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February 28, 2005

The Lost Weekend, or Flu-Blogging

Sadly, this will not be a thrilling entry: my weekend has not been much to write about.

This was supposed to be the Great Productive Weekend. Any scrap of reading not yet accomplished was to be caught up and perused. The dorm room was to be cleaned to the extent possible with only one man and Formula 409. There was even the threat that outlines might have been started.

And then, at about 4:00 PM on Friday, my temperature rocketed to 101.4.

That's not too horribly high, until you consider that my healthy body temperature runs a little on the low side. Accompanying this fever was a splitting headache, which only got worse whenever I looked at a monitor. (Hence, the lack of blogging.) And by Saturday, things had gotten so bad that I spent most of the day sleeping, entertained by none-too-pleasant fever dreams.[1]

Saturday caused a bit of misery when my normal over-the-counter cold solution (Dayquil, Dayquil, Dayquil, NyQuil!) did absolutely nothing for fever or headache. At the advice of a nurse, I started taking Motrin, and thankfully that would break the fever for four hours, with the headache returning just near the end. So since then, I've been popping Motrin like an addict, and am very thankful to whatever man, woman, or beneficent angel invented ibuprofen.

In any event, that's why I've been running silent the last few days. Now I can just about bear to type on my monitor for half an hour or so. But annoyingly, the great "catch up with work so that I can take Spring Break off" initiative seems to have failed miserably.

Anyway, hopefully more entertaining news this week. As Scheherazade has advised, letting yourself get sick is one of the dumbest mistakes you can make.

(And a big thanks to everyone who brought soup, tea, oranges, and other needed supplies. I'm now in debt to you valuable members of the 113th Sheep Dog Brigade.)

[1]: Of these dreams, two stand out in particular. At about 5:30 PM on Saturday, I woke with the complete, if wholly irrational, conviction that one of my best friends from high school had died, though I couldn't for the life of you have told me why. I didn't call her--thank goodness, since that would have been an uncomfortable conversation--largely because her phone number was in my computer, and that screen-brightness thing made the idea too painful.

The other one, though, I wish I could remember, because it was a very complicated legal puzzle that I kept going back and forth with in my head. It had all the classics of good law school torture: paragraphs of questions that are left unanswered; critical ambiguities and a chronic lack of facts; and all I know is that I never found a reasonable solution. I think it deal with professional responsibility; if it comes back to me, I'll be sure to post it, although really, it probably wasn't actually lucid anyway.

February 25, 2005

Welcome to the Blogosphere

...to Plausible Deniability, an anonymous law student blog announcing itself with an attempt to win friends and influence people:

I'm a bit late to the law student blogging trend, in part b/c I'm unfashionable, but mostly out of good judgment. It seems that most JD blogs are either boring, obnoxiously self-congratulatory narrative resumes...or worse, bitter invective aimed at the erstwhile student's future colleagues and clients. There are a few notable exceptions, sure, but in general the rule is that blogs are either boring or ill-advised. Hopefully mine will tend toward the latter. Hopefully the randomly generated name will throw you off my true identity! :-)

Given the anonymity, the seeming irony, and making one's sole positive reference to a work of fiction, it's difficult to tell if PD is a parody blog. But who knows, maybe it's the next big thing, so here's a link.

In other news, blogging will be light until this weekend. The winter storms have finally done me in, and I've developed a beautiful, chesty cough just before I have to hold my TA session. After that, I'm probably not going to be good for much today.

Much has happened this week, though: I've seen The Gates, finished up a few major projects, and met some personal milestones. For some reason, this week I've had a hard time living life and blogging about it at the same time.

February 22, 2005

Catchup

It's been a day of pretty earth-shattering productivity. I've finally gotten my Note (revised a good deal from when I submitted it to the Law Review) to my note advisor for his comments. This makes me feel pretty good: while I still have some work to do, the project is less constrained by deadlines and more constrained by my imagination. I've actually found myself fondly researching it in the last few days.

Otherwise, I've been ticking tasks off my checklist at a fantastic rate, getting back up to speed with class reading, and generally finding my way back towards organization. Surely this trend cannot continue!

It's true what they say about your 2L year: they work you to death. On the upside, my father reminded me of a key fact after I lamented that I'd never be able to buy a bespoke suit. I'm heading to Hong Kong, where such things are slightly cheaper than Saville Row. Perhaps--not certainly, but perhaps--I can try my luck there.

February 21, 2005

Crises

Chris Geidner is having an identity crisis. In the meantime, the RSS feed issue I've been facing has gotten more complex.

As I explained a while back, I can't get Chris's feed to parse in my blogroll. This is frustrating me immensely, because I'm responsible for it's implementation. However, I've made a new discovery in trying to get it fixed: my feed doesn't parse either. If I try to add my RSS 1.0 feed to the list at the right, it doesn't show up.

This is getting very, very annoying. The only thing I can think of is that I don't use the UTF-8 character set. (UPDATE: Neither does De Novo, but their feed works fine.) I can't think why that would matter. Both feeds pass through every RSS validator I've tried, so it's driving me nuts.

All I can guess is that there's something wrong with the template that I'm jointly using with Chris... but it's the default MT template. I don't suppose someone with a working MoveableType RSS feed--working defined as "you show up in my blogroll"--might email me a copy for testing? Or if anyone has further advice?

UPDATE: OK, for an interim fix, I've made a quick Feedburner feed of Chris's RDF file, which as you can see at the right actually works. This is bizarre. I'm using the same template as De Novo--which works--and the only difference between Chris's real feed and the Feedburner one is that the latter seems to be forcing UTF-8 encoding rather than iso-8859-1. Anyone have any idea why this would matter? (De Novo at least claims to be using iso-8859-1, so that's not it.)

I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and upgrade to MT 3.1 and MT-Feeds soon...

New Addition to the Blogroll

Please welcome the Legal Ethics Forum, a new blog that does exactly what it says on the tin: discuss legal ethical issues. Since that's right up my alley, it's likely to become a daily read.

(via Carey)

When Even A Liberal Is Happy For Textualism

Today I was amused to come across one of the most tissue-paper defenses I've encountered in all my legal reading. From a Japanese sex-discrimination case, Sasaki v. Iron and Steel Federation 156 Zeimu soshô shiryô 2202 (Tokyo D. Ct., Dec. 12, 1986):

In response, defendant contends (1) that while the labor agreement contains language which seems to indicate discrepancies in the increase rate for the basic wage and the bonus coefficient for males and females, in reality such discrepancies were the result of Defendant's personnel policy under which employees are categorized as either "key employees" or "other employees" and that the words "male" and "female" in the labor agreement simply stand for "key employee" and "other employee" respectively.[1]

You'll be happy to know that the Tokyo District Court threw out that argument, albeit not perhaps with the force that it deserved.

[1]: From the translation by Darrel Holstein in Curtis J. Milhaupt, et. al., Japanese Law in Context 406 (2001). By the way, does anyone know how to make the "o" character with a flat line above it, instead of "ô"?

R.I.P.

Hunter S. Thompson is dead today of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The founder of "gonzo journalism," a rakehell par excellence, a wordsmith with more talent than I hope to one day have, Thompson's passing shall leave a silence sorely felt. If nothing else, I'd hoped that 2008 would see his color commentary moderating the Condi Rice/Hilary Clinton steel-cage deathmatch.

Go with God, Mr. Thompson. You're missed.

February 18, 2005

At 7:15, Expect A Train Wreck

So tonight, after having dreaded the film for nearly a full year, I'm off to see Constantine. The film has been almost universally panned by the critics, and I can only hope it makes no money at all, simply because then there shall be no sequel.

Given this and the horrible reception given to Bride and Prejudice, maybe the Producers That Be will learn a valuable lesson here: if it was made in England, leave it in England. Only in Hollywood would someone try to make a Tandoori Cornish Pastie with a Budweiser/Guinness Black and Tan.

UPDATE: More later, but today is consumed by guests and grading. Long story short, it's an awful film, but has its bright bits. In other news, National Review Online continues its descent into madness by actually giving the film a positive review...

February 17, 2005

Books and Such

I've finished both of the books I ordered from Amazon, Murakami's Kafka on the Shore and Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. So now I need something else to read.

I know almost nothing about Hong Kong, actually, even though I'll be there in a few months. This scares me a little: I'm used to having some knowledge of the countries in which I'm living. I don't suppose anyone has any good histories of Hong Kong or China, or even novels involving them, that they'd recommend?

February 16, 2005

Things Worth Knowing About

If there's one thing I'd really like to be able to afford, is a bespoke suit from a good tailor. But given that I can't afford one--and so long as I work in business casual offices, I shall never be able to justify one--I can at least learn a lot about what makes a good suit from websites like this.

The link is via Martin, who will tell you why the blog is clever marketing. He's right, of course, which is good because figuring out what is clever marketing is one of his specialities. But such sites are also interesting to those of us who just want to learn about something we're never likely to buy.

(I need to blog a bit about my summer plans--same rule as last year, I'll talk about where I am, but not my job--at a later date, but for the moment, it seems I'll be spending the summer in Hong Kong and London. I'll put some dates up sometime between now and when I leave, for the benefits of my friends hopping around Southeast Asia and those in London. But for the moment, I need to catch up with my work!)

Abortion Makes Strange Bedfellows?

File this under Red/Blue State Confusion, or maybe "Tony Woke Up In the Twilight Zone Today." I rarely look at National Review Online anymore, but when I just surfed over there looking for some data for a new website, I found:

Chris Rock was right about abortion’s side-effects. The headline reads, "Rock On: Chris Rock Hits On A Profound Truth".

(Head spinning.) National Review Online endorses Chris Rock. I'm sure NRO is taking Rock's words out of context or something--I can't stand Rock, so I'm not tempted to go find out. But... Chris Rock praised in National Review? I look forward to more such articles, such as William F. Buckley advising Janet Jackson on style advice for nipple shields.

Has some similar shock balanced this unconservative yin with unliberal yang? Perhaps Howard Dean came out today endorsing the Bush budget plan? Truly, the world has turned upside down.

February 15, 2005

Sushi for the Sweet Tooth

I want to know how much sake was consumed before someone thought of the idea of imitating sushi with confectionary. Thanks to the internet, this concept now joins its compatriots in the marketplace of ideas.

(via Don't Know It From Adam)

February 14, 2005

Welcome to Chairman Howard Dean

And to the surprise of almost nobody, Howard Dean has become Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (I'm sure it was my endorsement that put him over the top.)

Perhaps I'm wrong, and it'll all work out well for a newly-competitive Democratic Party. Still, if the 1983 Labour Party manifest has been dubbed "the longest suicide note in history," Dean's Chairmanship of the Democratic Party may very well become history's longest suicide.

(Yes, I'm running behind. It's been a busy few days.)

St. Curmudgeon's Day

Ah, Valentine's Day. Mythically the day that birds chose their mates, economically the day candymakers meet their margins, romantically the day the uncertain find a good excuse to throw caution to the winds, and caustically the day curmudgeons get a good chance to gripe.

Heidi gives a good, long rant on the subject, and I wouldn't be me if I faulted her on it. Really, when it comes to a good cynical grumble about ephemeral values, overhigh hopes, and mercenary passions, I'm normally first in line. (Hers is a really good example of the genre, and I recommend it.)

Still, however tempting, I can't join her in the condemnation of the day. First of all, Valentine's satisfies my desire for the absurd. We're celebrating a martyrdom by decapitation with chocolate hearts and lace-trimmed cards. (Actually, let's be thankful for a lack of literalism here: the holiday would be noticeably diminished if we were exchanging chocolate heads.) A saint's day being celebrated with the modern disregard for chastity has its own particular silliness.

And of course, it provides a space for the grand gesture or the considerate small one. Are a dozen roses trite and manufactured for the occasion? Sure. A box of chocolates cliche? Oh yeah. But roses are nice, chocolates are sweet, and neither substantially decrease the amount of happiness in the world. (Not having them won't increase the amount of wisdom, judgment, or discretion in the world, either.)

Besides, it makes some folks happy. St. Valentine's Day is an over-commercialized, tawdry occasion inspiring many cheap and unwise gestures between individuals often overly-besotted with each other. Thank goodness, and long may it be thus. There's nothing wrong with tilting at a few windmills one day a year.

If You Got Tired Of Elijah Wood As A Hobbit...

...how about as an absolute psychotic in the movie version of Sin City?

Black and white. Blue, yellow, red spot color. Marv looks like... Marv.

While I'm shocked at how much the casting seems to work (Jamie King? Marlie Shelton?) that brief glimpse of Elijah Wood says it all. Miller's artwork provided most of the wonder of Sin City, and until the trailer came out, I didn't know how they'd do it. Judging from this, they just might pull it off.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, think of Sin City this way: imagine Dick Tracy after he'd been on a three week whiskey bender with Dashiell Hammett, bled dry of his four colors into stark black and white and kicked around a lot. Push Madonna off a bridge, drive out of town with Tess Trueheart's body in the trunk, and wake up in a city so fallen it can only be dominated by the most corrupt Cardinal since the Italian Renaissance. If you meet a woman with blue eyes--really blue eyes--just walk away.

And even if the film doesn't work, it's better than remakes of The Pink Panther or Bewitched.

February 11, 2005

I Wish I Had Time To Go (Photo)Shopping

Via my brother--a man of inestimable good humor--comes a cheery Photoshopping contest in which new products are made into old-fashioned advertisements.

A good five-minute's laugh. Now, back to bluebooking.

February 09, 2005

Nice to See Illegal Porn Disclosing Its Status?

In the last two days, I've received spam (that I've deleted unopened, thank you very much) with the most bizarre subject lines. Stricken of the odd geek-text used to mask them from my spam filter, the spammers wanted to tell me that:

  • teen avi files can ruin your life
  • hardcore [vulgarity] pics will land you in jail!!!

I suppose no one can object that they did not have adequate notice...

February 08, 2005

One Little Recipe For A New (Not Quite) Anarchist's Cookbook

What with the discussion of Ward Churchill and the continuing controvery of Columbia Unbecoming (the film about supposed anti-Israel bias in Columbia's Middle Eastern Studies department), political controversy in the classroom has been much in the air here, and thus much on my mind. Believe it or not, political bias isn't as big a deal as a 2L: once you're completely in command of your own classes, you can determine the optimal degree of controversy you'd like to experience. (For instance, to make a quick daguerreo-stereotype[1], Corporations is a pretty good course for capitalists; Labor Law is comfortable for lefties. Reverse the prior sentence if you want a bit more "challenge.")

I doubt anyone would say that the classrooms here are politics-free, and not merely where it's relevant. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that the irrelevant "humorous" asides cut pretty much one way. (Of course, other's mileage may vary: I'm sure somewhere there's a law student who can relate tales of continual extemporaneous Kerry-bashing.) Mostly it's harmless.

But this isn't always true: every so often there is a professor whose agenda overwhelms the university's educational objectives. (Note: this is not targetted at a specific professor, and anyone who names names in comments will find their contributions ruthlessly expurgated. Still, I can't imagine most students at any university can't think of some example.) At least in my experience, universities treat this activity with a kind of benign neglect. There might be a rare student complaint, or a bit of honest commentary in anonymous feedback forms, but more often dissent is confined to conversations between students, stories that often become legends handed down from class to class. Direct confrontation is limited by the power disparity between professors and those they grade. If action is taken, it's only because things get so far out of hand that something like Columbia Unbecoming results.

But technology often transforms by altering balances of power. It's all a matter of changing the domain. Take, for instance, one of the accusations in Columbia Unbecoming involves a "he-said/she-said" series of events involving comments between a professor and a student. I know nothing about what actually happened in that case, but consider the situation as if all material facts were in favor of the complaining student. Then think about this: in almost every classroom these days, students bring multimedia notebooks by the hundreds. Almost every one of those has a massively underused hard drive and a microphone port. IPods are not merely the new big thing among students--they're nearly ubiquitous. And now that blogging has become almost second-nature, the technically adept are exploring Podcasting: distributing "radio shows" over the internet.

Put those together, and what do you get? If the University of Colorado thinks that Churchill's been a bit of a public relations disaster, or Columbia's feeling a bit red-faced over it's Unbecoming experiences, I wonder if administrators recognize what they may soon face. For the moment, the grumbling of, say, religious students who feel their views are maligned or conservatives who feel academia is tilted against them is mostly confined to student coffee tables. In the outside world, the problem is discussed in the aggregate, but rarely with discrete and direct examples. Now technology may now allow these dissidents to put their case to those outside the academy. Might I suggest that a revolution may be coming, and that revolution will be podcast?

[1]: OK, maybe that reference isn't entirely clear. I wanted to combine daguerreotype and "stereotype" to mean a rough, not-entirely-developed stereotype. But it didn't really work, did it?

February 07, 2005

The Professional Freedom of the Academic, or The Secret People of Colorado, Who Have Not Spoken Yet

It's notable that in the discussion of the fate of Ward Churchill, a University of Colorado professor who believes that those who died in the Twin Towers were "little Eichmanns" deserving their deaths, no easily-traceable left-right distinction exists. Indeed, while they vary in the degrees that they excoriate his views, none of the following blogging profs support Churchill's removal:

  • Eugene Volokh: "His article reveals him to be a depraved person"... but "[i]f the Ward Churchills of the world are fired for their speech, disgusting as it is, that would be a perfect precedent for left-wing faculties and administrations to fire right-wing professors for much less offensive statements."
  • Professor Bainbridge: "[T]he man is an ass..." but "I take a rather expansive view of the First Amendment. As one of those rare conservatives in the academy.... [I]t is in my self-interest to insist that tenure and academic freedom must be protected."
  • Glenn Reynolds: Echoing Volokh, but commenting on the "hothouse" in the left-wing academy that can produce Churchills.
  • Prof. Kevin Jon Heller of the Yin Blog: Noting that "To say [Churchill's statement] is a stupid comment is an understatement." Nevertheless, Churchill is "a tenured professor and one of the most important scholars of Native American history and politics in the US, if not the world," and "[Republicans] simply want to make an example of a scholar who has consistently criticized the US government's genocidal treatment of Native Americans." (His post mainly criticizes Republicans for attacking academic freedom.)
  • Prof. Brian Leiter: Asks "Will Academic Freedom Survive at the University of Colorado?" (and responds that it probably will, as Churchill is unlikely to get fired)

On the other hand, most of those attacking academic freedom come from outside the academy. (To pick only two links. Writing on the Summers controversy, Judge Posner makes comments critical of the idea of academic freedom, but he's not directly addressed Churchill.) To those familiar with my general attitude towards self-selecting professionalism, there will be no surprise in finding that I side with the latter. Respect between scholars and a wide degree of tolerance in academic discourse undoubtedly contributes to the generation and dissemination of knowledge. But those of us outside the academy--or even those of us who are merely students--should wonder why a principle must be so unwavering that it shields one who glories in the death of his countrymen.

(For the moment, leave aside the First Amendment/state action problems of firing him. I'm speaking here of the normative argument against academic freedom absolutism. Suffice it to say that were the conceptual barrier breached, the First Amendment problems are workable.)

For Conservatives, This Is No Aegis
While I can see the case of the conservative professors, best put by Volokh, one would hope that academics have enough faith in their fellows to distinguish between Churchill's ranting and a legitimate dispute about views. What makes the rant in question intolerable is not that the author makes equivalences between American actions that may have caused death in the Middle East, or questions the root causes of 9/11. What makes it intolerable is its hateful dismissal of the dead, individuals that Churchill has never met and is singularly unqualified to judge. Even if the subject of the discourse is within scholarly debate (no matter how I may disagree with it), certainly the content of the rant is unbecoming a servant of the state.

But of course, the attitude that brings one to "academic freedom" is not one of service to the state, it's an attitude of professionalism. Just as in the legal profession many of the protections the profession guarantees the public have an uncanny way of enriching lawyers, so in professional academia professional norms have a tendency to ensure a comfortable position for academics.

In the meantime, if this academic freedom is so good for conservatives, why do so few conservatives actually enjoy that freedom? After all, one must actually become tenured before one enjoys Ward Churchill's liberty. Is it really better for conservatives that while a few are sheltered within the ivory towers, the rest of conservatism must muster its forces outside the castle walls? (Indeed, as much as I distrust this Ohio provision, I can't say I'm surprised by it, and agree, it should be considered a shot across the bow.)

This is not to say that academics should be dismissed for their views, particularly their views within their academic speciality. And indeed, academic dialogue can and should get heated. But what good does it do the scholarly community to say that there are no limits to what can be said without sanction? After all, if the ostensible purpose for academic freedom is that it benefits the public, isn't there some interest in convincing the public that they're receiving value?

Walls Protect the Academy, But They Beg For Siege
Here, of course, lies the rub. Whatever the intrinsic value of knowledge, most of those who support universities focus upon their instrumental benefits: college education helps in getting a job, providing for doctors and other skilled professionals, or developing nifty new bits of technology. These goals aren't particularly furthered through subsidies towards those who would demonize the dead. Indeed, humanities departments--which tend to be much more politically polarized--do not always inspire such universal good feeling.

Far from protecting conservative academics, such tolerance for the Churchills of the world may end up harming them. Given the vast difference in political affiliation between the majority of academics and the population at large, every sputtering about "little Eichmanns" may cause those who speak without protection of academic freedom to wonder why they are subsidizing protection for those who are antithetical to their views. (Indeed, consider the rather patronizing tone of some academic bloggers, especially towards "red state" citizens.) But if the academy does shrink, under the current paradigm one doubts this will favor the right.

Good reason thus exists for the University of Colorado to find some way to deal with Churchill, and for conservatives to support them. Certainly there are constitutional arguments (firing Churchill might well amount to "state action"), and there are the self-imposed constraints of tenure and his contract. As much as some will quote Voltaire and his defense of free speech, the immediate counterargument is that merely because Churchill can speak does not mean that his speech must be paid for.

To the extent that the calls for Churchill's removal are political, they are the very type of politics to which one should listen: a movement founded in a deep and visceral feeling that something wrong is being defended by a group who claim a privilege for the benefit of all. The taxpayers of Colorado may easily decide that if the University cannot eliminate that which is a discredit to the state and the institution, the state does not need quite so much university after all.

Advice: FAQ Scripts

As part of a revision to this site and some others, I'm looking for a FAQ Generator. Essentially, I want it to create a one-page FAQ with internally managed links, but will output only part of the page. (Essentially, I want it to spit out a text file that I can use in a PHP include on a template managed by MT.)

Any suggestions? Running under Perl/PHP a plus...

February 06, 2005

Question for My Readers

Besides all the other things I have to do--launch another site, for one--I was considering a significant site redesign, perhaps including an upgrade to MoveableType 3.0. (Actually, I wish I could just pay the 3.0 fees in order to be legal, and keep using 2.6.) And as part of that, one thing I was considering was implementing BlogAds.

This isn't so much because I'd make any money off of it. I'm not Glenn Reynolds, and it might actually be embarassing to see that I have no advertisers. But implementing another piece of code and playing with something new would make me happy. Then again, I try not to make site changes that annoy my readership. So:

a) What is your opinion on implementing BlogAds?
b) Is there anything about the site, site design, etc. that you'd like to see changed in upcoming days?

February 05, 2005

Chutzpah

You've got to hand it to the U.N. It takes some serious brass to run an ad like this (blogad taken from Haloscan:

This should inspire a contest. Come up with the best follow up to the line: "Free Elections in Iraq: The UN Is There." For instance:

Free Elections in Iraq. The UN is There... Figuring Out How Best To Take Credit

(via Bloggerbeer and Half the Sins)

UPDATE: Changed the copied code of the Blogad to a screenshot, and linked it to the page to which the ad clicks through.

UPDATE II: The same ad is running today on Instapundit.

UPDATE III: As Martin points out in comments, this isn't really the United Nations: the UN Foundation is a nominally independent body which works with the UN Fund. (I have no clue how operationally independent it is. So it's not clear the UN actually proposed this advertising. Nice catch, Martin! The branding certainly fooled me.

February 04, 2005

Cool. Helpful. The United Nations

Remember when I told you that I'd give you a week full of counterintuitive Republican postings? Yeah, well, I'm running a bit late. (What else is new?) Nevertheless, here's one to add to the file: a Republican saying that the U.N. did something cool.

The CLS library director today mailed us some brief commentary about the Official Document System of the United Nations. In the last few days I've been doing some research on a back-and-forth between Japan and the U.N., and this tool is proving really quite helpful.

Way back in 2000, I had to do similar research with the EU's website. I won't link to it, because doubtlessly the EU has improved the site by now, but it really was a usability tragedy. This site is much nicer, even if it's got flaws.

Cool, UN! Really cool!

Just. Plain. Wrong.

This is wrong on so many levels. Especially if it was good sherry.

(Slightly not work safe, if you had a very strict workplace, but it is MSNBC.)

I've Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Blech. I just returned from making a cup of coffee to find out that one of my new dorm-mates has taken the slimy disgustingness of my kitchen to a new low. Someone--I have no idea who--used my quality no-stick pan and three of my plates to cook some greasy dinner, and then "washed" them. Those scare quotes are there for a reason.

Disgusting. This weekend, now that the Note is done, will consist of a lot of planning for the next few months. "Figure out a way to move out of the dorms" just got pushed up the agenda...

February 03, 2005

Two Words That Strike Terror Into the Heart of Tony

Say it with me very quietly: business casual.

I've received an informational packet on the firm I'll be working for this summer. It's kind, informative, relentlessly cheerful, and had some chocolate in it. But it also told me that the dress code for the summer was business casual, and that I should bring one suit in case I needed it.

I figure I'll go overboard and bring two.

Still, that leaves me with many days of the week that I must dress for. And as any of my fellow students will tell you, I'm not the guy that Columbia Law School will put forward when GQ comes looking for its Men of Overwork Spring Special. Indeed, the Queer Eye guys would take one look at my closet and start complaining they aren't paid enough. I have a few pieces of casual clothing that might pass muster, but otherwise I get by on some relatively neutral jeans and some relatively neutral shirts, in varying combination.

Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll have to arm myself with a credit card and go face the terra incognito that is New York men's fashion, making some creditable attempt to acquire the start of a casual wardrobe. (Clothing prices in London are just too high to wait until I get there.)

This Crusoe needs a Friday. This Dante needs a Beatrice. Heck, this Charlie needs a Wonka to lead him through a slightly malevolent chocolate factory, and I'd settle for the less-fluffy Johnny Depp version. (Though, please, show me clothing that's a little more restrained.)

Perhaps I'll do what I normally do when I find some situation that tests the measure of this man: call in favors like there's no tomorrow. Time to start looking through the various folks whose computers I've fixed for fashion mavens, clothes horses, or someone who knows Esquire from Maxim from Tattoo Quarterly.

Silly Dowdy, Rhetorical Tricks Aren't For Kids...

If there's one thing amusing about the largely irrelevant froth over creationism, it's watching Atheist Crusaders pretend to actually have done their homework when criticizing biblical texts. David Kopel at the Volokh Conspiracy rightly slammed Bill Moyers for having managed to induce multiple revelations in the poor St. John, author of the Book of Revelation. Today, Maureen Dowd takes her own stab at biblical exegesis:

On eBay, you can even find replicas of the stickers that a Georgia county put on science textbooks to warn that evolution is "a theory, not a fact." Talk about sticker shock.

So much for the Tree of Knowledge. Mr. Bush gives us the Ficus of Faith.


Now, someone make sense of this for me? Nothing in Genesis suggests that Adam or Eve were ignorant of everything, merely innocent. (Indeed, Paradise Lost, not authoritative but persuasive, make Adam quite inquisitive[1].) What Dowd is replacing with the "Ficus of Faith" is The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I wasn't aware that eating its fruit was supposed to have given the line of Eve insight into anything that wasn't at least tangentially related to matters righteous or iniquitous. So far as I knew, Dowd wasn't of the opinion that evolution was included.

Ah well, she must have had me in mind. This worldly agnostic never had much luck keeping his faith running, and over the course of my time at Columbia I've killed off two ficus trees. So I guess for one New Yorker at least, her symbol had some hold.

UPDATE: A Little Reason has a wonderful bit of fact-checking on Moyers. It appears that he may be quoting some Democratic urban myths...

[1]: For instance:

To whom the Patriarch of mankind repli'd.
O favourable spirit, propitious guest,
Well hast thou taught the way that might direct
Our knowledge, and the scale of Nature set
From center to circumference, whereon
In contemplation of created things
By steps we may ascend to God.

John Milton, Paradise Lost, bk. 5, ln.506--512 (1667).

February 01, 2005

Can You Smell The Intellectual Bankruptcy?

The Draft Cassandras are wearing the smell of desperation like a pre-teen bathing in bad-knockoff perfume. No shred of evidence, no matter how unworthy, seems too little to confirm the fears that a draft is coming. A case in point:

(Since it's another post on the draft-related hysteria of Brian "Any readers of draft age. . . . need to begin making plans before it is too late" Leiter and friends, I've put this one below the fold.)

On the 28th, while I was working on my note, the Project for the New American Century released an open letter to Congress that--if you read Brian Leiter--calls for a new draft. Indeed, according to Leiter you should start hiding your children:

The normalization of the idea of a military draft now begins in earnest. All that will be needed is a precipitating event, manufactured through provocation or simply invented (like the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964). Any readers of draft age, or any readers with children of draft age, need to begin making plans before it is too late.

Now, the NACP boasts Robert Kagan as one of its members, and I've followed his writing ever since he wrote Of Paradise and Power. If Kagan were calling for a draft, I'd be quickly revising my opinions and backtracking on my position.

But the Devil, as we are well aware here at Three Years of Hell, is always in the details, and in this case the detail is Leiter's characterization:

The right-wing Project for a New American Century--which includes various folks with close ties to Bush & his bestiary of madmen--on Friday called for reinstatement of a military draft, without, of course, using the word.

(emphasis mine) And I shouldn't just pick on Prof. Leiter, although his draft hysteria makes it fun. This idea that PNAC called for the draft in code is all around the blogosphere. (Ain't Technorati grand?)

Now the trouble is, PNAC did no such thing. They called for an increase in of active-duty Army and Marine troop strength of 25,000 troops per year, each year, for the next several years. Even assuming that's a five year plan, the increase in troop strength is only 125,000 troops. To hear the bloggers above (left-wingers with an axe to grind all) talk, you'd think such increases in troop strength are a new idea. They aren't. See PNAC, Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century 23 (2000) (calling for an immediate increase in the size of active duty forces by 50,000 troops, and a reduction in reliance on National Guard and Reserve troops). The present PNAC letter calls for what PNAC has been calling for over the last few years: increased military spending, reduced reliance upon reserve forces, and an increase in the size of the standing army.

There's a serious debate here: do we want Rumsfeld's new model army, adapted to respond quickly and readily to threats throughout the globe, but focused upon asymmetrical advantages in technology and intelligence? Or do we believe that a world superpower still needs a vast array of full-time active-duty soldiers, with the budgetary costs that entails? It's a worthy debate, and both sides are worth a listen.

However, it's not a debate on the draft. What the Draft Cassandras have each implicitly assumed--giving scant and dubious evidence--is that the only way to raise 25,000 troops per year would be through the imposition of a draft. They then point out that we're having trouble recruiting--for the National Guard and the Reserves. (Quick though experiment: given the various advantages that regular Army and Marine troops have over their reserve counterparts, why might one have trouble recruiting them during a period in which the latter are being called much like the former? [1]) On the other hand, they point to no problems meeting recruiting needs for active duty military staff, though there's the occasional mention that we're increasing incentives to join.

Again, is that surprising? That one would increase recruitment incentives during a period of large-scale deployment? Anyone with an ounce of economic intuition would say no. Does that mean we're going to fail to reach recruitment targets? Certainly not. There's all sorts of means one could use to expand military participation--relaxing standards on recruits that might be too strict, increasing pay, or heck, even getting rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"--that we could employ to increase recruitment before a draft.

Here's a challenge for the bilefest linked above: write a brief showing that it would be easier, less-expensive, and more effective to raise the size of the active duty military by 25,000 per year through a draft than through increased pay, broadening recruitment standards, or any other available means. Show that the supply of troops does not exist.

Look, folks: Kagan and his crew are smart guys. (OK, Leiter believes they're close to a "bestiary[2] of madmen," but that probably tells you more about him than Kagan.) If they want to call for a draft, they will. It's a sign of intellectual bankruptcy to "imply" an argument to an opponent, particularly if the only way you can do so is to hold that they agree with an assumption you've made. Even if you believed that you could not recruit 25,000 regular troops without a draft--and this is a contested statement for which you bloody well ought to show some evidence--it would not suggest that PNAC "called" for one.

[1]: Or for another example of problems with Guard recruiting, consider this:

“We used to get half our guys from ‘prior service,’” said Mark Allen, a retired Air Force colonel who now is the chief of external affairs for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va. He said soldiers leaving the service and joining the Guard kept their experience and skills in the military but had a lower tempo and more time with families and a chance to carve out careers. “Now, if you’re in the Army and thinking of getting out, and you don’t want a high tempo, would you want to go in the Guard now?”

No kidding.

[2]: By the way, did "bestiary of madmen" strike anyone else as strange? It seems to evoke a collection of actual creatures, as opposed to ones in a book. But a bestiary isn't a zoo. It's a book of stories involving animals and the moral lessons one learns from them. Why would Bush have a bestiary of madmen? And why would one care if a group of neocons were close to Bush and a book about madmen? Or is the idea that he's part of the bestiary of madmen? But if so, why use the term if you're not talking about someone who wrote the book?

It just seems like a piece of rhetorical confusion, as if meant to evoke with beastial->bestiary the same thing as avian->aviary.

Ah well. I'm certainly not in a position to talk about bizarre locutions.

Over. Done. Brain Fried.

Well, the Note's done. I've handed it in. And it's a bit bittersweet.

I mean, I know it's not finished. If I wanted to get it into "publishable" form, which I might, there'd be several months of revising it into a very narrow piece of scholarship. Some sections would have to be ruthlessly trimmed. Others would have to be polished so that their points shined brightly.

But really, that's not what I'd like to do. What I'd like to do is post it somewhere so that my peers could look at it. I'd like to hear what folks in Michigan, or California, or London had to say about the piece. And I'd like to take those recommendations, weed through the good points, the bad points, and the points I'm obviously not explaining enough, in order to come up with an argument that I was really satisfied with.

Sadly, it's not to be. But at least it's done.

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