Tuesday, March 29, 2005

So in the things that don't happen to me every day category, I got yelled at today by a Michigan Supreme Court justice. OK, maybe I should back up a bit.

There was a forum today sponsored by The Federalist Society at the law school, inviting two of the state supreme court justices in to talk about federalist interpretation in action. For those who don't know, federalists are a group that largely but not wholly overlap with Republicans around law schools--they are strict constructionists, original-intent and literal-text-minded when it comes to interpretation, and are by-and-large libertarian in bent. It also happens that several of my best friends at school are federalists; go figure.

The forum sounded interesting, and I was assured that they were serving decent pizza, so I went. As is typical, I couldn't sit on my hands the whole time and had to pipe up. It should be said that, while my question was no less hostile than many of the other ones asked, it was a perfectly legitimate, pertinent question and was asked with a lot more civility than most of the questions posed. (The Federalist Society president could vouch for me in comments on this point, if she so chooses.)

Anyway the two justices started with an intro presenting their description of their judicial philosophy, and then the questions came. Oh, also, in the course of describing places where judges should have taken more limited positions, the examples cited were Roe v. Wade, assisted suicide, and gay marriage--shockingly (shocked!), all socially liberal agenda action items of the past 35 years. That justice also talked repeatedly about how judges aren't philosopher-kings and shouldn't act like they are.

I think they thought they were just talking to Federalists, when in actuality the whole law school was invited, and the people asking the questions were by and large not members. I raised my hand at an opportune moment, as one of the justices was looking for a way to cut off an unproductive dia(logue/tribe), and he called on me. I prefaced by contextualizing my question in terms of their stated anti-judicial activism philosophy, at which point I got yelled at for putting words in the justice's mouth. Apparently, repeating back the very words he had used to describe his philosophy 10 minutes earlier put words in his mouth; however, I let him finish, and then piped up:

"OK, so my actual question is this: Are you equally concerned with law-and-economics judicial activism as you are with social activism?"

Some more context: law-and-economics is a movement in law (especially, but not exclusively, torts and contracts) to base decisions on forward-looking policy considerations, internalizing externalities, placing burdens on lowest-cost-avoiders, and generally making legal decisions based on "economic rationality" rather than backward-looking, fuzzy notions of justice or fairness. Like most doctrines, sometimes it has its uses, and sometimes it's crap. Its chief proponent is 7th-Circuit judge Richard Posner (and his colleague the Official Brother of TMQ). One thing it certainly does not have on its side, though, is longstanding traditional or textual basis in the common law and the Constitution. It's the best example of judges just making shit up based on what they think about the world works or ought to work, and as such, it's way more activist than the "activist judges" conservatives love to rail against.

Anyway, the angry justice gave me a non-answer that basically said none of us except maybe Posner are qualified enough in economics to make sensible determinations about all this stuff (apparently Posner is qualified for philosopher-king; who knew?) but not in any way, shape or form really answering the question. The other justice said it was an excellent question (hey, who am I to argue with a Michigan Supreme Court justice!) and that the real test of their judicial philosophy would come if a Democrat-majority legislature passed a lot of bills they didn't personally like, and whether they adhered to their limited judicial role philosophy and gave the legislature wide berth. She said she believes they would. I believe her that she would; I can't say I felt so confident about her colleagues.

So that was my brush with the Michigan Supreme Court. I don't think I made an ass out of myself, I made my point, I asked the question that I've wanted to hear answered for a while, and I got a second straight entry about federalism into the blog.

I promise to return to something more along the lines of fart humor or at least dumb running jokes next time.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Law school is designed to make you question a lot of assumptions, which is pretty dangerous for me because my general tendency is to hold my assumptions pretty loosely anyway, and so at any given time it's probably a little too easy to convince of just about anything--at least for a couple of minutes.

However, we're doing a unit on the commerce clause and federalism right now, and it is pretty much serving only to strength one of my beliefs about political systems: I really don't like a federal system as compared to a province or department system, where smaller units are basically just administrative units of the main government. There are about 5 powers I trust states with, and that's if you count issuing license plates and driver's licenses as 2 separate ones. If at any given time I've been to the DMV lately, that list may diminish to 3 or fewer.

I have no problem with expansive national authority, for a couple of reasons. One is that our system has enough checks and balances within the national government to prevent (or at least ameliorate and eventually overturn) serious abuses of power. Two is I distrust government power less than most Americans seem to. Three is that I think some concentration of power is politically valuable--if you know who is making decisions, it's easier to hold that body or person accountable than it is when power is more diffuse. (Admittedly, this sounds like a critique of the administrative state, which I don't mind, but I need to think more about why.) Also, along those same lines, I think it's easier for people to participate in politics when there is less proliferation of elections and offices--if you know there's one election that really matters, you're more likely to participate than you are in 10 elections each of which seems to matter a little, if at all. Finally, I'd like to think we'd be a bit more careful about picking our national leadership if states weren't diluting its effects. Obviously, this is a period of time where I'm all about states ameliorating the effects of the national administration--but I'd like to think that if they couldn't do that, then California and New York (among others) would be more assertive in shouting down Mississippi and Utah on the national stage. (Which leads me to a separate rant about California and Wyoming having the same number of Senators, but I'll save that for another day, if at all.)

When it comes down to it, I'm more of a realist than a formalist when it comes to political power. We used to think states were really important back in the 19th century, and that's cute and quaint. Then we became a major international power, and it was time for states to shut up and deal with the need for central government, regardless of technical arguments about reserved, granted, and enumerated powers. I'm willing to entertain the notion that in a post-modern, post-industrial age it's more useful to have power more dispersed again; that said, I'm only willing to entertain those arguments based on expediency, and not because of original intent or any other backward-looking dogma.

Friday, March 25, 2005

UPDATED: Well, clearly I've hit the point in the semester where the blog starts to suffer. Just a few quick updates on the personal front:

  • I've been offered part-time work in the law library, which I have to accepted by Monday, so I'm looking at probably a 99.44 100% chance of being in Ann Arbor this summer.
  • I'm pulling for Michigan State tonight, because my other three Final Four teams are gone, and it would really piss me off if Duke was the only one I got right.
So I'm now in the process of picking classes for next year, which is quite a switch from this year. This year, they give us a schedule, and we get to pick exactly one elective from a short list. Now, basically anything goes, with only a few generic requirements (one seminar, one "professional responsibility" class, Transnational Law).

One of the major debates in my own mind is how pragmatically to approach this process, how much I'm concerned about important foundational and upper-level classes, vs. how many classes I can take because they sound enjoyable. Here's what I'm thinking about and why:
  • Trusts and Estates: Probably not something I would practice a lot of, but useful for attorneys to have for general practice and for personal life.
  • Administrative Law: Useful, though probably not something I need a lot of, and this is a 2-credit version as opposed to a 4-credit alternative; also, it's a class that meets for 2 hours a day for the first three weeks of the term and that's it.
  • Secured Transactions: I.e., mortgages. Useful personally and professionally, and I want to take this professor, who's going on leave for a while.
  • Jurisdiction: Doesn't sound interesting at all, but important foundation. I guess.
  • Evidence: See Jurisdiction.
  • Land Use Planning and Control: I'm giving a good deal of thought to real estate, and this sounds really useful for that.
  • First Amendment: Not that practical, but taught by my favorite first-year prof, and I always feel like if you learn a lot from someone, take anything they offer.
  • Taxation of Individual Income: Foundational tax class, required for all the other tax classes, and again useful both professionally and personally.
  • Enterprise Organizations: I.e. corporations. Seems like everyone takes this first semester, second year; important for most other business classes; probably the only thing here that's not negotiable.

I'm probably looking at taking 4 classes. Time conflicts are: Admin/T&E/Secured Transactions; 1st Amendment/Land Use/Jursdiction; and Tax/Evidence.

Any former law school types (or anyone else, for that matter) have any thoughts here?

Friday, March 18, 2005

You may remember that I posted a while back on the time-wasting fun that is Wikipedia.

It's been trumped.

Uncyclopedia is a parody of Wikipedia. Enter any information you'd like, it's totally open, so long as it's false. Brilliant!! Here's my first solo entry. I also had to add some information about an old stand-by.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

My almost but not 100% (thanks to cramming) uninformed NCAA tourney impressions:

  • My Final Four is Oklahoma State beating UConn 79-76 in the championship, with Gonzaga and Duke as the other two.
  • Using admirable restraint, I only put my Panthers in the Elite Eight.
  • That said, I'm amazed at how little respect Washington is getting as a a #1 seed; none of the brackets I've seen yet have them in the Final Four, few in the Elite Eight.
  • That said, if I'm a Husky fan, I'm not thrilled about playing the Pitt-Pacific winner in round 2.
  • I didn't have the guts to take Bucknell over Kansas, but Kansas often has a lousy first round, and Bucknell is much better than the normal America East rep.
  • Oakland is a great story; if they're lucky, they won't lose by 45.
  • Everybody's talking about how cool it would be to see Roy Williams and UNC have to play Kansas and meltdown in the Elite Eight; equally cool would be if Illinois and Southern Illinois do the same in their bracket. Cooler actually, because we'd get to say "Salukis" for a week and a half.
  • The two people I know who followed college basketball the closest this year have Utah State knocking off Arizona, for what that's worth.
  • If Duke and UNC play in one national semifinal, I may well be cheering for some sort of structure fire.
  • I have no idea why I'm falling for Gonzaga again; the less said about that, the better.
  • It just doesn't seem like a tourney without: Murray State, Princeton, Austin Peay (Let's Go Peay!), Weber State, Valparaiso, Indiana.
  • When Notre Dame and Holy Cross played in the NIT last night, who did God root for?
  • I can't wait to see what this year's Century City or Baby Bob is; maybe it'll be a show about futuristic babies who can talk and have J.D.s.
  • The selection show made me think of what my favorite tourney upset ever was. I haven't decided, but I can still picture the final sequence of Princeton-UCLA pretty precisely, and I remember exactly when and where I watched it, so that's telling.
  • I can't decide whether I want Ben Howland and UCLA to do well or poorly. Like most of these things, I probably won't know until I'm watching the game and have a visceral reaction one way or the other.
  • Come on Panthers, suck it up.

You know things are going to go very poorly for someone when you're reading a case in the Torts book, and in the first paragraph any of the following are mentioned: ski lifts, skydiving, high-voltage wires. It's like in an old movie when a child, totally out of context, coughs--you know the kid will be dead within 15 minutes of screen time. It's the second-most inevitable rule of old movies. The most inevitable is that in any movie from about 1933-1955 (i.e. the Hays Production Code era), if two characters are introduced in a movie and they were previously divorced from one another, by the end of the movie they will be remarried. It was just the law.

Apparently, just turning up in a Torts casebook can be harmful, not only to you but to subsequent generations as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Some quality animation/drug humor courtesy of ifilm. Progenitorivox: If you experience psychotic episodes, you're crazy.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Athletic Reporter features a special guest columnist this week, as Mr. and Mrs. Average Mulder are vacationing in Australia. I'll give you a hint: the "Average Mulder" joke doesn't work unless the column is written by a guy named Joe.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

So, an interesting (hopefully!) follow-up to the DC-Miami travelogue.

I'm at the bar tonight, and I've been there for quite a while; we were celebrating someone's birthday, a lot of people were out, I've had some Long Islands; good times. Around 12:30, I'm looking over at the bar and a familiar face is standing there. I say, "Dulles-Rosslyn shuttle," and she immediately knows who I am. We talk for a couple of minutes exchanging, for instance, first names for the first time. Finally, I say, "So I was kicking myself all week for not asking you for your number." She tells me she's flattered, but that she's in a relationship; maybe she'll see me around.

A small part of me is depressed at the notion that this might actually represent progress for me; the rest, however, is saying, "hey, progress!"

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Round 3 answers:

1. “No more flippin' burgers, puttin' on my silly hat you know, I don't want that no more.”
--Sell Out, Reel Big Fish
2. “There he stood in the night, knowing what’s wrong from what’s right.”
--Brother Louie, Stories
3. “Maybe it's the way you touch me with the warmth of a sun; Maybe it's the way you smile, and I come all undone.”
--When I’m With You, Sheriff
4. “You've made me acknowledge the devil in me, I hope to God I'm talkin' metaphorically.”
--A Girl Like You, Edwyn Collins
5. “So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms. In your electronic arms.”
--O Superman (for Massenet), Laurie Anderson
6. “Oh how she rocks, in Keds and tube socks, but she don’t know who I am.”
--Teenage Dirtbag, Wheatus
7. “So I broke North with no delay, I heard she moved real far away; that was two years ago this May.”
--Girls, Beastie Boys
8. “The crowd roared as they started the race, ‘round the track they drove at a deadly pace.”
--Tell Laura I Love Her, Ritchie Valens
9. “Cause there's a million better bands with a million better songs, singers who can drum and singers who can sing.”
--We’re Not Gonna Make It, POTUSA
10. “Give me back my point of view 'cause I just can't think for you. I can hardly hear you say: What should I do?”
--Look What You’ve Done, Jet
11. “For days and nights they battled the Bantu to their knees, they killed to earn their living and to help out the Congolese.”
--Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, Warren Zevon
12. “I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed it in; I watched myself crawlin’ out as I was a-crawlin’ in.”
--Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), Kenny Rogers and the First Edition
13. “Every time I wonder where the world went wrong, end up lying on my face going ‘ringy dingy ding dong.’ And every time I wonder if the world is right, end up in some disco dancin' all night.”
--Pop Goes The World, Men Without Hats
14. “I kind of like the Beatles, so I headed for Las Vegas only made it out to Needles.”
--Never Been To Spain, Three Dog Night
15. “When winter came, I just wanted to go; deep in the desert, I longed for the snow.”
--Still The One, Orleans
16. “It took a lot for you to not lose your faith in this world. I can't offer you proof,but you're going to face a moment of truth.”
--A Matter of Trust, Billy Joel
17. “I even let you watch the shows you want to see because you married me, married me, married me.”
--Anything, Anything, Dramarama
18. “I can’t really help it if my tongue’s all tied in knots; jumping off a bridge, it’s just the farthest that I’ve ever been.”
--Follow You Down, Gin Blossoms
19. “No, I don't listen to their wasted lines; got my eyes wide open and I see the signs”
--They Don’t Know, Tracey Ullman
20. “Fawn, Jo and Tootsie are out on a wire; lettuce-toothed junkies all full of desire.”
--Meanwhile Rick James, Cake
21. “Slowly learning that life is OK. Say after me: It's no better to be safe than sorry.”
--Take On Me, A-ha
22. “Yeah we'll show her what it's all about. We'll get her jacked up on some cheap champagne, we'll let the good times all roll out.”
--Take Your Mama Out, Scissor Sisters
23. “He said he heard about a couple living in the USA, he said they traded in their baby for a Chevrolet.”
--Elvis Costello, Less Than Zero
24. “I've forgotten what food tastes like, the way it tastes right, the taste buds taste, right?”
--I’m Shakin’, Rooney
25. “God speed all the bakers at dawn, may they all cut their thumbs, and bleed into their buns 'till they melt away.”
--New Slang, The Shins

Monday, March 07, 2005

UPDATE: I woke up Sunday morning with two good ears. I don't know that the double-dose of NyQuil could have been responsible, but otherwise it just worked itself out. The sinuses are another story, but not one anyone wants to hear about. Thanks for the suggestions, though.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Spring Break 2005, or, Yo, So I Continued to A1A

At 12:42 a.m., when you're munching on crappy pizza and second-hand smoking an entire pack of Benson & Hedges with a flight to catch in under 8 hours, you come to the realization that after hitting the Bet One button for the thousandth-or-so time, you can't help but admit to yourself that you have been playing video poker and not, as you suspected, "playing video poker".

But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Getting off the plane at Dulles, I discover there is a city bus, the 5A, that takes you to the Rosslyn Metro station near DC, a better alternative to the private bus that's 3 times as much and drops you at the West Falls Church stop near the end of the line. On the 5A sitting across from me is a Michigan architecture grad student with whom I have a nice conversation, who is wearing no rings and a wide smile, and to whom I say "Can I get your number?" about 547 times, zero of them out-loud. Because she's on the North Campus, I will probably never see her again. Moron.

After disembarking at Chez Kristan, we met up with her friends Jen, Pascal, and Pants to see The Aviator, which I liked a lot more than some people. Cate as Kate was tremendous; another highlight was Pants suddenly recognized Data. Afterwards we went to a bar where I was able to get a Yuengling and a Brooklyn Brown Ale, which was the next-best thing to being able to get a Brooklyn Lager. For some reason, most of this portion of the evening was spent adding the word "Anal" to popular car models; hilarity sometimes ensued. Probe is too obvious, but Infiniti, Caravan, Accord, and others are fun.


We had a yummy Vietnamese lunch and Cold Stone in Cleveland Park, then walked almost to the Maryland line (including a fruitless detour trying to follow signs to the Mauritanian embassy) and then back down Nebraska Avenue to Tenleytown. Eleven years ago when I was a Senate intern (typing that has me reaching for hemlock, it should be noted) I used to get off the Metro there sometimes, and it was nice to see the area has picked up significantly. Our ultimate goal was an Oscar party where I met many more people who I've forgotten because I mostly still talked to Jen and Pants. I loved Chris Rock as host and hope he does it again. I haven't looked, but I've heard some critics found him too mean-spirited. Let's just clear this up--there's no such thing as comedy that's "too mean-spirited"--it's called funny.


Monday was all about Flogging Molly, and again they put on a tremendous live show. What other band could get 800 white 15-to-35 year old white people (plus at least 3 non-white people; what can I say--Irish punk has a target audience) angry about Oliver Cromwell on a snowy Monday night in DC? Before the show we went to the Brickskellar, one of these places with thousands of different beers on the walls, hundred on the menu, and at least 7 in stock when you actually try to order. Why do these places always put so many more beers on the menu than they actually have at any one time? Major pet peeve.

Oh also, I'm so cool that on my spring break, mostly Monday, I read an entire book about grammar and publication style in two sittings. Yeah, fuck with me now, bizzatch! I learned many interesting things, such as that a billion is different in the U.K. and the U.S. (our trillion is the British billion; our billion is the British thousand-million or milliard), that major newspapers have differing styles regarding possessive proper nouns ending with "s" depending on whether you sound the "s" or not (so on one paper, Arkansas' and Kansas's will be correct, while on another it will be Arkansas's and Kansas'), and that this may be the dweebiest paragraph ever posted online.


With the snow finally letting up and temperatures approaching a balmy 40 degrees, I set out for the Smithsonian before meeting up with Tim and Raman for lunch in NoVA. I really enjoyed the African Voices exhibit at Natural History, and wished I'd had more time with the Brown v. Board of Education exhibit at the American History Museum. I killed some time mid-afternoon in Georgetown and became approximately the 8th American to see Annette Bening's Oscar-nominated turn in Being Julia. It's an OK movie with a really slow middle, but the climactic scene on stage is just brilliantly rendered. The whole movie builds to it, and it really is a matter of putting up with the rest to see that scene, but it was worth it. Finally, we went to what Kristan proclaims as DC's finest happy hour at Heritage India, and I'm not going to argue. Half-price Indian food and cheap froo-froo martinis and champagne: together at last.


First things first--46 states down now, with only HI, LA, MS, and OR to go.

Everything I knew about Miami before Wednesday I'd learned from Dave Barry and Joan Didion, so I had a narrative in my head along the lines of:

I had been speaking with Oscar Moreno Martinez who told me that when Castro eventually dies, we can expect a monster Cubano uprising, which, incidentally, would be a tremendous name for a rock band.

If I had to sum up the Miami experience in two words, they'd be: "under construction". Apparently they've decided that the way to revitalize the area just north of downtown, where Tom lives, is to build and opera house, a symphony hall, and milliards of condos. The most interesting site is the There's Something About Mary house--everything around it has been torn down, but it still stands while high-rises go up around it. I don't know if it's actually received historical landmark status, but I'd love to put up a "Chris Elliot Slept Here" plaque.

Anyway, Wednesday night we saw Tom's dad's new apartment, which is absurd. The main drag of South Beach is Ocean Avenue. One of the main restaurants in South Beach is the News Cafe. On the second floor of the News Cafe, with a balcony overlooking Ocean Avenue and the beach, is Tom's dad's apartment. Unbelievable location, that he just dumb-lucked into. We ate and hit a couple of bars, and then headed back across the A1A causeway.


The drill all week was that I drove Tom to work, then had his car during the day, and picked him up. Tom is also a bit schizo about Miami traffic, so when he has people in town he has them drive. Everywhere. This isn't a problem per se, but the degree of difficulty goes up because his (anal?) RX6 is having massive electrical problems, so the electric windows and mirrors don't work. I did get them in some semblance of order, and after dropping Tom off I drove up through Miami Beach and Hollywood, looking at all the pastels and art deco. Since these areas are known for being full of old people and Jews, I was thinking: hmmm...buffets, Chinese food--Chinese buffet! Amazingly, they don't seem to exist in Dade County, so I settled for the Olive Garden soup-salad-breadsticks lunch. There was a very old couple sitting near me who were clearly still crazy about each other, and they sat on the same side of the booth. She looked disapprovingly at a bored middle-aged couple nearby and, with a sad look, said to him, "I don't know why they don't sit together." It was so precious I almost had to buy their lunch. Almost.

Thursday night we went back to Tom's dad's, because how could we not?


I was trying desperately to fight off a cold so I sat around reading during the day. I did drive around Coral Gables and Coconut Grove a little, because this was the first sunny day of my trip, and the temperature almost hit 70. However, it was a pretty lazy day, except that at 10 p.m. we set off into the Everglades to the Miccosukee Indian Casino. Nevada is full of towns like Laughlin, Primm, and Mesquite that try to be mini-Vegases but which attract a tremendously depressing white trashy crowd; Laughlin is Monte Carlo compared to Miccosukee. In the parking lot, which was overfilled, we ended up taking a place left by a vacating, three-tone 1982 Toyota anal Corolla that anti-gambling organizations should put on their posters in a manner that deliberately questions cause and effect.

Inside, we found that the place was run almost as well as your average Central Asian republic. Almost. Our purpose in going out there was to play Texas Hold 'Em; there was a two-hour wait. However, Tom would've had trouble playing anyway because he had expected to get cash once we got there, but every ATM was out of money. Let's not blow past this point casually--you're running a casino, it's Friday night, the rednex are out in full force, and many of them can't gamble because you haven't adequately stocked the ATMs. Morons. So we decided to play some video poker, except that lots of people were standing around waiting to play video poker because many of the machines had broken bill feeders. Again, running a casino, many broken bill feeders, not good, people waiting around, not good. Finally in a somewhat less occupied part of the room we found two machines together, I gave Tom a 20-spot, put in one myself, and we sat and played video poker. And sat. And sat. Video poker was created for people with much, much longer attention spans than I have, but for the life of me I couldn't lose big enough or win big enough to justify cashing out for a long, long time. Finally, after several "max bet" decisions gone wrong (or, arguably, right) I busted out and went to the Deli, which is where we came in.


Not much to report except that the flights were uneventful--the best kind--with one weird exception. I connected through Dulles, and as we began our descent into the airport, my right ear popped as usual but my left one didn't. It still hasn't, and I'm on hour seven. The cold has hit full on today, so I'm sure that has something to do with it, but if anyone has any suggestions on re-pressurizing my ear, I'd be extremely grateful.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Miami has been unseasonably cold, which is much warmer than the seasonably cold weather I'm accustomed to, but still. More travelogue in a day or two, but in the meantime, some hints for the remaning open lyrics.

10. Currently on the Billboard hot 100; one of several very different sounding hits off the same album

15. Classic rock. Previous line is: "I looked at your face every day, but I never saw it 'til I went away."

20. Everyone I know seems to have the album this song is from, bitch.

22. Oedipus' favorite contemporary song.

23. Classic rock-ish; title used for an '80s movie.

24. 2003 album, first single, and I'm told they're one of the bands brought to the general public's attention by the O.C.

25. It'll change your life.