Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Quote of the Day:
"Standing on the moon
With nothing left to do
A lovely view of heaven
But I'd rather be with you."
~ The Grateful Dead

Song of the Day:
Elton John, "Sad Songs"

Happy Birthday:
Elizabeth Arden
John Denver
Anthony Hopkins
Ben Kingsley
George Marshall
Henri Matisse
Donna Summer

Monday, December 30, 2002

Demandred? Shaido? Morgase? Our friend Tim Schnabel is all geeked out. And I, for one, am wondering what the heck he is talking about.
From Newsweek, here's an extensive sneak preview of the The Matrix Reloaded, due in theaters May 15. The sequel features "the most audaciously conceived, thrillingly executed car chase ever filmed," and the movie's cinematographer claims "It's going to make 'The Fast and the Furious' look like 'The Slow and the Dimwitted'."

Can't wait.

In other movie news, Slate's David Edelstein loves Chicago: "Every number is a showstopper. Every performer is working at the top of his or her game."

And here's Edelstein's list of the best eleven movies of 2002 (I have seen exactly none of them). Chicago is number two.
Richard Dawkins has been one of my favorite pointy-headed intellectuals for a long time. I'm surprised to read this anti-Bush screed from him. (Link via Andrew Sullivan, who has some end-of-the-year lists of his own.)
Here's George Will's always entertaining "Year in Review" column.
The New York Times reports on the case for drinking:

In a study of more than 80,000 American women, those who drank moderately had only half the heart attack risk of those who did not drink at all, even if they were slim, did not smoke and exercised daily. Moderate drinking was about as good for the heart as an hour of exercise a day. Not drinking at all was as bad for the heart as morbid obesity.
Wow. But somehow I still can't see myself becoming a glass-of-wine-every-night-with-dinner person. And of course the article reminds us that "for every one of alcohol's health benefits there is an equal and opposite risk if a single glass turns into three or four."
One of the gifts Dad Malcolm gets every Christmas is the Farmer's Almanac, which makes weather predictions for the entire year. Since this may be my last New England winter, I'm hoping it's a really snowy one, and I read the predictions for this winter with great interest. This year the Almanac is calling for a Nor'easter around Kate's birthday and a blizzard around mine.
Vocabulary lesson.

In a short break from my studies, I've checked the blog to find two things: another link from Instapundit, indicating most certainly another slow blogging day, and an email from Dean Jens, pointing out a minor vocabulary issue. Dean writes, in reference to this post:
The word comprise with the meaning of "compose" is listed in some dictionaries as incorrect, though it is listed in others as correct. The role of an English language dictionary is to describe the language as it is spoken and accepted, and I tend to resist innovations of vocabulary less than those of grammar, but I make an exception for "comprise", just because "compose" is such a good synonym for the disputed meaning while the closest I've come to the older meaning is "contain" or "include". (Sometimes I try "take in", but that seems clumsy.)
An excellent point, Dean, and I feel foolish for having made this pseudo-mistake. Reason? Professor Stephen Carter, of The Emperor of Ocean Park fame, once took our Intellectual Property class to task on the issue of the whole being composed of the parts and the parts comprising the whole. Thought I had committed that one to memory, but I guess I hadn't.

Other verbal gaffes that have been ingrained by professors? Never say "a whole 'nuther." It's either "another whole" or "a whole other." I'm also quite wary in my use of "therefore" after my philosophy professor my freshman year tore apart my use of "therefore."
Would have loved it if the New York Giants, the NY Jets, and the Patriots had all made it, but Cleveland went and won today and spoiled the possibility for the one scenario in which both the Pats and the Jets could go. We got some exciting games, though, and two out of three ain't bad.
A final bit from the Trib that really does make you wonder what they're doing at the UN. The UN inspectors in Iraq appear to have bungled their first few interviews of Iraqi scientists because they did not take the time to come up with a standard protocol, or even to seriously consider the effects of their interview procedures.
In their first attempted private interview, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, appeared unannounced to question a materials engineer professor at the University of Technology. Sabah Abdulnoor, a longtime member of Iraq's nuclear team in the 1980s, refused to talk until an Iraqi official was provided as a witness.

In an attempt to privately interview Mojbal, inspectors inexplicably asked the Iraqi government to play a prominent role.

They asked the government to contact the scientist. Inspectors then agreed that Mojbal could have an Iraqi official at his side. Later, when Mojbal balked at appearing at the inspectors' headquarters, inspectors agreed to meet him at the government-run Al Rasheed Hotel, which is known to be monitored.

Ueki, the UN spokesman, could not explain the difference in interview procedures and offered no insight into a possible strategy by the IAEA inspectors.

He said the inspectors asked the Iraqi government to contact Mojbal, whom they had seen a week earlier at his workplace, because it was "more convenient."
Mojbal, the second scientist interviewed, has now gone on Iraqi state television, warning his colleagues to be sure they have Iraqi government officials present at their interviews to bear witness to UN questioning. Well done, UN, well done.
Sexual performance is the latest field to enter the fracas over solving problems with a magic, medical pill. From a Trib article discussing the search for a woman's equivalent to Viagra:
This nexus has spurred critics to warn that the "medicalization" of women's sexual problems may enrich drug company stockholders and the careers of anointed researchers, but not the majority of women who need help.

That, they say, is because women's sexual complaints are more likely to be caused by ignorance, social conditions, psychological conflicts or inept partners than by impaired blood flow to their genitals.

"It's misguided to think a significant number of female sexual dysfunctions are organic," said psychologist Sandra Leiblum, director of the Center for Sexual and Marital Health at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J.

...

Most couples aren't aware that the average woman requires nearly 14 minutes to complete the sexual response cycle from arousal to orgasm--four times as long as her male partner, said Dr. Domeena Renshaw, founder and director of the Loyola Sex Therapy Clinic in west suburban Maywood. This could account for what some women report as failure to achieve orgasm (and some partners label frigidity).
As I lay sick with the stomach flu a few weeks ago, I cursed the insurance industry for making antibiotics widely available and causing viruses and bacteria to morph into stronger, more resistant strains.
I just heard about the latest awful twist on reality tv: Joe Millionaire.
¡§Joe¡¨ features 20 single women who fly to France in order to win the affection of a hand-some American they believe to be worth $50 million. The twist: The as-yet unidentified man is actually a construction worker with an annual income of $19,000.

...

Viewers will know from the start that the faux Joe is actually a blue-collar guy with no coin to his name. They¡¦ll also watch as he undergoes a Pygmalion-like transformation from humble construction worker into someone who might pass for a multimillionaire.

The 20 women who participated in the show, however, are told Joe recently inherited $50 million and is looking for someone with whom he can share his wealth. Joe will maintain this ruse, though he¡¦ll be honest with the women about every other aspect of his life, from education to past romances.
I think I feel myself getting sick.
In another major step for the Internet, a California town has been auctioned and sold on E-bay.
Also from the Trib, an article about a border patrol group comprised entirely of everyday citizens.
The battle over immigration policy is heating up in the Arizona desert, where humanitarian organizations are setting up water stations to aid illegal immigrants and self-described "gun-toting patriots" are trying to catch people crossing the border illegally.

...

The newly formed Civil Homeland Defense group is conducting armed patrols of the border, citing the area as a prime spot for terrorists to enter as well.

...

When the flow of immigrants steps up in the coming days, many of Simcox's 300 followers--some on horseback--will try to stop people at the border. Their mission: make citizens arrests and detain the thousands who are expected to enter Arizona illegally along a desert trail just west of town.

It's become such a hot topic in these parts that Rep.-elect Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has asked the U.S. Border Patrol to keep close tabs on Simcox's group because he fears "innocent people could get shot."
Yes, our borders are much more porous than our immigration policies would have them be. However, overzealous vigilante groups are not the answer.


The Chicago Tribune had an article about a recent trend in community colleges. I actually was just recently scouring the web for something about this trend to post and fortuitously, here it is.
Similar successes are reported nationally by community colleges, which aggressively recruit top-quality high school students. One of their biggest tools is the honors college, in which students are promised a more intimate, intense community college experience. There often is another big plus: free tuition.

The honors programs, which act much like a small college within the larger campus, help community colleges enroll students they might not have attracted a decade ago. In addition to Brown, a noteworthy example is Maureen Dunne, the first community college graduate in the country to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. After attending College of DuPage, Dunne went to the University of Chicago and is studying psychology at Oxford University in England.

The honors programs can be costly for colleges. And some faculty members worry that they smack of elitism and erode the traditional role of the community college as an open door for immigrants and the poor.
I've always thought that one of the greatest things about the United States is the fact that college education is available to so many people--and community colleges have been the backbone of that wealth of opportunity. I do worry that these sorts of honors programs are problematic if they draw funds away from community colleges' other purposes. There is nothing wrong with programs geared toward attracting brighter students, but I'm not sure that is the role that community colleges are meant to play. There are plenty of private universities that fill that niche.

I'm back online after a weekend of family events. (The five-tier wedding cake was assembled and eaten without major incident.)

While I reorient myself to the online world, here's a random assortment of things to get your Monday started:

—Eugene Volokh muses about women in combat. I'd say he needs to think about this one a little more — but it's worth a read.

—A column by Stuart Taylor on affirmative action quotes Yale Law professor Peter Shuck. There's also news of a YLS-related wedding at the Rainbow Room.

Kaus says John Edwards will announce his presidential candidacy on January 4.

The Washington Post has an article on women and shoes:

There is undeniable, physical pleasure in shoe shopping? Is it really an overstatement to describe the pleasure of footwear as distracting, all-consuming, orgasmic? Perhaps. But women's shoes — unlike a man's captoes, monk straps and wingtips — are awfully pretty. So very, very pretty.
—Finally, Punditwatch reports that on This Week yesterday, "George Will appeared constipated..." Doesn't he always?
Quote of the Day:
"One mile to every inch."
~ John Mayer

Song of the Day:
Wilco, "Too Far Apart"

Happy Birthday:
Rudyard Kipling
Ben Johnson
Sandy Koufax

Saturday, December 28, 2002

More posts to come late tonight (some interesting stuff that I don't have time to post now; Lily, I think, is away at a wedding today), but for now, two bits of news:

The NY Giants cap off their late season run to make the playoffs!

Our friends at Charlie Chan have taken a page from the Captain and have opened a Cafe Press shop of Charlie Chan gear. We may just have to do the same if we can come up with anything clever.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Dean Jens has an excellent post on clean air environmental policy.
Crazy weekend for AFC football. I'll be watching the Pats and the Jets this weekend. I think there's some loony scenario where they both can go to the playoffs.
News from Brigham Young University (via, what else, the Chicago Tribune):
After years of discussion, Brigham Young University has formalized a policy to ensure classroom study is rated PG-13.

This semester, professors at the Mormon-owned private university started following a policy that discourages showing R-rated movies in class.
I've actually wondered how well R-rated movies do in Salt Lake City movie theaters.

I apologize for the light posting--it's because it's the holidays and I am studying for exams. It must be slow these days, though, since the mighty Instapundit (whom we've met!) has thrown us two links the last two days.

From the Chicago Tribune yesterday: Courts move toward allowing citation of "unpublished" rulings.
About 80 percent of decisions issued by the federal appeals courts are tickets good for one ride: They decide only the particular case and do not establish binding precedents.

In many parts of the country it is unlawful even to mention these one-time rulings in legal papers submitted in later cases, and judges have been very resistant to change the policies.

"We may have decided this question the opposite way yesterday," Richard Arnold, a federal appeals court judge in Arkansas, wrote in describing the current system, "but this does not bind us today, and, what's more, you cannot even tell us what we did yesterday."

But the prohibitions may be easing soon. On Jan. 1, the federal court of appeals in the District of Columbia and the Texas Supreme Court will reverse their restrictions on citing these so-called unpublished decisions. Systemwide change seems to be on the horizon too.
This is huge. I'm not yet sure where I come down on this. On the one hand, there is something to be said for uniformity in law. On the other hand, there is something to be said for allowing judges to focus on the few decisions that do become precedent, rather than requiring them to worry about every case they hand down, possibly resulting in sloppy, but binding, decisions all around. Of course, in a self-interested way, this also means more work law clerks! But these are not profound arguments. I did find this bit in the article particularly compelling:
"Non-precedential" is an awkward word, but it is more accurate than "unpublished," which technology has turned into a misnomer. Not long ago, most unpublished decisions not only were absent from the law books but also were generally unavailable. With the advent of legal databases and courts' own Web sites, almost everything issued by appeals courts is widely and almost instantly available.

And since September 2001, "unpublished" decisions have been collected and published in the literal sense, in books called West's Federal Appendix.

The general availability of unpublished decisions has eliminated a crucial objection to allowing them to be cited. Before technology leveled the playing field, it was considered unfair for institutional litigants, such as corporations repeatedly sued on similar claims, to be able to collect and selectively cite from a body of law unavailable to their adversaries.
In an unrelated point, this is further evidence that the Segway has a long way to go before it is "bigger than the Internet."

Movie Quote of the Day
"Where are you going with those fireworks?"
"Well, the Protector got super-accelerated coming out of the black hole, and it, like, nailed the atmosphere at Mach 15, which, you guys know, is pretty unstable, obviously, so we're gonna help Laredo guide it on the vox ultra-frequency carrier and use Roman candles for visual confirmation."
"Uh... all right, dinner's at seven."
~ Galaxy Quest

Song of the Day:
Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Rascal King"

Happy Birthday:
Marlene Dietrich
William H. Masters
Giovanni Palestrina
Louis Pasteur
Cokie Roberts
I threatened to post a recipe earlier, so here goes. It's not the one we're using for the wedding cake – that one involves raspberries and is a little more complicated. But this is my favorite chocolate cake recipe. Quick – make it before it's time for New Year's resolutions!

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Frosting


For cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1 cup corn oil
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For frosting:
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
approx. 8 tablespoons whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Optional: 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Sift first five ingredients into medium bowl. Mix water, oil, egg yolk and vanilla in large bowl. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divide batter among pans. Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over batter in each pan.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out; cool completely.

Make frosting:
Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups sugar. Beat in 6 tablespoons milk and vanilla. Add peanut butter if using. Add cocoa and remaining 2 cups sugar; beat until blended, thinning with more milk if necessary.

Assemble the cake:
Place 1 cake layer, chocolate-chips side up, on platter. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, chocolate-chips side up. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with remaining cake layer, chocolate-chips side down. Spread frosting over sides and top of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; let stand at room temperature.)

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Reader GR writes in with this "answer" to the brainteaser about aptly named Supreme Court cases:
Not a Supreme Court case, but I wrote a paper about a case from the Northern District of Illinois called Honorable v. Easy Life. It was a real estate scam case: Honorable was the hard-working plaintiff who staked her savings on buying a home from Easy Life, who promised her just that. Turned out to be a complete wreck that had been superficially refurbished. The court, I'm glad to report, chose to support the Honorable route over the Easy Life.
Thanks. Still looking for the U.S. Supreme Court case, though. Reader MA writes in with what is probably the most inappropriate, aptly named U.S. Supreme Court case (it takes some imagination). It's been suggested before and, once again, we will refrain from printing that answer here (this is, after all, a family blog!).

After you read this post on affirmative action from our good friends at Charlie Chan, check out the official University of Michigan undergraduate admissions guidelines. They're marked "Confidential - Internal use only" (the pdf is here).

Regardless of where you stand on the Michigan case, this document is an interesting read. You get a real sense of what a difficult job admissions officers have. One of the biggest surprises for me was how little weight is given to the essay. An "excellent" essay will earn you only three points. (By way of comparison, a male student applying to the school of nursing gets five points for "professional diversity.")
Wedding cake preparation is in full swing here. I just made an emergency trip to the store for more buttermilk, and the entire house smells of chocolate.

InstaPundit doesn't remember there being many women bakers at Yale Law School when he roamed its hallowed halls. I guess we are still a rare breed (one of my YLS girlfriends once referred to my rolling pin as "that wooden thing-y you use"). But, perhaps in a change from InstaPundit's law student years, I don't think those of us (male or female) who do enjoy the domestic arts are reluctant to talk about it. Should we thank Martha for this?

Seriously, I do have some real thoughts related to sexism and the kitchen that I hope to post about soon. But for now, back to the kitchen!
Quote of the Day:
"Every Communist must grasp the truth. Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
~ Mao Tse-Tung

Song of the Day:
"The Twelve Days of Christmas"

Happy Birthday:
Carleton Fisk
Mao Tse-Tung
Lars Ulrich

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Reader RM writes in with an answer to the second of the two outstanding legal brainteasers: "Tax Reform Act of 1969." A good guess, but not what I had in mind. I am looking for an aptly named (hint: it is somewhat ironic and humorous) spark to the alternative minimum tax.
It's been a great Christmas. It's funny to think about how different things are in our household now that the youngest person is 18. My parents appreciate not being jolted out of bed at sunrise by children eager to see what Santa brought.

I already had everything I could possibly want, but Santa did bring me lots of nice things, some of which I may mention later.

Haven't spent much time online today, so I don't have much to offer blog-wise. But here's a proposal from the Bush administration that's sure to be in the news over the next few days: a 50% cut in taxes on stock dividends. Of course, the New York Times is quick to point out that "the tax benefits would overwhelmingly flow to the nation's very wealthiest taxpayers." Not just the wealthiest -- the very wealthiest.

And there's this piece on low birthrates in Europe. It quotes a demographics expert calling Italy's 1.2 fertility rate "unsustainable, from a cultural and even psychological point of view."
No answer yet to my last legal brainteaser, but here's another one. What was the aptly named stimulus for Congress's implementation of a form of the alternative minimum tax in 1969?
Well, we got our white Christmas here in Chicago.
Quote of the Day:
"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
~ Norman Vincent Peale

Song of the Day:
"Deck the Halls"

Happy Birthday:
Dido
Clara Barton
Humphrey Bogart
Jimmy Buffett
Juli-Anne Cantwell
Annie Lennox
Barbara Mandrell
Isaac Newton
Sissy Spacek

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

As the precipitation here turns from sleet to snow, the cooking has commenced. On the menu for tonight: peanut soup, salad, and challah bread. The peanut soup is an old Virginia recipe from the King's Arms Tavern in Williamsburg, and the challah bread, lovingly braided by Abby, is from The Silver Palate Cookbook (which I highly recommend). Dessert will be black walnut pound cake.

Meanwhile, my brother is setting up my parents' new computer, which arrived from Dell this morning, several days ahead of schedule. The speakers sound fabulous.
Just in time for the holidays (very last minute gift-giving!), I was pointed to this website that is run by a long-time friend of mine. I haven't spoken to her in half a year and it looks like she's spent it doing some fairly interesting stuff.
duct tape. we all know duct tape has a million uses, from car repair to construction to wart removal. but did you know that this extraordinary material now solves your fashion emergencies, your boring closet blues, not to mention your everyday tote needs. 'how does duct tape do that?' you ask yourself. duct tape accessories! vanessa jean welcomes you to enter this unique, fun & functional duct tape accessory boutique.
Sound weird or intriguing? Check it out--I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

More from her website if you're not hooked yet:
vanessa jean strives to bring you the highest quality & most fashionable duct tape accessories on the market. the duct tape products featured on vanessajean.com are handcrafted ENTIRELY from duct tape (it might be hard to believe but we promise you it's true) and then accented with functional and decorative ingredients, like snaps, ribbons, metal handles, velcro and more. did we mention the COLORS? nowhere else will you find such a colorful collection and wide variety of duct tape wares. and don't forget that almost anything can be created with duct tape - so send your duct tape dream designs to customorder@vanessajean.com - and vanessa jean will make it happen for you.
It is worth a gander, if not a purchase. Really.

In other holiday news, watch out for horny teenagers ("[F]indings have led [researchers] to predict that teens with romantic partners are nearly three times more likely to make their sexual debut in December than those dating casually. The accent on romance has led them to conclude that the holiday season -- and all the mushiness that surrounds it -- plays a key role. 'We call it the "Santa Claus effect,"' says Martin Levin, lead author of the study, which is published in the current issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family."), powerball sales (I just saw on TV) are averaging $2 million an hour, and it looks like I might get my white Christmas.
Finally, some very fun news from the Trib. Holiday goings on at NORAD:
Maj. Doug Martin of the Canadian army is managing one of NORAD's highest profile annual activities: tracking the progress of Santa and his reindeer-driven sleigh across the heavens on Christmas Eve.

This has grown into a big job, indeed. Last year, NORAD's Santa-tracking Web site received 289 million hits. No other site in the world details where Santa is to be found Christmas Eve in full living color and in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Japanese.

More than 200 volunteers fielded 7,000 phone calls last Christmas and responded to 27,000 e-mails. This year, the number of volunteers has swelled to 375, all military personnel and their families, who will spend almost 24 full hours answering questions such as "How does he get down all those chimneys?" and "How fast does he fly, anyway?"

"We'd love to know the answer--we know it's at least Mach 30, or 30 times the speed of sound--but many details of Santa's flights are classified," Martin said.

....

All this began as an accident 47 years ago, when a local Sears store published a wrong number in a newspaper ad inviting kids to call Santa. The number in the paper was actually a hotline at NORAD. When a colonel picked up the phone expecting a general on the other end in December 1955, a 6-year-old boy asked to talk to Santa instead.

Yes, our radar does show something. Yes, it's Santa, the quick-thinking colonel told the boy, and you'd better go to bed before he comes. More calls came in, and a NORAD tradition was born.

...

"When you think about it, tracking and protecting Santa is mission accomplished for NORAD, because what we're really about is preserving the peace every day of the year, but particularly on Christmas," Venable said. To which Americans may well want to say, amen.
Indeed. For those who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas.
Two interesting pieces from today's Chicago Tribune (still reg. req'd).

In fun news, Eric Zorn has a column about Rudolph's acceptance speech in his victory over Frosty.
The final returns are in, and we are shouting out with glee: Not only do all the reindeer love Rudolph, but so do nearly two out of three voters!

...

Ten minutes ago I received a call from Mary Schmich over at Frosty the Snowman headquarters--no, no, no booing, please, we must be gracious--congratulating us on our 62-to-38 percent victory in last week's Rudolph vs. Frosty poll at chicagotribune.com.

She wished Rudolph well during his term as top holiday novelty song. She said Frosty has dropped his request for a recount of all 1,265 votes and now is planning to grow a beard and begin teaching graduate-level seminars at Northwestern University.

We thanked her for the tough battle. And, yes, it did get nasty there. In her pro-Frosty column last week, Mary called Rudolph a drunk and a whiner and implied he was in league with Satan, simply because Satan and Santa are anagrams. Later, one of her associates disseminated a document referring to "that red-nosed idiot."

Contributing reader Rose Soto wrote in that Rudolph's message was "mean-spirited." Debbie Mercer called him "smarmy" and charged that Rudolph "glorifies bullying and exclusion of those who are different."

Our side responded in kind. I referred to Frosty as a frivolous, deceitful scofflaw and a "naked mound of perambulating slush," though I now regret those remarks and contend they were taken out of context.

Rudolphile Thomas Saaristo trumpeted "Frosty's connection to the highly questionable and Wiccan-connected practice of magic." Maureen Perkins blasted the F-man as an "inanimate object that suddenly comes alive. [He's] creepy ... only a few steps away from horror movies and Chucky."
Ah, yes. Happy holidays.

In less than fun news, here's a snippet from the lead story on North Korea.
Russia accused President Bush of igniting the crisis by including North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, in the "axis of evil" in his State of the Union speech last January.

"How should a small country feel when it is told that it is all but part of forces of evil of biblical proportions and should be fought against until total annihilation?" Russia's deputy foreign minister, Georgy Mamedov, told the Vremya Novosti newspaper in Moscow. "There is no use expecting countries included in the `axis of evil' to remain passive."

Washington is counting on Moscow, which has cultivated good relations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, to use its clout to try to ease the North's belligerence.
Interesting. Not sure what Russia is trying to accomplish with that baseless statement.



China Watch:

There has been a rash of dissident releases in China. Some would chalk this up to "the Chinese government's commitment to improving relations with the United States." I, of course, remain skeptical. Dealing with the Chinese government is like dealing with Machiavelli and Sun Tzu's offspring.
In its contribution to "news" today, the New York Times has an editorial about NBC's renewal of "Friends" and a feature on figure skater Sarah Hughes, who may be about to make an unfortunate educational choice.

And Drudge tells us that the woman who nursed puppies "has no regrets."

In more serious news, the Washington Post reports that senior U.S. officials believe that the threat from Osama bin Laden's network "continues in important ways to outpace the national response." There's also an article on the rise of Evangelical Protestantism in China.

And don't miss InstaPundit's column in TechCentralStation, calling 2002 "the year in which weblogs became part of the mainstream."
I spent much of the day doing some last-minute shopping. Fortunately I was mostly finished already, so a lot of my time today was spent just browsing and soaking in the holiday atmosphere. A few random observations:

— Shoe stores are deserted this time of year. (More for me!)

— It's clear that the inexplicable Vera Bradley purse craze has taken hold of the women of Albemarle County, Virginia.

— I never buy CDs anymore, so it had been a while since I'd been inside a record store. It was a bit disconcerting how few of the "Top Selling" artists I had even heard of. Another sign of my creeping decrepitude: the music in some stores is too loud.

— What's with the velour sweat suits? They're everywhere; even the usually classy Ann Taylor has a version. I'll go out on a limb and predict this is a purchase many women will regret in a year.

Back home tonight, I spent a nice evening decorating cookies and wrapping presents (Malcolm family tradition: I wrap all mine and all of my dad's). In the background: a beautifully decorated tree, Handel's Messiah, and humorous tales of college life, told by two of my favorite freshmen.

Life around here is about to get a little more hectic for the Malcolm women — we have Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow night, Christmas dinner on Wednesday, and a massive wedding cake to bake and put together before Saturday. So my posting may be more "Kitchen" and less "Cabinet." Maybe I'll share some recipes!
Dean Jens writes that "the only blogs I still read regularly are the Kitchen Cabinet and us, and I read us mostly out of politeness."

Yes! This is exactly the kind of devoted readership we need more of. Many thanks to Dean, Steve, and all of our loyal readers.
There's an interesting article in the Washington Post about a dust-up between the Mormon church and the city of Salt Lake over free speech in Temple Square:

The dispute has grown nastier by the day, and last week it turned downright ugly. A group of burly men with bullhorns came to the plaza and showered anti-Mormon catcalls on newlyweds leaving the temple in their matrimonial finery.
The courts have entered the fray, with the 10th Circuit ruling in October that the church can't limit First Amendment rights in the space as long as it's being used as a public passage.
Reader SR thinks David Frum made up the term "Judaeo-critical."

A search for "Judaeo-critical" in both Google and Metacrawler only brings up two websites: Frum's and yours quoting Frum's. I was researching the origin of the term since Frum failed to give any links or citations to the use of the term.
Fair enough, but I think Frum's point was that this term wasn't for public consumption. I am a little surprised that it's nowhere else on the web, though.

Also, Tim Schnabel has thoughts on paleoconservatism versus neoconservatism here.
Lots of good stuff in Slate today:

Jim Holt challenges atheists to prove that God doesn't exist.

Hank Steuver's at a 10-year high school reunion, test-driving "a world that doesn't, on principle, shove us into lockers."

Dahlia Lithwick looks at vegetarianism in prison.

And Mickey Kaus defends Bill Frist against charges of racial insensitivity.
Quote of the Day and Song of the Day:
"The city is covered in snow tonight; the children are fast asleep.
I'm waiting for him, but he's nowhere in sight.
And I wonder if he can hear me.
I know your sleigh is full inside, but won't you stop and give my baby a ride?
Christmas lights up and down the street are such a sight to see.
But all the presents by the tree, they don't mean a thing 'til he's with me.
~ Wilson Phillips, "Hey Santa"

Happy Birthday:
Howard Hughes
Robert Joffrey
Ignatius Loyola
Michel de Nostradamus

Monday, December 23, 2002

Last post for now (the only other thing I might add is that it is wicked cold here).

Garret Morritz (a second post here), Nate Oman (a second post here), and several members of the Volokh Horde (Juan, Sasha, and Orin) have recently engaged in an interesting discussion of the age old question of law reviews. That is: Is a wholly student-run (and edited) law review a good thing? They cover most of the ground, so I won't go into it here. I want to add that I think Garret has an excellent point--the value of student-run law reviews aside, you're going to have a very hard time getting students to continue doing the intense sourceciting (he calls it "subciting") that is done if you take away their power over the selection of pieces.

I would take the middle road in the debate. I think there is immense value to having students do the sourceciting. Law students, anal by nature, do an excellent job of running down cites and ensuring accuracy. Juan's point is excellent:
Another distinguishing feature of legal publications is that footnotes and citations are verified by the editors. For those readers unfamiliar with law reviews, let me make this absolutely clear. The standard protocol for law reviews is that each and every footnote is verified for its accuracy by the editors of the law review. Quotes are checked; dates verified; supporting authorities examined; and so on. It is a laborious process (one with which I was all too familiar in my law school days), but one that makes legal academic publications reliable in a fashion that other academic publications are not. . . .

I believe that these two aspects of legal academic publications--student editors and citation checking--are related. We only have the latter because we have the former. Academics may be willing to peer review each other's work, but they surely would never consent to spend hours in the library verifying the accuracy of footnotes. Nor does the typical academic journal have sufficient resources to compensate graduate students to perform this task. As a result, many non-legal academic publications are less likely to uncover fraudulent or misleading research in manuscripts accepted for publication.

The only reason law students are willing to engage in the tedious process of fact-checking dozens upon dozens of footnotes is that they are compensated for their efforts with editorial positions on law reviews, and the prestige and stature which can accompany such positions. Serving on law review can be necessary for positions at many high-dollar law firms or with prominent judges. Ending student-edited law reviews would, I suspect, greatly diminish the potential labor pool for cite-checking, and the demise of cite-checking would eliminate law reviews' comparative advantage vis-a-vis other academic publications.
Orin does make a good point in his anecdote about the Yale Journal on Regulation:
I'm quite sure the editors did not try to duplicate my results before publishing the paper. In fact, come to think of it I don't think they asked for a copy of my underlying data. I don't mean that as a criticism of the Journal, which did a fine job editing the paper; rather, I think it reflects a common attitude of law review editors towards the papers they publish.
This seems to me, however, a problem that is less apparent at some other journals (as Orin acknowledges, practices vary from law review to law review). Like Garret says, some law reviews cite-check twice for every piece. By way of contrast, a recent study asserts that many scientists simply cut and paste in citations from other papers, with errors and all, without reading original work. And in related news, a Bell Labs scientist was discredited earlier this year for having published phony results in journals such as Science and Nature.

The flipside, of course, is the concern that students are not competent to be selecting pieces for legal scholarship. I have had this worry many a time in my own Journal work. The solution here is that many of the top tier journals get faculty consults on pieces before they accept them. We are perfectly capable of screening out pieces that are largely preempted (the miracles of on-line research). We can then get faculty consultations (usually more than one faculty consult for every piece we accept) on the pieces we think are promising.
A Nomad IIc MP3 player has recently joined the household here. Fantastic. The best thing about an MP3 player? You can run with it (or just jump wildly about for no good reason) and it won't skip. At all.

In other tech news, the Toshiba DVD player that was purchased last year has stopped functioning--the warranty was only for 90 days. Excellent. Maybe I should go into consumer advocacy law.
Preparations are in full swing for the annual holiday party here so posting on my part will be light over the next few days.

In related news, traffic here is light. Hello people? What, do you have families and holiday festivities or something? Let's get out and pound the pavement for new readers! (We've just passed our three month bloggiversary and we're only at 15,000 hits!) Actually, I know I speak for all of the Kitchen Cabinet when I say that our start into the blogging world has been unexpectedly well received, and we wish everyone the best of holidays. Thanks.
Christmas tv classics.

I found this fantastic piece in the Chicago Tribune yesterday. (There will probably be quite a bit from the Trib these next two weeks as that is the daily newspaper we receive here at home. Sorry--so it may help to go ahead and register with them if you haven't yet.) You know that tv special about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Well, there's some guy who's absolutely obsessed with it:
"The reason the specials resonate is that they have heart. They have warmth," he said. "You can't put out a `South Park' Christmas special or a `Ren and Stimpy' Christmas and expect it to be on for 35 years."
I love that show. Yukon Cornelius and silver and gold? Timeless. The Trib ran this companion piece on the Rudolph special.
In a plot twist that even "Rudolph" script writer Romeo Muller couldn't have imagined, the Canadian actors who portrayed fellow misfits Rudolph and Hermey in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are now neighbors in the Performing Arts Lodge, a Toronto housing development for actors and artists.

"It's a great place to be, the only place for misfits anyway," joked Billie Mae Richards, 82, the actress whose singular performance is the distinctive Rudolph. "You can't go through life as an actor or a musician and be, quote, normal. People think you're a little strange."

"It's a great community," said Paul Soles, 72, whose deep voice and striking intellect are nothing like the dentist wannabe Hermey. "We take care of each other. It's what people do in small towns and neighborhoods, where the best of what we are is supposed to come to the fore."
Rudolph was played by a woman?
Quote of the Day:
"James Buchanan Duke, it has been said, changed North Carolina more than any other American ever changed their native state."
~ John D. Bridgers

Song of the Day:
S Club 7, "I Really Miss You"

Happy Birthday:
Robert Bly
James B. Duke
John Jay
Susan Lucci
Connie Mack
Joseph Smith

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Just in time for the end-of-the-year lists, here's one person's list of The 50 Most Loathsome People in America.

It includes Joe Lieberman ("Is short; is vengefully unprincipled; seems like the kind of person who out of all of the people solemnly hanging their heads at a funeral would be most likely to be thinking about calling his pollster"), Ann Coulter ("The phenomenon we all should have seen coming; the merger of bimbo sex appeal and neo-fascist vituperation"), and Ashleigh Banfield ("Has quite possibly the whitest name you can imagine. Her name is the equivalent of a black person named La' Shawna Jackson-Watkins").

Link via VodkaPundit.
Deborah Roffman thinks we should all be outraged over Mattel's Lingerie Barbie:

A middle school principal in New Hampshire first alerted me to Bimbo, uh, Lingerie Barbie (nickname courtesy of a seventh-grade boy who wanted to know, "What's next? 'Playboy Barbie'?"). I've been actively assessing the Lingerie Barbie gasp factor for several weeks now. It's huge.
And Drudge has pictures. I think it's sort of cute, but I wouldn't be buying it for my 8-year-old.
TIME's Persons of the Year are whistleblowers Cynthia Cooper, Coleen Rowley and Sherron Watkins.

All three grew up in small towns in the middle of the country, in families that at times lived paycheck to paycheck. In a twist that will delight psychologists, they are all firstborns. More unusually, all three are married but serve as the chief breadwinners in their families.
I think this choice is a bit of a stretch. As Bill Kristol said today on Fox News Sunday, "It's hard to believe they were the most important women in the country or the world."
"Justice Filmed Is Justice Distorted." Martin Kimel argues against filming jury deliberations. You'd think that one would be a no-brainer...
Movie Quote of the Day:
"Love is a many-splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love."
~ Moulin Rouge

Song of the Day:
Sam Cooke, "Wonderful World"

Happy Birthday:
Lady Bird Johnson
Gene Rayburn
Diane Sawyer
Speaking of oil and the Chicago Tribune (reg. req'd), there is a story in the Perspective section this morning on an inevitable war with Iraq.
This may have been inevitable from the start, and its ramifications go far beyond Iraq. The new U.S. security doctrine, issued by the White House three months ago, declares the American system the "single sustainable model" for the world. The doctrine states that the U.S. will defend and promote this model by using all its "unprecedented and unequal strength," including a military superiority that will be maintained permanently and "beyond challenge."

Challenges, it says, will be met, with allies if possible but alone if necessary. The U.S. will not wait to be attacked but "will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed."

This is the triple doctrine of dominance, unilateralism and pre-emption--all new to American strategic thinking. It is a doctrine of power verging on empire. But to be taken seriously, it must meet any challenge whenever it arises.
This troubles me. The politics of going to war for oil aside, this attitude of absolute American dominance really disturbs me because it seems like just another way of bringing hatred down on our heads again. The world has changed. Terrorist cells are not distinct countries--the tactics of intimidation and overbearing power cannot prevent an attack the way they used to. More importantly, I am worried about what our allies. The world is far smaller today than it was before. We cannot do without allies. Cannot. I support our current Administration, and I don't think our policy should be wholly subject to the ratification of the world, but when everyone but Britain thinks you are overstepping your bounds, it's time to take pause for a moment.

The front page of the Chicago Tribune (reg. req'd) ran a story today on the decline of the Mommy Track. Worth a read.

The Christian Science Monitor ran this opinion piece on "buying American" at the gas pump. The argument is for country-of-origin labeling with regards to gasoline so that Americans can make a political statement in their gas purchases.
This isn't a call for a boycott of Mideast oil, it's just a call for informed choice - the same premise used in country-of-origin labeling of food, clothing, cars, or coffee. After all, consumers have shown their willingness to buy American when it comes to textiles or cars, and we have not yet come close to fighting a war over these goods.
Yech. The argument just doesn't carry over from food, clothing, cars, or coffee. Oil is a vastly different resource, the aquisition of which entails vastly different choices and consequences.
Are those monkeys in your pants or are you just happy to see me?

And this makes the headlines in Germany:
"Will there be enough beer?" asked Germany's best-selling daily in bold letters on its front page on Thursday.
And these are the people who made fun of Clinton in a parade? Dunno... someone should tell them about glass houses and stones, and black kettles and pots.
Spent the day doing my holiday cards. This year they rang in at well over forty. Writing holiday cards, I am painfully reminded each year, takes an awful long time. My holiday cards also run at a significant trade deficit--that is to say, I take in far fewer than I put out. And yet, I keep doing it. It was fun, especially with the family baking and the Christmas carols going in the background. They are, of course, quite late at this point.

Also went to see "The Mousetrap." The play has the honor of being the longest running play in the world. It was excellent. (I, of course, did not see actually see the "longest running" version, as that is "across the pond.")

And we toured the Marshall Field's store windows. This year the windows are based on Paddington Bear and the Christmas Surprise. The best part? Paddington goes to see the department store Santa and sees a sack of gifts labeled "boys" and a sack of gifts labeled "girls," but finds no sack labeled "bears." Poor Paddington.

Speaking of Christmas, if you've been racking your brain as to what to get your favorite bloggers, what we really want is more traffic. So when you get together with friends and family this holiday season, talk up the Kitchen Cabinet (and be sure to clarify that you are recommending a website, not simply hinting that someone should empty the dishwasher). We did get a very nice email the other day:
Please ladies, stand and take a bow. This is a great site!
Thank you!
The Jens brothers continue to be a fountain of interesting information. Steve goes to church with Austin Bramwell, and Dean lets us in on the fact that George W. Bush and Richard Daley the younger apparently like each other quite well.
You asked for more.

Kitchen Cabinet legal quiz: What case gives Loving v. Virginia a serious run for its money as the most aptly named Supreme Court case?

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Just minutes ago I received news about Ruby Elisabeth Vaughn, who showed up a few hours ago in Nashville weighing seven pounds, four ounces. Mother and baby are fine, and I have it on good authority that all grandparents involved are ecstatic. What wonderful, wonderful news!
From the Drudge Report archives: It's hard to believe this was almost five years ago.

And he got most of it right. (As Kaus says, "80% true. Close enough!")
Speaking of paleoconservatives advocating things you thought were beyond the pale, David Frum had a column yesterday on the paleocons, and how they, and not the neocons, are really the new kids on the conservative block. It turns out they have some odd things in common with the far-out left.

I'm told the paleos prefer the term "Judaeo-critical" to "anti-semitic" when talking among themselves. In public, they use either transparent euphemisms like "the Israel lobby" or rather more opaque ones like "neoconservative." Whatever the terminology, their dislike and fear of what they perceive as Jewish influence and Jewish conspiracies is the foundation of their politics and in some cases the whole of it.
"Judaeo-critical"? That's supposed to fool people?
The View: Slate knows what's behind co-host Lisa Ling's departure. It's the same thing that did in Debbie Matenopoulos, her blonde predecessor:

They're both out because of one vice: youth. After more than a thousand episodes of the show, it has become increasingly clear that Walters' congregation of women from "different backgrounds" cannot, in fact, include women with backgrounds of fewer than 40 years' duration. The ladies of The View don't like young women.
I like Ling, who I remember from her days on Channel One.
Quote of the Day:
"I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home."
~ Robert Orben

Song of the Day:
Morcheeba, "Friction"

Happy Birthday:
Thomas Beckett
Benjamin Disraeli
Phil Donahue
Chris Evert
Jane Fonda
Florence Griffith Joyner
Joe Paterno
Joseph Stalin
Frank Zappa

Friday, December 20, 2002

Back home in the Midwest (yes, I capitalize Midwest) and it's much colder here than out East. I've got many Holiday Cards to write and errands to run, but one post before I get going.

"Conservatives love Korematsu"! Yikes. I found this post on Legal Ramblings that makes this claim. This is, of course, patently false as a blanket statement, and Steve does make note of that at the end of his post. What's frightening is the post (from where else, but Ex Parte) that prompted him to make the overreaching statement. The luminous Austin Bramwell goes on the record with the following:
Kudos to John Ashcraft! I wonder: to what level does the terrorist threat have to rise before we revisit the doctrines of Korematsu v. U.S.? Not that I don't relish the opportunity to pee on civil libertarian pieties, but after 9/11 I'm glad that that the precedent stands.
I won't go into all the reasons why Korematsu was a bad decision because I assume most reasonable people know what they are and I don't even want to begin dignifying Bramwell's post. If I get mail claiming the contrary, I'll post about it. Steve at Legal Ramblings makes most of the standard points, if anyone needs a gentle reminder.
Lott is stepping aside as majority leader. But he'll stay in the Senate.
Dad Malcolm writes in to explain what "GTO" stands for:

Back in 1964, Ferrari was using the GTO letters on their new limited production car. Pontiac figured they would too. GTO was a racing classification which in Italian meant "Gran Turismo Omologato." But we car guys in America knew that it really stood for "Gas, Tires, and Oil."
On the way home from the airport just now I heard "Shut Down" by the Beach Boys, which made me think of all the great car songs I grew up listening to. "GTO" by Ronny and the Daytonas is an excellent one, but my favorite is "Little Honda." ("Honda, Honda, go faster, faster!")
Argh. No Hotline till January 3rd. I'm having withdrawal already.

In other sad news, I dropped Kate off at the airport this morning. I'll be doing last-minute errands all day in this pouring rain we're having in New Haven, and tomorrow I leave town myself.
Great Peggy Noonan column today calling for Trent Lott to go:

[Republicans are] tired of being embarrassed by people who aren't sensitive to the reality of race in America. We're tired of being humiliated by politicians who otherwise see many things as we do but who seem to have an inability to be constructive and understanding about race. We're tired to being associated with hate mongering....

Some of us have put our reputations in jeopardy by supporting programs like the school liberation movement because we want to help people who don't have much and need a break. Or we've put ourselves in jeopardy by opposing racial preferences, or any number of other programs, for the very reason that we believe completely in our hearts and minds that all races are equal and no one should be judged by the color of his skin. And then some guy comes along and speaks the old code of yesteryear and seems to reinforce the idea that those who hold conservative positions are really, at heart, racist. We are indignant, and we have been for a long time.
Mickey Kaus also has some good comments here.
Quote of the Day:
"The human race is faced with a cruel choice: work or daytime television."
~ Anonymous

Song of the Day:
Mannheim Steamroller, "Carol of the Bells"

Happy Birthday:
Uri Geller
Sidney Hook
Kiefer Sutherland

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Saw The Two Towers last night. Excellent. And, perhaps the best synopsis/review that doesn't ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it is what Glenn posted. I agree with everything he says.
"How far out there on the right is Douglas Kmiec?" asks Andrew Sullivan. Kmiec, Dean of the law school at Catholic University, is being talked about as a possible Bush appointee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sullivan isn't a fan:

If you're worried about the erosion of the separation between church and state, you should start panicking. If you believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees individual rights against the state rather than, in Kmiec's view, representing Catholic natural law that can mould citizens' souls, then be afraid.
Skip Oliva thinks Sullivan's being paranoid:

The Democratic Party's very existence is a threat to individual rights. Given the option between a conservative Catholic and a band of rabid statists, I'll take my chances with the Catholic.
But, he says "if Kmiec is a Bork-in-waiting, I'll be the first to open fire." Yes. If Kmiec is nominated and an examination of his record ends up revealing that he's Bork II, many of us will be in the unwelcome position of being on the same side as the Alliance for Justice. Ick.

And this former student of Kmiec's says he "makes Scalia look like a liberal." Can you imagine what that confirmation fight would look like?

Kmiec defends himself in a WSJ op-ed: "Judge me by my work, not my faith." Okay, will do.

The delightfully comprehensive Howard Bashman has been following this story here, here, here, here, here, and here.
A Cincinnatti leader wants fans to skip this Sunday's Bengals game and give their tickets to needy children. "This Sunday's game may be a poor excuse for professional football, but for many of those kids it will be a Super Bowl," said City Councilman Chris Monzel. The Bengals are 1-13.
From Legal Ramblings, these are good visual illusions.

I promise I will get back to trolling the pages of Yahoo News and Yahoo News's Oddly Enough ...
I must pity poor Eric at Antidotal, who seems to be suffering from two serious delusions. Eric both likes to hang out with law students and work on a legal publication. Yikes.
No, I'm not in law school, I just want to hang out with law students. In general, they're much more stylish than PhD students--interviews with non-academics will do that, I suppose. Anyway, I past out a bit after I got back from it last night, very tired from the first sourcecite I've ever directed--the wee journal I somehow fell into lets non-law students do that, which is a sign of exactly how wee it is. This job involved 7 hours of slogging through "see"s and "294 F.Supp. 2d. 1072"s, most of which made very little sense to my SNAILish self, and attempting to answer questions which made even less sense.
Stylish? Law students? I suppose. I think the other side of stylish is slimy, egotistical, and self-centered. More evidence? B-school students tend to be the most stylish and they are the most slimy, egotistical, and self-centered. Stay away from us Eric!

And as for Journal work? What do you see in that? There is a whole class of second years on The Yale Law Journal whose eyes would bug out if they knew a non-law student had voluntarily joined a law journal.
I head out of here tomorrow and I'm looking forward to leaving the land of yucky pizza to the land of excellent pizza. Although, don't get me wrong, I love pizza of all sorts. I just prefer the hefty to the wimpy.
Thanks to John at Paladin's Pad for keeping up with our health status (here and here). Now that I am better and caught up with stuff, I want to take a moment to respond to John's response to my post about hardship considerations in admissions processes.

Let me start by saying that I think John and I have talked past each other. John's response seems to speak primarily to the problems with affirmative action--I am trying to point out that exercising discretion that considers hardship or particular circumstances is valid. He says
My issue here is that this is not a question of affirmative action (which is explicitly tied to race) but rather one of school policy. Further, affirmative action, in this case, ignores the fact that many people in bad schools are not minorities.
I agree. Where I disagree is John's following assertion.
Funding schools from real-estate taxes and piss-poor administration, among other things, contribute to the problem, but equal admissions standards to college don't. In this case, affirmative action is a post hoc solution to a problem that should be solved at the level of elementary, middle, and high schools. The fact that people from poor schools unprepared for college should not logically give them an advantage in the college admissions process. To preference someone precisely because they are less qualified defies reason.
I don't think the preference "defies reason." And I believe that because I'm about to give some reasoning.

I understand John's point that equal admissions standards to college don't solve the problems with schools. I don't assert that at all. I think it is a wholly separate issue to hold responsible the students who attended those schools--and that is what you do when you refuse to consider that they had, as a matter of fact, a lesser educational experience than other students. The fact that they had crappy schools is not a reflection of their intelligence, abilities, or potential. When you pretend that their grades and scores can be set against the same bar as students from other schools, you are deceiving yourself. (I avoid here asking whether it is the student's fault that the school is bad--Dean Jens questions the use of the word "fault" and I see his point. He is right that his explanation better expresses what I mean by questioning "fault.")

I can see that John might then argue that the real question is, as he expresses, "who is the best prepared to succeed at this college, right now." Fine. If that is the question, then I think he has more of a point. A poor school may give a very intelligent student poor preparation and thus, though the student might be as "intelligent" as another student who went to a better school and earned better scores, the first student may not be prepared to succeed at a particular college, "right now." I don't, however, agree that that should be the standard by which all admissions are determined. There is a serious argument for bringing in a student that might be intelligent enough to make up the ground. Even if that is the standard for admissions, I think there is an argument for taking in students who appear less prepared. How can you know how they will function in a better educational environment? The root of the issue is: Are grades and scores truly a reflection of a student's preparedness?

I also don't agree with John's belief that hardship considerations are about appealing to pity. That's never been part of the calculus. It is a question of whether someone has been disadvantaged. Have you been running in the race with your legs tied together? I don't argue that the judges should feel sorry for the person. I simply argue that in determining whether the runner should be allowed into the next race, the judges should not turn a blind eye to the fact that the legs were tied together. We are talking about fairness--due process, one of the grindstones of our legal system--not pity. Alleged criminals are entitled to counsel not because we feel bad for them, but because we believe in fairness.

John also addresses my point about diversity, with which I fully expected him to disagree.
Here, I disagree completely. A class that has a plethora of talent and races need not have a more valuable educational experience than a class of people who are exactly the same. Define exactly the same? Is that looking alike or thinking alike? Is skin color a proxy for one's belief by default? I don't think so. So called diversity (meaning people of different skin colors) means absolutely nothing. Zippy. The class of people who look alike need not think alike, and they could have discussions far more stimulating than a group of people who agree but who have different skin colors.
I never said that diversity meant "people of different skin colors." I did mean, however, that a class of people who all have 4.0s and 1600s will be far less diverse than a class of people who have varying scores and grades. Do I mean that varying grades are a proxy for diversity of thought? No, not in the direct way that John implies. I mean that we are more likely to see diversity in thought if we see some diversity of scores and grades than if we go completely by "merit." Similarly, I don't think skin color is a direct proxy for one's perspective or beliefs--I have made this argument elsewhere many times before. I think that is inappropriate, implicit stereotyping. However, I do think that as a statistical matter, diversity of skin color will lead to greater diversity of thought.

The crux of John's argument may be "College IS about academic education. That's why other activities are called extra-curricular." I disagree with this completely. But this post has become quite long and I will leave my argument at "this is why I disagree with home schooling." It is also why I think purely on-line schools are a really bad idea. There are a great many things one needs to and can only learn by interacting with other people (especially people who have different opinions). College is a place for that. From a post that Lily put up before, an article from the Weekly Standard about Yale. David Brooks writes,
They are also incredibly entrepreneurial when it comes to student activities. I've long regarded Yale as the best school in America, on the basis of conversations with adult friends who went there. It seems to have the best combination of small classes, a curious intellectual atmosphere, and a fun social scene. (I went to the University of Chicago, which had the first two, but not the last.) But even I was blown away by the richness of student life at Yale. There are periodicals, singing groups, secret societies, theater groups, community service groups, religious groups, debating societies, intramural teams, and so on everywhere you turn. Students start these things themselves. They run them themselves (and many of these groups are really small businesses). They build them bigger and bigger. Even if the Yale faculty disappeared tomorrow, the school would still be a fantastic place for students because of these activities.

Indeed, for many students, I suspect, these activities are the most important part of their college experience. It is through activities that students find the fields they enjoy and the talents they possess. The activities, rather than the courses, seem to serve as precursors to their future lives.
Indeed.
Mickey Kaus, who's now got a "Gearbox" column on Slate, has been doing a lot of test-driving lately:

But the telling moment came at the end of our visit, when someone pulled up to the dealership in a 1964 Pontiac GTO convertible. Suddenly, all the expensive modern cars in the showroom -- and this dealer also sold Porsches and Audis -- seemed like so much overpriced dross. As we left, we looked back and noticed that about seven or eight of the salesmen whose job it was to tout new $40,000-$100,000 luxury vehicles had gathered around the 38-year-old Goat to ogle and comment.
At least two people related to me are cheering right now.
Our friend Nick Daum doesn't like my post on income tax burdens. While I appreciate Nick's comments (and his kind words about our blog), I stand by my post 100%, and I'll only recap what I said before.

Well over half of the income taxes in this country are paid by five percent of us. The bottom half of us pay only four percent of all income taxes. There are an awful lot of reasons why that might spell trouble for a democracy, and as I'm sure Nick knows, plenty of them are grounded on neither "civic republicanism" nor "crass political redistribution." (Note to Nick: I share your distaste for "forced political socialization.")

Finally, I proposed a change that would ensure that all income-earners pay income taxes, however nominal, while making payroll taxes less regressive, leaving the overall tax burden on poor people unchanged. I'm confused about how, exactly, that makes me guilty of "reverse class warfare."

On a related note, reader RM likes my proposal, and adds a few of his own, including "allow every wage earner to invest a percentage of their payroll taxes in dedicated retirement accounts."
Trent Lott late-night report:

Jay Leno: "Trent Lott's going to fight. He said today 'I've had to fight my whole life.' And he has fought against the Voting Act, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Civil Rights Act -- it's a never ending battle.... That's why I think the government has been running such a huge deficit. Trent Lott didn't want it operating in the black."

David Letterman: "Congratulations to Keith Richards, he's 59 years old today. They had a big party for Keith and it went pretty well except for some poorly chosen words by Trent Lott.... I received a great gift in the mail today, the Trent Lott Apology-A-Day 2003 Calendar.... Day 1 -- I made a mistake of the head, not the heart. Day 2 -- I was drunk."

Craig Kilborn: "The U.S. Senate accidentally broadcast a pornographic movie across its closed circuit TV system. Senate Staffers said it was the most disgusting thing they've seen since Trent Lott tried to high five Colin Powell."
And now it seems Lott is lashing out at the White House.
More language lessons over at The Conspiracy. Today, Eugene Volokh vows to defiantly continue splitting infinitives.
A reader reports that ESPN's Jay Bilas has been showing up on the bulletin boards at Duke Basketball Report, online HQ for the hard-core. Bilas shares this story about when he was a high school senior being recruited by many college programs:

Back then, Coach K used to fly to L.A. just to watch me practice. He would fly out and see me practice or play in pick-up games, then take the red-eye back to Durham. In December, when I was fed up with the recruiting process and had made up my mind, I decided to commit, without telling Coach K. Coach K had travelled out to see me practice again, and called the night before to ask my mom for a good place to eat in town before he and Chuck Swenson went back to the airport. Because NCAA rules did not allow us to speak in person during Coach K's visit, my mom told him I would hand him a note with directions on it at practice the next day. As practice started, I ran over to Coach K and handed him a note with directions to a local restaurant, with a P.S. at the bottom. It said "I know this is not as important as the directions to the restaurant, but I've decided to come to Duke. Just give me a day or two to notify the other schools before announcing it. Jay"

When I handed him the note, I didn't know if he would read it then, or after practice on the way to the restaurant. He read it right after I handed it to him, and looked up with a big smile on his face. I had a big smile on my face too. And I'm still smiling.
Great story.
Page Six calls it "The Cruise Ship Coverup":

The dirty secret behind the outbreak of stomach illness on 21 cruises this year is that the cause is other cruise ships in the narrow Caribbean shipping lanes. The big ships routinely dump raw sewage into the ocean. Ships following behind then draw in the polluted sea water for their desalinization plants, which take out the salt, but not all the bacteria. Passengers are soon suffering from diarrhea and vomiting -- even if they are careful and drink only bottled water -- because they are showering in sewage and brushing their teeth with it. "But no one wants the public to know because it's just too disgusting," one nautical expert told us.
Eeeeewwww. Now I'm even less inclined to go on a cruise.
Quote of the Day:
"You're a prime piece of real estate, and I'm gonna get me some land."
~ Shania Twain

Song of the Day:
Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "Boughs of Holly"

Happy Birthday:
Alyssa Milano
Robert Urich

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Sasha Volokh has been doing a lot of posting lately on language (Latin and English).

Is it "de minimis" or "de minimus"? How do you pronounce "amicus"? Is "possessive + gerund" a proper construction?
Lileks has been sick too. His doctor says the Norwalk virus "is hitting everyone, everywhere." Lileks adds that "[i]f this is all an al-Qaeda dry run -- and I use that term advisedly -- then we are hosed."
These are all from last night:

Jon Stewart: "If you have been following Trent Lott's political career over the past 30 years then you know it's not nearly as fun as following it over the past week and a half.... He has issued a number of apologies, none of which seem to be -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- working.... Last night the Senate majority leader put on his away jersey for an appearance and apology on Black Entertainment Television.... Lott went on to say 'I like big butts, I cannot lie.'"

Conan O'Brien: "Last night Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott appeared on Black Entertainment Television.... He said he is not a racist.... Lott's exact quote was 'I would never get jiggy with racism.'"

Jay Leno: "Back East, it was raining so hard Trent Lott was wearing a hood just to stay dry.... Trent Lott has apologized once again for making insensitive comments. He said from now on he'll try a lot harder to mask his true feelings."

David Letterman: "Here's a programming note. ... Don't miss next week's big holiday special: 'Trent Lott's Swinging Motown Christmas.' ... Last night Trent Lott appeared on the Black Entertainment Network and he apologized.... He was sincere about this.... He said he no longer feels the bigotry and prejudice that he felt last week."
Is the GOP really going to let this drag out till January?
An article by David Brooks in the Weekly Standard is basically a series of observations culled from some time he's spent recently at a few of America's elite universities. I like this one:

The single most striking – if hard to define – difference between college campuses today and college campuses 20 years ago is in the nature and character of the female students. They are not only self-confident socially. They are self-confident academically, athletically, organizationally, and in every other way.... in my discussions with student groups there were always several women who projected authority with a grace that was almost jaw-dropping. These women – who were born around 1982 remember – appeared uninhibited by any notion that they shouldn't assert themselves for fear of appearing unfeminine or that they should overexert themselves to prove their feminist bona fides. Those considerations appeared irrelevant to their lives.
The world Brooks is describing is the only one I know, but it's worth remembering that things haven't always been this way. And then there's the downside. When confidence is a credential, self-doubt isn't allowed. If you're not 100% sure you belong here, you probably don't.

Brooks also has some observations on the new meritocracy, which he calls "an intricate network of achievement-enhancement devices." Here at YLS, we call it "the treadmill."

[T]he system doesn't necessarily reward brains; it rewards energy. The ones who thrive are the ones who can keep going from one activity to another, from music, to science, to sports, to community service, to the library, and so on without rest. To get into a competitive school, you need a hyperactive thyroid as much as high intelligence.
Finally, Kate will appreciate Brooks' opinion that Yale is "the best school in America."
A Senate recording-studio worker has been put on leave for dubbing a pornographic movie at work and accidentally playing it on an internal Senate TV channel. Some Capitol police officers noticed the film playing around 7 a.m. last Friday and stopped it.
More fallout from the Lott controversy: it's complicating the administration's decision about what position to take on the Michigan affirmative action case. Briefs are due on January 16.

UPDATE: His real first name is Chester. 50 Things You Didn't Know About Trent Lott.
Quote of the Day:
"This book fills a much-needed gap."
~ Moses Hadas

Song of the Day:
The Rolling Stones, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Happy Birthday:
Christina Aguilera
Ty Cobb
Betty Grable
Katie Holmes
Brad Pitt
Keith Richards
Steven Spielberg

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Steven Jens speculates that much of the support for the estate tax comes from "people who want to tax people who aren't them."

Actually, there is surprisingly little support for the estate tax. You'd think a tax paid only by a tiny number of ultra-wealthy people would enjoy a fair amount of popularity. But there's not much of a political groundswell for "saving the death tax."

YLS professor Michael Graetz chalks it up to misguided optimism. Citing a California initiative to repeal the state's inheritance tax that passed with sixty-four percent of the vote, he wrote in The Yale Law Journal that "In California, at least, sixty-four percent of the people must believe that they will be in the wealthiest five to ten percent when they die."

That, or maybe Americans just don't like taxes.
Ugh. I have been LONG absent from the blog for reasons of immense illness and busyness ("immense" modifies both illness and busyness). I hope to be back with a vengeance later tonight as I have much to post, but here's one for the moment as Lily continues to pick up my slack.

China Watch:

Much has happened that I haven't posted and will post tonight or tomorrow, but here's the most interesting on a local front. Morrison & Foerster has dropped Tibetan asylum clients to represent Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. Some Yale Law students have put together a letter to MoFo--one of the few YLS group actions I will unflinchingly sign.
The International Olympics Committee awarded Beijing the 2008 Olympic Games because it believed that such "constructive engagement" would encourage China to move toward liberalization and respect for human rights. Your firm's decision to end its representation of Tibetan asylum clients in order to avoid offending the Chinese government undermines this theory of constructive engagement and turns a blind eye to discrimination and persecution of Tibetans by the Chinese government.
Indeed. Indeed.
The Captain is indignant about the White House's concern that the poor aren't paying enough in income taxes:

How can a gang of rich, white oil barons, who lost the election and hang out with unadulterated racists, who just gave themselves enormous wads of cash in the 2001 tax law claim, who are driving us into war, recession, and debt simultaneously, with straight faces suggest that the problem with the country is that the poor aren't paying enough in tax?
The Captain admits he's ranting here, but I'll just point out that he's done a good job of answering that question in the top half of his post. It's dangerous when too few citizens have a stake in how much government costs.

The bottom 50 percent of wage-earners pay only 4 percent of the income taxes in this country, according to the IRS. The top 5 percent of earners alone bear between 56 and 59 percent of the income tax burden. (This, by the way, is what allows Democrats to wail about Bush's tax cut going to "the wealthiest Americans." It's hard to give people tax cuts when they don't pay taxes.)

Some people I've hung out with in certain circles think that people who don't pay taxes shouldn't get to vote. I wouldn't go nearly that far, but I heartily agree with Congressman Jim DeMint: "You can't maintain a democracy if the people who are voting don't care what their government costs." I'm glad this administration at least takes that concern seriously.

I'll admit that some of the emanations coming from the White House are just absurd – like Larry Lindsey's contention that Social Security taxes shouldn't count in the calculation of tax burdens because taxpayers get Social Security benefits later in life. That's too much even for a Heritage Foundation economist, who responded bewilderedly that "If you do start down that road, it's hard to see anything as taxes."

My own view: if you earn income, you should pay income taxes – if only a token amount. But the poor shouldn't necessarily pay more in total than they already do. We should 1.) cut payroll tax rates and 2.) increase the amount of income subject to payroll taxes. They currently phase out around $80,000 or so – meaning that someone making $500,000 a year pays the same in payroll taxes as someone making only $80,000.

UPDATE: Slate's Chatterbox weighs in.
Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg calls attention to his CNN appearance on Sunday, where he was upbraided by syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux for using the word "lynching" in a discussion about the Trent Lott situation.

This was mere seconds after Malveaux called Lott "a Klan member" who "finally just took the sheet off his head." Read the transcript; it's a case study in double standards.

Keep in mind that Goldberg is no defender of the embattled majority leader (read his scathing criticism of Lott here).

Malveaux, you may recall, once said on PBS of Justice Clarence Thomas, "I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early, like many black men do, of heart disease."