Mother Jones is quite happy to admit--whilst making the same accusation--that young Bush enrolls on May 27, 1968--almost a year earlier.

Now, perhaps Mr. Barnes got Bush his position when he was House Speaker, as Mother Jones says. But of course, all of this has arisen because Barnes is speaking out (Quicktime) about this now, in an agonizingly personal confession. At least he's not said the event was 'seared' into his memory. Perhaps someone should have reminded the man of his own resume?

(As mentioned, I read this elsewhere--if anyone can spot the first source, I'll give a link.)

UPDATE: A keen reader writes in to remind me of another time-travelling member of the Kerry Support Network, Lewis Lapham of Harper's. You can follow the story through this Volokh thread, but the long and the short of it is that Mr. Lapham provided color commentary of the speeches at the Republican Convention several weeks before they occurred. Apparently the laws of the space-time continuum aren't what they used to be.

August 28, 2004

The Fiction of Belief

Some may note that I've been writing of matters religious more than usual of late. The inspiration for these conversations has come from finishing James Morrow's trilogy about the death and subsequent disposal of God, starting with the magnificent Towing Jehovah. This is the latest in a genre of books I've always loved: religious fantasies.

While I remain an agnostic, I've found myself drawn towards the allegory, myth, and storytelling of religious authors ever since I received a full set of C. S. Lewis' Narnia series in my childhood. One reason I've drifted away from the harsh skepticism of many of the more vocal atheists I've known has been their seeming inability to recognize the beauty that's come from mankinds' religions, and especially from Christianity. There's some kind of compulsion in atheist circles to engage in a kind of metaphysical bookkeeping, to declare that the suffering of the Crusades or the fervor of the Inquisition (or nowadays, the existence of paedophile priests) cancel out the glory of a cathedral or the beauty of a well-written allegory. I can't think of a work, an ideal, or even an emotion that has sat in the minds of men which wouldn't go bankrupt on that kind of ledger, be it the heights of faith, the passion of love, or the relentless inexorable compulsions of logic. Nonetheless, these atheist accountants only ever seem to audit the faithful.

In any event, religious fiction has always held a particularly special place in my heart, and it has been through this that I've learned what little smatterings of theology that I've come to study. The nature of evil? First got introduced by Faulkner's A Light in August. [1] The problem of pain? Hadn't seriously considered it until I'd read through The Man Who Was Thursday. Theodicy? Didn't even know where to start looking until I finished Blameless in Abaddon.

I'd highly recommend learning from fiction, particularly for those who are already strong in their faith (be that a faith in God or his non-existence). For one thing, these books are quite good in their own right. But they also draw from the wells of the world's faiths, the works of men and women who have spent their time considering the most important of problems. The roots of these novels are thus often deeper than first appears. For those interested, here are some of my favorites. And for those of you who can suggest further reading, the comments are always open.

The Faithful
I'll admit, my reading in this area is primarily limited to two authors, Lewis and Chesterton.




coverThe Man Who Was Thursday: As prolific as he is optimistic, Chesterton's fiction applies his paradoxical humor to quite serious questions. He denied that The Man Who Was Thursday was in any way an allegory, but it's certainly fooled a few critics. Thursday deals with the infiltration of a circle of anarchist terrorists by Gabriel Syme, a member of a new police squad formed to combat the evils of anarchism and nihilism. The premise is both delightfully absurd and yet terribly noble: the anarchist who could condemn him is bound only by his word not to do so, and this conspiracy of the faithless by the end of the story numbers in the positively legion. A conspiracy of gentlemen masterminded by the sinister and enigmatic Sunday.

coverThe Napoleon of Notting Hill: Only peripherally religious, and more a social satire, The Napoleon of Notting Hill chronicles the rebirth of romance in a world drained dry by rationality. Auberon Quin, who is picked as the ceremonial King of England, shocks his nation when he begins to rule as an old-style monarch. But even he is confounded when Adam Wayne accepts the joke at face value. Soon the suburbs of London are waging war with one another, as two men's madness infects the city.

coverThe Chronicles of Narnia: More recent, and infinitely more well-known, The Chronicles of Narnia are straightforward allegory. Indeed, this is probably the first allegory that most children read, and the amazing thing about Lewis' writing is how well it translates into adulthood. As PG noted recently, Lewis wasn't afraid to draw from other traditions when he felt like it, and the influence of Greek mythology is pretty easy to see in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, whilst I always felt The Silver Chair had a vague feel of Taliesin about it.
The Skeptics
Of course, it's not just the religious that write religious fantasy. Some of the most convincing and talented skeptics have written some spectacular religious fantasy.




coverAlmost Anything By James Morrow: If Chesterton's arguments for religion are more powerful because of his optimism and humor, James Morrow might be a modern Chesterton. Most of his religious satires, however skewering, at least reserve equal silliness for fanatics on both sides. (Like many in this section, I couldn't tell you Morrow's actual beliefs, but the books at the very least distrust organized religion, with particular criticism for the Catholic Church.) He's probably best known for Only Begotten Daughter (winner of a World Fantasy Award), which deals with the second coming of the messiah as a woman. However, it is his Corpus Dei trilogy which best showcases his balance of fanaticisms. The series begins with Towing Jehovah, in which the former captain of a Valdez-like oil tanker is hired by the Vatican to tow the dead body of God to a resting place in the North Pole. Curiously, while the Vatican doesn't wish mankind to know their creator has passed on, neither do the world's atheists. After all, atheism becomes a bit of a dead letter in the face of a two-mile corpse. After this particular misadventure, Blameless in Abaddon details how God's body becomes the central attraction of a Baptist theme park in Florida, and is later tried for crimes against humanity in the Hague. The trial itself is a fair introduction to theodicy ("the justification of divine attributes... in respect to the existence of evil." OED) Finally, the death of God excites a plague of nihilism in The Eternal Footman, when each individual's death takes on a particular and very personal form.
coverGood Omens: I'm not sure if it's fair to lump Gaiman or Pratchett in this category, as their religious position isn't immediately obvious. Nonetheless, the book is vaguely heretical, and posits a kind of mini-revolution against both God and the Devil. When the Anti-Christ is born and Crowley (a demon who didn't fall so much as saunter vaguely downwards) is responsible for swapping him into the family of the American ambassador to England, the first of a long series of mistakes results in a very curious Armageddon. Satanic nuns, the last of the English Witchfinder Generals, and the four other horsemen of the apocalypse are only some of the characters of this comedy. Probably the least serious of the books in this section, but well worth a read.
coverScepticism, Inc.: Just as funny as Good Omens, Bo Fowler's novel much more clearly belongs in the skeptic category. It also has the distinction of being the only novel ever narrated by an intelligent shopping trolley. This unlikely storyteller narrates the life and times of Edgar Malroy, proprietor of a chain of metaphysical betting shops. Malroy's schtick is to challenge believers to 'put their money where their metaphysics are,' and will only take bets upon subjects which cannot ever be fundamentally proven (e.g. the existence of God). Pretty soon this strange show of faith has captivated the world, driving many of the world's major religions into insolvency. A satire on some of the absurdity of organized religion, it's also a magnificent comedy.
coverHis Dark Materials (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass): The atheist's answer to The Chronicles of Narnia, Philip Pullman does no less exploration of the soul, the structure of creation, or the relationship between religion and society. Nonetheless, he reaches almost antithetical conclusions to Lewis. The novels focus upon heroes and heroines in an alternate Oxford, in which every individual has a 'daemon,' a sort of physical manifestation of their soul in the form of an animal. This universe, as well as ours, is a created one, but unlike the world of Narnia, the forces of creation, or indeed the society thus created, are neither cuddly nor benign. In case you've been avoiding children's books since the hype over J. K. Rowling, it's worth noting that Pullman's a much better author, with tighter prose and a better control over plot.

These are just a few of the books I could list here. And I've not even considered one more souce of perspective on religious fantasy: Japanese comics and anime. Just as American authors have picked, chosen, and mangled Shinto or Buddhist tradition to flavor their writings with a feel of the 'other,' Japanese fantasy has begun to adopt almost random bits of Christian theology as part of their plotlines. From the mutant Angels of NeoGenesis Evangelion to their more prosaic counterparts in Haibane Renei, anime seems spun through with ideas pulled from the common stories and symbolism of Christianity. While some of the adaptation is superficial, some shows that the authors have spent a good deal of time researching Christian thought. Some is worth watching just to see the outside perspective in the midst of cultural transfer.

covercover


[1]: OK, Faulkner's a bit of a stretch here, because he didn't write religious fantasy, but it's an example of a fictional work that sent me off to learn about non-fictional metaphysics.

Redundant. Redundant.

As the Republican National Convention nears, protestors have descended upon this city like a swarm of pandemonious locusts. I've spotted posters for at least three different organizations wanting to send their message to the Republicans at the law school alone. Banners are being hung, marchers are marching, and men are standing naked on the street because they think this will raise awareness of AIDS. Yes, politics in its passionate silliness has descended on the Big Apple and will be plaguing us for the next week.

In case you're wondering, I'm not 'blogging the convention.' Bush is the nominee, so it's not like there's going to be thrills, spills, or surprises. The whole thing is pretty scripted, and it's not like I'm expecting soaring heights of rhetoric, least of all from the candidate. Between that and the protestors, I can't imagine not having better ways to spend my time.

I thought of arranging a counterprotest, but then realized that I manage counterprotest by mere existence. After all, what could be a more Republican counterprotest to the partisan strangeness than what next week's going to entail anyway: getting up early to work, going on a date or two, and putting on a suit in order to go get a job.

August 27, 2004

Writing to come, promise!

Still working on my EIP piece. In the meantime, I notice that PG--now a fellow Columbia student--is impressed by the poetry of C.S. Lewis for his intelligence and tolerance. She quotes "Cliche Came Out of Its Cage," quite a pretty work.

For my money, though, she should check out G. K. Chesterton's poetry. I've always thought that Chesterton, living through the birth of the high rationalism that afflicts so many today, could be both skewering and yet strangely kind at the same time. Take, for instance, "The Song of the Strange Ascetic":

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have praised the purple vine,
My slaves should dig the vineyards,
And I would drink the wine.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And his slaves grow lean and grey,
That he may drink some tepid milk
Exactly twice a day.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have crowned Neaera's curls,
And filled my life with love affairs,
My house with dancing girls;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And to lecture rooms is forced,
Where his aunts, who are not married,
Demand to be divorced.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have sent my armies forth,
And dragged behind my chariots
The Chieftains of the North.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And he drives the dreary quill,
To lend the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have piled my pyre on high,
And in a great red whirlwind
Gone roaring to the sky;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And a richer man than I:
And they put him in an oven,
Just as if he were a pie.

Now who that runs can read it,
The riddle that I write,
Of why this poor old sinner,
Should sin without delight-
But I, I cannot read it
(Although I run and run),
Of them that do not have the faith,
And will not have the fun.


August 26, 2004

Quick notes

I apologize for the break here at TYoH. There will be a Letter to Wormwood tomorrow about law school interviewing, of sorts: for once I have neither law review work or interviewing, and a brief space to breathe.

Instead, I'll leave you with a bit of political blather from NARAL: The Crawford Wives. Because, you know, if you're a woman and you support George Bush, you're obviously a robot. No way you could have made up your mind to disagree with NARAL. (I'm not making that up. The ad-copy from the post-trailer page: "Yet, they unquestioningly support President Bush even as he robs women of the right to make private decisions about their personal lives." Unquestioningly. I wonder how they know that these women never questioned Bush, never thought for themselves.)

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend in England who was complaining about the lack of all-woman shortlists in the Conservative Party. When it was pointed out that completely without the aid of such lists, the Conservatives had managed to not only have a woman as Party Leader, my friend just chuckled and said, "Oh, sure, but she wasn't really a woman."

There's a T-Shirt in this somewhere for conservatives everywhere. Something like, "Become a Republican Woman: either we'll keep you barefoot and pregnant, or make you our leader and liberals will pretend you have no ovaries." But a bit snappier.

And in other news, the BBC reports that 2 million pages of pornography were accessed by the Department of Work and Pensions over eight months. I leave the one-liners in more capable hands: sometimes the UK government just makes it too easy.

August 21, 2004

Wheat, Blogs, and Journalism

One of the advantages of blogging is the "human search engine": the fact that for any given issue that's blogged, multiple authors serve to cover it, and each generally provide hyperlinks to sources. An informed reader can then decide not only on the quality of the article, but the various authors who link to it--important for their credibility the next time. And of course, in trawling such an issue, it opens up further issues that inflame a curious mind: never a bad thing. Newspapers and news organizations, although always good for generating stories, ignore this fact at their peril.

Take, for instance, the story of Haley Waldman, an eight-year-old Catholic girl whose first communion has been declared invalid by the Church because it was performed with a rice-based wafer. The priest who gave the sacrament--not her regular parish priest, who refused--did so because the girl suffers from celiac sprue disease.

Now, I came across this first at Fool's News, who linked to the CNN article above and had this to say:

According to the article, some churches allow no-gluten hosts. Others do not. [Ed: Note that the Fool does not point out that those which do are doing so against Church doctrine.]

The church has similar rules for Communion wine. For alcoholics, the church allows a substitute for wine under some circumstances, however the drink must still be fermented from grapes and contain some alcohol. Grape juice is not a valid substitute.

Talk about form over substance!!


But of course, the question here seems to be substance (the nature of the host) over form (the fact of the ceremony). Besides this, he didn't mention the fact that the girl's family was offered the sacrement through the wine only, although this is mentioned in the CNN story. Which immediately brings up the question: are the two forms of sacrament the same? And does the Church really make so little accomodation for those suffering a malady?

Well, nothing more to be discovered from the Fool. However, via Professor Bainbridge, one quickly found a Mirror of Justice posting, that in turn linked to a Moteworthy article. (Bainbridge had a simpler post up this morning, but was moved to a more substantive response by this blogger, who characterized the story as follows: "The fact that my church thinks that her God-given lot in life makes her ineligible for communion causes me to doubt whether my church has any clue about the true path to God." Certainly that's a heavy charge to lay against the Church--that it considers her ineligible for Communion. As you'll see below, it's also uninformed.)

The Moteworthy article contains a link to that most valuable of resources for the researcher: the primary source. Specifically, it points to a page from the U.S. Catholic Bishops on The Use of Mustum and Low-Gluten Hosts at Mass. This page provides a significant number of clarifying points on Church doctrine:
a) Doctrinally, it made no difference if the girl had been offered only wine: "[T]he lay faithful who are not able to receive Holy Communion at all under the species of bread, even of low-gluten hosts, may indeed receive Holy Communion under the species of wine only. The Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy has earlier reminded pastors (BCL Newsletter, April-May,2000) of the right of the faithful under the law (CIC, canon 843) to receive Holy Communion, even if only the Precious Blood, and regardless of whether the Precious Blood is offered to the rest of the faithful present at a given celebration of Mass....As a final note, it is important to recall that through the doctrine of concomitance the Church teaches that under either species of bread or wine, the whole of Christ is received (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no.282; Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.1390; Council of Trent, session 21, Doctrina de communione sub utraque specie et parvulorum, 16 July 1562, chapters 1-3: Denzinger –Schonmetzer, 1725-1729). "

So much for Lex Icon's thoughts that " my church thinks that her God-given lot in life makes her ineligible for communion."

An issue of authority, as well as doctrine, was involved: The girl was not the only individual involved. "The second regulation of note regards the granting of permission for the use of low-gluten hosts and mustum by priests, deacons or the lay faithful. In his previous letter, Cardinal Ratzinger had stated that only the Holy See itself, through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, could give permission for the lay faithful to use mustum. Permission for priests, deacons and the lay faithful to use low-gluten hosts was under the competence of the local Ordinary. However, in the July 24, 2003 letter, permission for priests, deacons or the lay faithful without distinction to use mustum or low-gluten hosts is now within the competence of the local Ordinary. The authority to permit the lay faithful to use mustum and low-gluten hosts in the reception of Holy Communion may be delegated to pastors under CIC (Codes Iuris Canonicis), canon 137.1." To translate from the liturgical to legalese, there is a process matter as well as a substantive issue here: the priest involved lacked "jurisdiction" over the matter.

(There's a few other facts in that page, including a variety of very low-gluten hosts being prepared by the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and that "Attention should be paid to medical advances in the area of celiac disease and alcoholism and encouragement given to the production of hosts with a minimal amount of gluten and of unaltered mustum." It's also worth noting that the Church's doctrine on mustum presented in this letter varies with CNN's reporting.)

This in turn opens up a whole host of questions. The Church's current doctrine on the matter seems to be stated above. However, this is based upon Cardinal Ratzinger's letter and his research. Is this simply a restatement or clarification of a pre-existing rule, or is it a new one? What were the historical, doctrinal, and theological reasons behind this rule? What is the history behind the change?

For these questions, I had to veer away from blogs, and start talking to friends. The subsequent conversations led to discussions on Thomas Aquinus, what he meant by "substance" and how that might relate to Platonic ideals, and the fact that the debate may have something to do with the ordination of women. This, in turn, led to an addition of books on my "need to read" list and a whole hour of thought distracted from Law Review.

But these are a discussion for another day. I mention this progression through the blogosphere merely because another hot item today has been an article in the New York Times criticized by that Leviathan of bloggers, Glenn Reynolds:

In fairness to Mr. Kerry, his aides were faced with a strategic dilemma that has become distressingly familiar to campaigns in this era when so much unsubstantiated or even false information can reach the public through so many different forums, be it blogs or talk-show radio.

Now, I'm not about to say that the blogosphere is full of the completely objective, always out to spin the story the in the direction of truth. Certainly it isn't: Instapundit is as right wing as Calpundit is left. But the glory of blogs from the very beginning has been not punditry but the obsessive use of hyperlinks, the deep-felt need to making your sources plain. [1] Look at either the AP article above, or the CNN article which elaborates upon it, and you'll find nothing approaching the level of detail, research, or depth that I've summarize in this post. (It's worth noting that I've done just that: summarized. This is only what I've found from others.) That lets readers judge your research in a manner that even law review articles, with their obsessive footnoting, cannot manage: the links are immediate, available, and their authority easily weighed.

The New York Times doesn't do this. The AP wire doesn't do this. Their websites do not typically link to sources and allow for speedy evaluation. And given the distortions, spin, and bias that can validly be laid at the feet of Fox News (for the right), or the New York Times (for the left), it's a bit rich for the New York Times to be complaining.

The advantage of blogs is that an authoritative post--such as Moteworthy's--is easy to see, while an off-hand bit of <ahem> "opinion" like the Fool's is also easily spotted. The Clerk's entire reputation has been based upon his citations. Because good bloggers don't tend to consider themselves authorities the way newspapers do, they're more careful--and most importantly, more open--with sources. In so doing, blogs often make it easier to learn more about an issue, more quickly, than one could possibly hope from a newspaper.

And in the end, that's the fun of reading blogs. Even if you start by reading a newspaper article, if you're really intrigued you should see who's blogging about it. In the process not only will you learn about the bias of the blogger--and the paper--but you'll probably find the primary sources the journalist used, and learn what he didn't tell you. That's the best reason of all: you read blogs, you learn something.

UPDATE: Added a link to the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, fixed a few sentences that I wrote when tired. It seems that when writing too late at night, I can't keep tenses straight.

UPDATE II: Mildly dishonest, but I've set the time for this entry back from 2 AM on Sunday morning to 11:59 on Saturday evening. I really consider this an August 21 entry, because it was during this time that I was thinking about it. Also, for aesthetic reasons, I'd prefer it to be filed on that day. But for those who are sticklers for this kind of detail, it didn't really hit the presses until 2AM the following morning.

UPDATE III: Fixed the Lex Icon link above.

[1]: Comments tend to keep one honest in this, which is one reason I support them. Even when I've come to great disagreement with my readers as to what a term I used should mean, or why I use it, their tendency to link to primary sources has proven invaluable, and a great learning experience for me.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Since it's rare that I write to agree with anything at Crescat Sententia or Amber Taylor, it's worth noting when we're in perfect concord. In this case, she's got it right.

How to help stem the tide of unrealistic imagery? How to teach young people what women look like?

The answer may be more field trips.

Museums provide a multitude of images of women: the models used by artists of previous generations had no access to aerobics classes, weigh lifting machines, breast implants, or diet pills. If they were poor enough that they were willing to pose nude, any visible protruding bones could be attributed to hunger, not fashion. However, portrait after portrait places real women in the poses of goddesses, nymphs, personifications of emotion and virtue. While modern models could be mistaken for Kouros boys, albeit with perfect hemispherical breasts eternally lifted, the women you find in an art gallery are endowed with soft, undulating curves of hip and thigh, full buttocks that put J. Lo to shame, and breasts that have a distinctly fleshy heft.

Of course, a cynic might say I'm willing to agree so vociferously only because (a) it allows me to point out that Amber neglects statuary as a source of knowledge, to the exclusion of painting, and (b) that this means she has little call to use the magnificent word "callipygian." (The word, although now given broader usage, was so far as I know used mostly to refer to statuary, particularly the Callipygian Venus. Sorry, I couldn't find a link to the original, which seems to be in Naples.)

I just like the word, and wish it would see a resurgence.

August 20, 2004

Not So Much About Adultery, But...

As some bloggers have taken to recording some favorite poems in their blogs and I'd been writing about adultery, I figured I'd mention one of those great sad works of e. e. cummings. For a man who wrote such free verse, I always wondered why he chose the more formal sonnet structure for such a sad poem:

it may not always be so;and i say
that if your lips,which i have loved,should touch
another's,and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart,as mine in time not far away;
if on another's face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know,or such
great writhing words as,uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be,i say if this should be---
you of my heart,send me a little word;
that i may go to him,and take his hands,
saying,Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face,and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

In any event, my life heralds no such romances at present: instead, there's seven interviews tomorrow, and I had best get sleep. More this weekend, I promise, and I'm sorry for my lack of words of late.

The Abolition of (Homosexual) Man

I've been meaning to comment on the ongoing debate between The Fool, Chris Geidner, and Irishlaw with regards to New Jersey governor McGreevey's resignation. I haven't had time, and don't really now. But I find myself drawn to the rather irrational lengths to which particularly Chris will go in order to defend a man who is at the very least an adulterer. If I were looking for a standard-bearer for my cause, I'd hope to find one who could hold it a bit higher.

Writing about adultery is difficult. Whether one is gay or straight, adultery is a very human, very common sin. Desire's chains have bound the heart at least as long as poetry, and brought low the most noble of souls of both history and literature. (Guinevere, anyone? Or even Lancelot, though he was not technically an adulterer.) It is hard to be too condemning: there but for the grace of God go I, after all.

Nonetheless, understanding is one thing. Excusing is quite another. And Chris, in one of his normal diatribes, declares that he is doing nothing of the sort, following such a declaration with paragraphs of mitigation:

I do not at all think his adultery can be written off, however, as the same as a heterosexual man cheating on his heterosexual wife with another heterosexual woman. This is not because gay relationships are somehow different, but rather that the reasons -- as many former spouses of gay people could discuss -- why a closeted gay man cheats on his wife are different.

Ahem. Hogwash. The reason that a homosexual man commits adultery is the same reason that a heterosexual commits it: he wishes to sleep with a person who is not his wife. That desire, for whatever reason, is all that is necessary, and excursions into the heart of the adulterer are not only fruitless--I certainly cannot speak for those feelings--but irrelevant. True, Chris will dress this up in a lot of language about "truth" and who McGreevey "really is," but these are merely exercises in begging the question.

And the sad bit is that this is hogwash of a sort which infantilizes homosexuals. A bit later, Chris continues:

Rather than writing about honesty, Tony writes about a man and "his particular sexual inclinations." This is a demeaning statement. He's gay. We're not talking about some fetish he has or some annoyance with the children that puts on damper on some wild sexual romps. . . . Tony, however, would erase all that and diminish it to a fetish. He writes that "whatever his particular sexual inclinations, he made a promise and he [should] stick with it because there's children involved." Tony feels the best way to raise children is by lying to them in order to make it "easier" for them.

Well, first, I should point out that anyone looking for parenting advice from this site or any comment I've made anywhere on the web should seek elsewhere: my total experience with children extends to one rather awkward evening baby-sitting which convinced me to learn computing as an alternative method of teenage employment. I know nothing of the best way to raise children, nor did I purport to do so: I leave that to experts, which apparently includes Mr. Geidner.

Nevertheless, whatever Mr. Geidner's parenting skills, he lives in a world ontologically impoverished, a world in which no space exists between a fetish and a fundamental truth. As in so many cases, his argument rests upon the assumption that "McGreevey is gay" describes some fundamental truth about the man beyond the fact that he has desires and acts upon them. As I've argued before, this confusion is useful because it allows one to make comparisons between sexuality and truly immutable characteristics like sex and gender.

Homosexuality is not a fetish, nor would I ever describe it as such. Like any expression of desire, it's a complex mix of emotion and longing, one made yet more difficult by cultural disapproval. Concession can be made to all of this without ever running past the most salient of convictions: that man is a creature who may--and should--control his desires, and be held responsible for his actions when he fails to do so.

This is the crux of the argument between IrishLaw, a devout Catholic on the one hand, and Chris and the Fool on the other. She's stated the obvious facts: he was married, he made a vow, and whatever his reasons, passions, predilictions, or subsequent desires he should live with the consequences of it. As she points out: "Would the Times have credited the gov with 'uncommon grace and dignity' if this were a plain ol' sex, fundraising and dirty politics scandal?" The point is not who he wishes to sleep with, but that he's married. As many a wag has observed, sex and marriage often have little to do with one another.

(And yet the Fool misreads IrishLaw almost completely. [1] "Thus, she seems to recognize a difference between McGreevey' situation and "plain ol' sex". It doesn't make much sense to recognize different degrees of infidelity if their is no difference in their application." But of course, she's done anything but. She's recognized that other people believe there is a difference, not at all the same thing.)

Chris (and to a lesser extent the Fool) don't wish to excuse him for what he's done, but to praise his 'honesty.' First of all, honesty when one is backed into a corner is not honesty at all: it's merely damage control. But leaving that aside, they're both willing to give McGreevey a pass on adultery because, if I may quote another philanderer of some note, "It is beyond my control." [2] Marriage, you see, was "a promise that was at odds with [McGreevey's] very being" (Chris) and homosexuality is "an extenuating circumstance." (Fool)

The sad bit is that if one really wants to speak about equality, this talk doesn't help. Chris, a tireless advocate for homosexual marriage, is willing to take the bonds of marriage less seriously simply by taking homosexuality too seriously: what he calls a matter of the very core is--if you look at it another way, something "beyond his control." On the other hand, IrishLaw is merely stating that marriage is a serious commitment, and whatever the 'extenuating circumstances' might be, they do not allow for the breaking of a solemn oath, upon which a family has been built. The truth is that McGreevey is married, and that truth occasionally requires sacrifice. To Chris, this is a lie: homosexuality is the all-pervading truth, and all else is shades of meaning of varying degree.

If anything is "demeaning," that is. Homosexuals, whatever their desires, are no less moral actors than anyone else. If a man enters into a marriage--even if it is against his own sexual urges--he's made a promise to another. Despite homosexuality, he has no greater excuse for infidelity than the man who marries a woman other than his love for the sake of family; or the man who discovers his soul-mate ten years after entering a loveless marriage; or even a woman cut from the fabric of a Bovary. To say this is not to denegrate homosexuality as a fetish. To say otherwise is to treat desire as an object of idolatry.

(Before anyone gets bent out of shape about the title, it's a reference to C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man, which makes a similar argument about responsibility outside of this context.)

[1]: May I just say that this is one reason I dislike anonymity among law bloggers? Writing "Chris says Tony believes X" is one thing; writing "the Fool misreads IrishLaw completely" lends the entire venture the air of some fantasy roleplaying game, and simply sounds inelegant.

[2]: Dangerous Liasons, John Malkovitch as Valmont. Valmont is ending things with an innocent married woman he's used and seduced, and claiming that his change of affection is not something for which he can be held responsible. Frankly, one of the most horribly rakish things ever said in a movie.

August 18, 2004

Sorry for the Silence

Apologies that I've not written much of late. I've a lot I'd like to say--the interview program is coming up, course schedules have come out, law review work continues--but there's only so many hours in the day, and I do occasionally need sleep.

It reminds me of that old bit of office wisdom: when you're up to your ass in alligators, sometimes it's difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.

August 14, 2004

Keyes to the Kingdom

I find I never really have to check IrishLaw. I always know that she's posted something interesting because it's reduced Chris Geidner to fits of apoplexy. He's sort of my canary in the Mines of Moritz Law School, if you will. (More on McGreevey later.)

Of note recently, she came out in support of Alan Keyes (the new Illinois Republican Senate candidate, because we couldn't draft Ditka) speaking on abortion, in which he voiced his disapproval of abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Well, actually, she disagreed with what Will Baude said about Keyes:

Well, that is an argument. It's a terrible one, but it is an argument.

Abortion is not designed to punish the aborted fetus ("killed baby," if that terminology is more to your liking)-- it's designed, in the case of rape and non-consensual incest, to restore a wronged person to her "whole" state. Now if Mr. Keyes means that innocent people (if indeed a fetus is one) should never ever have costs, especially very large costs, imposed upon them by anybody else in the interests of justice, that is an interesting position (though it probably has to be asserted rather than argued).


To which IrishLaw responded to the rather obvious logical weaknesses in that little rebuttal. Who cares if abortion is not designed to punish an aborted fetus? So long as it actually does inflict harm upon the fetus, and one considers the fetus to be a living individual as Keyes does, the intention with which it is done is irrelevant. And of course, while the idea that we should inflict death upon an innocent in order to avoid harm to a third party... well, perhaps it has to be asserted rather than argued, but it's certainly not foreign to our justice system. While one can attack the assumption upon which Keyes' logic rests--that a fetus is a person--the conclusions which follow that assumption are not a terrible argument. [1]

Of more interest is Baude's response to IrishLaw, clarifying his view on whether he would support an abortion even if he believed such a fetus were alive:

Actually: As a consequence of Michael Green's Ethics course last spring, I have decided that I tentatively would support abortion, in the case of rape...even if a fetus is to be treated as a human being. That's because I take a very broad view about what measures of self-defense one should be allowed to use to protect oneself against unwanted invaders.

Now here we have an echo of that "fetal invasion" riff that rising Columbia 1Ls will get introduced to if they have my former Prof. Perspectives. And I hope they will find it the same unsatisfying confusion of the metaphorical and the literal that I did.

It's difficult to tell exactly what Baude is saying here because he puts so little detail into it, but it seems that a man who has shown no fondness for the idea of original sin is nevertheless enamored of an idea of original volition. Remember that we are granting Keyes the idea that the fetus is an individual and a person. Mr. Baude is now considering that fetus to be not only a person but an invader. And yet how does something without volition invade? How does something which never existed outside the womb somehow force its way into it?

What is actually happening here is that a right to self-defense is being invoked because it's more sympathetic than a right to 'bodily autonomy,' particularly if that right is called upon to justify the elimination of another individual existence. But a fetus is not an attacker: it does not in the general course of things consciously seek to destroy or even harm its mother. It is not an invader, not even in a case of rape: it is merely the result of an invasion. If one posits--as Baude must to state that IrishLaw 'got it wrong'--that the embryo or fetus is human being, then Baude is stating that it is just to punish an innocent being with death not even as a preventative for further psychological or mental harm to the mother, but to "to restore a wronged person to her "whole" state." Such is the restorative justice of the sacrificial lamb, and is not so clear in ethics as Mr. Baude would try to make it.

[1]: One might, I suppose, accuse Keyes of lexical inaccuracy: "I've often asked people: So we are supposed to punish an innocent child because his parents have committed an offense like incest, or his father an offense like rape? Would you want to be punished for the deeds of your parents?" The word "punish," in all but its more colloquial terms, implies the infliction of harm for the sake of an offense. To the extent that Baude is making that distinction, it seems rather trivial. "So are we supposed to make suffer an innocent child because his parents have committed an offense?" loses none of the moral authority Keyes is summoning, even if his original is technically inaccurate from the viewpoint of a penologist.

August 12, 2004

Ignoring Persuasive Authority

In a very interesting post at De Novo, PG writes regarding Amanda Strasser's eagerness to attend her sectarian law school. I'm sure she didn't mean the comment to have all the meaning I'm about to give it, but one of her phrases struck me:

However, apparently the only way to get an ethically-integrated legal education is to attend sectarian law schools. Unfortunately, I don't see the Bible -- or Torah, or Koran -- as a persuasive authority, so such schools will have little place for me.

(emphasis mine)

For the rising 1Ls who are reading this, a very rough differentiation between persuasive and binding authority. In our system, a holding in a case has binding authority if it is issued by a court superior to the court considering a case. For instance, most if not all of the rulings of the Supreme Court are binding upon all lower federal courts, and the rulings of the California Supreme Court will be binding upon lower California courts. (This is a bit rough and eliding over exceptions.)

But persuasive authority is much looser. A court may consider the decisions of just about any court to be persuasive authority. It merely feels that the decision of its fellow court to be wise, appropriate, or... well, persuasive.

Now, as I said, I suspect that PG was using persuasive authority in a purely poetic sense. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder why some of the more militantly atheist or agnostic spend so little time actually considering religious thinking--why it doesn't count as 'persuasive authority.' (Not, incidentally, saying that PG is militantly agnostic.) After all, I share PG's agnosticism, but nevertheless spend a fair amount of time reading religious texts, or books about religion. (Indeed, my readers are probably sick of references to Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, or Dante.)

Even supposing one doesn't believe in a Supreme Being--or in the case of my particular brand of agnosticism, believe strongly that the existence of god is actually unknowable--these are books that say a lot about how societies organized themselves, and what some very, very insightful people thought about how humanity works, and how it should work. Take, for instance, one issue that PG raises, regarding Biblical Dispute Resolution, citing Matthew 18:15-17. Now, Biblical Dispute Resolution is a much bigger topic than the simple exegesis of three lines of biblical text, but boiling them down to their essence, they say: if you've got a problem, go talk it out with the person first; then if that doesn't work, go with a few fellow friends as witness, and talk again; and then finally, take the matter to the church. Only afterwards treat him as a heathen. (And actually, I have no idea what that last means: does it mean take him to court, or employ some extrajudicial remedy? Here my knowledge of history and scripture falls apart.)

It's not bad advice, in many ways. Whilst the comments section of PG's post immediately points out some flaws--it's not wise if you think the guy you're going to talk to is dangerous, violent, or otherwise vindictive--if you interpret it with a bit of common sense and not as an immutable instruction, it just puts forward a good basis for dealing with fellow citizens. Attempting to mediate, without invoking the law, in cases of dispute avoids not only stress upon the legal system, but a great deal of anxiety and negativity. A humble request for justice will often get one much more than well-written brief, especially since the first doesn't require paying a lawyer. As the scripture itself says, "if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."

The comments section makes a few quibbles, mostly easily disposed of. How would this work between members of different faiths? (But of course, that's easily surmountable: in many situations individuals are willing to have disputes resolved by leaders of other faiths, if they feel said leaders are honest and impartial. Indeed, I can name you at least one priest and two rabbis I wouldn't mind sitting as arbiter for me.) How would it resolve the same-sex marriage dispute? (PG glides straight over the idea that perhaps this shouldn't be decided by our governmental courts, or the idea that this gets decided in legislatures.) No form of dispute resolution covers every style of case, nor does any completely avoid recourse to the courts. But none of these remove the main point: if one doesn't interpret Matthew 18 as an exhorted commandment, it's pretty good instructions for ethical and moral behavior.

None of which says that the Bible should be law. Law functions differently: for one thing, it's the prescription and proscription of the use of force by society against its constituent members. But take, for instance, the immortal McDonald's Coffee Debate which has spouted again over at the Clerk's. (It's even inspired it's own self-referential satire, amusing in itself.) Most of the argument boils down between the Clerk's very good description of the positive law--what product liability actually is--and others arguing differing normative positions as to what the law should be. Without taking sides in that heated debate, it's worth noting that moral authority from any number of religions might be invoked with persuasive normative force. Ditto for suits against tobacco or fast food companies. Whatever the law actually is, it doesn't exist in isolation, and its ethics shouldn't either.

Most of the attempts to do so--to invoke some kind of completely areligious moral order--betray a hostility towards religion that is both unwarranted and most often uninformed. After all, because I'm an agnostic and believe that the existence of God is unknowable, I have a great freedom. The entirety of religious thinking, the thoughts and beliefs of all of mankind's history, are laid out before me to learn from and incorporate. Certainly, I should look at them critically--some of the areligious forget that looking critically at one's faith is normally an obligation of that faith--but they're there to allow me to be persuaded. Avoiding that should not be an article of my own faith.

There's hope for legislatures yet

And in legal news today, the California Supreme Court declared that Gavin Newsome, the mayor of San Francisco, didn't actually have the power to declare a law unconstitutional. Of course, whether California will follow Massachusetts down the path of matrimonial kritarchy is yet to be seen, but at least this little bit of anarchy's been stopped.

Hat tip to Chris for the pointer. Guess I've not been following the news lately.

Can Crescat Have Comments?

Due to a momentary glitch on Jeremy Blachman's part, the eternal debate on whether Crescat Sententia, and by extension the rest of the legal blogosphere, should have comment features has once again erupted. Most of you know that I like my comment feature, and it's not going anywhere. But I'd like to add a slightly less-addressed term to the Crescat debate: can it have comments at all?

A lot of this is fairly technical blogging gibberish, but if you're a reader interested in how some of these things work on the back end of a blog, you may find it interesting.

First, a bit of full-disclosure: one of the things I like about blogging is how it gives me the chance to play with tech. If you look around the law-school blogosphere, every now and then you'll run across some bit of my handiwork, something that I've been asked to fix, implement, or design. If you look real close, despite Mr. Baude's occasional rivalry, you'll note that I have a small thank you for helping to keep their site running. This is, by the way, greater praise than actually deserved for the small amount of work I've done, but I do have some knowledge about the back end of Crescat that others may not.

The key thing about Crescat, knowledge available to anyone, is that it's big. As of today, the homepage is a relatively bloated 171K, and that's after they've made several efforts to trim down the site size. (By way of reference, my homepage is 58K as of this morning, although it often hits 80K. As mentioned below, site bloat is the least of my bandwidth problems.) Several times the site's gone down because they've run out of bandwidth, resulting in a need to purchase more. Of course, this isn't a bad thing: Crescat has an awful lot of interesting information, a wealth of readers, and thus deserves every bit of its size. But it points to an item that few bloggers--especially the successful ones--ever really think about: site efficiency. [1]

Site Efficiency: The TYoH Problem
Most bloggers who host their own implementation of MoveableType (i.e. they don't use Blogger or Typepad) use close to the standard set of templates, modified slightly by stylesheets. The site architecture--homepage, archive pages, comments pages--remains fairly consistent, varying only with whether they've turned on comments and trackbacks. They also use the standard MT rebuild script, which tells the program what pages need to be rebuilt every time a change is made to the site. This causes a problem because whenever a comment or trackback ping is made to a site, large amounts of the site must be rebuilt. If this can't be done within a reasonable amount of time, a lot of things can go wrong.

Take Three Years of Hell. Many of my readers have noticed a lot of double-posted comments on the site. This results because the comment script will time-out after a reader has submitted a comment, and they hit 'refresh'--which then reposts the comment. Why does the script timeout? Because every time you leave a comment, the rebuild script has to build my homepage, and the rebuild script isn't that smart. Theoretically, it could just increment the number of comments for a given entry, leaving most of the page intact. In fact, it just rebuilds the whole page.

The trouble is that I use MT-RSS to populate my blogroll. This means that every time you make a comment, my site checks about a dozen other sites to see if they've made updates (at least if there's been a comment in the last hour). This takes a good amount of time, even if all the other sites are functioning properly, which they often aren't. End result? A crash, and then a double post. [2]

OK, But What Does That Have To Do With Crescat?
Crescat, of course, doesn't use MT-RSS, but it has similar structural problems, mostly due to its sheer massive size. For instance, take a look at its other law category. This page is around 870K (as of today)--almost a whole megabyte of legal monologue. Every time another entry is added to this category, that page has to be rebuilt.

Now imagine what happens if Mr. Baude writes a post to this category that attracts a lot of comments. Every time one of his readers adds their little bit of opinion, not only is 150K+ of homepage rebuilt, but nearly a megabyte of category will end up rebuilt, all in order to increment the number of comments entry by one. Ditto for the weekly archives.

This already happens for Trackback entries: when I (and presumably other bloggers) attempt to ping Crescat for trackbacks, we frequently get timeout errors. Once you know what the error is, you know to ignore it. (It still causes problems because MT will attempt to ping Crescat again if you make any changes to the entry, which results in double-pings over at Crescat.) But because comments are much easier and more frequent, the problem would only be compounded. And depending upon how Crescat's host calculates bandwidth or server usage, they may hit their limits again.

So Can Crescat Never Have Comments?
The flip answer to that question, of course, is it depends on how long Mr. Baude keeps breathing. But even assuming a sudden Damascene insight on his part, a blog the size of Crescat would have to think very carefully about comment implementation.

One option would be only to allow access to comments off the front page, and maybe the weekly archives. Both of these pages--unlike category archives--will be limited to a relatively fixed size, because they only print pages from a specified date range. I'll be honest: I don't know if the rebuild script would have to be modified, because I don't know if it's intelligent enough to know that it needn't rebuild category archives if there are no comments in them, but there's a number of 'smarter' rebuild scripts out there that could solve this problem.

Crescat could also take advantage of the fact that it has no individual entry archives. First of all, it doesn't have to rebuild those whenever there's a comment. But more importantly, it means that every reading of a comment would be in a pop-up window. This dramatically cuts down on what has to be rebuilt.

Finally, Crescat could generate many of its fixed features through PHP include files. (See note 2 below for how I need to implement a similar feature on here.) The header, right navigation, and blogroll could be set to static files. This is an efficiency tradeoff, of course: every time a visitor views their homepage, Crescat's server would be assembling little bits of code. However, it cuts down remarkably on how long it takes MT to rebuild a page, because it reduces the size of the templates dramatically.

To illustrate, look at the Crescat blogroll of Chicago blogs: simply that section of the site is 8.2 kilobytes of data, which would have to be rebuilt with every comment. As a PHP include, the relevant template part merely becomes:
<?php require 'chicagoblogroll.php'?>

Doctor, Heal Thyself
As I mentioned, there's nothing I'm saying about Crescat that doesn't go twice for this site: there's a lot of bibs and bobs on my pages that need fixing, updating, or just honest-to-god recoding. But thankfully, I don't have to worry that much about bandwidth. First of all, I have nowhere near Crescat's readership. Even if I did, I have more bandwidth than I could ever hope to get through and more server power than I need, because of a particularly sweet hosting arrangement. (I host multiple sites, none of which get as much traffic as TYoH, but my bandwidth is allocated collectively.) But in any event, as those at Crescat continue their debate on whether to engage their collective multitude, it's worth considering that implementing comments is going to take quite a lot of technical work, and considerable thought, if the ship is not to founder against the shoals of technical limitation. [3]

UPDATE: One notices that at the end of Will's post he suggests that bloggers sign up for their own website at Blogger.com. Dear god, no. Look, if you're going to do this, at least go to Typepad or Blog City. They at least give you RSS feeds instead of ATOM, and don't have the reliability problems. (Well, at least not as bad.)

FURTHER UPDATE: Yes, the first comment on this entry points out something I'd neglected to mention--that Crescat could just use a comment service like Haloscan and avoid having to put the comments on its server at all. I'm not that fond of Haloscan--several Blogspot blogs that use it seem to have comments disappear on a regular basis--but it's another possibility. Does anyone know about Haloscan's scalability, however? I've not seen it implemented on any site with the size and traffic of Crescat.

[1]: Of course, bloggers aren't the only ones who put too little emphasis on efficiency, load balancing, and making sure a website can run under strain. A case in point would be Columbia's website for the Early Interview Program, which collapsed under too great a workload when the whole class tried to use it at once. Much of this would have been avoided by a few architectural changes.

[2]: I know how to fix this, and of course will do so when I have time. (This means approximately never.) For those with similar problems, it's pretty easy to solve. The MT-RSS feed list should be generated automatically every hour on the server, creating a new html file, say feeds.html. That file can then be included in the homepage using a PHP include function. This would both ensure that the feed list is updated hourly whether there is a comment or not, and cut down dramatically on rebuild time. As I said, easy, I just haven't done it yet.

[3]: As an aside, this entire techical limitation matter has gotten me thinking about what might become a considerable blog annoyance at some point: automated denial of service attacks. I'm nowhere near technically inclined enough to design something like this, but imagine an email virus sent trackback pings instead of emails. The pings could come from a list (sent with the virus) of 100 popular blogs, and be set to send a ping from their most recent entry to the target blog. Because the rebuilding of a blog takes so much more server time than just an HTTP request, this might be a good way to disable a blog. Given that the pings would be coming from different IP addresses, and would indeed seem to come from different sources, blocking the attack might prove technically challenging.

Again, I'm not sure I've got the technology completely right, and of course I don't have time to go off and learn enough to program such a 'virus.' But it strikes me that the vulnerability is out there. (If I'm wrong and there's a reason this is technically unfeasible, tell me: I'd really like to know.)

August 09, 2004

Howl's Moving Castle

Some of you will remember that I raved about Spirited Away, a particularly wonderful piece of Studio Ghibli animation. Their latest project, coming to screens in Japan in November, is Howl's Moving Castle (link to Japanese), based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones. Given Jones' storytelling strength and Miyazaki's skill--Ghibli just keeps putting Disney to shame here--I can't wait to see how this one comes out.

A trailer can be viewed/downloaded here, while an English plot synopsis (and translation of the trailer) is here. When the film hits the screens in the U.S., I'll be sure to tell you here.


cover
Howl's Moving Castle
(Diana Wynne Jones)

cover
Spirited Away


August 07, 2004

Do Your Part For Democracy: Screw A Liberal

Amazing what you can learn from the Village Voice.

As the Republican hordes descend upon New York in search of validation and pleasure, Fuck the Vote will be firmly positioned near the convention site in a bus with a fold-out bed in the back.

While the GOP sells itself at the Garden, Nathan Martin, who started the project, hopes the party's faithful might also sell or trade their votes for sex with hot Fuck the Vote models.

At a conference for hackers in midtown on Sunday, Martin presented his project to cheers and laughs.

"Liberals are hotter than conservatives," Martin said, explaining that Fuck the Vote hopes to use this scientifically unproven fact to get liberals to bed conservatives in exchange for a pledge not to vote for George W. Bush.


Now, if I may: if Mr. Martin may posit that liberals are hotter than conservatives, let me posit the "scientifically unproven" fact that Republicans are better strategists. If I'm voting, I'm voting in New York, which means that any vote for Bush is worth precisely nothing. (If Bush carries New York, he's carried the rest of the nation. Don't hold your breath.) And I'm wagering that a goodly number of convention Republicans are going to be native New Yorkers on their own turf.

Somehow, I think there's enough of us to keep Mr. Martin's bed busy, whilst making sure he does absolutely nothing to influence the election. Not that I'm advocating such tactics of course, but if you're Republican, have no scruples, and are looking for what bathroom walls euphemistically describe as a "good time"... well, you know where to go.

(Oh, yeah, check out the video at the Village Voice's site. If they're not your cup of tea, don't bother.)

All Hail Commandant Edwards

Via Professor Bainbridge, I hear a familiar refrain from the Kerry Camp which is actually mindless and offensive. Says Veep-Wannabe Edwards (registration required):

"When John Kerry is the next president of the United States, there will be no red states, no blue states," he said. "No division of America."

Now, one ponders exactly how Edwards thinks he's going to accomplish this goal. Perhaps he believes that those of us who identify with what he considers a 'red state' mentality are insane or infirm in our beliefs, such that a Kerry ascension will be accompanied by a blinding flash of healing insight on our part. Or perhaps he believes that Mr. Kerry is a man of such messianic prowess that once he has achieved apotheosis in the City on a Hill, our doubts of him shall merely be burnt away with the rest of our impure souls.

Kerry and Edwards not generally tending towards such rhetoric, however, and being more inclined to believe in the goodness of government action than divine intervention, I can only assume that upon a Kerry victory in November I am to be issued an invitation to a re-education camp somewhere in the deepest Midwest, where I shall be taught to love big government, racial gerrymandering, and unionization. Ah well. With Martha Stewart facing prison time, one hopes that the First Lady will intervene and get our fellow inmate to design airy, comfortable, and stylish uniforms.

August 06, 2004

Addictive

Check out this game. If any of my fellow law-reviewish types read my blog, I may single-handedly be responsible for a twenty percent drop in productivity.

(Hat tip to Fr. Bill, frequent visitor here)

Update: Anyone managed to catch the plane yet?

August 05, 2004

Kyoto

I'm a bit behind in posting pictures from my trip to Kyoto. I thought of using some kind of gallery program, but couldn't find one I particularly liked. Besides, I'd rather show you a few relatively worthy photos than a lot of random ones. I've posted thumbnails below: if you click on them, you should get the complete photo in a new window.

Thus, a sweltering morning thick with the morning's rains was spent crouched on a bench, staring at the slow meanderings of fish that must have been half my own size.
Over a cup of tea I watched a spider slowly spin his morning web, unaware that the more energetic of the carp were waiting for him to get just that bit closer to the water.
(If you look closely in the bottom right-hand corner, you can almost see the spiderweb. And to appreciate the size of these carp, realize that the large grey shape in the center was meandering at the bottom of the pond.)



Probably the most famous of Kyoto's temples, this is one view of Kiyomizudera.



The entrance gate to Nonomiya Shrine. For the most part, it's a fertility shrine--good luck in finding a relationship, happy marriages, easy childbirth--but it's most famous for featuring in The Tale of Genji.



Finally, Ryuanji Temple. Ryuanji was the last place I visited before I hopped the bullet train back to the hectic world of Tokyo. The people you see in the picture below left shortly after the picture was taken, leaving only an artist sketching the moss garden, two lovers watching the sunset, and myself observing the the famous stone well. As the evening darkened, crickets started mixing their voices with the sounds of a water hammer, and my heart gradually slowed to the still tempo of the evening. It's somewhat comforting to think that whatever I'm doing here, Ryuanji and its calm will still be there, year after year, waiting for me.


Only funny if you read Asimov

Today's Dork Tower has the right take on I, Robot.

Must... Check... Bluebook...

Well, that's the first 'real' day of Law Review down. We've been at it since Monday, but this was the first solo assignment. Checking four pages with any thoroughness took me... hours. Can't tell you how many, exactly, simply because I'm the sort who procrastinates and does one hundred different things at the same time. Today I'll try to focus a little more, and cut it down to size.

Through a combination of tiredness and jetlag, I came home from Law Review, had dinner with a friend, and collapsed in bed around ten, getting absolutely nothing accomplished that I'd meant to in the evening. I'm now bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at...man, it's 3:40?...and figuring I ought to start work.

Here's a big difference between Tokyo and New York City: in Tokyo, I'd not have thought twice about lugging my computer five blocks in the pre-dawn darkness. Here in New York, I feel almost trapped in this tower now the sun's down. (Though I'll probably make the move anyway.)

August 03, 2004

Apologies on The Continuum, or Why Friends Don't Let Friends Use Blogger

Readers of the Columbia Continuum will have noticed that it seems to have been taken over by the Blakely Blog. I apologize for this, and will fix it tonight: it seems that Blakely's ATOM feed has some problems in formatting that my aggregator doesn't cope well with. For instance, the feed doesn't seem to have links back to the articles.

One more reason people should move from Blogger....

August 02, 2004

One More Thin Gypsy Thief

Here's a question for the audio-technophiles out there. I'd like a copy of Jennifer Warnes' cover of Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat. Call it a curiousity, or completeness for completeness' sake: I've got most of the other covers. The trouble is, I don't want to pay Amazon.com $25 for the privilege. Besides, while I'm curious about the one track, I'm not a big fan of Warnes: I don't need the other eight, particularly since I was never fond of Bird on a Wire.

So I've been to ITunes, and I've wandered over to MusicMatch's store, and gotten no joy: the first is blind to the whole album, the second teasingly lists it, but doesn't make it available for download. Maybe Sony's new Connect service has it, but I don't want to download a third piece of music download software just for the chance to find out.

Is there some service out there that lets me scan a database of who has which tracks, in order to determine which service I should purchase from? I mean, I know I can get the thing illegally without much fuss, but presuming I'd like to actually pay someone for the single track, is there an easy way to do it?


August 01, 2004

Seeing Beauty

Perhaps I'm just procrastinating, but I've had a lot I've wanted to write about today. In particular, Sheherazade's comments on these two posts started me thinking about beauty and perception.

Sometimes beautiful women forget how beautiful they are. I like both of these posts because of the doubt in them, and also the confidence. A woman who never forgets she's beautiful and fascinating, never falters or wonders, well, I can't really relate. And a woman who never gets to a place where she believes that she's beautiful and fascinating, no matter what the world tells her, that's too terribly sad. The play of life, as I see it, is in between, and the magical way the right person's response can change your sense of hope and possibility.

Both posts, and particularly the latter, deal with how being perceived as beautiful can change one's sense of self. The relationship cuts both ways, though: how you perceive someone can also change whether you feel they are beautiful.

The thing is, there's no one who isn't beautiful in some way. If one were to break the elements of beauty into semi-platonic fragments (e.g. a svelte build, wavy hair, striking eyes), there's no one so shortchanged in life's lottery not to have received some sort of payoff. Certainly some people won the jackpot while some were playing nickel slots, but everyone got something.

The question is how much an observer is willing to look for these elements, and look beyond those which are not beautiful. Perhaps a woman with a few too many pounds has nevertheless been kind and generous: it's easy to recognize that she has an infectious smile or perfect fingernails. An unprepossessing gentleman who proves himself to be a good cook can suddenly seem to have his nose transform from a beak to 'aquiline' or even 'noble.' The converse also holds true: when you notice that the real looker at the next table does nothing but run down her friends behind their back, her crow's feet, poor posture, or the vapid way she holds her head become ever more obvious.

So far, so cliche: beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc. The one useful trick I've learned from all this, however, is that the feedback loop goes both ways.

There's a mental exercise that I use sometimes when I have to work with someone I don't like, or perhaps am tired of feeling upset with someone. I'll try to put a mental image of them in my head, and then think of three things that make them beautiful: maybe striking and unique eyes, an almost regal way of carrying themselves, or a voice smooth as glass. The next time I meet them, I'll focus on those aspects of their nature. Inevitably, it becomes much easier to think well of them in other ways, to concentrate on their good qualities and put aside their less laudable ones.

Hardly revolutionary, I know, but it's a useful trick when you work in a service industry and occasionally need to get along with people you otherwise wouldn't want as friends. And of course, what Sheherazade says holds true: when a person knows that someone else feels they're beautiful, it can change their whole view of the world. Often that's worthwhile in itself.

Pro Bono: Good for Picking Up Chicks (Tracts)?

As some of you know, Columbia has a minimum 40 hour pro-bono requirement that I sometimes fret about. And yet, there's a lot of opportunity to be creative here.

For instance, observe what has happened to Mr. Howard Hallis, a professional artist and web designer. In a fit of inspiration, Mr. Hallis decided to parody one of the comics of Jack Chick.

Who is Jack Chick, you ask? Well, he's some form of minister notable for writing missionary comic strips compelling the faithless to Jesus. When I first stumbled across these, I pretty much assumed they were already a parody, along the lines of Landover Baptist. But no. It seems that Mr. Chick has been spitting forth these comic strips, and other pamphlets, longer than I've been alive. His zeal for 'proving' that Allah is a false 'moon god', Jews are going to hell, and Catholicism is an unholy lie is merely strident enough to seem like parody. (I mean, his 'argument' against communion is titled The Death Cookie. Who would have thought he wanted to be taken seriously?)

You can find a more-complete-than-you-ever-needed list of Chick Tracts here. My friends first introduced him to me because of his observation that all roleplayers are spell-casting cultists out to take your soul. Beware, my readers, it appears that they're able to cast 'mind bondage' spells. (Well, that explains some things, then.)

So anyway, Mr. Hallis responded to this by creating the 'Cthulhu Chick Tract', a work in the style of the Great Master Jack but from the point of view of the worshipper of the Great Old Ones:

MINISTER: Soon the seas will turn red with the blood of the human race, as the unspeakable terrors com from beyond the gate, which is Yog Sothoth, to devour all in their path! la! Shub Niggurath! la! la!

UNBELIEVER: So if we're all gonna die, what difference does it make? Who cares? Nothing I can do about it... or is there?

MINISTER: You're right, George... It's hopeless. But there is one thing we can hope for... TO BE EATEN FIRST!"


Unfortunately, Mr. Chick's employees seem as humorless as his comics. Mr. Hallis's ISP was sent a cease and desist letter claiming the following:
In accordance with your responsibilities under copyright law, I am asking you to take immediate action to terminate this illegal activity which is occuring on your network. It has been our experience that most of the time when people steal copyrighted materials such as this, they do so without the knowledge or approval of their internet service provider, and that when made aware of the violation, most ISPs take the material down promptly. I trust that will be the case here.

Mr. Hallis then took down the offending piece, because in his words, "I'm taking their tactics of propaganda... their very format and art... and turning it towards something they consider evil. Now, everyones opinions of what is evil and not evil or funny and not funny are subjective, but when they own the copyright to those images, they are fully within their rights to ask me to remove it from view." Thankfully, due to the magic of the Internet, it's not actually gone from view. You can see it here, among other places.

I've not taken any courses on copyright yet, but I have to wonder if Mr. Hallis is correct. After all, the work is obviously a parody, and a parody of Mr. Chick. Not that I can cite things like the Clerk normally does to support the view (without further research), but at least instinct tells me Mr. Hallis might have a case. It's certainly something to look into on a rainy Sunday.

Which brings us back to the pro bono requirement. It wouldn't be so bad if I could spend my forty hours defending people from otherwise ridiculous legal harassment. I'll have to find a firm or organization that would offer me the work, but at least I'd learn something, and be pleased with what I accomplished.

UPDATE FOR THE CONTEXTUALLY IMPAIRED: Just to make it completely clear--as I've already gotten some misguided 'fan mail'--the fact that I'm linking to Mr. Chick above does not constitute any endorsement of his views. Quite the opposite, actually, as I would have thought context made obvious. Note also that the link to Armed and Dangerous doesn't constitute approval of his views, either: I merely linked to him because he's willing to host a copy of Mr. Hallis' comic.

Returned

Ah, back and recovering from jetlag. Since 6AM I've been unable to sleep and trying to get this place in order. I've reworked my network, removed some rather virulent spyware/adware/trojans from my server, and once again this little corner of the Malebolge is operating at peak efficiency. By noon I hope my bags unpack themselves. After that, it's just reviewing things for Law Review and preparing for the morn.

Interesting conversation related to me by a friend in Roppongi:

"So I was talking here to a partner when we were working late, and I said, 'You've got the LSATs, then 1L exams, then Law Review, then interviews for jobs, then a job that takes up twelve to fifteen hours a day, then partnership. When does it end?' He was pretty heartening: 'When you've paid off your law school debts, you've got choices.'"

Remarkable the wisdom you can pick up in Roppongi if you keep your ears open.

As soon as I get done with unpacking, I'm hoping to clean a few things up around 3YoH. For one thing, I was thinking of adding a new skin/fixing the ones I've got, and restructuring the top menu bar, because readers have been reporting problems. (I'm not a particularly good programmer.) If anyone has suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Giving The Devil His Due

Ad Hominem Attacks At Amazon (4)
martin wrote: I thought they'd decided to remove ... [more]

Dear Wormwood: Get A Job (9)
A. Rickey wrote: Martin: Oh no, let's be fair. Qu... [more]

RSS and Blogspot (6)
Kevin wrote: http://www.livehournal.com/communit... [more]

Christmas in Cambodia, Texas Lt. Governors Who Travel Through Time (3)
PG wrote: Agreed it's a mistake. But then,... [more]

The Fiction of Belief (2)
bryce main wrote: Enjoyed reading your thoughts. Sadl... [more]

Redundant. Redundant. (2)
jordan lee Bailey (katey) wrote: well over all it going to show in t... [more]

Writing to come, promise! (0)
Quick notes (4)
Kimberly wrote: True enough. Thanks for the cautio... [more]

Wheat, Blogs, and Journalism (2)
Courtney Gidts wrote: I've managed to save up roughly $70... [more]

Credit Where Credit Is Due (1)
lucia wrote: I ran across a list of under used ... [more]

Not So Much About Adultery, But... (0)
The Abolition of (Homosexual) Man (11)
A. Rickey wrote: Fr. Bill: In fairness to Chris, ... [more]

Sorry for the Silence (0)
Keyes to the Kingdom (9)
Bairon Bancks wrote: Hello. If you are owner of this sit... [more]

Ignoring Persuasive Authority (1)
Tom wrote: "Most of the attempts to do so--to ... [more]

There's hope for legislatures yet (3)
PG wrote: :-) No, your copious use of the wor... [more]

Can Crescat Have Comments? (10)
A. Rickey wrote: Another limitation of Haloscan, unl... [more]

Howl's Moving Castle (7)
Hong wrote: Hey martin...where did you find the... [more]

Do Your Part For Democracy: Screw A Liberal (7)
martin wrote: Sigh, and you used to be so keen to... [more]

All Hail Commandant Edwards (9)
PG wrote: The differences in the country a... [more]

Addictive (3)
Heidi wrote: You don't catch the plane. You thr... [more]

Kyoto (1)
Chris wrote: Cool pictures, especially the first... [more]

Only funny if you read Asimov (1)
cardinalsin wrote: My thoughts exactly.... [more]

Must... Check... Bluebook... (0)
Apologies on The Continuum, or Why Friends Don't Let Friends Use Blogger (4)
A. Rickey wrote: Ava: I don't know about free. T... [more]

One More Thin Gypsy Thief (2)
Rumci wrote: Download it illegaly. Full stop.... [more]

Seeing Beauty (0)
Pro Bono: Good for Picking Up Chicks (Tracts)? (3)
paul wrote: i need your hand help oky ... [more]

Returned (4)
A. Rickey wrote: Fr. Bill: Well, it appears that ... [more]

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What I'm Reading

cover
D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
cover
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


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Althouse
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Jeremy Blachman's Weblog: 2007
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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming


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Dark Bilious Vapors
Jim (The Waco Kid): Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.
--"Blazing Saddles"

Technical Difficulties... please stand by....
The Onion should have gotten a patent first....


Legal Ethics Forum
Interesting new Expert DQ case
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Thinking About the Fired U.S. Attorneys


Ex Post
Student Symposium- Chicago!
More Hmong - Now at Law School
Good Samaritan Laws: Good For America?


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the imbroglio
High schoolers turn in plagiarism screeners for copyright infringement
talisman
Paris to offer 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations to rent by the end of the year


The Republic of T.
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