Monday, October 31, 2005


Do you hear that in the distance? Liberals are wailing and gnashing their teeth because of the Alito nomination. The only things I know about the guy is that his press nickname is "Scalito," he dissented to Casey because the 3rd Circuit struck down spousal notification for abortion, and the Senate might go nuclear because of him.

But, if you want to learn more, check out SCOTUS Blog. They have numerous posts and links about his nomination that are quite informative. Reading these posts have assuaged my Alito fears, and he seems at least fair minded and not as ideologically biased as Scalia or Thomas. Don't get me wrong, he is definitely going to cause me some heartburn in the next twenty, thirty years, but at least he is generally considered thoughtful and open-minded to issues.

And if you don't want to go to SCOTUS Blog, I'll provide a sampling right here:

One liberal's positive view of Alito: A former Alito clerk, and "Progressive Democrat," describes Alito as "very thoughtful, very careful, very respectful of Supreme Court precedent. He has a strong conservative intellectual approach to things, but he is respectful, honest, and straightforward." The link goes to the Blue Mass. Group blog.

Alito and the Family Medical Leave Act: Ann Althouse, legal blogger extraordinaire, critiques Alito's analysis of whether Congress has the power to enact the FMLA under the 14th Amendment.

Alito and Planned Parenthood v. Farmer: The Volokh Conspiracy discusses Alito's concurrence to striking down New Jersey's ban of "Partial-Birth Abortion." (Or, to use its real name, the Dilation and Extraction Procedure or "D&X").

Alito and his First Amendment Jurisprudence: The First Amendment Center provides a fairly extensive listing and analysis of the First Amendment opinions penned by the nominee. They conclude that "a preliminary examinations suggests that he could well bring a First Amendment sensitive perspective to the Supreme Court, a welcome prospect at a time when the Court, of late, has not been very speech protective."

More Alito-goodness can be found at SCOTUS Blog.

All links courtesy of SCOTUS Blog.

The Wrath of Posner (At least towards the Fourth Estate)

This article alleges that Posner has an extreme hostility to the Press and protections the Press has traditionally enjoyed under the First Amendment. Since I am not exactly a fan of the Fourth Estate in general (let's face it, the days of Edward R. Murrow have long past), I am not too sympathetic to the piece. Quite frankly, I think Posner is fully justified in using market analysis to explain the media. Certainly, the ascendency of infotainment, of OJ and Jacko, of scandel mongering and gotcha journalism over substantive news can be explained by consumer choice. The Networks, being primarily businesses, satiate consumer demand for meretricious gossip. That most journalist are incapable of recognizing that they dispense trash doesn't make Posner's view any less valid. In my opinion, a certain jaundiced view of the press can be quite salubrious.

Reading further, the article does recognize Posner's contribution to press freedoms, most notably in Desnick v. ABC, which P. Gunn assigned to us in Property, and Haynes v. Alfred A. Knopf, which I haven't read.

I also like Posner's self description: “I have exactly the same personality as my cat. I am cold, furtive, callous, snobbish, selfish, and playful, but with a streak of cruelty.”

For a certain person writing a note, the article discusses Hosty v. Carter and Hazelwood, but very briefly.

Source: Columbia Journalism Review

Link courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily

Barack Obama's Education Article

I found this article in Mother Jones. It basically outlines several proposals for education reform. The interesting thing is that even though Obama has a reputation as a liberal enfant terrible, he is courting "moderate" voters with tempered political rhetoric. To quote a line:

"The shortcomings of NCLB [No Child Left Behind Act] shouldn’t end the conversation, however. They should be the start of a conversation about how we can do better. Yes, it’s a moral outrage that this Administration hasn’t come through with the funding for what it claims has been its number one domestic priority. But to wage war against the entire law for that reason is not an education policy, and Democrats need to realize that." (my emphasis)

The policy he articulates in this article, while not overtly anti-teacher's union, is, signifying his willingness to turn against a part of the Democratic base. However, his language is so tempered in general, and so strident against the Administration, that it is sure to appease the left. What is most important is that, even though the ideas he promotes are not that original, he recognizes that the disconnect between Democrats and voters is due to the party's lack of a substantive platform.

The article demonstrates that: (1) Obama is a Clintonesque triangulator, (2) he has a Clintonesque ability to triangulate the middle without alienating the left, and (3) he identifies the deficiency of the Democratic Party, which isn't whether the Party is too liberal or too moderate; it is that the Party doesn't promote any policy ideas to begin with.

Source: Mother Jones

New Format, New Links Section, and Happy Halloween

I have drastically changed my template back to my original one. I loved the Scribe template, but unfortunately it lacked a links section. I was able to manually put one into the code, but the header was in a different font than the other headers in my sidebar. It was to my chagrin that I discovered those headers were actually gif files. Oh well.

Right now I am posting links that have generally yielded interesting articles to me. I also, in the interest of being "fair and balanced," put one overtly liberal link (Mother Jones) and one overtly conservative link (Weekly Standard). The political bias of the rest, I leave to the reader to determine.

Oh, yes. Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Scooter Libby, Neocon John Le Carre

Apparently, Scooter Libby, when he is not engaging in a dirty works campaign, moonlights as a critically acclaimed suspense writer.

His 1996 novel, "The Apprentice" (a nod to the Donald?) takes place in fin de siecle Japan. The Boston Globe calls it an "alluring tale of intrigue" and the New York Times Book Review says Libby's "storytelling skill neatly mixes conspiratorial murmurs with a boy's emotional turmoil."

An interesting aside is that Libby acquired his nickname when he was a "hyperactive toddler."

The article is here.

Source: CBS News

Link courtesy of Bookslut

Dos Passos and Hemingway in Spain

This article, in the guise of a book review, discusses the relationship between Dos Passos and Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War. It is certainly an interesting read with respect to the shattered idealism of Dos Passos. It also nicely captures Hemingway's political posturing and general fraudulence quite nicely.

I have noticed that New Yorker book reviews are almost always substantive articles in themselves, devoting maybe a paragraph to the merits of the book it purportedly is reviewing. Also, due to the almost obligatory New Yorker "sprawling-crap" style of writing, the actual review of the book is typically buried somewhere midway in the article while the rest of the text is devoted to the subject matter of the book. Now, I understand giving some context for the general reader, but should the entirety of the book review be background while wholly neglecting the actual book?

Source: The New Yorker

Link courtesy of Arts and Letters Daily.

Breyer Article in the New Yorker

I stumbled upon this article/interview in which Breyer is plugging his book "Active Liberty." The article is mainly fluff, but it does talk a little about Breyer's problems with originalism. However, it mainly focuses on Breyer's "pragmatic" jurisprudence and his "optimism."

The article is here.

Source: The New Yorker

More on Scalia's Jurisprudence

Ronald Dworkin, in his "review" of Judge (now Justice) John Roberts, has this criticism of Scalia which I find sound.

"When Scalia tried to defend this view in a discussion of his judicial methods at Princeton some years ago, the objection was made that originalism, so understood, ignores a crucial distinction between what the framers intended to say and what they expected would be the effect of their saying what they intended to say. The framers might have set out their own particular views about what counts as cruelty in punishment, what counts as a denial of equal protection in legislation, and so forth in the constitutional clauses they wrote. But they did not. Instead they chose to lay down general moral principles. So true fidelity to their intentions requires judges to ignore the framers' concrete opinions and do their best to apply these principles as moral principles: to decide, for themselves, that is, what punishments are in fact cruel and what treatment is in fact equal."

The rest of the article can be found here.

Source: New York Review of Books

Scalia's Review of "Law's Quandary"

Scalia's review of "Law's Quandary" is an entertaining read, especially for those interested in jurisprudence and the philosophy of law. There is even a paragraph or two devoted to the philosophy of language, which brought back some memories from my undergraduate days.

I, obviously, have serious difficulties with Scalia's philosophy regarding meaning. "Textualism's" assumption of an objective meaning to the Constitution's language is far more problematic than Scalia is willing to concede in this review. The symbols used in natural language obtain their meaning solely through repeated usage within a particular community. Obviously, a symbol within a natural language can "mean" many different things and that a particular meaning can only be construed through context. Obviously, context can narrow the possible meaning of a particular word. However, context can conversely also broaden the possible meaning of the word. When the Constitution says "due process," "interstate commerce," or "an establishment of religion," there is no context to narrow what precisely the framers meant by these words. Wouldn't it be fair to say that the framers, who all had different political beliefs, purposefully left the meaning of these words obscured by ambiguity, effectively punting the resolution of these issues to the future. Perhaps the "intent of the framers" (and let us not forget that the framers were not a monolithic group of individuals who all had the same beliefs and convictions) was to let either Congress or (gasp!) the Supreme Court set up the precise parameters of these words.

The entirety of Scalia's book review is here.

Link courtesy of SCOTUS Blog.

Boutique Doctors

My first post concerns an article I discovered on the NY Times on-line. I actually didn't read the article itself, the lede being depressing enough to prevent me from finishing the rest. Chalk that up to my mawkish sentiment that wealth shouldn't be a prerequisite for longevity while penury necessarily leads to debility and possibly an early death.

The entirety of the article is here.

Harold Bloom Interview

This interview has Harold Bloom plugging a new book he just got published. I glanced through the first couple of answers, intermittently cringing and chuckling at the pretense. I particularly loved, "I have many enemies in the English-speaking world" and "Of course, I am a one-man department, I divorced the English Department in 1976, I convinced them to appoint me professor of 'absolutely nothing' - I give courses in something called humanities."

I have had the "privilege" to attend two readings Bloom gave, one in the NYU library where he read an essay on Hamlet which he had published in "Shakespeare: Invention of the Human" and another in a Barnes & Nobles where he read the Introduction he wrote for a Hart Crane anthology. His pomposity is equally impressive in person as it is in print. However, giving credit where credit is due, the highfalutin timbre of his words does convey a pithy, if somewhat ridiculous, zip that is always fun to listen to or read.

I leave with this excellent quotation which he purportedly said to Naomi Wolf whom he allegedly flirted with/sexually harassed back in the 70s: "You have the aura of election about you." Quite a pick-up line.

Link courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Starting Over

So, several of my colleagues at school have started blogs recently. I tried this experiment last year, but, "unfortunately," the experiment only lasted four posts. It is fairly difficult to think of something interesting to broadcast to the world on a regular basis and it is fairly difficult to stay true to something like a blog unless a habit compels one to update daily. Anyway, I am going to try again since everyone else is doing it, and since I can at least update this blog with links, maybe I can develop that habit which would keep this blog from becoming moribund again.

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