Call in Troops?

I don't usually blog much on Saturdays, since I try and treat it as a Day of Mindfulness, spent in leisure, meditation, cooking (and today, baking), and occasionally catching up on work. I just read something, however, which gave me a good laugh and I thought it'd be a nice thing to share. Every week, our law school newspaper publishes a column of amusing faculty quotes from the previous week. My favorite of this week comes from Professor Larry Walker's Complex Civil Litigation class:

L. Walker: "So there's an injunction here. Now how do you enforce it? Come on, somebody. How do you enforce it? You. How would you enforce this injunction?"
Student, quietly: "Ah, troops?"
Walker: "I'm sorry... what?"
Student: "You call in the troops?"
Walker: "Did you say, 'call in the troops?'"
Student: "Yes."
Walker: "No."

Good guess, though.

Day of Mindfulness

Each Saturday I make an effort to devote the day to mindfulness. As part of that effort, I will largely refrain from blogging on Saturdays. I will, however, provide a weekly update to the section of this website on Zen.

This week's offering is a guide to several mind practices for use during sitting meditation. For those first beginning to meditate, it is often difficult to determine whether the mind or body is giving more trouble. In truth, the difficulties are inextricably commingled, but there are different techniques for attacking each side of the mind/body coin. The body will come along at its own pace, and choosing a beginner's posture can ease the transition. Yet mind practices are just as vital. Several of the techniques listed here are ideally suited for beginners who are just beginning to exercise their mindfulness muscle.

Hair

I wonder if my continuing love of the soundtracks to Hair (two of my favorite CDs for over 7 years!) is a sign of admirable, nonconformist eccentricity, or complete and utter hopelessness.

We starve, look at one another short of breath,
Walking proudly in our winter coats,
Wearing smells from laboratories,
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy,
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes.

Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of greatness.
Who knows what stands in front of our lives;
I fashion my future on films in space.
Silence tells me secretly everything, everything.

I report, you decide.

HairHair

Statutory Interpretation and Cooking

I often have problems switching between modes of reading and writing. Quite often, when I'm taking notes on various cases in Microsoft Word, I'll make futile attempts to italicize case names using HTML brackets: [code]Brandenburg v. Ohio[/code] This probably happens once a day at least. Similarly, last night I was making this recipe for an easy alfredo sauce, and got very hung up on the instructions:
Melt butter in a medium, non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Add cream cheese and garlic powder, stirring with wire whisk until smooth. Add milk, a little at a time, whisking to smooth out lumps.
You see that period after "whisk until smooth"? Well I stopped reading right there, and sat trying to whisk the cream cheese itself until smooth. Hopeless. Futile. Finally I read it again, and realized that I was suppose to "whisk until smooth" while adding the milk a little at a time. How outrageous! Why don't the instructions say that? There should be a comma, or at most a semi-colon; surely not a period. I'm beginning to think I place too much emphasis on these punctuation marks. I think statutory interpretation is to blame.

Arsenal Lands Spanish Starlet

It's been a long time since Arsenal fans like myself could get excited about a new signing. This week brings the excellent news that Arsenal has landed 20-year old Spanish international Jose Antonio Reyes on a transfer from Sevilla. Arsenal has been in the midst of a rash of injuries to its attacking players, and there is a lot of uncertainty at the striker position come next summer. Berkgamp is almost certain to retire, and he'll be much missed (he was the source of my first interest in Arsenal). I'm hoping we'll hold on to Thierry Henry forever, but I wouldn't mind saying goodbye to Sylvain Wiltford.

Regardless, Reyes is a welcome addition, a good investment, and I can't wait to see his contributions in the next several years.

McMurtry's Published Dichotomies

Several people who've noted that I was reading a Larry McMurtry novel expressed a bit of skepticism, if not disapproval, as if they'd caught me with the latest work of Danielle Steel. How easy it is to forget that McMurtry won a Pulitzer Prize for the almost universally-lauded Lonesome Dove, and actually published some other very well-regarded books amidst his much less impressive work. The first ~180 pages of The Last Picture Show have been uniformly excellent, and I would have no trouble recommending it. If you have previously shared my friends' disdain for McMurtry because of a (likely justified) uncharitable view of his lesser works, I'd encouage you to pick it up. If you like it, it has two sequels that are also supposed to be rather good.

No Reading, No Class

For some reason, I can't stand going to class if I have not done the reading. Most of my friends laugh at me when I tell them this, either because they are constantly going to class without doing the reading or just because they like to laugh at me. Yet every time it happens, I feel awkward and uncomfortable and wish I weren't there. This wasn't usually a problem my first year of law school, since I stayed pretty far ahead.

This semester, however, I can't seem to get motivated enough to get ahead, and things keep coming up which leave me doing the next day's work the night before. When I procrastinate too much or don't have enough time, I don't get the work finished. Then I'm left with an unhappy choice: go to class and feel depressed for not really understanding what is going on (and feeling like a lazy bum for not doing the reading) or skipping class and missing the lecture completely. The latter doesn't cost me as much as some, since I tend to be a book learner rather than a lecture learner. But still, what a crappy choice. The lesson for me: DO YOUR WORK! With that, back to the books.

Minor League Porn Star

Apparently it is top news that a minor league baseball player once appeared in a gay porn video while in college in Japan. This got me, and I'm sure many others, thinking about the absence of gay players in professional sports.

A good portion of my discussions about gay exclusion has centered on the military, both in my days in ROTC and now in law school. That's understandable, since Congress' "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy remains one of the few explicitly exclusionary rules against gays that the government sponsors.

Yet I've often wondered why professional sports did not come in for greater scrutiny. Obviously we are not dealing with government sponsored exclusion, but from a moral standpoint we ought to be awfully disturbed by the lack of a single openly gay player in baseball, the NFL, the NHL or the NBA. In fact, perhaps we should be more disturbed. Setting aside the wisdom of "don't ask, don't tell," at least we can point to an explicit doctrine that prevents gays from serving openly. We can debate it, we can attack and defend it, and we can encourage our legislators to vote for or against it. Yet with professional sports, there can't even be a discussion about changing this or that policy, since there's no policy to discuss. It's just a cultural phenomenon.

I mean, does anyone really believe that there are no gay players in any of these leagues? I sure don't. And what does that tell us? Are they afraid of their teammates? Their managers? Their fans?

I will say that I was very impressed by the statements of Tadano's teammates, who seems to have gotten plenty of support. Of course, this tells us little about how they would react if he were actually gay (and not a porn actor), instead of pleading that he is not, and that he simply made a one-time mistake.

States Visited

Via Sasha Volokh, I found a program that lets you mark all the states you've been to in red; my results:


Go here to make your own.

Vague Tax Mortality Issues

I'm reading about the recovery of capital, and the Code exclusions from income for proceeds from life insurance. Simply put, if you get life insurance proceeds because the insured dies, the money doesn't count as income and you don't get taxed. Anyhow, the textbook uses flight insurance as an easy example of how it works:

Suppose that a person pays $5 for $50,000 of such coverage. If the plane crashes and the insured dies, the beneficiary receives the $50,000 which can be thought of as consisting of a $5 recovery of cost plus a mortality gain of $49,995. The entire amount is excluded under Section 101(a). On the other hand, if the plane arrives safely at its destination, the insured loses his or her gamble with the insurance company. There is a $5 mortality loss, for which there is no deduction. In this lottery with life there will be those who gain, financially, and those who do not.

I think it's an awful strange arrangement when the guy whose plane does NOT crash is considered the loser. I mean $50,000 is great and all, but you're... ya know... dead.

Anyhow, I understand what the authors are saying, it just struck me as oddly phrased.

I Am a Patriot

As a longtime Pearl Jam fan, I began collecting bootleg copies of their live shows long before they began releasing them officially. Steve Van Zandt's "I Am a Patriot" has been a part of their cover repertoire for just about as long as they've been performing, and was always one of my favorites. But it did not really become what I'd call an important song for me until after 9/11. At that time, I'd only been playing the guitar for a few months, and had barely mastered rudimentary chord progressions and strumming. Yet I knew that music would be one of the only outlets that could help me cope in the days after that tragedy. So I sought out songs that gave some emotional catharsis, but could be played by a novice guitarist. I would sit in my little studio apartment in Cambridge, Massachussetts, play these songs, and immerse myself in something less horrible than the world outside my walls. Two songs in particular became important to me in this way, in those days: Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the Rain?" and this song.

And the rivers shall open for the righteous...
And the rivers shall open for the righteous...
And the rivers shall open for the righteous someday...

I was walking with my brother,
And he wondered, oh how I am.
Said what I believe in my soul
Ain�t what I see with my eyes,
And there�s no turning back this time.

I am a patriot, and I love my country,
Because my country is all I know.
Wanna be with my family,
People who understand me.
I got no place else to go.

I was walking with my girlfriend.
She looked so fine, I said
�Baby, what�s on your mind?�
Said I want to run like the lions
Released from their cages...
Released from the rages
Burning in my soul tonight.

I am a patriot, and I love my country,
Because my country is all I know.

And I ain�t no communist,
And I ain�t no socialist,
And I ain�t no capitalist,
And I ain�t no imperialist,
And I ain�t no Democrat,
Sure ain�t no Republican either,
I only know one party,
And that is freedom.
I am...I am...I am...

I am a patriot, and I love my country,
Because my country is all I know.

And the rivers shall open for the righteous,
And the rivers shall open for the righteous,
And the rivers shall open for the righteous someday...
Someday...someday...

Song Lyrics

I've been busy today trying to catch up on some work (and maybe even get ahead), so I've not got much interesting to say, or much time to surf around and see what others are talking about. I did notice that Juan Non-Volokh has decided to try a new tradition of posting song lyrics, and I was reminded that this was one of my favorite things to do on my now defunct college blog. I would often post favorite song lyrics and include a little description of what they meant to me. I think it is is a practice worth continuing.

Day of Mindfulness

Each Saturday I make an effort to devote the day to mindfulness. As part of that effort, I will largely refrain from blogging on Saturdays. I will, however, provide a weekly update to the section of this website on Zen.

This week's offering is a brief introduction to the first of the Four Noble Truths: dukkha (a word that has been very hard to define).

Obnoxious Law Student Columnist

Does your law school publish a newspaper? Does it feature an incredibly self-important, pretentious, and pathetic columnist?

Mine does.

(WARNING: Brilliant, biting, hyperbolic satire ahead; some self-censored use of nasty, foul language is involved; viewer discretion is advised.)

Continue reading Obnoxious Law Student Columnist.

Kleiman Defends Clark

Mark Kleiman is defending (with uncharacteristically knee-jerk approval from Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum) the remarks made by General Clark about Senator Kerry's war records, which I criticized here.

I'm trying not to assume that Kleiman did not actually see the interview, but the fact that he only quotes a New York Times article and discusses nothing but the words themselves suggests he did not. I can agree that the words are sufficiently vague that it is not clear whether Clark's comments should be criticized or defended. But, as one of John Cole's commenters hits on the head with this comment, Clark's demeanor in uttering the words is less defensible:

Despite his 'I respect that', the tone of his words (if not his voice, heck if I know on that) imply that he does NOT respect that from 'mere' (that's the implication) Junior Officers. An insult to every Junior Officer.

One of Kevin Drum's commenters agrees:

Clark has been my first choice since before he entered the race, but I was a little taken aback by his exchange with Bob Dole on CNN. I was watching it live, and it came across as him belittling Kerry as a junior officer.

This happens quite a lot with bloggers. Since we are almost entirely a text-based medium, too often we rely on text-based accounts of things that were actually viewed by many people. I'd suggest that those who actually saw and heard Clark's remarks might have an edge on interpreting them versus someone who just has a transcript in front of him.

JAG Press Conference

Another law student/future JAG (that's at least two of us!) has started a new blog called Law from the Center and has a very interesting post up analyzing the very unusual press conference given by the US military lawyer representing an Australian detained at Gitmo. As Pete says:

[O]ur civilian intuition tells us that the defendant should be able to speak publicly through his attorney, and when the only one available is military, he should be able to speak freely to the public in order to defend his client in the court of public opinion. No such right exists, though. "The Judge Advocate General has issued a policy letter instructing that the public affairs office will normally answer news media inquiries. Judge Advocates assigned to the US Army Trial Defense Service (USATDS) are reminded to refer media to the installation public affairs officer.

It's highly unlikely that anyone in this Marine's chain of command authorized that kind of high profile, extremely critical statement. Usually, all a TDS lawyer can do is say the client's name, the nature of charges, and a general claim of innocence. This goes far beyond that.

Very interesting stuff. I've always been vaguely aware of the general restrictions on First Amendment rights of military personnel, and made myself a bit more knowledgeable before I began blogging. But this is the first I've ever learned about restrictions on the speech of military defense lawyers, and Pete is right, my intuitions would have led me to a different conclusion.

Watch Your Step

Here's an unnerving story:

Britain's biggest-selling hiking magazine apologized Wednesday after its latest issue contained a route that would lead climbers off the edge of a cliff on Britain's tallest peak.

As someone with a couple years worth of Backpacker magazine archived on my shelf, I can't deny being a little frightened by this. Truth be told, I wouldn't find myself in quite such a precarious position (mountains are not really my thing), but it still gives me the shivers.

Another Military/Legal Blogger

Via Phil Carter, my favorite military officer/law student blogger, comes news of another UCLA law student blogging at Law From the Center. While Phil has left the service, Pete at Law from the Center is apparently still a Captain in the US Army. It's not clear from his first few posts whether he is a current reservist, or whether he is taking part in FLEP, the Army program which authorizes Active Duty officers to get law degress on the Army's dime (a great deal!). Anyhow, I'm glad to welcome him to the blogosphere. The world needs more military officer/law student bloggers!

O'Connor

Another Rice Grad is right, I do agree with this description of Justice O'Connor:

The question to ask is should she be the most powerful woman in American history? Should we have an unelected person making these final decisions for American society on a lot of these different questions? And it's true she is a moderate in the sense that she likes to be in the middle. But the problem with that is that makes her very politically powerful. The problem is that she doesn't have any real judicial ideology. She doesn't really have a consistent theory that she brings to the law, she just likes to, I think, be in the middle, to be in the center of a court that's fairly polarized, that makes her the center of attention, people craft arguments at the Supreme Court to appeal just to her. But that isn't really law, is it, that's more politics. It deprives the court of speaking with a consistent, coherent judicial ideology.

I think some of this came across in my criticism of her Grutter opinion last year, and I felt the same way about her "split the difference" approach in her Lawrence concurrence. There is an unfortunate extent to which I think O'Connor has hijacked the court in a way that "swing voters" in the past (think Stewart in the 60s, White in the 70s) never tried. Because she is so fond of what I call splitting-the-difference (even when there is no defensible precedent or legal theory for ending up in a compromised and muddled position; e.g. think of her 30 years compromise on affirmative action), she is leaving us particularly worse off. The country has a hard enough time reacting to split decisions that may go the other way as soon as a justice retires, and there is not much to do about that. But O'Connor's obsession with carving out the smallest possible ruling almost guarantees a lack of guidance and endurance for her opinions, and betrays the hope that our justices are at least guided, if clearly not controlled, by something other than political preferences.

Self-Defeating

David Bernstein says we should have second thoughts about Claude Allen's nomination to the 4th Circuit because he once worked for Jesse Helms, and Helms was an unreconstructed racist. Even leaving aside the arguments about whether Allen is somehow "tainted goods" because of this connection , this seems like a strange reaction.

I'm not saying Allen is necessarily qualified for the job (a cursory review of anti-Allen websites suggests he lacks anything near the requisite experience), but I'm confused as to how keeping another black man off the appellate bench strikes a blow against Jesse Helms' abysmal civil rights record.

UPDATE: Another Rice Grad agrees with me. Or I agree with him.

UPDATE II: Bernstein has posted an update/elaboration, and I'm very satisfied by the elaboration. I'd likely oppose Allen's nomination on ideology-neutral grounds (he just doesn't seem qualified) rather than those Bernstein lists, but that stems more from my desire to ratchet down the partisanship of these nominations/confirmations than anything else.

Pulling Rank

I'm not as upset as John Cole, but I do think this was a pretty classless remark:

Clark, who didn't compete in Iowa, told campaign workers in Manchester, N.H., that Kerry, a decorated former Navy officer, had a military background "but nobody in this race has got the kind of background I've got."

"It's one thing to be a hero as a junior officer. He's done that, I respect that," Clark said. "But I've got the military experience at the top as well as at the bottom."

There's a lot of ground to criticize Kerry on, but this is not one of them. As John said in his comments, "The military needs a lot more bona fide combat heroes like Kerry and a lot fewer armchair generals like Clark." I give Clark more credit than that, but it's not an unreasonable response to Clark's attack on Kerry. If this is a sign of things to come from Clark, I'll definitely be rethinking my support. We can do better than this. We deserve better than this.

Military Benefits of Iraq

I've spent plenty of time worrying about the potential negative consequences the war on Iraq may be having on our military. It is thus particularly nice to read an article discussing the ways the Army has benefitted from the experience:

"The majority of the Army will have a combat patch for the first time since Vietnam," says General Blount, now in charge of Army readiness, at his Pentagon office. "We were already the best army in the world. Now we're the most experienced."

Over the next four months, he notes, eight of 10 active duty Army divisions - with 220,000 troops will be rotating in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade, for example, heads to Iraq this month with combat veterans from Afghanistan reportedly making up 75 percent of its 2,000 paratroopers and most of its key commanders.

The story also notes that recruitment and retention levels are high (click here for details on a new, and apparently successful retention program). While the danger of being stretched too thin remains, the Army is aware of this and is responding. In this sense, the war is a catalyst for change, particularly in unit manning and the ongoing development of expeditionary brigades that can be more self-sufficient than our current organization allows. As has always been true, if the Army can meet the challenges that our new committments and concerns have placed on it, it will end up better off as a result. The Army can be the slowest moving bureaucracy in the world, but when bullets are flying and soldiers are dying, problems can get fixed in a hurry.

This is today's Traffic Jam contribution.

Solos & Small Firms

Law.com is running a feature on the practical matters of solo and small firm law practices. This is an area largely ignored by law school students, who either get wooed by the big firms or, in the rare case, choose to go with some sort of public service or public sector job. Particularly in this era of big firm mergers and "full service" practices, things seem to be favoring the bigger firms. But this is apparently not the whole story:

Initial signs are that, generally, business is good. By practicing the economies of scale that small-firm life allows, most firms are keeping up with the competition if not outdistancing it.

I'm not sure exactly how an economy of scale argument would favor smaller firms over larger ones, but let's just accept that business is good. There also seem to be a lot of advantages that aren't self-evident at first glance, and that appeal to me as someone who is not particularly interested in ending up working primarily as a manager or supervisor:

Small firms can have great strengths. The few principals in charge can exercise direct control on every aspect of each case. A partner in a small firm still can actively participate in the profession of law, not merely supervise what has become the business of law... We personally handle all aspects of trial preparation that in a large firm would typically be delegated to a team of associates and paralegals. We know that no matter how much help we might have available in our office, when the case goes to trial, it's on our shoulders. Our personal reputations are on the line, as is the liberty -- and sometimes the very lives -- of our clients.

Sounds very exciting, very challenging, and very fulfilling. As long as you're going to put in a lot of crazy hours, you might as well have the responsibility and frontline experiences to go with it.

Visual Bias?

Kevin Drum objects to the Los Angeles Times' choice of Howard Dean images:

This is the only picture that makes him look like a frothing, Nuremburg-ish nutball, and it's the one they chose for their page 10 photo roundup. Who made that call?

Whoever it was, they picked well. I don't want to start a trend of disagreeing with Kevin, but why is it bad that they used the one photo that really conveys Dean's behavior? I imagine it is very hard to capture in one photograph the seething rage that came across in Dean's voice and movements, but that photograph comes pretty close. I have no trouble with it, and think it is testament to the skill of the photographer that he was able to capture Dean's post-Iowa madness in a single frame.

Second Look

Well if nothing else is certain after Iowa, at least we know that I was too hasty in endorsing Clark. I suppose I bit pretty hard into the conventional wisdom that this was a Dean-Clark race. At least my fears about Dean were graphically validated last night. But now that we've got a real primary season on our hands, I think I'm going to step back and wait, at least until after the February 3 primaries. Like many others, I had stopped thinking about Kerry or Edwards as viable candidates. Who knows where it all goes from here, but at the very least those two can no longer be easily dismissed.

I worked in Senator Kerry's Boston office for a semester in college, but never met him and don't have a lot to say that might prove helpful in this race. I do remember him having a good deal of trouble relating to the rest of the Massachussetts Democratic party, but that's hardly an indictment in my book.

Edwards is a bit of an unknown to me, but if he can put together a real campaign, gain some traction going into South Carolina, I can definitely see myself supporting him. Virginia will be a funny state, however. Though it is rightfully viewed in general elections as a southern state, I think the Democratic primary is more heavily influenced by D.C. suburbia than anywhere else. It'll be interesting to see what the polls are saying in two weeks.

But so long as Howard Dean remains "inevitable", the question always lurking in my mind as I think about this election is: could I actually vote for Howard Dean?

There Is Hope

I'm following the caucus results coming in from the Des Moines Register and all I can say is: thank God for Iowa, there is hope for the Democratic party.

The reaction of Dean supporters? Well, read it yourself. Just unbelievably, unbearably infantile. They'd rather support a third party candidate then a Democrat other than Dean. Turns out Iowa is like a third world country and the caucuses are wildly undemocratic. You think we'd be hearing such things if Dean came in 1st or 2nd? I empathize with those who put so much hard work into something only to be so hugely disappointed, but a lot (though not all) of those commenters are saying outrageous stuff. I'm glad the people of Iowa have done their part to return some sanity to this campaign season.

UPDATE: Just listened to Howard Dean's speech to his supporters. What a psycho. I mean, what an absolute psycho. An unlikely bedfellow, Professor Bainbridge, describes it perfectly:

Watching Dean's speech is painful. He's so over the top. I can't imagine this speech is helping his cause. I can't believe a majority of American voters will want to spend the next 4 years listening to this guy yelling at them.

Not my preference, that's for sure.

UPDATE II: ScrappleFace made me laugh. Michele at A Small Victory has some wise commentary.

New Clerk Blog

Via Larry Solum, I'm glad to see the blogosphere has added a new appellate clerk to its ranks. Calling his blog Legal Fiction, the pseudonymous Publius describes himself as a "southern, non-Federalist Society law clerk." From the looks of his first posts, he appears to be less curmudgeonly than my other favorite clerk. He has an interesting post up comparing originalism and religious fundamentalism, strong evidence that we can expect interesting and original posts from this new blog.

He also mentions that he has a joint JD/MA in Legal History. UVA has such a program; I wonder if the ranks of Virginia Law bloggers has also increased?

Leftist Lithmus Test

Daniel Davies has thrown down the gauntlet:

I hereby question the �left� credentials, and indeed the commitment to democracy, of anyone who takes the government side against Katharine Gun... If you think that Ms Gun deserves to go to jail, then all I can say, mes amis is examine your conscience.

Well then, count me out. Davies account of the incident seems to rest entirely on this column by Bob Herbert:

Ms. Gun, 29, was working at Britain's top-secret Government Communications Headquarters last year when she learned of an American plan to spy on at least a half-dozen U.N. delegations as part of the U.S. effort to win Security Council support for an invasion of Iraq.

Ms. Gun felt passionately that an invasion of Iraq was wrong � morally wrong and illegal. In a move that deeply embarrassed the American and British governments, the memo was leaked to The London Observer.

So an intelligence agent leaked classified information that embarrassed her country/employer and its ally. She violated a very straight-forward law that protects the national security of her country. And this is someone that the "left" ought to make a martyr? I don't buy it. And I don't buy Herbert's vague and unworkable claim that she is not a "big-time criminal." I didn't know we were in the business of punishing only "big-time criminals." For good measure, Herbert throws in this red herring:

There is no equivalent in Britain to America's First Amendment protections. Individuals like Ms. Gun are at the mercy of the Official Secrets Act, which can result in severe � in some cases, draconian � penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of information by intelligence or security agency employees.

While Herbert is quite right that the First Amendment provides much broader speech protections in America than anything in Britain, I fail to see how it would apply in this case. If it were a crime in this country for an intelligence agent to leak classified information, I highly doubt the First Amendment would save the agent from being fired or prosecuted.

Nor should it. While thirty years of hindsight makes Daniel Ellsberg look like a saint for releasing the Pentagon Papers, history has not been so kind to the various spies for the Soviet Union, or for Israel (Jonathan Pollard thought he was doing the right thing, didn't he?). The same would be true if someone like Ms. Gun had released wartime preparations during World War II. We would look back and be glad she was punished for threatening the security of her country. It is not her right to decide if and when to violate the laws of her country and then expect not to bear the consequences of her actions. If she acted on principle, that's fine. Let that be her solace if and when she pays the price for breaking the law.

UPDATE: Chris Lawrence agrees, as does Jacob Levy, and I've made this my Beltway Traffic Jam contribution.

Targeting Cheney?

I guess I'm going to be talking more about politics than I thought. Kevin Drum is sticking to his claim that challenging Cheney could be a winner for Democrats:

For now, though, I'm going to stick with my suggestion that the Democrats could gain some traction by making Cheney a bigger issue in the campaign than vice presidents usually are. It would require a subtle touch, of course, but let's face it: nobody likes an evil genius operating out of a hole. There ought to be something there we can take advantage of.

Cheney might joke around and call himself that, and Kevin and I might even think it is true, but I don't think there is much traction to be had on this argument. First of all, I think most Americans just won't believe any claims that the Vice-President is exerting so much control. It goes against all conventional wisdom on vice-presidencies, and that's a lot of inertia to overcome.

Second, it can easily be spun (perhaps correctly) into proof that Democrats know they can't win by going after the President himself. Karl Rove could have a field day running ads that say "They are picking on the President's staff because they don't want to go head-to-head with George W. Bush." The last thing Democrats want is to implicitly admit they can't beat Bush straight on. That might do more damage than good.

Third, I think Cheney's presence is actually reassuring to a lot of people. To the extent that people do buy into the "Bush is dumb" rhetoric, many of them think having Cheney around makes for a perfect complement: Bush gives them the leadership and machismo that reassures a frightened nation, Cheney provides the organization and runs a lot of the policy analysis. Though for people like Kevin, this is a recipe for national nightmare, for many this is not something to be scared of or vote against.

Giving Kleiman Some Credit

Yesterday I gave Andrew Sullivan credit for being willing to criticize the administration. I'd like to give similar credit to Mark Kleiman for this post demanding that General Clark (who Kleiman supports) distance himself or correct Michael Moore's charge that President Bush was a "deserter":

Moore was simply wrong to use the word "deserter." Clark, who surely knows that better than I do, should have corrected Moore's very bad mistake when asked about it. Having failed to do so, he should do so now.

It was a pretty silly charge and Clark missed an opportunity to demonstrate his willingness to be equitable in his criticisms. It is these wild-eyed cries of "deserter," "imposter," "usurper," and "thief" which most turn me off about the current rhetoric of the left.

Though I don't think it is reason not to support Clark (Andrew Sullivan does), I am a bit bothered by the Michael Moore endorsement. I just really don't like him. It's not Clark's fault that I don't like Moore, and I think all candidates take endorsements from people I don't like (how about Pat Robertson?), but I would have been especially impressed with Clark if he'd chosen to distance himself from Moore's more outlandish claims.

Comments at Begging to Differ

Begging to Differ has enabled comments. I'm debating putting them back on this site. Part of my hesitation is that the redesign of this site wiped out my database, so I had to rebuild the archives by hand, cutting and pasting the text of each post back into a re-installed Movable Type. That means all the old comments are gone too. I could go back and cut and paste those back into the old posts, but that doesn't seem like a very efficient use of time. That's not a particularly good reason for not having comments in the future, but there you have it.

Additionally, I did not and do not like pop-up windows, so I'm looking into ways to enable comments without a pop-up window. We'll see how that turns out.

I was able to enable trackback without pop-up windows. Anytime someone links to a post and send a trackback ping, a link back to them will be displayed just below the timestamp. See this post for an example. I'm very happy about this, because I think trackback is a great tool for letting people know that you're responding to something they've said. I should say, however, that I think blog etiquette ought to require that you actually link to the blog you're pinging. As Dean Esmay has noted, to do otherwise is impolite.

Style and Substance

To procrastinate from my tax reading I made a few minor design changes, including finally figuring out how to prevent Mozilla browsers from displaying extra space beneath my logo (here's the fix). Since I can now make non-solid color logos (I couldn't before without a little background line of pixels displaying below it in Mozilla), I've quickly put together what you see above. The logo design is a blatant rip-off of Matthew Stinson's logo, but hopefully he won't mind it as a placeholder while I try to come up with something original. The background image is actually a companion to this photo, taken from the top of Montparnasse during a Parisian sunset.

I like the Goudy Old Style logo text quite a lot, so all of the text in the others graphics has been changed as well.

Caleb Nelson, Blogger?

Stuart Buck notes that it is "[t]oo bad Virginia law professor Caleb Nelson doesn't have a blog..." It sure is! Perhaps I can convince him to be a guest blogger (ha!). I had Caleb for Civil Procedure last year and am currently enjoying the reading for the second week of his Federal Courts class. He's one of our young stars, and he's a great lecturer to boot. I fear we'll lose him someday to Harvard or Yale, but right now he's got young children and I think he's happier raising them in Charlottesville.

Incidentally, I think that's one of the more interesting tidbits about law school hiring here at UVa. Apparently we have a good bit of trouble attracting single professors, as the Charlottesville singles scene is unimpressive to say the least. In contrast, several of my professors have mentioned that one of the reasons they were attracted to UVa was the possibility of raising their families here. So perhaps we get a little edge in hiring young, married professors who have young children or are looking to have children in the near future.

Stretched Thin

James Joyner points to this analysis by Brookings fellow Michael O'Hanlon addressing the criticism that the Iraq campaign has measurably detracted from the war on al-Qaeda. While O'Hanlon concludes that overall there has not been much effect on those efforts, he concedes a point that has long loomed large in my mind:

[T]he mission in Iraq, which promises to last for years, risks breaking the U.S. military. Combined with operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans, and vigilance in Korea, the United States is severely straining its combat forces. That will potentially make military service of far less appeal to those men and women in active and Reserve units who are needed for an all-volunteer armed forces.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is therefore wrong to oppose the bipartisan congressional push to temporarily add several tens of thousands of troops to the U.S. military force structure. The strain on the military has not yet weakened the fight against terror, but it could weaken the national security quite dramatically in the future if it puts at risk the magnificent quality of today's professional armed forces.

Like James, I too "thought our troops were overburdened during the Clinton era." So this is not a matter of blaming this administration. In fact, one thing I had looked forward to with a Republican administration was either 1) reduced deployments overseas or 2) genuine rebuilding of our military force to levels that could support our overseas committments. Of course, 9/11 threw a lot of our old calculations out the window. But of all the things it should have taught us, high on the list ought to have been that America can ill-afford to act like the end of the Cold War means the end of American military engagement. The Afghanistan campaign could probably have been fought adequately with our current force structure, but not the war in Iraq.

But unlike James, I'm not so skeptical of the "push to temporarily add several tens of thousands of troops to the U.S. military force structure." I'll admit up front that I'm not familiar with the details of the plan, so the facts might not support my inferences. But "temporary" could mean "five years" or "ten years," couldn't it? We could organize, fund, and up recruitment goals with the design of adding an eleventh or twelfth active duty division for at least the duration of the Iraqi occupation.

James is correct that force structure is not a "short term" solution. But it is not really a "short term" problem, either. The concern is not that the military will suddenly collapse or fail, but that bit by bit lower retention and recruitment may eat at us from within, or force us to eliminate or reduce military committments that we would otherwise want or need to keep.

Carter, McGovern, Anyone Else?

Matt Yglesias asks whether it is really such a good thing to get an endorsement from Jimmy Carter. I had the same reaction with Bill Bradley a couple weeks ago, and again this morning when I saw that George McGovern had endorsed Clark. That's about the best proof of what a dearth of respectable elder statesmen the Democratic party is suffering from. Who's next, Michael Dukakis?

I guess the conventional wisdom at this point is that Clinton is not going to endorse a candidate in the primaries, but boy if he did, that would be a coup. The rest of these endorsements seem a bit silly.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias has more:

At the end of the day, "McGovern" is a byword for weakness, both on security and as a candidate. Moreover, part of the theory of McGovern's candidacy was that as a war hero he would have the credibility to push a dovish stance against Richard Nixon, a theory that reminds one of things that are said about, well, Wesley Clark. And we know that didn't work out so well, so....

Interesting point.

Giving Sullivan Some Credit

I have always liked Andrew Sullivan a good deal more than a lot of my blogging colleagues, and the current posts up on his site now remind me why. He is better than many war supporters at turning a critical eye at the administration, though I remain a little puzzled how he can have so many disagreements with the administration and still be so skeptical of others who criticize it. Nonetheless, his criticisms of Bush (here and here and here) ring particularly true when you consider that, as he said, he has "earned a certain amount of credibility on this one."

I did not start blogging until February of last year, and the political blogosphere itself wasn't really up and running until a year or two before that. So we haven't had a chance to see what Democrat and liberal bloggers would be like if their ideological and political opponents were constantly attacking a Democratic president. Would they have given an inch, admitted any wrongs, offered any self-reflection and self-criticism in the face of conservative hatred for Clinton? Probably not. They'd have circled the wagons and mounted a defense. Who wants to concede any ground to those they see as rabid and hateful? And yet, conservative bloggers (even those who now recognize the fiscal responsibility of Clinton's terms) probably wouldn't have given Clinton credit for much of anything.

Anyhow, sometimes people can rise above that, and I like to give them credit it for it. If and when a president comes along who I strongly admire and identify with, I will try to remember not to put on blinders just because it is my guy in the White House.

Day of Mindfulness

Each Saturday I make an effort to devote the day to mindfulness. As part of that effort, I will largely refrain from blogging on Saturdays. I will, however, provide a weekly update to the section of this website on Zen.

This week's offering is The Purposes of Buddhism, a short article by Zen Master Seung Sahn.

Deputy Solicitor General

Interesting profile of Paul Clement, the man who has been defending the government's positions in the various enemy combatant cases that have been rising up through the federal courts:

In a three-week span late last year, Clement appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in a pivotal age discrimination case; before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York defending the detention of enemy combatant Jose Padilla; and before the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., in the case of alleged 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

My goodness, that sounds both tremendously exciting and absolutely dreadful. Preparing for one oral argument on a fake issue before a panel of alumni was enough to make Legal Writing a bit of an ordeal, though perhaps my hostility arose because it was a fake issue before a fake panel. I never liked mock debate.

Clement has a very interesting and impressive resume, having worked at Kirkland & Ellis in DC before moving to a staff position with John Ashcroft's Senate office, and then back to the private legal world as a partner in the DC office of King & Spalding. That's rather uncommon, I think, but certainly something to look into for those with the credentials and the interest in bridging the legal and political worlds.

States Ending in "A"

I was actually offended at the ignorance of a radio disc jockey this morning. It takes a lot to provoke that reaction, since I've gotten pretty used to hearing stupid things on radio and television. Anyhow, this is the gist of his comments:

I want to apologize to everyone for a mistake I made on the air yesterday. I made the claim that Florida was the only state that ends with the letter "a." I got several angry calls from listeners from South Carolina, pointing out that South Carolina also ends with an "a." So I was wrong, there are actually two states that end with "a."

I was almost willing to forgive that he forgot [Alabama - sorry!], Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia. But geez, if you've got South Carolina, shouldn't you at least be able to remember North Carolina? Anyhow, the only redeeming possibility is that it was a terribly unfunny attempt at humor, devoid of any irony or intelligence. It sure did not come across that way.

Snarky Casebook

I'm not necessarily complaining (yet), but the author(s) of my tax casebook are noticeably more snarky than those of any other text I've used in law school:

No matter how unjustified a tax break may be, if people have relied on it for long enough they will resent giving it up and, if asked to do so, will complain to their representatives in Congress about how they are being unjustly treated, about the adverse economic effects of the proposed change, and, in general, about how nobody respects or appreciates them.

Sheesh, somebody has an axe to grind with the American taxpayer. Think maybe he spent a summer as an intern on Capitol Hill answering a congressman's phone?

Over the Hump

I've now passed the halfway point in my law school career, and am very happy with the experience so far. My success, and my pleasure in achieving that success, suggests that law school was in fact a good decision, something I was not entirely sold on in the months before or after the start of my first year. For better or worse, one technique I've developed is that I do all of the semester's reading within the first few weeks and then have more free time for the rest of the semester. As a result, I'll probably be an intermittent blogger for a while. I'll still try to post at least something every day, but no promises.

For those interested, here is this semester's course schedule:

Const. History II: Reconstruction to Brown - Mike Klarman
Const. Law II: Speech and Press - Lillian BeVier
Federal Courts - Caleb Nelson
Federal Income Tax - John Harrison
White Collar Crime (short course) - Thomas McGough

Should be fun.

Marginal Taxation

Here's a query: how many Americans (especially young Americans who haven't yet filed a tax return) don't really understand that the progressive element of our tax system is done through increasing marginal rates (e.g. that a single person in the "25% tax bracket" is really only paying that rate on the income above ~$29,000)?

I ask only because, until two weeks ago, I myself did not understand this. Now I sit here reading the first chapter of my Federal Income Taxation casebook and feel a little bit stupid for thinking, most of my life, that someone in the "25% tax bracket" paid 25% of all their income to the federal government.

For example, my first year base salary in the Army (excluding my lovely non-taxable subsidies) will be ~$42,000. This puts me in the "25% tax bracket." I thought this meant I'd pay $10,500 in federal income taxes. In reality, my federal income tax liability (with the most basic exemptions and deductions) would only be $5,360. That's just 12.76% of my income.

Anyhow, it's not the most vital thing, since it is the marginal rate, after all, that counts for understanding incentive effects. Still, I wonder how many people have the same misunderstanding I did. I suppose it ought to be pretty clear to anyone who has actually filed a federal income tax return, but those things can be pretty confusing, so who knows.

Tax vs. Spend

An interesting analysis from page 3 of my Federal Income Taxation casebook (this class is going to be fun!):

Even when the use of the tax system [to encourage particular kinds of economic activity] is less effective than direct government expenditure, politicians and voters often prefer it to direct expenditure because it looks different. Suppose that a company is paying income taxes of $10 million per year, and that someone wants to propose a subsidy for a particular type of investment that will give that comany $6 million a year. Using the tax system to deliver the subsidy permits its advocates to call it a "tax cut" rather than a "spending increase." This may be politically advantageous even though the company's net payment to the government is $4 million either way.

Intuitively I already understood this, but I had not laid it out quite so clearly. This also respresents somewhere close to the limit of my knowledge on taxation, so I'm really excited for this class. I'm taking two constitutional law classes, and that has certainly been my main field of interest. Yet there are diminishing returns on such classes, as there is always quite a bit of overlap between them and they all involve the same basic principles of decision-making.

Tax, however, represents a whole new challenge. If I enjoy it as much as I anticipate (I can be a little masochistic that way, Civil Procedure has been my favorite class so far), perhaps classes that looked similarly distasteful at first glance will become more attractive.

Political Animosity

Dean Esmay, (responding to Roger Simon) points out that "seething animosity and vile assertions" goes back long before Bush and Clinton:

I've read some of the things Democrats used to say about Nixon, some of the things Truman Democrats used to say about Republicans, some of the things the Taft Republicans in particular said about Roosevelt and even Eisenhower. I've read some of the things people used to say about Presidents like Andrew Jackson, too.

I'll even go a couple generations earlier. From David McCullough's biography of John Adams:

Thomas Paine, in a fury over the Jay Treaty, unleashed an unprecedent attack on George Washinton in the pages of the Aurora. Writing from Paris, Paine called Washington a creature of "grossest adulation," a man incapable of friendship, "a hypocrite in public life," apostate and imposter.

Adams also came under much fire during his Presidency, largely fueled by the Federalist vs. Republican debate on our relations with France:

In almost daily attacks in the Aurora, Adams was belittled as "The President by Three Votes," mocked again as "His Rotundity," excoriated as a base hypocrite, a tool of the British, "a man divested of his senses." He was charged again and again as a creature of Hamilton and the Federalist war hawks.

It appears that, if anything, much of the press has become less openly vile than before. Of course, many in the partisan press (and blogosphere) continue this unfortunate American tradition. I don't read the most conservative magazines, but I stopped my subscription to The Nation when they became unable to discuss President Bush in any context without mentioning the 2000 Florida vote and implying he is an unelected usurper because of it.

Mars

Just to add my two cents to a well-debated issue, I think the proposed mission to Mars (with a Moon base to boot) is pure stupidity. I mean, it is a flat out unreconstructed moronic idea. As my colleagues all over the spectrum (Baude, Bernstein, Butler, Drezner, Singer, Yglesias) have demonstrated, this is a bad idea for lots and lots of reasons. I won't harp on what a hack political move this probably is, since I'm unconvinced other politicians are doing any better. As a pleasant surprise, few have stepped forward defending this indefensible idea. When they have, it hasn't been pretty.

Anthony Rickey starts his term as a Crescat guest-blogger off with a dud post arguing that "$500 billion is a cheap price to pay for putting the romanticism and nobility back into our ideas of government." First off, no way does putting a man on Mars do that if we're also neck deep in deficits and wondering what other domestic or foreign achievements we could have accomplished with the money. Second off, where's the limit? As Will Baude has pointed out, there doesn't seem to be a natural ceiling for such delusions of granduer. Third, as Peter Northrup says (in admittedly intemperate terms), it is not the job of the United States government to take lots of our money away from us just to show us that it is capable of making the biggest fireworks show on (or near) Earth.

Anyhow, I felt a little sick today thinking of what a phenomenal waste of money and human resources this will be and I wanted to share it.

Ohio Concealed Carry

Via Kevin Holtsberry, I see that concealed carry advocates have won an excellent victory in Ohio. The political machinations are interesting on their own: Governor Taft apparently opposed the bill until a provision was added making the permit records semi-public. And there's this:

In the legislature, the issue has not been partisan but rather a debate between urban lawmakers, whose districts have higher crime rates, and rural and suburban lawmakers who say their constituents need guns for protection.

That sounds right, and fits with Democratic support for gun control in more rural areas (Howard Dean, anyone?). It's interesting to read that the most influential opposition (now dropped) came from law enforcement. Most of my own contacts in law enforcement have been big proponents of concealed carry. In fact, when I went to get fingerprinted at my county sheriff's office (a requirement for concealed carry here in Virginia), the sheriff came out of his office, shook my hand, and thanked me for applying for a permit. Turns out that years earlier, as a delegate to the Virginia House of Delegates, he had sponsored the original concealed carry law.

Of course, some are opposed to the new law. It has even brought out some despicable threats on the part of Ohio's highest-circulated newspaper.

You see, the law makes information of who purchases permits available to journalists, but not to the general public. As a result, the Cleveland Plain Dealer (which opposes the bill) has published this threat:

Since Taft chooses to hide behind journalists on this vital public-records matter, it is this newspaper's intention to obtain this information and publish it. Our readers deserve to know the identities of those who obtain permits to carry their guns in public. We hope other news organizations will do the same in their communities.

This information is kept private in many states without difficulty. In many states, journalists do not even have access. Anyhow, I have three responses to their threat:

1) Go ahead, make my day. The only thing about concealed carry laws better than allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves is the deterrent factor it might create among criminals who now know their potential victim might be armed. I'd like to be on a published "don't mess with me" list.

2) The unfortunate side-effect of this would be that it might provide a list to criminals of who has guns in their home. Though this should have a deterrent effect based on fear of being shot, it might also provide incentive as a potential source of stolen firearms.

3) What really bothers me is that it seems likely to me that the Cleveland Plain Dealer doesn't really care at all about "public access." I mean, what is the real benefit of such access? Would anyone exercise it? Even if a "public right to know" seems abstractly attractive as a principle, it seems minor and largely irrelevant in this case. And considering the paper's longstanding opposition to concealed carry, I have trouble believing that this is anything more than a thinly veiled attempt to dissuade Ohio citizens from exercising their rights as provided by the 2nd Amendment and the new Ohio statute. I consider that a cheap political ploy, and an abuse of journalistic power.

Of course, the newspaper probably doesn't know who they are messing with. Scroll down a couple stories at this site to see a representative reaction from the online firearm community:

As soon as they publish permit holders' names, we'll publish the names, phone numbers and home addresses of every single person on staff at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

That's the first thing that would happen, and I have little doubt the reaction (via phone calls, emails, letters, etc.) would be tremendous. The second would be a quiet little bill next term which removed even journalist's access to the information.

Anyhow, this is a small complaint amidst a big and well-earned victory for Ohio citizens generally, and gun owners in particular.

Pete Rose is a Jerk

I've never been very sympathetic to Pete Rose. I'm a baseball purist, and really do believe that betting on the game is the greatest sin a ballplayer can commit (as opposed to sins committed as a private citizen, like domestic abuse). It's been several generations since the Black Sox scandal nearly brought down the game, so many can be forgiven for underestimating the danger of this crime against baseball.

This week it has been hard to avoid the coverage of Rose and his public admission that, alas, he did in fact bet on baseball. I give Rose absolutely zero credit for this admission. He's been an unrepentant liar for 15 years, and has taken too much attention away from more deserving sports figures (his latest victims being this week's Hall of Fame inductees, Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor). Beyond that, the "apology" in his book is self-centered and unconvincing, and this interview with Rose had done the impossible: made me like Pete Rose even less. He is an unreconstructed hack, a liar, a cheat, and he doesn't belong anywhere near a dugout, nor Cooperstown.

Underrated Films

Via Alex Knapp, here's a listed of the Top 50 Underappreciated Recent Films. I've seen 20 on the list (which leaves many to add to my Netflix queue), and several of my favorite movies are on the list: Wonder Boys, Rushmore and The Big Lebowski. The #1 film, the animated Iron Giant, is also fantastic.

Morality, Religion and Predispositions

Howard Dean has put forth a claim that "[f]rom a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people." Andrew Sullivan has quoted approvingly. Well if those two agree, you might think it would be an intelligent statement. It even sounds reasonable at first blush, but only at first blush. After that it seems patently absurd.

Matt Evans (posting at The Buck Stops Here) is essentially correct:

Dean and Sullivan believe homosexuals are innately predisposed to a point on the hetero-homosexuality continuum... But this fact doesn't resolve the question of homosexuality's morality. If it could, then Dean and Sullivan would have to either (1) believe that people do not have, and science will not find, innate predispositions toward behaviors Dean and Sullivan condemn, such as aggression, alcohol abuse, pedophilia, pederasty and incest; or (2) embrace those negative behaviors once they're shown to be genetically based: once science shows that Ted Bundy was genetically predisposed to kill women, we'll know that God must not think killing women isn't a sin because He created Bundy and his predisposition.

Now, to me, a predisposition toward homosexuality and one toward murder are miles apart. From a moral standpoint, I wouldn't even consider the former to be negative. But the point remains the same: humans are likely born with all sorts of tendencies, and none of them are moral (or "approved by God") simply because they exist. Some external casuistry is required to apply labels of moral and immoral. And once that is done, one of the great challenges of human life is to overcome the negative tendencies and predispositions within each of us. "I was born that way" is an unacceptable excuse for otherwise immoral behavior.

Pumpkin Pie

I don't think there is an area in my life where the gap between desire and ability is further than in cooking. I love to cook, and am good at what I know. It's just that I don't know much. I get scared when I read recipes with spices I can't pronounce, vegetables I've never heard of, and cookware I don't own. But the past month or so I've been taking some baby steps at expanding my culinary horizons. I began with Rachael Ray's Macaroni & Cheese. I'd mastered the Kraft version as a child, so I thought it was a fitting place to start. Imagine the look on my face when oil, butter, then flour, then milk, and finally shredded cheese actually turned into a delicious cheese sauce. Baby steps, folks, baby steps.

Well today I decided to surprise my girlfriend with her favorite dessert: pumpkin pie. I surfed over to Allrecipes, because I really like their rating/review system (like an Amazon.com for food) and because they have a feature that automatically scales the ingredients for a smaller or larger number of servings. One of the highest rated recipes was Jim Wright's "Mom's Pumpkin Pie":

Ingredients

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups pumpkin puree

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)

2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, egg yolk, white sugar and brown sugar. Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Gradually stir in milk and cream. Stir in pumpkin. Pour filling into pie shell.

3. Bake for ten minutes in preheated oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, or until filling is set.

I used these exact ingredients, except for the cloves. As some of the reviewers noted on the site, this recipe actually makes enough filling for two shallow 9" pies, so keep that in mind if your grocery store (like mine) does not have deep crust pie shells available.

I'm not the pumpkin pie connoisseur that my girlfriend is, but I think it turned out very well. She'll be getting back from a trip to NYC in a few hours, and she'll have a fresh baked pie waiting. Let's hope she likes it!

Anybody but Dean

There has been a lot of discussion over the past several months comparing Howard Dean to George McGovern (and others), and discussing the various DLC and Democratic establishment attempts to fight off Dean's insurgency. Well today I was in the library doing research for a professor that involved browsing every issue of Newsweek from 1972-1976. Other than a severe case of Watergate-overload, I found some interesting articles that I thought I'd pass along for comparisons sake. This one was titled "Can They Stop McGovern?":

From the beginning, the regulars of the Democratic Party have been unhappy about George McGovern. Many consider his politics radical, his people ill-mannered, and his candidacy a sure ticket to disaster for the party in Novemeber. They have watched his accelerating march toward the nomination as dismally, and as helplessly, as Rome watching the advance of Attila the Hun across Europe.

The article goes on to discuss the various nomination tricks employed by the "ad hoc ABM (for Anybody But McGovern) coalition," which, of course, failed in the end. I doubt we'll see similar tricks this time around, since the conventions have become the site of coronations rather than back-room deals. Another feature of the Dean=McGovern analogy is the role of young and previously uninvolved campaign workers. This comes from an interview with a 21-year old college student working on McGovern's campaign:

The McGovern delegates I know won't go for anyone else. If McGovern gets pushed aside, they'll either screw things up by keeping on voting for him or some will leave the convention. The Democrats could lose an awful lot of young people McGovern has picked up for the party.

There's no second choice for me. If McGovern doesn't make it, then I'd say, forget it. I'm either going to sink with the ship or be there to aise the victory flag.

Sound a bit like any Dean supporters you know? At least the McGovern supporters had something to be angry about (the attempts to steal the nomination with the aforementioned conventions tricks). There was one other interesting tidbit I did not know until browsing these articles. McGovern's campaign manager: Gary Hart.

Of some historical interest: when I finally got around to the 1976 election, what did I find? The Anybody But Carter movement, led by establishment Democrats against an insurgent candidate, going so far as to discuss a Draft Humphrey or Draft Kennedy movement at the convention after the Scoop Jackson campaign fizzled.

Some things never change.

Common Ground

Finally, something David Bernstein and I can agree about:

I've noticed that Americans have a tendency to publicly attribute any success they have had--anything ranging from winning a Little League playoff game to winning the lottery--to God's intervention on their behalf. But I haven't noticed a countervailing tendency to blame God when things go wrong, an especially annoying defect in the sports world, where victories are freely attributed to Jesus's blessings.

Amen to that. Here's what I've said about this before:

There was a story a few months/years ago where a little boy was protected from a bullet by a Bible he was holding after leaving church. "God protected him," everyone said. Well his brother was standing right next to him, was shot, and died. I guess God didn't like him as much, right?

Backtracking Crescat

As soon as I take trackback and comments off this blog, Crescat Sententia turns trackback on! Will comments be next? Only time will tell.

Butt-Kicking Women

One of the great pleasures I took in watching The Return of the King was seeing the excitement in my girlfriend grow as Eowyn's role went from fierce and independent to downright heroic. She feels a strong affinity with such a character, being a smart, tough women herself. While they are plentiful in the real world, such characters are a bit harder to come by in literature generally, and science fiction/fantasy literature in particular.

I was thus greatly pleased when she recalled a series of novels she had read and loved as a youngster, centering around a young women named Alanna who disguised herself as a boy to become a knight. As it turns out, I had ordered the Science Fiction Book Club omnibus edition of that very series, the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. I've read the first two books and have no trouble recommending them highly to any lover of good fantasy. They bear a cursory resemblance to the Harry Potter world in the coming-of-age aspect, though Pierce's books are not appropriate for pre-teens (there are some references to sexuality). I think they would be particularly good books for young women, giving them a heroine who is not oblivious to the pressures of societal expectations (of gender, love, etc.), but not willing to surrender her ambititions either.

Amazon sells a boxed set of the quartet. Pierce's other series all feature young heroines as well, and receive excellent reviews: The Immortals, Protector of the Small, Circles of Magic and more.

Praise for Lord of the Rings

Just about the last thing I need is another copy of The Lord of the Rings, but that didn't stop me from buying one today. I had paperback copies of the individual books, and a hardcover copy of the trilogy, but not a nice portable paperback copy of the trilogy. Sam's Club had them for $12.82 (cover price $20.00) so I picked it up. It's a nice volume, but I was pretty surprised to find this on the back:

Praise for The Lord of the Rings

"Among the greatest works of imaginative fictions of the twentieth century." - Sunday Telegraph

"An extraordinary work - pure excitement." - New York Times Book Review

...

Now I realize that my perspective is heavily biased by my Tolkien-fanaticism, but it seems quite silly to me to have these review blurbs on the back of this book. Are there people out there who would pick up this book and know sufficiently little about it that these blurbs are helpful? Is the reputation of the trilogy not strong enough, do we really need praise from newspaper book critics to bolster it? This is like having blurbs on the back of the King James Bible:

Praise for The Bible

"A landmark in Western spirituality." - Pope John Paul II

"Diviniely inspired..." - Kirkus Reviews

"Blood, sex, betrayal, redemption, it's all here." - Publishers Weekly

Well if everyone is going to make a big fuss, maybe I'll just have to read it!

Democrats, Foreign Policy, and Unilateralism

Armed Liberal has a thorough discussion of James Traub's article in today's New York Times Magazine. The topic: Democrats and foreign policy.

It's a long read, and Armed Liberal has done an excellent job discussing Traub's historical survey and its application to Dean and Clark. I'd like to point out a couple other passages of particular interest to the less political criticisms of the current administration:

To Brzezinski, the Bush administration's unilateralism, and its militarism, constituted a radical break with a consensus that stretched across several generations and presumably included not only cold warriors like himself but also the liberals he once opposed, like Cyrus Vance, Carter's secretary of state.

Brzezinski is quite hawkish and his criticisms of the administration are hard to dismiss as the rantings of a Bush-hater. I think the same can be said of Republican Senator Chuck Hagel:

Hagel sounded a decorous, Midwestern version of Brzezinski's rather frantic alarums. ''Crisis-driven coalitions of the willing by themselves are not the building blocks for a stable world,'' he said. And, ''Iraq alone cannot define our relationships.'' And even, ''Other countries have their own interests, and those interests need to be acknowledged and heard.'' Presumably that included France. Hagel also observed that ''the American image in the world is in need of immediate and long-term repair'' and suggested such instruments of ''soft power'' as educational and professional exchange programs, as well as increased language training for American students.

From these comments, Traub argues that it can be inferred that "the Bush administration stands very, very far from the foreign-policy mainstream: liberal Democrats, conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans have more in common with one another than any of them have with the Bush administration."

This is basically my position, and it is incredibly frustrating. At this point I do not trust Howard Dean's positioning, and have yet to really make sense of Clark's true feelings (as opposed to his politicking in this primary race). And these seem to be the only choices on the left. The middle has somehow been abandoned.

Continue reading Democrats, Foreign Policy, and Unilateralism.

Stock Market Causation

Vance at Begging to Differ, in the midst of a post advising Democrats to limit their attacks on Bush to "legitimate issues" (reasonable advice) has this assertion regarding Wall Street:

The stock market performed well last year, and Bush's tax cuts and aggressive domestic spending were important keys to that performance.

Is that really true? Of all the things I took away from last weekend's investment reading, none was so clear as this: it is almost impossible to predict what stocks will do in any given future year, or understand why they did what they did in any given past year. In fact, the closest thing that I can find to a rule in stock market history is this: if it goes down for a while, it will eventually go back up. So if there were to be any causation argument for last year's stock market, it seems to me it'd go something like this:

The stock market performed well last year, and the fact that it had fallen dramatically the previous couple years was an important key to that performance.

If you wanted to assign credit for last year's improvement, it might go like this:

The stock market performed well last year, largely due to dramatic declines in previous years caused by President Bush's incomprehensible economic policy (or Clinton's, or the failure of oversight of corrupt corporate executives, or most likely, because before that it had gone up for so many years and had to come down eventually).

Anyhow, I've always been pretty skeptical of efforts to assign credit or blame for "this year's economy" or "last year's stock market", and have grown moreso since reading those books.

The Lessons of History. But Which History?

Sebastian Holsclaw has a post reminding us that the "War on Terrorism" has really been going on for 25 years, at least since the US Embassy in Iran was captured. Sebastian uses the timeline as evidence that:

[O]ur half-hearted response to all of these attacks is precisely what gave Islamic fundamentalist extremists the impression that murdering Americans was a good method for getting America to do we they wanted.

That is a plausible claim and I have no intention of trying to refute it. What I'd like to discuss briefly is the duel difficulty of 1) making sure to remember the lessons of history and 2) knowing which lessons are applicable. A good portion of people will never even get to part one. They deal with the present time as is, without recognizing either its causes in the recent past or similar episodes in more distant history. Sometimes this is willful ignorance, but more often I think it is simply a necessity caused by the average person's ignorance of history.

Continue reading The Lessons of History. But Which History?.

Investment Reading

While at my parents' house, my father and I discussed my investment strategies for the future. I'll be making enough money this summer that I wanted to finally wrap my head around the various general investment options, and specifically the retirement plans currently available. The two books he gave me to read, and which I can now highly recommend, are The Coffeehouse Investor by Bill Schultheis, and The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein.

The latter book is much longer and more in-depth, but both books share a common theme: the investment brokerage business is very bad at its stated goals. Like so much in life, one needs to look beneath the surface and really understand the motivations of brokers, and doing so reveals several things: 1) As a group they are very bad at beating the market; 2) As individuals they are even worse, as the few who are lucky enough to beat the market in one year rarely repeat this performance, and 3) They don't make money by improving your investment returns, they make money by encouraging you to increase the number of transactions (more commission) and invest in load funds (more fees).

There's a lot to both books, far more than I can go into here. But it makes for very liberating reading. I for one hate following the market, and was always a bit apprehensive about trying to invest properly in an atmosphere that has always reminded me of a Las Vegas gambling freakshow. After reading these books, I am now confident in following my instincts: ignore television's talking heads, ignore the daily, weekly, and monthly columns by these people, and let common sense, basic economics, and a knowledge of financial history do all the work.

The Prodigal Blogger

I'm very happy to re-open this solo blog. It has been sitting idle for the past 6 weeks while I tried to juggle the efforts (largely successful) of establishing a group blog, En Banc, and (less successfully) catching up on the schoolwork left by the wayside while I interviewed for summer work.

It has taken me a couple weeks to get the re-design functional. The outward appearances did not take too long, and I got to learn even more about CSS. Unfortunately, I also got to learn about the fragile nature of the Berkeley Database system (the default database for Movable Type). While trying to export/import some entries, I managed to corrupt the old database. Rather than leave all of my old posts behind, I re-installed Movable Type, now using MySQL, and began a long process of cutting-and-pasting from the HTML archives back into Movable Type. Unfortunately, that means all of the post URL's have changed. I apologize for any inconvenience to other bloggers who have linked to individual posts in the past.

I will be adding further functionality in the weeks ahead (including a much larger, but still useable blogroll), but most importantly I will be getting back to regular blogging after a much-needed break.