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Saturday, November 15, 2003


Go See Master and Commander: Saw Master and Commander last night. I highly recommend it. It is a wonderful production that knows how to take its time, lingering over the ship board details rather than striving for nonstop action like most Hollywood blockbusters. Lots of wonderfully authentic touches about life on a man-o-war. Acting is superb too. Russell Crowe has uncannily good judgment about projects. I cannot think of another action hero who is his equal at the moment, and he has range as well. But he did not dominate this picture, which is about how the crew needs to work as a team. His character provides the necessary leadership, but the film shows how everyone must pull together. Unlike most recent films, this one's worth the wait in line and the $9.00.


Q. What do left and right wing extremists have in common?
According to Trigano, the new discourse has sent shock waves through the Jewish community. "French Jews have begun to feel that their own legitimacy is being challenged. The Jews are deeply rooted in French civilization, but suddenly, with all our Frenchness, we have become refugees. In what other country is there active cooperation between leftist and Islamic students? An unprecedented and illogical alliance has been forged between the Muslim brothers and the ultra-leftists based on the shared idea that Israel is a country that practices apartheid."
Yehoshua Amishav of Keren Hayesod discovered a similar trend in Belgium. A few days ago, he returned from a worrying visit to this country. While he was there, he discerned an odd political alliance between the far right andTrotskyite leftists. "The Palestinian issue is the connecting thread, and the same is true for the right wing and left wing all over Europe," he explains. "The far right and the Trotyskyites are bitter enemies in every possible sphere. They're capable of killing one another. But when it comes to Israel, they're comrades in arms."
A. Hating Israel (and by extension, Jews).

The Trotskyite angle reminds me that supposedly the Chief Rabbi of Moscow had the following to say to Leon Trotsky (born Bronstein): "The Trotskys make the revolutions, and the Bronsteins pay the price."


Anthony Argyriou uncovers what seems to be a serious problem either with California voting machines or the vote tallying system: The Secretary of State's summary of votes on the Davis recall shows three counties -- Alameda (big), Kern (medium), and Plumas (small) showing 0 voters who didn't vote on the recall. How could that possibly be right? The other counties range from 0.5% to 10.3%, all plausible numbers -- but 0 is flatly implausible, especially in a county like Alameda, where over 400,000 people voted on the question.

     Argyriou also reports that all three counties used Diebold machines, two using electronic voting machines and one using optical scanners. Sounds like serious evidence of some bug somewhere. And though the number of nonvotes on the recall doesn't matter by itself, it seems to me like the 13th chime of the clock: It is not only itself wrong, but it casts doubt on all those that came before it. Looks to be much worth investigating.

UPDATE: Rick Hasen, one of the country's leading election law scholars (and a Californian), is also troubled:
Alameda and Plumas were the only counties to use Diebold DRE machines. Kern used Diebold-made optical scan machines. Other counties using those same types of machines as Kern had more typical undervote rates. . . .

What does this tell us? First, an investigation is absolutely essential. I recall that preliminary figures gave Alameda a 0.4% undervote rate on the first question. How did this change? Are there any factors other than malfunctioning voting technology that might explain this result? One thing that anecdotal evidence suggests is that because the touch screen prompts voters to avoid unintentional undervoting, it might prompt voters who intended to undervote not to do so -- perhaps in an effort to finish voting and leave the polling place.

Is this an argument for the need for a voter verified paper trail? I think we need to wait to hear what the experts from NIST tell us after their conference. Most unusual is the result from Kern using the optical scan ballots. Because the result is inconsistent with the results reported from other counties using the same technology, the explanation likely is not the vote casting machinery. Perhaps there was a problem with the vote counting machinery in Kern.

As I said, the most important thing is an investigation, and a quick one. If there are problems that can be identified and resolved before the 2004 elections, we would all be better off.


Testing Pesticides on Humans: I find Discover magazine to be a consistently interesting source of reading (and blogging) material. I was much intrigued by a story in the latest issue on "Testing Pesticides on Humans." The article is not yet on-line, here is a link to recent debates.

On a regular basis, humans are paid to drink, breath, or otherwise ingest pesticides. You can get as much as $200 a day (please don't write me asking for a lead on the job!). The information is then used to judge the safety of pesticides. No law prohibits such testing, nor are the tests reviewed by outside scientists. This sounds like the ultimate in caveat emptor. Here is one criticism of the practice. One industry spokesman, however, notes the following:

"The people that are participating in these studies have much more of a direct benefit than anybody participating in a phase I clinical trial would have."

If I had my finger on the "policy button," I would not ban the drinking of pesticides, which surely kills fewer people than does drinking alcohol and also pays the victims, rather than having the victim pay. I also would wonder whether the FDA might take a cue from current practice in this area. The EPA is considering new and tougher regulations for the whole idea.

The Discover articles notes: "In the meantime, we're all research subjects in the great pesticide experiment."

Friday, November 14, 2003


Solum v. Rappaport: I am blogging tonight from Chicago on my annual sports weekend with my son featuring NU v. Michigan (Michigan is favored by 17!), Bulls v. Seattle, and the Bears v. Rams. Had lake perch tonight at Teibels in Schererville, Indiana. Tomorrow, apple pancakes at Walker Bros Original Pancake House in Wilmette, baby back ribs at Carson's: The Place for Ribs and, on Sunday, sliders from White Castle if we can fit it in. All our favorites you cannot replicate in Boston. mmmmmmmm

In a square-off between San Diego heavyweights, Mike Rappaport takes issue with Larry Solum's provocative proposal for breaking the filubuster over judges: The President calling the Senate into an Executive Council and demanding their advice and consent.

UPDATE: Larry responds to Mike here.

FURTHER UPDATE: NU and the Bulls lost. This leaves only the Bears to salvage the weekend, but Chicago sports fans do not need to win to enjoy themselves. But when we do win, it really feels good. And the perch, apple pancakes and ribs were outstanding.


More Clay Shirky: Here is Clay on the evolution of file-sharing. He suggests one possibility:

"Small amounts of social file-sharing, by sending files as email attachments or uploading them to personal web servers, have always co-existed with the purpose-built file-sharing networks, but the two patterns may fuse as a result of the Crush the Connectors strategy. If that transition happens on a large scale, what might the future look like?

Most file-sharing would go on in groups from a half dozen to a few dozen -- small enough that every member can know every other member by reputation. Most file-sharing would take place in the sorts of encrypted workspaces designed for business but adapted for this sort of social activity. Some users would be members of more than one space, thus linking several cells of users. The system would be far less densely interconnected than Kazaa or Gnutella are today, but would be more tightly connected than a simple set of social cells operating in isolation.

It's not clear whether this would be good news or bad news for the RIAA. There are obviously several reasons to think it might be bad news: file-sharing would take place in spaces that would be much harder to inspect or penetrate; the lowered efficiency would also mean fewer high-yield targets for legal action; and the use of tools by groups that knew one another might make prosecution more difficult, because copyright law has often indemnified some types of non-commercial sharing among friends (e.g. the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992).

There is also good news that could come from such social sharing systems, however. Reduced efficiency might send many users into online stores, and users seeking the hot new song might be willing to buy them online rather than wait for the files to arrive through social diffusion, which would effectively turn at least some of these groups into buyers clubs."

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Clay is one of the smartest people writing today. Read his whole analysis.


U.S. Court of Appeals panels and precedent: Reader Colin Fraizer asks, apropos the Ninth Circuit homemade machinegun decision:
How "binding" is an appeals court's decision on itself? When can a court change its own precedents?
     Here's a brief summary:

     1. Federal circuit court decisions are usually rendered by panels of 3 judges each, chosen more or less randomly from among the court's judges.

     2. In the Ninth Circuit, a panel is legally obligated to follow prior precedent set by other Ninth Circuit panels (or by en banc decisions, about which I'll say more later). Naturally, some judges sometimes wiggle around this rule, by drawing spurious distinctions between the current case and the precedent. But by and large, judges stick with it, which is why Judge Kozinski, who strongly dissented from the court's refusal to rehear an earlier panel decision that held the Second Amendment didn't secure an individual right (Silveira v. Lockyer), simply quietly accepted Silveira here.

     3. I believe most other circuits operate this way, though I think some circuits have subtle variations on this rule, and I think a few might even reject it (at least as a binding command). I know the Ninth Circuit practice better than that of other circuits because I clerked on the Ninth Circuit (for Judge Kozinski, in fact).

     4. What if one panel intentionally or inadvertently fails to follow another panel's decision, so now there are two inconsistent but supposedly binding panel decisions (an "intracircuit conflict")? Then the judges are supposed to "take the case en banc" -- have it be reheard by the entire circuit court, or, in the Ninth Circuit, which is very large (it's authorized to have 28 judges), before a panel of 11 of the circuit judges. En banc courts are not bound by prior circuit precedent, including prior en banc decisions, though they may of course find prior circuit precedent to be persuasive.

     5. A party can also ask the court to rehear a case en banc, even if there is no intracircuit conflict; and a panel that thinks a prior precedent is just very badly wrong can ask the court to rehear the case en banc (this is called a "sua sponte" request for rehearing). But the court is willing to rehear only a tiny fraction of its cases en banc, so the party request rarely succeeds, and the sua sponte request is rarely made.

     6. So, the bottom line: Both decisions of 3-judge panels, at least in the Ninth Circuit, and decisions of the en banc court are binding on future panels, and of course on district courts in the Ninth Circuit. Neither kind of decision is binding on the en banc court. So to overrule a panel decision, you need an en banc decision. (I set aside for now the thorny question of what you do when an intervening Supreme Court decision is logically inconsistent with or undermines a prior panel decision, but didn't explicitly overrule that panel decision. Should a new panel treat the prior decision as overruled? Or must it call sua sponte for en banc review, and, if the call fails, adhere to the prior decision?)


Filibusters and Philosophy: As promised, here is the link to my op-ed in this morning's New York Sun and an excerpt:

But the debate over the filibusters should not detract from a different and legitimate issue raised by Mr. Schumer: that judicial philosophy, not just professional accomplishment, is a relevant qualification for judicial confirmation. True, the credentials and accomplishments of a candidate are part of what makes a candidate “qualified” to be a judge, but so too is how the candidate thinks a judge ought to do his or her job. Republicans implicitly concede this when they extol a candidate for his or her “judicial restraint” and condemn others for their “judicial activism.” These terms refer not to professional credentials and ability but to the attitude toward the job of judging.

The problem is that “judicial restraint,” “judicial activism,” or “enforcing and not making the law” are almost completely vacuous terms whether used by Republicans or by Democrats. Mr. Schumer is right to raise the issue of judicial philosophy, and Republicans need to explain just what sort of judges they want appointed.
AOL users can try clicking here.


Life under U.N. rule? No, not in some future Iraq, nor in Kosovo. Right here in New York City, in the United Nations building.

Last year New York City passed a tough anti-smoking law, but the law is not enforceable within the U.N. building, even though it is legally binding there (the laws apply but police require permission to enter and of course the smokers have diplomatic immunity). Posted signs says "Smoking Discouraged," which to this writer suggest an acknowledgement that smoking will occur. When Kofi Annan tried to ban cigarette smoking, protests ensued and the matter was refereed to the General Assembly, which debated it for hours, finally supporting the rights of smokers.

Here is the full story. It is also worth noting that the Secretariat Building fails to meet local building codes. It lacks sprinklers and has an abundance of asbestos, among other problems. Yes, this is a small piece of territory, I would rather not see how the U.N. would do with Iraq.


Caesar: The Lilly's Gourmet Caesar dressing that I bought a few days ago says this on its label:
Caesar. The name conjures up images of Homeric heroes and Roman kings and emperors.
Yeah -- among those who don't know their history . . . .

Thursday, November 13, 2003


Game plan--"We Can't Just Call Him a Liar": Today's Wall Street Journal has a front-page column-one story on the Democrats' new "5-point strategy" to win the presidential race in 2004:

(1) "Neutralize Bush's national security edge by fanning doubts about his Iraq policy."

(2) "Craft economic attacks that can work even if the economy keeps improving."

(3) "Dent the president's reputation for honesty and competence."

(4) "Mobilize Democratic partisans in 17 states that Mr. Bush barely won or lost in 2000."

(5) "And maneuver around the new campaign-finance law by redirecting now-banned big donations away from the Democratic Party to a new set of groups that will coordinate attacks on Mr. Bush."


Weird possible anti-Semitism incident: From AFP:
[O]ne of [Greece's] best-loved composers, Mikis Theodorakis of "Zorba the Greek" fame, . . . was flanked by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Education Minister Petros Efthymiou when he made the comments at a November 4 reception for the publication of his autobiography, an event covered massively by the Greek media.

Film footage showed neither minister reacted when Theodorakis said Greeks and Jews "are two peoples without kin, but they had fanaticism and self-knowledge and managed to prevail."

"Today, we can say that these little people are the root of evil," said Theodorakis, 78, a committed leftist and political activist who was jailed under the fascist junta that held power in Greece in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Government spokesman Christos Protopapas sought Wednesday to distance the government from his comments, which despite the number of journalists present were only repeated in one small right-wing daily.

"The government does not share and is not in agreement with the opinion expressed by Mr. Theodorakis," the spokesman said, but added that "despite the disagreement" the composer "is still held in high regard" by the government for his works. . . .
     If the comments were really anti-Semitic, this is very troubling, not because some composer said them, but because the flanking government officials didn't respond, and the domestic media barely covered them. (Greek Jewish leaders are condemning them, as the AFP story also says.) But what's weird is the context: It sounds from the AFP story, at least, that he's talking about the subjects of the preceding quotes -- Greeks and Jews. Is he really saying that Greeks are the root of evil, as well as Jews? Why? What's up here? Is it all just a big misunderstanding? It seems to me there's more to this than the story suggests, but I have no idea what that might be.


More Jewish Anti-Semites: Reader Daniel Barenholtz notes two notorious anti-Semites with Jewish fathers--Vladimir Zhironovsky and Bobby Fischer.


Political theory excitement of the day: Today I received my pre-ordered copy of the new English translation (which is also the first complete English translation) of Benjamin Constant's Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments. Constant has received increasing recognition in the English-speaking world over the past two decades as one of the founders of liberalism, and arguably as the first fully liberal political theorist. Biancamaria Fontana's 1988 Cambridge volume of Constant's political writings has been a tremendous help in this, making some of Constant's most important writings widely available in English after a long absence.

But, by my reckoning, more than two-thirds of Constant's political writings had never been translated into English, and this included two book-length manuscripts of considerable theoretical importance: the Fragments of an Abandoned Work on the Possibility of a Republican Constitution in a Large Country and the Principles (an earlier, much longer, and much more philosophical version than that which was hurriedly published in 1815, and included in Fontana's collection). With the new volume (translated by Dennis O'Keefe from Etienne Hoffman's authoritative edition, and published in a beautiful and inexpensive format by Liberty Fund) half of that problem has been solved-- I'm even willing to concede that it's the more important half, though the Fragments are an object of particular fascination to me.

I think this volume will make a big difference in Constant's standing among anglophone political theorists-- and will affect how he is seen in some interesting ways. (His writings on economics and commerce, for example, have not been available in English before this.)

I've spent the afternoon reading the volume and so far I'm very impressed with the translation-- its fidelity to both Constant's style and to his words and meaning.

I know that ninety-odd percent of Volokh readers aren't interested in this-- but, hey, it's a blog. And some of the remaining readers will be or should be very interested in it.


The Bill of Attainder / gay marriage lawsuit: I've uploaded the decision here; my original post is here.


Huge Commerce Clause decision: The Ninth Circuit has just held that Congress lacks the power to ban possession of homemade machineguns -- the Commerce Clause, the court held (per Judge Kozinski, joined by Judge T.G. Nelson; Judge Restani of the Court of International Trade, sitting by designation, dissenting), doesn't go that far.

     The court specifically did not rely on the Second Amendment, because of binding Ninth Circuit precedent holding that the Second Amendment doesn't secure an individual right. So states may still ban such possession, and Congress can ban the sale of machineguns (even purely intrastate sale) -- but Congress may not ban private possession, at least of the homemade devices.

     This fits with the Ninth Circuit's McCoy decision this year (written by Judge Reinhardt), which held that Congress may not ban the mere possession of homemade noncommercial child pornography. Unless the Ninth circuit grants rehearing en banc in these cases -- I'm not sure whether there's still time to do that as to McCoy, since I'm not sure whether the panel has denied a motion for rehearing by the panel itself -- I predict the Supreme Court will agree to hear these cases (or possibly agree to hear one and hold the other pending a decision in the first). The Ninth Circuit acknowledges that its decision create as split with three other circuits; that, and the holding that a federal statute is unconstitutional as applied, are both reasons the Court may grant certiorari.

UPDATE: Cute detail -- Stewart discusses and distinguishes an earlier leading Ninth Circuit precedent on the matter, called . . . United States v. Rambo.

FURTHER UPDATE: Larry Solum has more.


Objections that I just don't get: A reader writes, objecting to my endorsement of the search for ways that people can control their sexual orientation:
You ask: "Why shouldn't we equally welcome the opportunity for people to have more choice about their sexual satisfaction, rather than being at the mercy of the way their involuntary sexual reactions operate?"

I answer: Because it presents serious problems about individual autonomy. Who decides what pills to make and how do you prevent force from being applied to those who don't want to take such pills?
     The pill example is something of a thought experiment: What people are talking about is probably a long process of conditioning, which is hard to illegally foist on someone. But in any event, is the fear that some people might force someone to take a pill really a good reason to ban that pill? Should we ban RU-486 because some people might try to slip it to a woman to cause her to miscarry? Should we ban arsenic because some people might try to slip it into someone's coffee (or substitute the proper poison and liquid if for chemical reasons that won't work)?

     My correspondent continues:
As another aside, you or at least some of the other bloggers, seem to be operating from a heterosexual baseline. Would you favor creating a pill that would allow you to be gay, or to appreciate having sex with as many different species of animals as possible?
Well, to answer the first part of the question, I quote my second post on this: "Why should it be any different for mechanisms that help people sexually desire the opposite sex, or sexually desire the same sex, or not crave sexual variety, or not crave rough sex? Why shouldn't we equally welcome the opportunity for people to have more choice about their sexual satisfaction, rather than being at the mercy of the way their involuntary sexual reactions operate?" I say I'm pro-choice, because I want people to be able to choose their desires, not be stuck with the ones that nature foisted on them. Of course I mean that straights should be able to become gay, if they want, as well as vice versa. Why doubt me on that?

     To answer the second part, it's interesting that the bestiality analogy is now being given by what seems to be a pro-gay perspective. It seems to me that it's just as misplaced an analogy to heterosexuality as it is to homosexuality.

     The reason people may oppose the pro-bestiality conditioning (or pill) is that they think that bestiality is wrong (for instance, because it steers us away from human relationships, with all the extra richness that they can add to life), and not because they think that changing one's preferences is wrong. After all, if we oppose bestiality, but see that some people do want to have sex with animals (or, worse yet, with animals to the exclusion of humans), wouldn't we want people to discover some process that lets the zoosexuals who regret their preference change it?

     I'm generally much in favor of gay rights: I believe that it's good to let people be who they are, where their sexual orientation goes, and with the usual caveat about consenting adults. But I'd like to go one step further: I think it's also good, for very similar reasons, to let people be who they want to be.

     By the way, I've gotten some interesting responses, and I hope to blog responses to them soon -- but I'm swamped this afternoon, and have to delay that, maybe for several days.


Update on German anti-Semitism: Susan Caskie, the foreign editor at The Week magazine ("a brisk digest that summarizes the best of American and international news and commentary"), writes, apropos the German legislator's complaint about Jews being involved in the Communist movement:
For our forthcoming issue (out on Friday and available at Barnes and Noble) we did a roundup of German papers' takes on the topic.

One commentator made the point that, while there were a disproportionate number of Jews among the Bolsheviks relative to their population, Jews were still a tiny minority of revolutionaries and were quickly and bloodily purged after the revolution succeeded. The canard that Jews "invented communism" and were behind the excesses of the rising Soviet state was actually rooted in the good old Protocols, and was resurrected after WW1 by none other than Henry Ford, notorious anti-Semite. He popularized this lie in his newspaper, The International Jew.

That's why hearing it come out of the mouth of a German politician in the 21st century was more shocking to Germans than it seems to us Americans. Most of us just aren't as familiar with the code phrases of vicious anti-Semitism as the Euros are.

See this commentary by Richard Herzinger
The text has been changed since it was first posted, and he no longer mentions Ford specifically, but I confirmed the reference elsewhere.
A very good point: There were lots of Jews, I'm sure a number far out of proportion to their share of the population, in the Communist movement both in Russia and elsewhere; but it was certainly not a majority or a dominant group. We're influential, but we're not that influential . . . .


O'Reilly Appearance: I'm scheduled to appear on the O'Reilly Factor tommorow night on Fox News Channel during the 8:00 p.m. EST hour, to discuss conflicts between civil liberties and antidiscrimination laws.


Unintentional self-parody department: From the San Diego State University student newspaper:
San Diego State is . . . dropping the word "foreign" from the general catalog's "Foreign Language Requirement."

According to Dean of Division of Undergraduate Studies Geoffrey Chase, the University Senate decided to delete the word "foreign" from the title last Tuesday. Chase said the extraneous word carries negative connotations and should, therefore, be omitted in the next publication of the general catalog.

Members of the Undergraduate Council, who drafted a rationale, in support of this initiative wrote: "The term 'foreign' has been used to designate something alien and is as ethnocentric and inappropriate as using 'oriental' to designate a person of Asian descent." Moreover, members pointed out many universities that have already changed the wording of the requirement such as Stanford University, University of Michigan, University of Chicago and University of Texas.

Chase said he knew of some Cal State Universities that have already made the transition. CSU San Marcos did so in 1999. Prior to this, Chase said other alternatives for the existing title included "Non-English Language" and "Second Language," but were both rejected by the council since English is not always a primary language in the household. . . .

Communication sophomore Tamara Murray said the movement from "Foreign Language Requirement" to "Language Requirement" doesn't bother her.

"It makes sense," Murray said. "By assuming English is the only non-foreign language, the term could seem discriminatory. It's something I don't usually think about as a native speaker."


Opinion electing Chief Justice Roy Moore senator, oops, opinion removing the Chief Justice, is available here. It's only 13 pages.


More on Judicial Philosophy: Thoughtful posts beget thoughtful responses. In this case, Rick Hasen, Stephen Bainbridge, and Matt Yglesias respond to Larry Solum's excellent blog on judicial philosophy.

In a very lengthy post, Steve suggests "that the politicization of the judicial confirmation process is a symptom of the broader legalization of politics." Matt challenges Larry's contention that "neoformalist" judging leads to less politicized judging. Rick questions whether politicized judging is properly dubbed a form of "corruption." My guess is that Larry will respond to these replies, as they merit serious consideration.

I will provide a take on these issues--especially the position articulated by Matt--in an op-ed I expect to run in tomorrow's New York Sun (to which, I am told there will be a publicly accessible link). CAVEAT: This is a complicated issue and I am sure I will modify and refine my opinions on this over time. But stimulated by the thoughts of Larry and others, this is the direction in which I am currently moving.

In my necessarily brief piece, I will distinguish between judges who ignore the parts of the Constitution that get in the way of their political agenda--whether it be the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, the Second Amendment, the Ninth Amendment or the Privileges or Immunities Clause--and judges who exercise the discretion properly allowed by the more abstract provisions of the Constitution. (In my view both "judicial liberals" and "judicial conservatives" of both parties are guilty of this sin. They just differ on the provisions they ignore and the reasons they ignore them.)

Though reasonable people may differ on who is which, in principle the former type of nominees should be rejected; the latter should be approved even though, when one party controls both the presidency and Senate, this will move judicial results in the political direction of that party. This "ideological" movement is an inevitable consequence of our political mode of nominating and confirming judges. When this natural gravitation is obstructed, either by a minority filibuster, distorting the views of a nominee, or by using unsavory muck-raking tactics, the "downward spiral" so aptly named by Larry is what results. Note that when the Senate and presidency are in different hands, a far less dangerous kind of stalemate results.

The solution for those who dissent from the party controlling the presidency and Senate is (1) to oppose candidates on their merits--including on their judicial philosophy--and (2) to work to regain control of the presidency and Senate--in part perhaps on the basis of this very issue. This is what Republicans, for better or worse, did after 50 years in the judicial wilderness. Using unfounded smears and unconstitutional tactics (assuming anyone has ever done this) to block the consequences of their having used the political process to obtain this sort of political control undermines the normal lubricant that prevents a partisan-by-design system from collapsing.


Reparations: Those interested in the issues David raises below-- how long a claim for reparations ought to last, and to whom it is owed-- might want to look at the following (besides Nozick's well-known but brief suggestion that claims for reparations in principle never expire):
Jeremy Waldron, Superceding Historical Injustice," from Ethics
Section 5 of Lukas Meyer's SEP entry on "Intergenerational Justice"
The website of this upcoming conference on reparations
I discuss reparations, ethnic conflict, and adverse possession at length in The Multiculturalism of Fear. I argue that claims to actually have lands restored expire fairly quickly once innocent third parties have had possession (but not so quickly as to condemn the SOuth African attempt to undo post-1948 expropriations of black-owned property), but that claims for compensation take much longer to expire-- except when there is a serious historical rupture in the corporate identity of the wrongdoer (i.e. the state).


Solum on Judicial Philosophy: A truly excellent post today by Larry Solum on the Legal Theory Blog. Here is how it ends:

What happens when we complete the conceptual reorientation and see judging as a mere extension of ordinary politics? Nothing good. The bottom of a downward spiral of politicization is a thoroughly politicized judiciary. We know what that looks like. It exists in odd corners of the United States, where lawyers know that winning even in a run of the mill tort case is almost entirely a function of how much you have contributed to the local political machine. A thouroughly politicized judiciary is the norm in much of the third world, and the result is that the transparency required for well-functioning markets cannot be achieved--at enormous costs in human welfare. In a thoroughly politicized judiciary, every case is a patronage opportunity or a chance to score political points.

Tom Daschle watched The Batchelor last night. But did he sleep peacefully, his dreams untroubled by the damage that both parties have done to the rule of law? I hope not.
You really need to read this one from the beginning.

UPDATE: Thoughful posts beget thoughtful responses, in this case from Rick Hasen, Stephen Bainbridge, and Matt Yglesias.

In a very lengthy post, Steve suggests "that the politicization of the judicial confirmation process is a symptom of the broader legalization of politics." Matt challenges Larry's contention that "neoformalist" judging leads to less politicized judging. Rick questions whether politicized judging is properly dubbed a form of "corruption."

My guess is that Larry will respond to these replys, as they merit serious consideration. I will provide a take on these issues in an op-ed I expect to run in tomorrow's New York Sun. Hopefully, there will be a publicly accessible link.


Gay marriage and the Constitution: Pro-gay-marriage activists are now arguing that state "defense of marriage" amendments violate the Bill of Attainder Clause; and a federal district court judge in Nebraska just suggested that such a theory is viable, denying the defendants' motion to dismiss. Citizens for Equal Protection v. Attorney General, 2003 WL 22571708 (D. Neb. Nov. 10). (Please let me know if you know where the opinion might be available on the Web.)

     I think the plaintiffs' arguments should be rejected: The challenged Nebraska constitutional provision,
Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domstic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.
is an entirely proper exercise of Nebraska citizens' power. The court reasons that "Section 29 does not just withhold a benefit; it actually prohibits same-sex relationship couples from working to obtain governmental benefits" ("working" meaning "working effectively through the legislative process" -- obviously they can still work through proposing a constitutional amendment). But all constitutional constraints operate this way.

     The Establishment Clause prohibits groups who want to establish a church from working to obtain that governmental benefit. The privilege against self-incrimination prohibits some victims' rights advocates from working to obtain certain new criminal justice procedures. The same is true of state constitutional provisions. The whole point of a constitution is to withdraw certain topics from the standard legislative process, thus keeping advocates of certain positions from effectively working to get what they want through the standard legislative process.

     That just isn't a Bill of Attainder Clause violation, and no Supreme Court cases suggest that it is. (There are a few race-related cases that have taken this view in narrow circumstances, but on race discrimination grounds, not Bill of Attainder Clause grounds.) I have to run, and can't blog much further on this; but I thought I'd briefly mention the decisions, which seems to haven't gotten much press coverage yet (though maybe I missed some).

     The court decision isn't a final victory for plaintiffs, even in that court -- the court just denied a motion to dismiss, and there'll be more proceedings ahead, and doubtless eventually an appeal to the court of appeals. But I think it should be and will be in the news, both buttressing the resolve of the pro-gay-marriage groups, and strengthening the argument for the Federal Marriage Amendment. I still oppose the FMA, because I think the courts will ultimately correctly reject these claims. But the more courts, even trial courts, show a willingness to set aside state voters' and legislators' decisions on these matters, the stronger the argument for the FMA will be, both politically and logically. (I tentatively support gay marriage, but I think it should be decided through the constitutionally authorized processes in each state, and not by the federal courts.)

UPDATE: Reader Kevin Flanagan kindly sent me a copy of the decision, which I've uploaded here.


Changing your preferences, sexual and otherwise: I was much intrigued by Eugene's post from yesterday, where he defended the value of technologies that help you change your preferences. In particular he defended the value of a (hypothetical) pill that could change your basic sexual desires from homosexual to heterosexual, or vice versa.

Such a pill, if it existed, would be the subject of enormous contention. I agree with Eugene that it would be for the better, on the whole, to allow such technologies, but I also see significant costs. In particular, there might well be greater pressures on those who wished to keep their initial orientation. For instance, if each gay person was somebody "who chose to stay gay," I suspect public attitudes (of the non-gay) would change. It is no accident that many gay people wish to promote awareness of their belief (which I share) that gayness is commonly a basic orientation from birth, not a later lifestyle choice.

And the gay community would itself split, have you ever read about how the deaf community reacts to new technologies to restore hearing to some of the deaf? It is, to say the least, controversial, and in my book being able to hear counts as a benefit in a way that a particular sexual orientation does not.

Even if such a pill worked, how fully would it have to operate? You could imagine previously gay people "trying on" heterosexuality, through such a pill, but not having enough history, memory, background, or whatever, to really "pull it off." Even if some people were happy with the switch, I suspect many would not be. Nor would I expect the decisions to try the switch to be very rational. And the people who didn't switch might be tempted to always wonder if they should, to the detriment of getting on with their lives.

In short, sometimes it is simply better to accept the way things are and put subsequent decisions behind oneself and ignore them. Much of marriage, for instance, operates on this basis.

The best case scenario would be that many heteros experiment with being homosexual for a while, and that various biases and distinctions break down. I don't expect this would happen much, but surely it is one possibility.

Why allow the pills? First, it fits under my notion of personal liberty. Second, the overall potential for desire-altering technologies may be enormous. Eugene points out numerous good examples, such as creating desire in yourself for only healthy food. Also imagine the benefits of technologies to change pedophiles into more normal people. I would rather let the sector develop than try to regulate or fine-tune it. But on the particular issue of a pill to become heterosexual, I am not sure that such a pill would make the world better off.


More reparations: This time, it's a Jerusalem Post article saying that Europeans should return Jewish property seized 500 years ago (including, for instance, land that now contains churches built over destroyed synagogues):
Lists of confiscated Jewish communal property in Europe should be expanded to include not just buildings taken by the Nazis or the Soviets, but by their medieval forebears as well. The Foreign Ministry, working together with Jewish organizations, should press the Europeans to come clean, and demand the return of our stolen patrimony.

After all, from a moral point of view, our right to Monti-Sion in Spanish Majorca is no less compelling than our right to Jewish property in Germany, Poland or elsewhere.
     Note the two mistakes here: First, the argument rests on the notion of group guilt and group entitlement, which has so often been used against Jews, now being used supposedly on behalf of Jews. So some Jews in Spain had their property stolen. That's horrible. But why should it now be given to completely different Jews today, simply because they share the same ethnicity or religion?

     Second, the argument completely ignores the rights of subsequent owners of the property. There are people, entirely innocent people, who now own or use the property that was stolen 500 years ago. They've invented their time, effort, and money to keeping it up, improving it, and investing orders of magnitude more into it than it was worth 500 years ago when it was taken.

     Yes, I understand the argument that stolen property wasn't rightfully the thief's in the first place, and therefore no subsequent purchaser or user has any right to it. I also understand the argument that for properties owned by the Catholic Church, the property is still owned by an entity that was, in many instances, one of the malefactors responsible for seizing it. But applying these arguments 500 years down the road is substituting legal fictions for reality.

     The principles that bona fide purchasers can't get rightful possession of stolen property, and that corporate bodies may have obligations that persist over long times, are sound over the short-term, but they become less and less just over the long-term. At some point, they become ridiculous, because they no longer respond to the moral claims of innocent parties -- and, as I mentioned, the contribution to the current value of the property by innocent parties (real people, not corporate bodies) over 500 years vastly exceeds any contribution by the original thieves. One can debate where to draw the line; but 500 years is way past the line. And if you abstract from the property itself and instead ask for compensation for the governments, you're really asking for compensation from current taxpayers, who are likewise innocent parties.

     The Russians aren't entitled to compensation for damages from the Mongols. The American Indians aren't entitled to compensation from the Spanish. Mediterranean Europe isn't entitled to compensation from the Romans, nor the Romans from the Carthaginians. Real people today shouldn't have their property taken away today because of the sins of others centuries past, and given to others today who weren't the ones who were sinned against.

     Such reparations would pile injustice on injustice. They would lead people to dwell on 500-year-old sins rather than think about the future. And they would reinforce the notions of racial/ethnic/religious guilt and desert that often helped cause the problem in the first place.

     Thanks to Sam, in the comments thread at Protocols.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Amusing line that I was recently reminded of:
Flattery will get you nowhere -- but keep talking.
I forget who the source was; maybe SF writer Steve Barnes, but my memory is hazy.


Seaweed and the law: The Rhode Island Constitution, article I, section 17, says (among other things),
The people shall continue to enjoy and freely exercise all . . . the privileges of the shore, to which they have been heretofore entitled under the charter and usages of this state, including but not limited to . . . the gathering of seaweed . . .
     On a different note, observe that the provision says more than that they have the right: They shall freely exercise the right, and they shall enjoy it. Expect prosecutions for "failure to gather seaweed" (first degree), or "failure to gather seaweed with a suitably sunny attitude" (second).

     (Want a serious takeaway from this post? How about: The meaning of a constitutional provision often can't be determined by literally interpreting its words in their modern lay sense. Sounds like an obvious principle, but people sometimes ignore it.)


Life imitates art? Well, not really; both just exploit a pretty obvious application of existing technology. Still, compare a minor plot device in my Legal Affairs short story with, a service that lets people compose e-mails to loved ones that will be sent only after the e-mailer is dead. (Thanks to GeekPress for the pointer.)


Choice about one's own reactions: Eric Muller, whose work I always appreciate, criticizes my post that defended the value of research into how people can change their sexual orientation. I'm not sure I fully understand Eric's criticism, but the key portion seems to be this (though since I might not understand it, I might have gotten it wrong -- check his whole post):
[I]t is incoherent to speak of a human being “freed” of internal human pressures and needs. The end result of psychoanalysis is a degree of integration of conscious and unconscious life, not freedom from unconscious life. . . .

I think [this] means that Eugene is wrong to identify freedom from inner constraint as an unambiguously positive thing. Freedom from outer constraint might be, but an objective of freedom from inner constraint will probably just lead to misery because of its impossibility. Understanding of inner constraint seems a far better objective, for that will allow individuals to come to terms with their own unique makeup and to decide what to make of their own sexual desire.
     I can't quite figure out what to make of this argument, so let me approach this from a different direction. Say that someone developed a pill that could make people stop strongly wanting alcohol, or drugs, or unhealthy foods. I think that this would be a good invention because it would give people an extra choice. Some people might not exercise the choice -- for instance, I handle alcohol just fine, and if the pill would also make me stop enjoying alcohol, it would be a net minus for me. But others might really value the choice, because it would keep their bodily urges from making them do things that they later regret. We might say, without straining the term "freedom" much, that the pill can free them of their physical urges.

     Of course, these are all examples of urges most of us would think are bad or at least often bad (I think drinking alcohol is generally fine, but strongly wanting it is more dangerous), and I don't think homosexual desire is bad. But Eric's point, as I understand it, isn't that trying to change your sexual desires is wrong because they're good desires -- it's that trying to change such "inner constraints," regardless of their moral quality, is impossible, and likely to lead to misery. I think my examples above cast doubt on that.

     But let me shift now to more neutral desires. Say that someone believes for philosophical reasons that he should be a vegan; but he finds that he really wants to eat meat, dairy, and eggs, and eating meat, dairy, and eggs gives him great pleasure. Moreover, he finds that eating the vegan foods (at least to the exclusion of nonvegan ones) is very unpleasant, so he often slips and eats meat, and when he doesn't slip, he's miserable as a result. I think it would be good if we could find a way in which he could change his food desires, from what is in my view one morally acceptable option (being an omnivore) to another equally morally acceptable option (being a vegan). We'd have increased his choices, and probably increased his opportunity for happiness. (If he's one of those people who derives affirmative benefit from resisting temptation through willpower alone, that's fine; he has the choice not to take the pill.)

     So far, I hope that all I've said isn't psychologically, morally, or philosophically controversial. I suspect most of us think that a pill (or some other mechanism) that could reduce desire (especially strong desire) for alcohol, drugs, or unhealthy foods would be very good, because it would provide a very valuable, possibly life-saving choice to people. A mechanism that could make one like vegan food, and not crave meat, would probably be nice, because it would provide a choice that will be valuable to some people. Both would help free us from being controlled by our physical desires, and help us do what we find makes us happy, rather than what gives us immediate physical gratification. (Of course, if the gratification is very great compared to the alternatives, then we might prefer it, despite the regret it causes; but, again, the person would have his choice.)

     Why should it be any different for mechanisms that help people sexually desire the opposite sex, or sexually desire the same sex, or not crave sexual variety, or not crave rough sex? Why shouldn't we equally welcome the opportunity for people to have more choice about their sexual satisfaction, rather than being at the mercy of the way their involuntary sexual reactions operate?


More on Recess Appointments: In response to my earlier blog and those of others such as Pejman Yousefzadeh, Stephen Bainbridge examines whether game theory illuminates the current conflict over judicial nominations. Check out his Game Theory and the Judicial Nominations Impasse.


Speech and academic freedom at Emory: A troubling incident, reported by Erin O'Connor. I should also mention that it sounds to me like O'Connor's interpretation in the last paragraph is right: The phrase, as best I can tell from the account, was not racist; and while I probably wouldn't have used it myself, the fact that this triggers the whole "hostile environment" investigation machinery shows yet again how broad the possible scope of such speech suppression has ended up being. Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.

UPDATE: Ralph Luker agrees with Erin O'Connor and me on this, but quotes someone who disagrees. I agree with Ralph rather than his correspondent, but I thought I'd pass it along for those who are interested.

FURTHER UPDATE: O'Connor and Luker are now more critical of the anthropologist's statement, and suggest that the nonracist explanation is not that plausible. The statement still sounds to me like it probably wasn't racist (in the sense that it didn't convey contempt or dislike towards a racial group, the definition of "racist" that seems relevant here), for the reasons mentioned in the last paragraph of O'Connor's first post.

     But even if the matter were more ambiguous, it seems to me the proper answer is a "What exactly do you mean by that?" delivered by the offended party in a frosty tone of voice. This is both something of a reprimand itself, and an opportunity for the speaker to clarify the ambiguity. And in any event, I firmly stand by my original point that even racist statements (if this was one) are within the scope of academic freedom, and the responses to them should be condemnation and opprobrium, not the threat of administrative sanctions.


Objectivist Pickup Lines: My favorite: "Why don't you get undressed so I can check your premises?"
Via Freespace.


What blogging adds: The CounterRevolutionary went to the New York Public Library, found New York Times articles from 1945-46 about difficulties in the occupation of Germany, and is posting excerpts on his site. There are of course dissimilarities between 1945-46 Germany and 2003 Iraq; but this is certainly a valuable addition to the debate -- and without blogs, I doubt that it would have been made. Now InstaPundit has picked it up and called it to the attention of thousands of readers; maybe the press will too. A great example of the value of blogs.


I'm giggling at the idea that Jews can't be anti-Semites. For some extreme examples, click here. And of course, if you consider Marx a Jew (I don't; his family converted and raised him as a Christian), then one of the most influential anti-Semites of all times was a Jew.
UPDATE: Pejman elaborates, and Ted Barlow replies in Pejman's comments section.


The U.S. Constitution and foreign law: I highly recommend Jacob's colum in The New Republic, which he linked to below; I think that he says makes very good sense. As I've said before, some reliance on international sources is well within the American legal tradition; and I think that Jacob's distinction between Justice Stevens's use of foreign sources in Atkins (the death penalty for mentally retarded killers case) and Justice Kennedy's use of such sources in Lawrence is quite sound.

     Nonetheless, a recent article I read has led me to be somewhat more troubled by such foreign legal influences. The article spoke of the possible effect of treaties on the Constitution, but I think some aspects of it apply to use of foreign law (in constitutional matters) more generally. This doesn't negate Jacob's very sensible points, but it does suggest some extra caution may be called for.

     I blogged about this piece already over a month ago, but this struck me as an important enough -- and, given some Justices' recent speeches urging more reliance on international sources, timely enough -- that it was worth reposting:
SIGNING TREATIES MAY ERODE THE BILL OF RIGHTS: American decisions to sign on to international treaties may erode the protections of the Bill of Rights, for instance the First Amendment. Yes, the Supreme Court has supposedly said otherwise, in Reid v. Covert (1957): "[N]o agreement with a foreign nation can confer power on the [federal government] which is free from the restraints of the Constitution" (speaking of the Bill of Rights). But it turns out that this supremacy of the Bill of Rights really isn't that strong: The President and the Senate can, in the long run, "insinuat[e] international law" that would create "a partial displacement of constitutional hegemony" (for instance, with "an international norm against hate speech . . . supply[ing] a basis for prohibiting it, the First Amendment notwithstanding"). "In the short term," international norms would and should be "relevan[t] . . . in domestic constitutional interpretation." But "In the long run, it may point to the Constitution's more complete subordination."

     These quotes are not from some anti-internationalist "The U.N. is coming to take away our liberties" conservatives. They are from a recent article by Prof. Peter Spiro, one of the leading American international law scholars; the article, called Treaties, International Law, and Constitutional Rights, was published in the Stanford Law Review, which is generally seen as one of the top 3 legal journals in the country.

     Prof. Spiro is both defending the notion that treaties should be able to trump constitutional rights -- "If some constitutional norms are more appropriately set at the international level" (and he believes they are), "that should justify a treaty power that, in some cases, overcomes even the Bill of Rights" -- and predicting that treaties will over time do so. Courts, he acknowledges, would try to "maintain[] the formal hegemony of the domestic constitution," but "this formal hegemony may disguise a loss of domestic constitutional autonomy over the long run." "Constitutional rights 'adjusted' by treaty norms are changed by them. The Constitution is read to conform with the treaty."

     Of course, some people may be quite happy about this: They might well conclude that parts of the Bill of Rights should be superseded by "international" norms. They may think the international lawmaking community (mostly, I suspect, composed of European legal and political elites, plus of course those segments of American legal and political elites that are involved in this field) will indeed reach better results than those provided for by the current understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

     But those of us who disagree should vigilantly watch for, and resist, the "displacement of constitutional hegemony" that the article welcomes. We should insist that the President and the Senate consistently stress in all the treaties they sign and ratify that our agreement to the treaty is constrained by our Constitution, and that the treaty should be read to conform to the Constitution, and not the other way around. We should criticize judges who rely on international norms in interpreting American constitutional provisions (in this respect, reading Prof. Spiro's article has led me to reconsider some of my views in this post, and to view with much more alarm reliance on international law in American constitutional interpretation). And we should assiduously publicize the ways in which international rules are, in our view, worse than ours, for instance to show that foreign bans on "hate speech" actually end up banning (as American First Amendment thinking would have suggested) a good deal of speech that deserves to be protected (see, for instance, this post by David Bernstein).

     Our Constitution is far from perfect, both as written and as interpreted. I think courts should indeed change their views on many issues, and people should try to press courts to do so. But this should be our decision as Americans. We should not cede our control over our constitutional rights to international bodies, international professional elites, or even to our own President and Senate.

     In any event, that's just my opinion. Read the Stanford Law Review article, which is fortunately quite readable and not terribly long (30 law review pages) for a different view.


'The Human Stain' on America's Campuses: From my op-ed in Monday's Orange County Register:
In the new movie "The Human Stain," Coleman Silk, a professor of classics at a small liberal arts college, is hounded by charges of racism when he utters the word "spook" in class. Despite the fact that Silk used the word in a non-racist context, student activists rally against him, and his colleagues cravenly refuse to support him, lest they be accused of insensitivity. This event marks the beginning of the descent of Silk's life from respected academic to scorned recluse. While Coleman Silk is a product of novelist Philip Roth's imagination, real-life professors have found themselves embattled by equally absurd and abusive complaints based on classroom remarks.
The Register version is not available on the Web, but you can read a slightly longer version here (scroll down or do a "Control F" search for Bernstein).


Now online: My new TNR column-- on a topic Eugene has blogged before, the uses of comparative law in U.S. constitutional interpretation-- is up.


Judicial review: Will Baude:
On page 40 of Democracy and Distrust, [Ely] says, "at the time of (the Fourteenth Amendment's) ratification only three Acts of Congress had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court." Despite the copious endnotes (ninety-some in that chapter alone), there's no reference for that claim, which I find a pretty fascinating one. Does anybody know what three?
The more I think about this, the more sure I am that I've always heard that the Court only did so twice before the Civil War-- the Judiciary Act (in relevant part) in Marbury and the Missouri Compromise in Dred Scott. I wonder whether the Court struck down an act of Congress after the beginning of the Civil War but before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment...? David B, you're likely the person who knows...

UPDATE (from "second update" to Baude's post linked to above): Ex Parte Garfield was indeed from 1866, as I guessed the third case might be. But I note the following from readers.

Seth Tillman:
The best (perhaps only) source addressing this question is Professor
Corwin's annotation of the US Constitution,
aptly titled: the U.S. Const. Analysis and Interpretation.

Using July 1868 as the cutoff date for the 14th Amendment, he lists (in addition to the Missouri Compromise and the 1789 Judiciary Act) --

Reichart v. Phelps, 73 US 160 (1867): Act of Feb 20, 1812 (2 Stat. 677); violative of 5th Amendment Due Process;

Ex parte Garland, 71 US 333 (1867): Act of Jan 24, 1865 (13 Stat. 424); violative of ex poste facto and interference with President's pardon power.

You might want to add Hayburn's Case -- but that was not a Supreme Court case. And Professor Currie would add (my favorite) Hollingsworth v. Virgina for striking down a provision of the 1789 Judiciary Act -- but I don't agree with Professor Currie's analysis.
Howard Gillman:
For what it's worth, the best discussion of the exercise of judicial review before the Civil War is by Mark Graber: "Naked Land Transfers and American Constitutional Development", 53 Vand. L. Rev. 73 (2000). Mark's argument is that the Marshall and Taney Courts struck down MANY acts of Congress before the Civil War, mostly dealing with Congressional land grants that (unintentionally) had the effect of depriving people of property rights that had been previously granted.


Pro-choice: I thought I'd mention one more item about the attempts to suppress arguments that gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation -- the gender to which they're attracted (orientation), and not just the gender with which they have sex (behavior). As I mentioned before, I'm very tentatively skeptical that this is possible, at least for most homosexuals; the tentativeness comes from my not having done any real research on the subject -- my judgment here is purely intuitive.

     But if this is possible, surely it would be good to research and publicize this. I say this not because I think gays ought to try to become straight; I'm fine with people being either. Precisely because I'm fine with people being either gay or straight, though, I think it's good if people can get to choose what they want to be. Even if sexual orientation is innate, I think that from an individualistic perspective (which I generally adopt, especially in such matters), that's a bug, not a feature. We should want people to have more choice in how they lead their lives, rather than being slaves to their physical reactions.

     Now I suspect that most gays wouldn't be happy to become straight -- that's fine, it would be their choice. But some might have a different view. They might have religious beliefs (which I don't share, but which they're entitled to have) that homosexuality is bad. They may be bisexual and married to someone they love, but find that their homosexual desires interfere with their happiness.

     They may want to raise their kids with both a male and a female parent, and conclude that it's easier to do that the old-fashioned way rather than coming up with some new system that works when one parent is homosexual. They may really, really want to please their parents, who disapprove of their homosexuality. They may want to avoid some of the social opprobrium that they might still face as homosexuals. Or they might live in some other country, where homosexuality can lead to very severe punishment, and want to avoid that punishment.

     Not all these reasons might be "worthy" -- but the point of being pro-choice, in the sense of generally wanting people to have more choices about important aspects of their lives, is letting people make even choices that I may disapprove of. Also, I realize that giving people this choice may cause social problems, for instance by imposing more pressure on some people to exercise such a choice even if they really don't want to. That, incidentally, is also an argument often made against abortion rights, the right to have premarital sex, the growing social acceptability of women working, and so on.

      But a pro-choice perspective suggests that we should generally not use this as a reason to limit people's choices -- that though extra choice may sometimes be harmful this way, on balance it's generally better to give people more choices, especially in matters that are very important in their lives. Naturally, there must be some limitation when the choices quite directly or seriously interfere with others' well-being, which of course is one of the arguments against abortion choice. But the strong presumption, I think, should be in favor of choice, and I don't think this presumption is rebutted here.

     So I think that people who are genuinely in favor of sexual autonomy (the heart, for instance, of Lawrence v. Texas) and individual choice should welcome research into whether gays can choose to become straight (or vice versa). Maybe after a huge amount of research has been done, we can conclude that further research is cranky. But I highly doubt that, in the merely 30 years since homosexuality stopped being listed as a psychiatric disorder, psychologists have really come to an iron-clad conclusion on the subject. So I think the cause of sexual autonomy, individual choice, and human dignity (in the sense of human ability to control their drives, rather than vice versa) is better served by serious inquiry into this, rather than by attempts to suppress such inquiry.

     See, incidentally, here for a presentation by Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, who is apparently a generally quite well-regarded Columbia University psychologist, which suggests that change in orientation might be possible -- I'm hardly persuaded by this, but neither can I say that this is obviously bunk.


The Threat of Recess Appointments: The Hill is reporting today (link courtesy of Larry Solum's Legal Theory Blog via Rick Hasan's Election Law Blog) that Republicans are urging President Bush to attempt to end the filibuster of his judicial nominees by threatening to make recess appointments.

Conservative activists have for some time now juggled the idea of using recess appointments to circumvent adamant Democratic opposition. However, the idea appears to have gained momentum among lawmakers in the wake of numerous failed attempts to hold an up-or-down vote on several of the president's most qualified nominees. "This is something I've been pushing for," said Jon Kyl (Ariz.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, speaking of the recess option.
While some propose the appointment of already nominated judges such as Miguel Estrada and Charles Pickering, others have made a more radical suggestion:

An alternative to appointing nominees such as Pickering, Bush could appoint ultra-conservative alternates to fill vacancies on the bench. Such substitutes might make the blocked nominees seem less controversial by comparison.

"You could also fill the positions with interim appointments who could step aside [when blocked nominees clear the Senate.]" said Kyl, adding that the president could make a very good case for that option.
Some may recall that I made precisely this suggestion (though I never suggested "ultraconservatives") in National Review Online back in April in Benching Bork: How to End the War Over Judges. (Larry Solum has more on this option here.)

I view the more radical proposal to be far more practical than appointing nominees who have failed due to a filibuster. Appointing them would simply reward the Democrat's tactics by making their targets second-class temporary judges. Besides, most of these appointees would decline this "honor" as Estrada reportedly already has. The threat is not credible.

Appointing academics, or judges nearing retirement or with no hope of elevation to a higher court, could be a win-win maneuver. For law professors especially, it would be a like a advanced judicial sabbatical that they would not have to forgo tenure to experience. Given that these appointees will be smart and knowledgeable, they would be a bigger threat while on the Court than the appointees currently being held up. And given that they are more likely to accept, the threat of their appointment is more credible. Should the threat be executed, no serious candidates for life-tenured positions will be ruined, and the world may find that conservatives and libertarians make good judges after all.

But the point of this exercise is not to put these professors and judges temporarily on the bench. Indeed, I would not support for permanent appointments all those I listed as prospective recess appointees. The point is to end what Larry Solum has dubbed, the "downward spiral" we are in concerning judicial nominations, by giving Democrats an incentive to cooperate by promising floor votes on all judicial nominees. Only a credible threat will work, and only the more radical proposal is credible. In return, Republicans should pledge to change the rules of the Senate so the nominees of future Democrat Presidents receive an up-or-down vote on their judicial nominations. (The future vetting role of the Judiciary Committee in this process complicates things, but this too should be included in any negotiated settlement.) If all goes well, these recess appointments need never be made.

We can then move to what should be the most important issue: just who should be appointed to the bench? Dems have helpfully and appropriately raised the issue, but this is a debate in which Republicans have been unwilling or unable intellectually to engage. "Strict construction" and "enforcing, not making the law" are wholly inadequate and vacuous formulations of what an appropriate judicial philosophy should be. Similarly empty is "judicial activism."

I for one do not share the judicial philosophy of "judicial conservatives" (a term not to be equated with political conservatives). Just as "judicial liberals" (for want of a better term) would ignore those parts of the Constitution that do not comport with their view of Justice, judicial conservatives are willing to ignore the parts of the Constitution--such as the 9th Amendment and the Privileges or Immunities Clause--that do not comport with their vision of the Rule of Law. I favor enforcing the original meaning of the whole Constitution as amended, though I also freely acknowledge that where the Constitution is written at a high level of generality, it requires judicial construction (as opposed to interpretation) not inconsistent with its original meaning. Indeed, this partially open-ended character of the U.S. Constitution is one reason it has lasted so long and is worth preserving. But this is too large a topic to discuss in what has grown to be an overly long blog.


"Campus Truth": Another denunciation as "racist" the "Campus Truth" ad contrasting Israeli and Palestinian reactions to 9/11, this time at Yale, and an excellent response. (Disclaimer: The fact that I deem something an "excellent response" does not mean that I agree with the content or tone of every sentence in the piece.) UPDATE: Just noted that Instapundit had already linked to the "excellent response."


Sullivan: Andrew Sullivan is blogging up a storm today with excellent critiques of the Bush economic record and the proposed "Federal Marriage Amendment."


Tavis Smiley Show: I should be on this public radio show today, discussing the Guantanamo detention cases. They're calling me this morning, but I assume that it's for a taping; I don't know when the show will be aired (likely different times in different markets).


Norton!: Actor Art Carney died yesterday. RIP. There've been a lot of wonderful things on TV over the years, but nothing, for my money, any greater than Carney's portrayal of Ed Norton on the original Honeymooners. The pairing with Jackie Gleason was simply magic; Carney and Jackie Gleason were a lot like Lennon and McCartney -- interesting and talented when apart, transcendent in tandem.


Sic transit gloria mundi: What do Samuel Blatchford, Ward Hunt, John McKinley, Smith Thompson, and Thomas Todd have in common? For the answer, see here (and don't drag the curser over the link, since the URL will give it away). And, no, I wouldn't have gotten this one, either.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


Anti-Anti-Left-wing Extremists: Reading through some blog posts, emails, and accompanying comments responding to some of my recent posts, I notice that there are many "anti-anti-left-wing extremists" out there. Before the Soviet Union fell, many on the liberal left were "anti-anti-Communists;" they had no particular sympathy for the Soviet Union, but they generally neglected to criticize the Soviets, and also often criticized conservative anti-Communists. Anti-anti-Communists came in two basic flavors: (1) those who thought that Communism was a side issue, a distraction, compared to the real issues facing the U.S.--"How dare you focus on Communism when millions of people in the U.S. have no health insurance?!"; and (2) those who were concerned that any criticism of Communism would play into the hands of the "extreme" anti-Communists, who had too much influence over the government and were a greater threat to world peace and stability than were the Soviets.

So now we have "anti-anti-left-wing extremists" who come in similar flavors: (1) those who think talking about left-wing extremism is a distraction from the real issues facing the country ("how dare you talk about "the growing threat to civil liberties from antidiscrimination laws" when John Ashcroft is trampling on civil rights, the media is controlled by large corporations, and millions of people have no health insurance?!"): and (2) those who are afraid that any criticism of left-wing extremism will play into the hands of the already-way-too-powerful Bush (or in some cases, Sharon) Administration ("ANSWER isn't a threat to world peace, the Bush Administration is.").

My view is that left-liberals do themselves no favors by engaging in Popular Frontism with the likes of ANSWER or MEChA, or even in failing to vigorously condemn them. In the end, Howard Dean liberals and George Bush conservatives are all part of the same broad "liberal" family, while racialists, Communists, and other left-wing extremists are fundamentally illiberal, and should not be given any political quarter. It's shortsighted and a bit foolish to argue that because an ideological group lacks significant political power right now that it should therefore be ignored, even if it has a strong ideology, a foothold in some major societal institutions, and a record of success, especially on specific issues, elsewhere.

In the heat of ongoing political battles the fundamental consanguinity between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans can be easily forgotten, but it shouldn't be. My political views are not especially close to either Dean's or Bush's but I'm not afraid that either of them would put me in a concentration camp if he had the power to do so.

(And yes, for the same reason both George Bushes should have tossed Pat Buchanan out on his tuchas and out of the GOP before he left on his volition, and conservatives who dally with groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens should be ashamed of themselves. And some conservatives went way overboard in their rhetoric on Clinton, just as some liberals are doing now with Bush.)


Jews and Communism: Regarding Eugene's post below, I've been told that Jews in Central and Western Europe were also highly overrepresented in "liberal" (in the European sense) movements, but I've never been able to find an adequate history of the subject. (Certainly in the U.S., Jews have been overrepresented in "liberalism"--Friedman, Nozick, Chodorov, Rothbard, Epstein, Von Mises, Szasz, to name a few, not to mention many of your friendly neighborhood Volokh Conspirators.) In Eastern Europe, liberalism was weak to non-existent, with the choice for political activists often among socialism, communism, and anti-Semitic "Christian" xenophobic nationalism. Not surprising that Jews identified with the "left" in Russia; anti-Semitism was the official policy of the czars--my maternal and my father's paternal ancestors fled from it. Jews were overrepresented among the Mensheviks as well as the Bolsheviks. Not knowing that Bolshevism was going to turn into Leninism, much less Stalinism, when it came down to the Reds versus the Whites (who slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews during the Civil War) I would have supported the Reds myself. UPDATE: Reader Mark Brady notes that in parts of Russia another option, a smaller group called the "Greens," was available. The label was applied to some wildly disparate movements, but it's hard to imagine that overall they could have been worse than the Reds or the Whites.


Drug War Insanity: I haven't noted my outrage at the stupidity, cruelty, and destructiveness of the Drug War lately, but this provides me with an opportunity to do so. I suppose that even if drugs were legal for adults, such incidents could still occur in high schools, but I'm sure it would be less common. When's the last time police acting like two-bit goons, guns drawn, raided a high school looking for beer or cigarettes?


Jews and Communism: A reader writes:
I wondered if you had already or would comment on this controversy in Germany. To be honest, until I read this and started doing some literature search, I had not realized that there were Jews involved in the Bolshevik revolution. . . .

I know that your background is from the Soviet Union, so you might have a particular [point of view] that would be pertinent here. To be honest, I remember railing against a former boyfriend in law school who maintained that Indira Gandhi's actions in India were a blot on women everywhere. I think that the German MP's remarks were very ill-advised, but I wonder if it was not overreaction on the part of the government. But as I say, I'd be interested in your take on the situation.
     I'm no historian of Communism, but my sense -- derived largely from my parents, who were anti-Communist Jews -- is that the Communist and Socialist movements were full of Jews. Marx, of course, was ethnically Jewish; so was Trotsky; and while I'm not sure how many other Soviet Communists were Jews, many Western ones were. (Look at some of the names in leading court cases: The Rosenbergs; Abrams; Stromberg; I can't be completely positive [some German names are German!], but I think these and many others were Jews. Another funny item -- if you look at Supreme Court obscenity cases, you find a huge number of Jewish defendants; Roth, Ginzburg, Ginsberg, Mishkin, and others. I have no explanation, there it is. Maybe we're just so darned sexy! Oh, never mind . . . .

     My parents' take on this is that we Jews are generally intellectual troublemakers (I say that part with pride), and generally somewhere on the Left (less pride there), whether moderate Left or far Left, so naturally a lot of Jews would gravitate towards this sort of far-Left intellectual troublemaking. One would expect a disproportionate number of Jews in many movements, and a doubly disproportionate number in this particularly nasty one, sorry to say.

     So the objection to the German legislator's comments can't be that Jews weren't in fact involved in the revolution and would-be other revolutions. Rather, it's that guilt is personal, rather than shared by all of a certain ethnicity. A Jew today isn't responsible for Jewish Communists; a white isn't responsible for slavery; a black isn't responsible for crimes by other blacks; a German isn't responsible for the actions of the Nazis. There are no guilty peoples, only guilty people.


I wouldn't have him arrested, but I'd punch him in the mouth... John Kerry thinks flag-burning should be legal (good), but feels the need to temper his defense of free speech by stating that "if I saw someone burning the flag, I'd punch them in the mouth because I love the flag" (bad). Meanwhile, Wesley Clark joins Dick Gephardt in supporting a constitutional amendment banning flag-burning.


Criminal "Hate Speech" Conviction for Willful Blindness: The Canadian case that got Prof. Martin so upset is R. v. Harding, 57 O.R. (3d) 333; 2001 Ont. Rep. LEXIS 376, in which the an Ontario appellate court upheld the defendant's (a Christian minister) criminal conviction for "wilfully [the court's spelling] promoting hatred against Muslims." To get an idea of the basis for the defendant's conviction, here is the court's description of one of the pamphlets that led to his conviction:
In the first pamphlet, entitled "Let's Take a Serious Look at What's Happening to Western [sic] High School" and addressed "Dear local resident", the appellant:
-- Describes horrific acts of violence committed by Muslims in other countries and comments that "[t]he Muslims who commit these crimes are no different than the Muslim believers living here in Toronto" and that he has found "no difference between the Muslims living here or anywhere else in the world";
-- Describes Muslims as "violent and hateful towards Jews, Christians and anyone else that denies or objects to their false religion" and states that "[t]he Muslim religion is full of hate and violence";
-- States that Muslims "sound peaceful and try to act peaceful, but underneath their false sheep's clothing, are raging wolves, seeking whom they may devour, and Toronto is definitely on their hit list";
-- Suggests that Muslims believe that polygamy "is allowed to any Muslim man in Canada or anywhere else in the world, as a Muslim man you just have to be able to afford them, like land or furniture, the more money you have, the more you can have";
-- Suggests that the auditorium at Weston Collegiate has been "turned into a mosque for the children to pray" and comments that "[t]eaching a false religion is always very dangerous, but teaching this particular violent religion in school to children is a very serious mistake".
-- States that the Muslim religion, and the fact that it is allowed in schools whereas Christianity is not, poses a "threat to our children".
I leave it to the reader's judgment whether such statements should lead to a criminal conviction with a potential jail sentence of up to five years.

Not only can you be convicted for such speech in Canada (note: the Canadian Supreme Court has not ruled on this case, and perhaps it would not agree with the outcome), you don't even have to intend to "promote hatred." Willful blindness, the court held, is sufficient for a conviction under the relevant statute. The Canadian Supreme Court originally upheld the relevant statute in the Keegstra case because it purportedly had a "stringent mens rea requirement." Willful blindness may not be an atypical standard in Canadian criminal law, but it's hardly "stringent" as mens rea requirements go. For example, in the U.S., tax protestors who sincerely believe the income tax is unconstitutional cannot be convicted of wilfull failure to pay income taxes if they were merely wilfully blind, as they all are.

For a discussion of the Canadian case holding that it's illegal to place or publish a newspaper ad quoting biblical verses condemning those who engage homosexual acts, see Eric Rasmussen's discussion here. While I disagree with Eric's views on gay-related issues, I am disturbed by the fact that the views he has previously expressed on his blog (discussed in the cover story in the 11/7 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education) could land him in jail if he lived in Canada. (On the other hand, kudos to Canada for decriminalizing marijuana! UPDATE: An informed Canadian reader tells me that contrary to the way it's been reported in the U.S. media, Canada has not in fact decriminalized marijuana, and is unlikely to do so in the near future.)


More on Lochner: While I was away last week, I missed this additional excellent post on Lochner from Eric Muller at Is that Legal?


Over 20,000 unique visitors (as counted by eXTReMe Tracking) yesterday.


Monitoring of lawyer-client communications: Eric Muller points to an odd order requiring just that:
You may remember my post about the Wyoming lawyer who tried to get a client to pay him with sex.

Well, the Wyoming Supreme Court has now imposed interim disciplinary sanctions on the lawyer, pending a full bar investigation. . . . The lawyer is allowed to speak to female clients only if a third person is present to monitor the conversation.

Yup, that's right. Ordinarily the presence of a third party destroys the privilege, but in this case the state's highest court is mandating just that.

Now, to be sure, the court's order provides that "monitoring of these client conversations will be done in a manner to preserve their confidentiality." And maybe a Wyoming court would be obliged to treat the presence of a third party in this case as preserving rather than destroying the privilege. But would courts in other jurisdictions be obliged to do so? . . . Does it violate the equal protection rights of [the lawyer's] women clients that their conversations must be monitored while the lawyer's conversations with male clients are not? . . .
Eric has more details, and links to the stories (including the story about the original sex-for-representation complaint).


Certainty: Reading about some of the recent attempts to punish antigay speech, I'm struck by the certainty that such attempts must rest on. Obviously gays can't or shouldn't be reoriented to becoming straights. Obviously gays aren't more likely to be child molesters than straights. Obviously being gay isn't a choice.

     The funny thing is that 30 years ago, the dominant view in society, as best I can tell, was the opposite: People were just as certain about lots of moral and pragmatic assertions suggesting that homosexuality is evil and harmful. At times, they were quite willing to suppress pro-gay speech on those grounds. Why? Well, it's obviously false and evil, so why not suppress it? Today, we have the same thing, though directed at speech that 30 years ago would have been seen as obviously true.

     Now as it happens I do generally oppose antigay laws; my very tentative sense (I've done no real reading on the subject) is that most gays generally can't talk or think themselves into being straight; and I have no reason to think that gays are any more likely to be child molesters than straights. But I can't possibly muster the confidence needed to say that these views are clearly true, to the point that expressing the opposite view should be banned (even if I thought that in principle false views ought to be prohibitable). Even if I'd done lots of research on the subject, I still highly doubt that I could have that confidence. If everyone was so badly wrong 30 years ago, why can't they be badly wrong today, too?

     Now naturally sometimes we have to act even in the face of uncertainty. But restricting people's speech doesn't seem to me to be such an area. In fact, it is precisely by leaving speech unrestricted that we can be most confident that we've figured out the right answer. Which would you trust more: A broadly shared judgment that gays are not more likely than straights to be child molesters, reached after a debate in which both sides were free to present their best arguments? Or a broadly shared judgment that gays are not more likely than straights to be child molesters, reached after a debate in which people weren't allowed to express the contrary views?

     Yes, I know, John Stuart Mill said it earlier and better, and so did Justice Holmes. But it's worth repeating in every era -- especially when examples such as the attempts to suppress antigay speech surface. The victories of the gay rights movement came through free speech; free speech helped us, I think, come closer to the truth there. Are we really sure that we've now figured everything out? Are we sure, for instance, that gays can't become happier by becoming straight? Again, I doubt it. But how can we have any confidence in our estimation if one side is prevented from expressing its views?

     This all reminds me of a quote that was doubtless said in a different context, but that still seems apt here: Cromwell, writing to the Church of Scotland, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken." Good advice in lots of contexts, but especially when speech is being condemned as so obviously false that it deserves to be suppressed.


Reverse Mussolini Fallacy: David Bernstein's post below reminds me of what I call the "Reverse Mussolini Fallacy": The argument that, because Mussolini (supposedly) made the trains run on time, it's wrong to make the trains run on time.

     Of course, it's never put quite that starkly (since then it's visibly absurd), but the fallacy is at the heart of the quote David points out. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. True, the Nazis and the Soviets spoke out against foreign threats, rallied their people with patriotism, and warned about espionage. They also ate ham and cheese (or in the Soviets' case, would have liked to eat ham and cheese, if they could get it). But this doesn't mean that foreign threats or espionage should be ignored, patriotism disdained, or ham and cheese eschewed. The argument that "The bad guys did it" (or "It conjures up memories [of the bad guys doing it]") is not by itself much of an argument.


Egregious Misuse of the Legacy of Naziism:
Soros believes that a "supremacist ideology" guides this White House. He hears echoes in its rhetoric of his childhood in occupied Hungary. "When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans." It conjures up memories, he said, of Nazi slogans on the walls, Der Feind Hort mit ("The enemy is listening"). "My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me," he said in a soft Hungarian accent.
Yes, the Nazis were at war, and the United States is now at war. During World War II, even the U.S. had signs warning that "the enemy is listening" and that "a slip of the lip can sink a ship." What all this has to do with a "supremacist ideology" in today's U.S. is beyond me, and I'm sure beyond Soros as well. Just goes to show that the fact that someone is a brilliant businessman and philanthropist doesn't mean he always exhibits common sense. (UPDATE: Further evidence here)


Snarky: I'm not that wild about the word; but if people really do want to be snarky, it seems to me they should be describing their opponents' views as meager and hollow, but crisp.


More Moussaoui gems: My student Mark Yohalem passes along these items from Moussaoui's motions:
["Ashcroft took you for a ride and probably a donkey as well."]

And here are many more. (The infamous "Pigmoon" motion, which was sadly censored by "Sodom and Gommorah States")


The H-bomb secret: I'd long heard about the Progressive case, a 1979 decision in which the judge enjoined the publication of an article about the design of H-bombs. But only recently did I read -- courtesy of the Harvard Law Library -- a copy of the article itself; and I can now pretty firmly say that (as is often so) it's hard to properly evaluate the court decision without seeing the article that it's about.

     The entire magazine issue is available at the Progressive's site; the article starts at page 5 of the PDF. If you've ever been intrigued by this case, you must read the piece. It's only ten pages long and quite readable, even by people who don't know much nuclear physics.


A sobering thought: "Forty per cent of all the health injections given globally in 2000 were performed with reused needles, according to a World Health Organization study. In some countries, three out of four injections were unsafe."

Here is the full story.


The roots of media bias: Here is my article on media bias, just posted today. The title is: "Media Bias Comes from Viewers Like You."


Kelly-Frye Rule in California: A few months ago, in response to a blog post of mine, an attorney referred me to a friend in California who wrote a treatise chapter on the state of the Kelly-Frye rule in California, with many references to civil cases. I contacted this attorney, who kindly sent me an electronic version of this chapter. I now can't locate any of this correspondence. If it rings a bell, please contact me at dbernste [at sign] gmu dot edu. The chapter showed, by the way, that contrary to what many think, courts in California are generally engaging in strict scrutiny of scientific evidence in civil cases, despite a lack of clear guidance on the matter from the state supreme court.


Mark Steyn on Europe and war: Great piece, in The Telegraph (U.K.). Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.


Clint Bolick: So I was just about to blog a pointer to the 20 questions with Clint Bolick, but Tyler beat me to it. Curses! Foiled again. Still, I like and respect Clint so much that I need to second Tyler's suggestion. Clint is one of the leading libertarian public-interest lawyers in the country, and also thoughtful, effective, and politically savvy. The interview is much worth reading.


20 Questions for Clint Bolick: He is the founder of Institute for Justice, the well-known DC libertarian legal public interest law firm. This article offers the interview, in the style of Will Baude, also with links to information about IJ and Clint himself.

Here is one excerpt:
"17. If you could overturn one Supreme Court precedent (or line of precedent), what would it be?
The Slaughter-House Cases. This was an 1873 ruling of the Supreme Court that eviscerated the "privileges or immunities" clause of the 14th Amendment. That clause was meant to protect economic liberty and apply the Bill of Rights to the states. It has never been used to strike down oppressive state laws. It is IJ's first and foremost mission to overturn Slaughter-House."

The whole interview is worth reading, even though Clint tells us that he does not read blogs.

Monday, November 10, 2003


Edwards' Fib Revisited: Some readers think I was too hard on Senator John Edwards and distorted his remarks in my post yesterday about the PATRIOT Act on NBC’s Meet the Press. For the record, here is how Edwards responded to Russert’s question whether it was wrong for Edwards to accuse the Justice Department of using Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to obtain library or book-buying habits:
No. I think that-well, first of all, I have no way of knowing everything that the Justice Department is doing. What I do know is that based on testimony they provided to Congress, they have been-and I think I'm using something close to their language-they have been in touch with libraries and bookstores around the country. Now, what provision they were using to do that, whether it was the Patriot Act or something else, I have no way of knowing. But what I do know, is when the United States Justice Department is contacting libraries and bookstores, it has an enormous chilling effect. And that's what my concern is about this provision in the Patriot Act.
Highlighted in bold are the statements that were patently untrue. As I noted, and the Washington Post reported September 19, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Edwards had access to Justice Department reports detailing the use – or, as it happens, non-use – of Section 215 to obtain library records and the like. If he was ignorant of the content of those reports, it was due to his own failure to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Edwards defenders note (as did I), that Edwards cited the Justice Department’s public acknowledgement that it has contact libraries. Yet, as Edwards must (or should) know, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have always been able to request library records for criminal investigations and enforcement, and federal law enforcement has done so for years without the benefit of the PATRIOT Act. At issue is Edwards’ false claim that the Justice Department was contacting libraries pursuant to the PATRIOT Act, and his subsequent claim that he had no reason to know his initial charge was false.


Guantanamo: "How could it be," some ask, "that Guantanamo is outside the U.S. -- so that aliens held there can't appeal to the civilian courts for habeas -- but still enough inside the U.S. that people who commit crimes there can be tried in U.S. courts?"

     The answer is simple: You don't have to have committed a crime inside the U.S. to be tried in U.S. courts. The U.S. generally doesn't much care about crimes committed outside the U.S., so it's rare that people will be brought to the U.S. for such crimes. But if you commit treason in Germany (consider the Axis Sally case from World War II), or, I believe, forge U.S. currency in Russia, or participate in Panama in a conspiracy to import drugs into the U.S., you can be tried for violation of U.S. law. And, if you're tried for such violations, you of course have to be tried inside the U.S. (unless you're in the military and subject to a court martial).

     One can, of course, argue that civilian courts should have jurisdiction over habeas corpus claims brought even by aliens -- including those detained in the theater of war, as suspected enemy combatants -- housed outside the U.S. One can also argue that Guantanamo is functionally part of the U.S., though I doubt this would work. But one can't, I think, argue that the government is somehow being inconsistent in treating Guantanamo as part of the U.S. for one purpose (prosecuting people who commit crimes there) but not for another (arguing against habeas corpus for people who are detained there). The government is not treating Guantanamo as part of the U.S. for purposes of normal criminal prosecutions.


Lovely Irony: On Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell thinks my rhetoric regarding Canada's gradual abandonment of freedom of expression is way overblown. Just two posts earlier, his co-blogger Kieran Healy discusses a study showing that Jews accumulate significantly more wealth than members of other religious groups. British Columbia's extremely broad hate speech law prohibits the publication of any statement that “indicates” discrimination or that is “likely” to expose a person or group or class of persons to hatred or contempt. Given the history of the exploitation by anti-Semites of perceived Jewish greed and ill-gotten wealth, I think one could make a colorable argument that Kieran's post, and the study it is based on, could be prohibited by literal terms of the British Columbia statute as likely to expose Jews to hatred or contempt. One left-wing professor in BC has already been investigated for expressing anti-American sentiment.


One Truth: These two comments on Atrios' blog analogize the ad showing Palestinians in Lebanon celebrating 9/11 to ads placed by Holocaust denier Brad Smith in college newspapers a few years back. Let's go over a crucial difference: Smith, in propagating Holocaust denial, is spreading a known lie. By contrast, Palestinians in Lebanon really did celebrate 9/11. Lie versus truth; quite simple, no? (Media reports at the time noted that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza also engaged in 9/11 celebrations, which were quickly quashed by Arafat's security services for fear of bad publicity in the West.)

Some insist on claiming that the point of the ad was to defame all Palestinians. Not quite. Recall that the ad shows that while Israelis mourned on 9/11, some Palestinians celebrated. The broader point is that Israelis tend to share Western and American values, and think highly of the U.S., while Palestinians tend to support terrorism and dislike the U.S. A generalization, but an accurate one, and certainly a relevant one for college students deciding which side of the conflict to sympathize with. Israelis are the most pro-American of any nationality. Palestinians have a very low opinion of Americans. Israelis live in a Western-style democracy with freedom of speech, free elections, etc. Palestinians live in a state led by an unreconstructed terrorist, with his main opposition being even more murderous and fanatical terrorists. A recent opinion poll showed that most Palestinians would support the continuation of terrorism against Israelis even after a "peace" agreement was reached. And most Palestinians support suicide murder attacks against Israelis. Does it defame Saudi Arabians, as such, to point out that they live in a theocratic, repressive state, and that many Saudi Arabians sympathize with Al Qaeda?

The ad was indeed "one-sided," as is my post above; I could go into the "root causes" of Palestinian anger, Israel's own responsibility for inflaming Palestinian opinion through foolish settlement policies and Israel's foolish installation of Arafat in power via Oslo, etc., but I chose not to, because I believe that the basic cause of the current conflict is the Palestinians' refusal to embrace peaceful coexistence with Israel (as shown at Camp David in 2000). Call that a "one-sided" view if you will. But (1) it's neither racist nor in any way comparable to Holocaust denial; and (2) newspapers are under no ethical obligation to suppress accurate but one-sided advertisements on political matters.


Campaign finance opinions possible Wednesday? According to lawprof Rick Hasen,
BCRA (McCain-Feingold) Opinion Wednesday?

The Supreme Court clerk's office has indicated that opinions (in a pending case or cases) will issue Wednesday. It is certainly possible, though by no means certain, that the BCRA (McCain-Feingold) decision will be among them. The sooner the better, given how the 2004 election season is gearing up. BNA's Money and Politics report notes that "Ad restrictions in the presidential election will come into effect next month in the 30-day periods prior to a January presidential primary in the District of Columbia, the Iowa presidential caucus, and the New Hampshire primary, according to the FEC. But the electioneering communication provisions were in effect from Oct. 10 in Puerto Rico, prior to that U.S. commonwealth's Nov. 9 primary election for a congressional delegate." Those ad restrictions are challenged in the BCRA case.


Calling all law review editors: Do you have any advice for students who are doing law review write-on competitions? My Academic Legal Writing book conspicuously omits this -- simply because I had nothing nonobvious and useful to say on the subject -- but I'd like to add another chapter for the next edition (if there is such an edition) that deals with this subject.

     If you're a current or former law review editor who has thought about this, and have some tips, I'd love to hear from you -- please e-mail me at volokh at


Illusion of symmetry: A nice article in the Washington Post about traditional Neapolitan tailors (that means tailors who are chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry). But, at the end:

His motto -- or, rather, a motto of encouragement to customers -- is posted on a wall. It is another British import, a quote by John Ruskin, a 19th-century economist: "It's not wise to pay too much, but it's also unwise to pay too little."

Now Ruskin is many things, including a big proponent of socialism (on aesthetic and moral grounds, based on his glorification of medieval artisans) and opponent of utilitarianism -- see his collection of essays, Unto This Last. (He was also a big art historian and critic in the late 19th century, and his Stones of Venice is all about how great the medieval spirit was and how the Renaissance was a big mistake. Though he was a Socialist and communitarian, Randians might find a lot to appreciate in his aesthetics.)

But an economist? Puh-leeze!


More bad news on the freedom of expression front, this time from England:
A bishop who angered homosexuals by suggesting they seek a psychiatric cure is to be investigated by police to see if his outspoken views amount to a criminal offence, it emerged yesterday. The Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester, infuriated homosexuals both in and out of the Church of England when he said last week that they could and should seek medical help to "reorientate" themselves.


Many thanks to Cori Dauber, who was kind enough to guest-blog for a week or so while the new co-conspirator project got particularly intense, and I had less time than usual to spend blogging.

     I very much appreciated her help, and I hope she agrees to guest-blog again in the future. In the meantime, you can read her posts on her own blog.


Supreme Court agrees to hear Guantanamo detention jurisdiction case: The Court just granted certiorari in Rafiq v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States, cases raising the question
Whether United States courts lack jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.
My prediction: The Court will answer this question "yes" -- courts do lack such jurisdiction -- following Johnson v. Eisentrager (1950).


Guantanamo & Other Cert Grants Since Howard Bashman is on vacation, and the SCOTUSBlog regulars are out of the office, readers might not be aware that the Supreme Court granted cert in the Guantanamo detainee case this morning. The AP story is here. The key issue is whether federal courts have jurisdiction over Guantanamo and the detainees claims. The Court also granted cert in Intel v. AMD. This case sounds important, but I don't know much of anything about it. This morning's full order list is here.


New Conspiracy member: I'm delighted to welcome Benjamin Pereira Volokh to the Volokh Conspiracy. Unfortunately, he probably won't be blogging much in the near future, but we're nonetheless very glad he joined us.


Yet another loser right of publicity lawsuit: It should lose, and I think it's nearly certain that it will lose -- though with intellectual property law these days, one can never be quite sure. From the Associated Press (thanks to Dan Gifford for the pointer):
The boxer who was the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" films plans to file a lawsuit against the actor for illegally using his name to promote the films and other merchandise, attorneys said Friday.

Chuck Wepner, 65, is seeking $15 million in damages from the right of publicity claim, said his attorney Anthony Mango. The suit will be filed next week in New Jersey State Court.

"Stallone is keenly aware that having a movie based on true story adds an appeal and he capitalizes on that, but has never given Chuck anything back," Mango said.

Wepner fought Muhammad Ali in March 1975 and went 15 rounds before he was knocked out. Stallone was at the bout and went on to write the screenplay for "Rocky."

"That night I went home and I had the beginning of my character. I had him now. I was going to make a creation called Rocky Balboa, a man from the streets, a walking cliche of sorts, the all-American tragedy, a man who didn't have much mentality but had incredible emotion and patriotism and spirituality and good nature even though nature had not been good to him," according to the actor's Web site. . . .

Mango said Wepner waited almost 28 years before filing the suit because he always expected Stallone to compensate him.

"Stallone said there was going to be something in this for Chuck. But he was giving him shallow promises to placate him. Chuck took him as a man of his word, but then finally realized it was never going to happen," Mango said. . . .
No, it's not legally actionable for a writer to use your name in honestly describing the inspiration for his work. Even if Stallone is intentionally trying to "capitalize" on this story (not terribly likely, I think, but say it's so), he's perfectly entitled to do so, just as biographers or journalists are perfectly to "capitalize" on others' names and stories when writing their works. Wepner wouldn't be entitled to get damages from someone who wrote a biography of him (unless the biography was libelous, which isn't an issue here). He's likewise not entitled to get damages from someone who was inspired by him in making a movie, and who reveals this inspiration in discussing the movie.


This would be a disaster: Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz argues that companies should be systematically financially liable for dealing with totalitarian and otherwise evil regimes. Consider this quotation:

"Those who contributed to maintaining Apartheid—and especially those who did not adhere to the sanctions after the UN approved them—should be held accountable. The Truth and Reconciliation process may or may not work to heal South Africa’s wounds, but if corporations are to be provided with incentives to do the right thing, they must now pay the price for the profits that they reaped from that abhorrent system."

Does that mean companies who dealt with South Africa before UN sanctions can be sued? It appears to read as such. A quick web search did not reveal any figures on how many companies this might cover. Can we sue Wal-Mart someday because today they are buying so much from China?

Here is what Stiglitz writes more generally: " is to be hoped that the West’s legal systems will provide an alternative recourse, one that will not only partially redress past injustices, but provide incentives for corporations to think twice before profiting from brutal regimes in the future." [emphasis added].

I would like more detail, and no, I don't mean to suggest that the correct amount of corporate reparations should be zero in all cases. But this, on the face of it, is the most value-destroying idea I have heard from a brilliant economist in some time. If I read Stiglitz correctly, it would basically shut down trade with all nasty countries. Doesn't this include, say, just about all of Africa?

On top of all that, sanctions have at best a mixed record, Daniel Drezner is the guy to read on that point. Our forty or so years of sanctions against Cuba have not toppled Castro, rather they have impoverished millions of Cubans. Is Stiglitz suggesting that we carry that model over to all oppressive governments? This would be disastrous enough today, how about in earlier times when there were many fewer democracies?

Thanks to for the initial link.


Latest blasphemy controversy: From The Emory Wheel:
What began 18 years ago as a psychoanalytic approach to the story of the Hindu god Ganesha has evolved into a heated controversy in recent weeks.

Paul Courtright, interim chair of the religion department, has been under fire from the international Hindu community for his interpretation of the Hindu god Ganesha in his book Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings.

The publisher, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, withdrew the book from the market in India Monday after a petition started by a member of the Hindu Students’ Council at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette demanded the “author and publisher to give an unequivocal apology to the Hindus” and asked that the publisher immediately withdraw the book from circulation.

The petition insists that Courtright stop using the book in academia, rewrite the passages they consider offensive and issue a new publication with revisions and clarifications.

After withdrawing the book, the Indian publisher issued a public apology, promising no such “lapse” would occur in the future. . . .

The online petition is addressed to University President James W. Wagner, Governor Sonny Perdue, President George W. Bush, India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, members of India’s Parliament, members of the U.S.-India Congressional Caucus and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. . . .

The widespread objection to the book surrounds its overtly sexual themes and its cover, which depicts a nude Lord Ganesha. . . .

Courtright’s book analyzes the relationship among Lord Shiva, his wife Parvati and their son Ganesha.

In the Hindu myth, Shiva beheads Ganesha for preventing him access to his wife’s chamber, not knowing that Ganesha is his son.

When Shiva learns that Parvati asked Ganesha to guard the door, Shiva sends his guards to bring back another head. They come back with an elephant’s head, and Ganesha is revived.

Courtright connects this relationship to the Greek story of Oedipus, who kills his father and marries his mother. . . .

[Courtright] used the parallel to explain other sexual themes in the story.

In one interpretation, he paralleled Ganesha’s trunk and Shiva’s linga, a symbol associated with the god, with a “non-erect” and an “erect” phallus, respectively. . . .
Thanks to Ralph Luker, who has more comments, for the pointer.

Sunday, November 09, 2003


In response to my prior post on the attempted suppression of the Stanford Daily ad [for a reasonably good Fisking of the petition against the ad, see here] noting the contrast between Israeli and Palestinian reactions to 9/11, Matthew Yglesias writes:
It seems to me that folks on the right have an unhealthy obsession with the trivial and rarely-successful antics of some relatively small groups of college student agitors. When I was, you know, actually in college I paid a certain amount of attention to this kind of thing, at least when it happened on our campus, but it's really not of earth-shattering significance, especially when the complainers are failing to get speech restrictions put in place. The gang at the Volokh Conspiracy gets a partial exemption from this criticism since they actually work at universities, but still. The kids nowadays are, well, a bit immature, but that's just how it goes.
I think this is a point that deserves a response. It's not just "the kids" being a "bit immature." A leading supporter of trying to get the Daily to stifle the ad in question was no immature kid, but Mohammed Esam, "a mechanical engineering graduate student and president of the Islamic Society of Stanford University." Islamic and Arab student societies throughout the U.S. are engaged in an organized effort to have any pro-Israel speech be deemed racist; after all, the U.N. says "Zionism is Racism."

Moreover, and more generally, many attempts at speech repression on university campuses have the support and/or acquiescence of faculty and administrators, including at public universities. Indeed, as far as I can tell, the average speech code at a public university is pushed by university bureaucrats and faculty activists, not by students.

But my ultimate concern is that the radical Left would like to bring to society as a whole the kind of authoritarianism they are constantly trying to, and sometimes succeeding in, bringing to universities. Universities are their friendliest turf, but the ultimate goal, to be achieved through "harassment" law, hate speech rules, and changes in First Amendment jurisprudence, is to have the government enforce PCism throughout society.

It's already happening in Canada, where, for example, it's become illegal to place an advertisement in the newspaper quoting biblical passages condemning homosexual acts, or severely criticizing Islam. Things started slowly in Canada, where just over a decade ago the Supreme Court held first that Holocaust denial and then "degrading" pornography could be punished criminally. By 2003, Robert Martin, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Western Ontario, commented that he increasingly thinks that “Canada now is a totalitarian theocracy. I see this as a country ruled today by what I would describe as a secular state religion [of political correctness]. Anything that is regarded as heresy or blasphemy is not tolerated.” [The Left has also been victimized by the anti-pornography and anti-hate speech rules in Canada that the Left itself has supported, but that's the subject for another post] [Edit: I don't actually believe that it's accurate to describe Canada as a totalitarian theocracy. But the fact that a serious scholar there thinks that his society is heading in that direction so quickly after criminal speech codes were enacted shows how quickly speech suppression is spreading there, and the longer-run dangers here.]

So I don't see the attempted supression of speech on campuses as mere sophomoric antics, but as a step in the authoritarian radical Left's broader agenda. Anyway, "unhealthy obsession"? Hardly. What I would really like is for nonauthoritarian folks on the left, including Yglesias, to take this stuff more seriously. The main reason that the PC police sometimes succeed at universities is that left-liberals too often see the authoritarian elements on the far Left as merely overenthusastic liberals, instead of as the true opponents of liberalism that they are. [By the way, I should emphasize that as a good liberal in the broad sense, I support the right of private universities to establish any speech codes they desire, so long as they give students and faculty fair warning of what may or may not be said, and so long as they are not doing so in response to government regulations or potential lawsuits under "harassment" law. That doesn't mean that the impulse behind such codes isn't often a potentially dangerous one.]


Part of the Jessica Lynch Story, Unravelled: I posted recently the original Washington Post story about Jessica Lynch, because I wanted to make the point that the story that circulated about her early on, that she fought to the death as she was captured, killed several Iraqis, etc, which is often attributed to official CENTCOM briefers, actually came from intelligence reports, and that the Post's sources noted at the time that early reports are almost always found wrong in some details.

Now a 60 Minutes report has just aired, and in it the Colonel who commands that unit clears up a part of the mystery. Those intelligence reports, she says, came from monitoring Iraqi radio intercepts, and she believes they referred to a "blond American" who was "shot and stabbed" (remember, the original story about Pvt. Lynch) but who died on the scene -- and who was male. Either the Iraqis or those translating the intercepts mistranslated the pronoun, and that was enough to get the ball rolling.
Update: You are quite right if you think that, out of respect, I should have posted that Sgt's name, but I was frankly so stunned it flew past too quickly for me to get it down in my notes accurately.
Update: Several readers were kind enough to email in with the Sgt's name. It was Donald K. Walters.


I question the wisdom of the British government requiring the Royal Opera to have a sign language interpreter on stage every fifth performance, when on-screen subtitles are available and less distracting. There have been cases in the U.S. where magicians have been required to have sign language interpreters on stage, despite the need for magicians to have the audiences' eyes focused in the right place to make their illusions work. More generally, various types of antidiscrimination laws are interfering with artistic freedom [UPDATE: I'd be happy to provide sources on this to readers who are interested], but with little protest from the sort of folks who are most up in arms when the government declines to fund "performance artists" who smear feces on themselves. [UPDATE: OK, chocolate; simulated feces? In any event, funding an artist who puts a crucifix in urine will do just as well as an example.]


New Hampshire adultery update: Jim Henley blogs about the intersection of the oral sex isn't adultery question and the Free State Project, which aims to get 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire:
Did the Free State Project people sense that this ruling was coming? Is this going to mean more libertarians moving, or more libertarian spouses forbidding them to move?


John Edwards' Un-PATRIOT-ic Fib: Tim Russert grilled one-term Senator and Presidential hopeful John Edwards on NBC's Meet the Press this morning (transcript). Russert asked Edwards about his strong criticism of the PATRIOT Act, given the Edwards voted in favor of the law, and voted against all four amendments offered by Senator Russell Feingold. Edwards explained that he supports parts of the law, but believes that parts of it should be curtailed. The answer was not particularly compelling, but not clearly disingenuous -- that came a minute later.

At a Democratic primary debate in September, Edwards charged:
The last thing we should be doing is turning over out privacy, our liberties, our freedom, our constitutional rights, to John Ashcroft. The notion that they are going to libraries to find out what books are checking out, going to bookstores to find out what books are being purchased...
Yet, Russert noted, a subsequently released Justice Department report indicated that the provision which could be used to obtain library and bookstore records has never been used. Asked to defend his statement, Edwards claimed "I have no way of knowing everything that the Justice Department is doing." Not so. According to a September 19 Washington Post story (available here; see also here), due to his seat on the Senate Inteligence committee, Edwards had access to the subsequently released Justice Department report at the time he leveled his charge. In Edwards' defense, he claimed some public Justice Department pronouncements suggested Section 215 had been used, but as a member of the Sentate Intelligence Committee, I would expect Edwards to rely on the best information to which he had access. Clearly, he did not.

Did Edwards lie? Some readers may recall that I generally think commentators and bloggers are too quick to accuse political figures of telling lies. As I posted here, in my view "A 'lie' is a deliberately false statement, typically made with an intent to deceive. Not just any false statement, or bit of spin, will do. Intentional deception is key." Thus, the question here is whether Edwards either a) knowingly misrepresented the Justice Department's implementation of the PATRIOT Act, or b) failed to discharge his obligations as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee to provide proper oversight of the Justice Department's PATRIOT Act implementation.

UPDATE here.


In a War of Wills . . . it is statements of will and determination that matter. This one is quite fine. And while worrisome, I am actually encouraged by this news. It has become increasingly apparent that the Council has been, at best, adrift. Even something as simple as putting out immediate statements after attacks has taken hours. This story at least suggests that someone has resolved to stop the drift, whatever that takes.


Did Estrada's Opponents "Discriminate"? Stuart Buck adroitly and extensively addresses the question whether the Seante Democrats' treatment of Miguel Estrada is comparable to the sort of behavior that is illegal when performed by private companies. His conclusion: Had this same pattern of behavior occurred in the private employment context, Estrada would have had a strong case. Note, Buck is not claiming that Estrada's opponents are bigoted -- bigotry, as such, is not required to press a claim under federal civil rights laws -- only that equivalent behavior by an employer would likely be actionable under federal law.


Higher Ed's Environmental Woes: The Environmental Protectin Agency has fined a dozen colleges and universities in the New York-New Jersey approximately $2 million for improper handling of hazardous waste, reports Newsday. Schools fined include Princeton, Columbia, and Vassar. According to an EPA spokesperson, the violations come from university laboratories, as well as "art studies, print areas and also the maintenance facilities." (Beware that hazardous art!) Pace University recently joined the EPA’s self-auditing program to prevent such violations in the future. "Students, faculty and staff will witness or practice procedures that protect the environment and safeguard the health of the Pace community and we think our graduates will keep this experience in mind as they pursue their own careers," explained Pace President David Caputo. It will also teach students what it takes to comply with EPA regulations.


A Perspective of Great Value: This piece, by someone deeply involved in Afghanistan the first time around, offers a perspective that seems to me to be incredibly useful. I would offer three comments, less as criticism, then by way of commentary, as a lens to perhaps "angle" the way you think about what he is offering, which is fundamentally a different way to think about the attacks in Iraq.

First, I think the phrase "desperation" is a useful one when thinking about the collection of attackers because they are not grounded in a supportive population. There is a temporal aspect to this that matters. This idea of Beard's that they are attacking "allies" is useful, but he is clumping together two categories of allies. One group are political allies, but another are groups dedicated to improving the quality of life of the Iraqi people. If they think they are falling behind in terms of the attitudes of the population -- which is clearly true -- or not holding steady in terms of the populations' willingness to hold back, to see what happens, which is less clear, then desperation, in the sense that their hands were forced in terms of their need to act and act quickly, is not a false representation.

And finally, Beard is speaking as if this is a classic nationalism. It is not clear that is the case. At least some of these guys are outside jihadists, some are internal jihadists. Islamism is a pan-Arab, indeed global movement. And it is not clear yet how that impacts traditional notions of insurgency, how insurgent movements play out, are fought, are countered -- or even if we should think of these movements as insurgencies since, given their willingness to employ terrorist methods, they apparently are making calculations about balancing public opinion that are not the same as classic insurgencies, which are all about winning over, or at least intimidating, the public.


I Was With Him For A While There: As I was reading this piece, I was thinking, boy, this is pretty good, guys got some points. Then I got to the end. Let me say again, for the record, I think the Dover policy is a mistake and that the press should be permitted to record images of coffins arriving. Let me also say again this is a big bunch of whining, since they haven't availed themselves of this opportunity for quite a long time, and weren't especially concerned about events at Dover until they were informed it was off limits.

But this idea that closing Dover is somehow in and of itself capable of obscuring the fact that troops are dying in Iraq is absurd. There is frequent footage on the air of memorial services at Arlington -- in fact often intercut powerfully with footage of memorials conducted by units still in Iraq, which surely conveys a sense of loss far more effectively than a flag draped box rolling down a conveyer belt in Delaware.

And the Times' campaign to condemn the President for not attending soldiers' funerals is so bizarre that it has to be calculated. This complaint keeps cropping up, in straight news articles as well as opinion pieces, cannot be easily answered, and is designed to make the President look bad in the lowest way possible. The line "as previous presidents have" is just a canard -- presidents attend memorials in very particular circumstances.

Any president serves and embodies a variety of roles simultaneously, some legal, some symbolic. He is Head of State, Head of Government, Commander in Chief, Leader of the Party, National Father Figure, Mourner in Chief sometimes, etc etc. When there is a national tragedy -- and sometimes that involves the loss of large numbers of troops -- the president has to attend the memorial as a symbolic embodiment of the people, as our representative. Hence President Clinton at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, and hence this President's attendance at the memorial for the shuttle crew. Clinton went to a memorial for the embassy bombing victims, and for the Cole crew, but would not have gone to individual soldier's funerals if we had lost, God forbid, a soldier here, a soldier there, an airman here, an airman there. But he didn't fight those kinds of wars.

The President's relationship to individual servicemembers is that of Commander in Chief. It is a legal relationship but also a symbolic one. He has to speak to their deaths in that national capacity and he has (what this author says, "He avoids mentioning the American dead" is simply flat false) saying these are deaths in a just cause, a noble cause, we mourn all the deaths and so forth. But beyond that, when a soldier dies he returns to his family.

At that point for a President to participate in that individual memorial, conducted for individual soldiers, to see them in that way, is to rupture the symbolic relationship between Commander in Chief and member of the national family which is necessary for the relationship between the President and the rest of the service members to continue. In service they have to be seen as members of the national family and "any mothers' son," not members of this family, and that mothers' son.

And unless something very unusual has happend, as Dan Bartlett Director of White House Communications has intimated, how can he go to one soldiers' funeral and not go to all of them? And how well would any of us be served by a President who spent his time immersed in mourning, rather than acting to prevent as many future funerals as possible? Furthermore, as one reader emailed when this came up the last time, how can he go to a funeral and not have the story be about him? Is that fair to the memory of the dead?

Finally, this has to be some kind of record for cheap shots. As many of you have no doubt been following, and I have mentioned this before as well, as have others, there has been a battle in Washington State between a Seattle paper and a member of Congress who, while still articulating his respect for the fallen, tried to also explain that while tragic, our losses had not reached a level of military/strategic significance. The paper excised a section of his remarks, making him seem both glib and callow.

This is the take of this Times columnist: "There are already signs of public unease. Representative George Nethercutt, a Republican running for the Senate in Washington [note the little suggestion that politics may be playing a role here] was criticized last month for saying the media were focusing on 'losing a couple of soldiers a day' rather than the 'better and more important story of progress in Iraq. (Mr. Nethercutt later complained that some accounts left out that he said losing the soldiers 'heaven forbid, is awful.') But Mr. Nethercutt's was just the sort of bland formulation that would have driven Owen [the poet the column is ostensibly about, because he is a truth-teller about war] wild."

The essence of this piece is this -- if the centerpiece of any argument, its alpha and omega, is not the horror of our losses, then that argument is a distortion if not an outright lie. Thus those who oppose war posture themselves as more honest, more pro-troop, and more willing to confront what war is, while those who support the war must surely be doing so at the price of deluding themselves about the cost. I wonder if people who write pieces like this are willing to be quite so honest and clear of eye and pen about what's in the mass graves.


Productivity is up, manufacturing jobs fall, around the world: Read the ever-excellent Daniel Drezner on this topic. Here is one of his excerpts from a quotation:

"America has been losing manufacturing jobs to China, Latin America and the rest of the developing world. Right? Well, not quite. It turns out that manufacturing jobs have been disappearing all over the world. Economists at Alliance Capital Management in New York took a close look at employment trends in 20 large economies recently, and found that since 1995 more than 22 million factory jobs have disppeared.

In fact, the United States has not even been the biggest loser. Between 1995 and 2002, we lost about 11 percent of our manufacturing jobs. But over the same period, the Japanese lost 16 percent of theirs. And get this: Many developing nations are losing factory jobs. During those same years, Brazil suffered a 20 percent decline."

Daniel is not an economist by trade, but he offers some of the best economic analysis in the blogosphere.


The Logic of Vietnam: Vietnam went on so long, and what happened was so much the result of particular logics of war leading us in particular directions, that if you look at any military operation and want to see Vietnam you can. The logic is always there as a kernel, a seed, building inexorably. Is the war going well? So was Vietnam -- in the beginning. Are there only a few troops -- there were only a few troops in Vietnam, too -- in the beginning. And so on, and so on.

And so on the cover of today's Week on Review section, this article in the Times insists that "Irag is not Vietnam," yet sees parallel after parallel, if not in fact, then in potential.

(Of course, this begins with the fact that the wars were started based on what opponents have called "false pretexts," the Gulf of Tonkin for Vietnam, and for Iraq a joint Congressional resolution "on the grounds that Mr. Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks that may or may not have existed." That everyone believed at the time in the Iraqi WMD I think has been well established. That there were so many justifications for the war -- critically, for the war resolution, including preserving the crediblity of the UN as an institution -- that the administration was criticized for that has been recently gone into by Andrew Sullivan. That opponents of the war have repeatedly misstated the way the September 11th argument was used is something I myself have blogged on repeatedly.)

But I also find it ironic that the reporter now notes that the recent attempt to get Turkish troops into Iraq in strength "played into the Baathists' hands, critics of the administration's strategy argue . . ." (Are those the same critics who were screaming for the "internationalization" of the force, and demanding most especially that this be done with Muslim troops?)

As the reporter notes, Vietnam went on for 15 years and tens of thousands of American lives as well as millions of southeast Asian ones which has "led some to worry about -- or call for -- withdrawal from Iraq before things get to that point." Note the logic. Iraq isn't Vietnam. But it could be. There is no reason presented to worry that it will be, but then, Vietnam wasn't Vietnam when we started, was it? So if you argue that we aren't losing troops at anything like a rate that would compare to Vietnam, Iraqis aren't dying at anything like a rate that would compare to Vietnam -- well they weren't there either, early on. This is a logic that utterly ignores (as to his credit the reporter points out) little details like a North Vietnam, communist superpowers and the like. But it's there, just the same.

"Nation-building did not work in Vietnam. And if it does not work in Iraq, it seems clear that the war that ended Saddam Hussein's regime will have been fought in vain." Yes, clearly. But the author also notes that what will determine success or failure is American will. Isn't this at some level a circular argument? We will decide if we will succeed or fail based on whether we decide an old history applies or not. And if we decide it applies we will fail. And if we fail, then we will fail entirely and everything we have done will have been wasted. That is in fact the logic of fighting a war of will. But it is also the logic of having your fate, at least in the long run, in your own hands.

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