Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Of note today

I generally find Maureen Dowd to be a poof. A column earlier, however, was somewhat sharp on the superficial foolishness of the Administration's fly-paper theory of the Iraq conflict. Others are taking on the task of calling out the Administration with a bit more seriousness. I couldn't agree more. The idea that we are winning in Iraq because we have convinced a bunch of fanatics that it is the place to come to kill us is foolish on several levels. First, as many have noted, the supply of fanatics is renewable, while the supply of American blood and treasure is not. Second, this is precisely the argument that we made post-Tet in Vietnam. And once again, such arguments only work in "real" wars, not strategic or political wars, which is what Vietnam was, and Iraq has become.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

No, I'm not dead

But I did have a "Job-ian" month. The Chaldeans delivered four witness preps, followed by a set of jury instructions, and I spent a non-trivial amount of time engaged in getting an article out the door. Most, but not all, of those tasks being accomplished, I'm ready to blog again.

While I was gone, it seems that Justice Moore embarassed his federalist fellow travellers by demonstrating why we really, really, need a Supremacy Clause; GWB tells us that, even given a $5.8 Trillion dollar expected deficit in a few years, and unending war and increasing threats of terrorist activity, he is undeterred. Beating GWB in 2004 is plainly insufficient; punitive damages (like, for example, requiring him to publically renounce Tom Delay) would seem to be necessary to remedy this kind of harm.

In that vein, I've actually donated a little money to Howard Dean. I'll tell you, I have mixed feelings about it. On the plus side, I like that he is not afraid of his own political shadow. On the minus side, it is easy to be unafraid when you have nothing to lose. On the second plus side, I enjoy that he isn't a tall man. On the second minus side, I believe that Dukakis was also short. On the third plus side, I think his e-campaign is well organized. On the third negative side, I am starting to get annoyed by the follow-up emails. Before I contribute more, I will wait to see if he changes his message in response to media pressure to become more electable. I really, really, liked this gambit. I also like that Dean, unlike Bush, is running a grassroots campaign of outrage, instead of a fatcat campaign of self-protection, and self-congratulation.

Whew. With P gone from this blog, I see I'll have to impose my own self-discipline so that I don't go off on political rants like this often.

I have been thinking about where to take this blog now. One of the features I'd like to do is an analysis of an interesting District Court case of the week - particularly a case that isn't in the media spotlight. I have sort of mixed feelings about this process, because I'm not convinced that it is a good thing to turn cases into entertainment fodder. But it is a relatively underserved niche.

I also think I'll spend a little more time than P and I did talking about scholarship. Like "Legal Theory Blog", without those monstrously heady posts where Solum is at first stumped by Professor Balkin's arguments, but then destroys him with a quip about Habermaas.

We'll see. For now, I've got to give those Jury Instructions another once over. Write more soon.

Monday, August 04, 2003


PLAINSMAN: I'm going to buy another ish of Mother Jones off the newsstand before I take the plunge. I'm changing addresses in a few weeks anyway. I think I'll also take up The Atlantic at that time; it is excellent.

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Audibly Amused

PLAINSMAN: That Green Bag parody of Job is really funny. "While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, The Chaldeans have delivered full ten thousand documents which we must redact, and only I am escaped alone to tell thee."

Good show.

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I'll take another look at Mother Jones, on your say so. As I said, I had mixed reaction. On the one hand, my exposure to the magazine came in repeated visits to the the wonderful "Blue in Green" restaurant at N. 3rd and Market Streets in Philadelphia. [Note: Best. Pancakes. Ever.] But, although I am intrigued by your idea of "performative liberalism", it seems to me that its writers are too rarely exposed to the harsh, clarifying, light of political compromise.

But maybe it is worth another look. As for me, I'm terribly excided to start receiving my subscription to the Atlantic. I am also tempted to get myself a subscription to the Green Bag, even though I know that their bobble-head loss leader promotion has now expired. [Howard gets all the good stuff!] . Incidentally, I urge our law firm associate readers to compare this parody in the Green Bag with the original Book of Job. The idea that partners can do anything to their associates except for taking away vacation [at which point, associates will "curse thee to thy face"] just cracks me up.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

One Thing About Pryor

PLAINSMAN: D. suggested below that a possible Democratic downside of filibustering Bill Pryor is that he'll just end up as a U.S. Senator from Alabama. Perhaps. But as I understand it, current Sen. Jeff Sessions is a solidly conservative Republican, and Sen. Richard Shelby is a fairly conservative Dem-gone-GOP, so there's a question of marginal loss/benefit.

Speaking of AG Pryor, I was curious to see whether he would be scheduled to speak at the 17th Annual Federalist Society Lawyers Convention on November 13-15, which I've begun to get letters about. Nope, he's not. Typically awesome lineup, however.

I plan to attend this year's Lawyers Convention (government rate!) if I can arrange the time off from work. It will be my first.

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Saturday, August 02, 2003

I'm Going Into OT; and, Liberal Magazine Recommendations

PLAINSMAN: Jeez. I've run over my self-imposed deadline without addressing any of the topics I foreshadowed in my last post. This was unavoidable: I've been tying up loose ends here, signing a lease, and trying to get a law review article in shape for submission at the end of the month. Nevertheless, things shouldn't end on a whimper, so I'm going to defer my departure until Friday, August 8. By then I shall have my say on state court textualism, Grutter, and the magazine racks.

And speaking of magazines
Thank you to our readers who provided a lively set of left-leaning magazine recommendations.

Several people recommended The New Republic. It's a reasonable recommendation, but one I must decline. While there are any number of smart folks at TNR (Jeffrey Rosen, for example, is well worth reading), the anti-Christian animus displayed in TNR articles by Leon Wieseltier, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, etc., tends to poison the mag for me.

Fewer people than I expected recommended The Nation. I used to subscribe to it in college, and have always liked Arthur Danto's art criticism. One reader pointed to Patricia Williams' column as a strength; I can't agree. I don't think she's a good writer, and in my experience she tends to assert striking positions rather than justify them. Still, The Nation is a possibility.

To my surprise nobody recommended The American Prospect. Granted, our sample size was hardly scientific. My general impression of TAP is that it is smart and earnest, tries to do some interesting things, but that its sensibility is compromised by a Beltway cocoon and a terminal Ivy League-itis (something I know tolerably well from first hand). It's sort of TNR shifted to the left.

You may recall that D. mentioned Mother Jones below, with the caveat that it was possibly too left wing for me. I took his lead and picked up a copy. To my curiosity and surprise, I liked it, and subsequent poking around the web site tended to confirm the impression, despite numerous obvious disagreements on political issues. Right now Mother Jones is leading the subscription stakes.

I think I know why: the hippie/green/labor influence on MJ suggests a grounding in lived experience, a personal warmth that the colder, more wonkish ideologies of TNR and TAP don't offer. I notice, for example, that there are lots of nicely produced ads in MJ for organic food co-ops, Burning Spear anthologies, and the like. While some might dismiss this in Cartmanesque fashion ("goddamn hippies!"), I find it comforting. The mag seems aware that aesthetics, folkways, agriculture, food and drink, the physical landscape around us, are part of our philosophical engagement with the world. Far from being marginal to a political magazine, these subjects implicate some of the same inward premises that help create our politics.

As I hope to discuss later, the same trait (in a very different context) attracts me to Chronicles, the principal paleoconservative magazine.[FN *] For all its eccentric and sometimes astringent stances, there is a personal quality, a groundedness in life in Chronicles -- what you might call a "performative conservatism", that is not found in, say, The American Enterprise or National Review. I liked what I saw of Mother Jones because it seemed to reflect a "performative liberalism."

More later. And by the way, though it comes much too late, my heartfelt congratulations to Feddie and his wife on their beautiful new daughter.

[FN *]: I haven't linked to Chronicles' web site because I find a lot of the content there harsh and unappealing. The magazine is much better. Perhaps it should be no surprise that paleos would be unable to put their best foot forward on a newfangled medium like the Internet. It makes for an interesting contrast with NR, whose website is snappy, state-of-the-art, and consistently readable, while the print mag, though solid enough, can get lugubrious. Also, the best stuff in the print NR is usually by NRO authors like Stanley Kurtz, Jay Nordlinger, John Derbyshire, etc. (I would have included Jonah Goldberg in that list, but let's be honest, his stuff has fallen way off since he got married. Domestic happiness: it'll get you every time. But I trust Feddie will brave it out unscathed.)

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