Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Lawyer Nerdiness

I was looking at the Ledbetter case again and it got me thinking about a project I have been meaning to undertake.

There is significant disagreement about which of the Circuit Courts of Appeal get reversed by the Supreme Court the most. The debate centers on whether the Ninth Circuit is as crazy as many people argue it is.

Proponents of this view point out that the 9th Circuit gets reversed more times than any other circuit. Others point out that the 9th gets more cases reviewed more often because it is so much bigger than the other Circuits.

I have this idea floating around that would look at data that I haven't seen analyzed yet: I want to count the votes.

The Supreme Court reverses most cases it reviews--why would it take a case if all it wanted to do was agree? None of the Circuits have great records at the Supreme Court. At the same time, few decisions are unanimous, which means that some justice probably voted to affirm. Why not count up the votes?

Supreme Court opinions are binary in the sense that one party wins and one party loses, but examining the cases as wins or losses clouds the fact that the Court splits on many cases. Furthermore, in many cases every justice votes to reverse but cannot agree on the reasons. To plot out which Circuit most resembles the Supreme Court, counting the votes to affirm or reverse takes into effect the data most relevant.

But when am I going to do this? Shouldn't I be studying for the bar?

The Ledbetter Case

Justice Alito wrote this week that a person who wants to sue his employer under Title VII for discriminatory compensation schemes has to sue within a time that is calculated from when the discriminatory decision was made.

Justice Ginsburg dissenting, wanting to establish a rule that the time limitations began all over again each time the employee received a paycheck that reflected the discriminatory decision.

Who is right? Which rule is better? Why?

Ain't being a lawyer fun?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


The action of this woman who hung her children was evil.

Perhaps there was some postpartum depression involved, perhaps there was domestic violence. But don't brush past the fact that we should feel moral outrage that such a thing should happen and that a person would do it.

I do not pretend to understand what happened. I am not trying to apportion fault. But I hope that as we learn what happened, we do not lose our sense of evil.

We must admit the existence of evil if we admit the existence of good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I love automatic translations.

Check out the brooding omnipresence in jive here.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Hilton Head Island is one of the finest places I've been.

With any luck, my blog posting this week will be much happier than usual. I am too young to be such an old man.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

When is a Small Number a Big One?

A recent Pew Research Poll (pdf) found that roughly 26% of American Muslims youths (under 30) believe that suicide attacks targeting civilians in defense of Islam are acceptable (p. 53-54). More interesting to me, while the vast majority of Muslims polled said that suicide missions are never justified, a greater number said that the attacks are "often" or "sometimes" justified (15%) than "rarely" justified (11%). I interpret that trend as evidence of polarization.

Again, the responses of American Muslims in support of suicide bombing are lower than the responses of the Muslim population in Europe. Don't think I'm talking about Islam. I am talking about some radical fringe.

I heard a lady on CNN say something to effect of "the poll shows that three quarters of the most disaffected group of American Muslims, those most prone to radicalization, are opposed to suicide attacks on civilians in every instance."

But when is 25% a small number and when is it a large number? To say that 75% of my organs are functioning is to say that I am dead; however, having my heart beat at 75% of its maximum rate is to say that I am walking briskly.

These numbers do not interpret themselves.

Another number that stood out to me: 40% affirmatively said that Arabs "carried out the 9/11 attacks" (p. 51). Almost an equal number refused to respond. For Muslims under 30, 38% stated that Arabs did not carry out the attack.

Are these numbers large or small?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Note on Some Format Changes

This is really an apology. I've taken down links to several of my friends' blogs. My purpose was to provide them with a bit of anonymity and to maintain as much privacy as possible.

I find myself occasionally writing things about which people have strong opinions. Perhaps we are better off if I continue brooding "out there" instead of including a bunch of information by which I am easily identifiable. There is a kind of blog circle (a blircle?) that I fit into, and I did not want to invite everyone into that ring.

If you want your blog back on the list, I am of course more than happy to oblige. I'm still reading, don't worry. I merely considered it my duty, as more people I don't know come here to read, to give my friends the options of remaining anonymous.

Most of my friends prefer to remain anonymous as it is. I can't blame them.

Western-Style Justice

Jonah Goldberg linked to this article under the heading "Karma Comedian."

A dude in California tried to kill his girlfriend by parking their car on some railroad tracks just before a train came. The train hit the car, sent it flying, and it killed him as he ran away.

The girlfriend survived.

A Gas Price Paradox

Gas prices are pretty darn high right now, even though the price of crude oil is lower than it was this time last year. Industry analysts suggest that the reasons for the high prices are high ethanol prices and low refining capacity.

Ethanol should get cheaper with time, but remember that corn farmers are now in the energy business.

Interestingly, the rush to produce alternative fuels may keep gas prices high by discouraging companies from investing in new refinery capacity. Refinieries are huge industrial operations that cost lots and take years to pay off. If we are so insistent on getting beyond gas, why would an oil company want to build a refinery?

It all comes down to a simple question that is hard to answer: are we going to get beyond gas or are we going to stick with it? Increasingly, the tough talk about ending the addiction to oil is going to mean oil costs more. If we keep talking, we are going to have to work and hope for a viable alternative.

This Was Not Intended as a Joke

I will keep my source anonymous, but this is real. I have it on good information.

What can a dude say in the face of such aggressive nonsense?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thanks All

I have much for which to be thankful.

Thanks to all of you fellow law students (aka graduates). It was a wonderful three years.

Thanks to all who came to the party on Saturday! I had a blast. You've honored me by your attendance and your friendship.

And thanks to Melissa. A lot.

A Compressed Air Car

Instapundit has linked to a story about a car that runs on compressed air. Check it out.

It's got a top speed of about 68 mph, which works for commuter driving in Europe and will hopefully work in India and China. It costs about $2 to fill up on air and then the car can run for at least 125 miles, or about 10 hours of driving time. It has double the range of electric cars and costs about 1/10th as much per mile as a gas-powered car (assuming European petrol prices). The air exhaust is cold enough to cool the car.

Heating would appear to be a problem, however.

Reminder number 246,376,276,456,876 that the way forward actually involves going forward. Backwards simply won't do. Who knows if this kind of thing will work, but I'm really glad that really smart people want to make fantastic fortunes solving problems.

(If anyone can explain why every triad of numbers above ends with a 6, you deserve to make a fantastic fortune as well).

Why I'm Glad to Live in Alabama, Part 1

1. I no longer reside in the state which gave us Jimmy Carter.

I'm no fan of Jimmy Carter, especially when it comes to his political decisions. Habitat for Humanity is a great thing, and I'll credit where it's due, but Jimmy Carter has lost me with the things he's said in the last 10 years.

Most recently, he said that George Bush's administration is "the worst in history." Really?

I would like to point the former President to a couple examples in history, most notably the Warren G. Harding administration. But, I think President Carter could stand to hold a mirror up to himself for a second. When he left office, American power was at perhaps its lowest ebb since 1914. I view the Carter presidency as a failure to act. He seems to me a man who cannot translate the knowledge of what is right into the actions that must follow therefrom.

On the positive side, however, Carter reminds me of some pretty good literature. His is the wisdom of Tolkein's Denethor. He also reminds me of a poet I studied this semester. If any of ya'll have read Wallace Stevens, perhaps you will allow me to quote some lines that remind me Carter.

From "Sunday Morning"

We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Well, it turns out that Carter didn't intend to criticize Bush personally, but rather intended his remarks at "the administration."

This clarification strikes me as odd. I have not been aware of this administration being inept--the main criticism of our government in the last years is that it is doing the wrong thing. Invading Iraq was wrong. Taxcuts are wrong.

To judge this administration is to judge, I think, the rightness or wrongness of its goals. The Bush Presidency has been all about big things (which is odd and needs its own post). I am not aware that the Bush administration is governing in a manner less apt than prior administrations--the problem is not how good the administration is at governing but rather is that the adminstration is governing towards the wrong things.

And I think almost all of us would agree that George W. Bush has a lot to do with the things towards which his government strives. Unless or course Dick Cheney is behind it...

If Carter really meant to say that the administration is bungling and inept, he is making a criticism which does not seem to have much basis. If, however, he is really talking about the goals Bush is setting, he should not have backed down. One way or another, the "clarification" has made things worse.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Islamophobia is the worst form of terrorism.

I find this stuff shocking. The forgiegn ministers of several Islamic nations have issued a statement that asserts that fear is Islam is more dangerous than terrorism done by Muslims who happen to be terrorists.

We can argue about whether the Islamic faith actually fosters terrorism, but it is really hard to argue that most of the major terrorist acts in the last decade were carried out by Muslims. We cannot equate the horrors of Bali and Madrid with the publication of offensive cartoons in a newspaper. We cannot equate the Pope's statements about Islam with the murder of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. Any scale which finds the cartoons and the statements more serious than the murders is measuring by weights I do not know.

Check out these statements. The first is an example of using words to say nothing.

"[Islamophobia] is something that has assumed xenophobic proportions." Which is to say, the fear of the Islamic nations (if it exists) has reached the scale of a fear of foriegners, which is what xenophobia means. Does anybody know what they were trying to say?

Other statements seem to be complete nonsequiters to me. For example "Islamophobia became a source of concern, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks...." I would agree that the incidence of Islamophobia increased after 9-11, but I wonder why that particular date is relevant? Did something happen on 9-11? It's a funny date to pick.

Again: "It gained further momentum after the Madrid and London bombings. The killing of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004 was used in a wicked manner by certain quarters to stir up a frenzy against Muslims." Ergo, Islamophobia increased after attacks by Muslims.

The argument seems to be that the West should not fear Muslims in general and should not degrade the Islamic religion. We're good so far.

But I thought that the ministers said that Islamophobia was more dangerous than any other form of terrorism. Showing (without actually using data) that there was a religious backlash after attacks carried out by proponents of a particular faith is one thing; actually showing that the backlash is worse than the initial attack is one thing.

I hav

City of Ponoma and Why Blogging is Great

Some guys over at Foothills Cities, a blog about the LA area, have attracted the ire of the City of Ponoma. Ponoma is claiming that something on the blog is libelous and the city attorney has threatened a lawsuit.

The only problem is that it is impossible to libel a government agency (See New York Times v. Sullivan).

Why exactly is the city attorney threatening a suit he can't bring in his official capacity? Is he threatening to sue on behalf of some private interests? Let me ask, with Instapundit, why tax dollars should pay for lawuits aimed at private interests?

Instapundit is all over it. The Volokh Conspiracy is, too.

The blogosphere is going to make sure that the City of Ponoma, its officials and its taxpayers, know the First Amendment pretty well by the time this is over.

News as public education! The academy and the polity in dialogue about real problems!

Blogs exist for this kind of stuff.

Great Bumper Sticker

Melissa and I actually saw this one last night, except that the one we saw had a little graphic on it that completed the effect.

People who buy these things and put them on your car, who are you? And what makes you want to tell these things to the world?

Judicial Clerkships

I am fascinated by what judges do. They seem to live at the exploding intersection of academic (perhaps "brooding") law, abstract ideas of justice and fairness, and very concrete actions and results. How is a person to handle these responsibilities?

(Forgive me for romanticizing the judicial process. I am inclined to have a more minimalist view of the judicial process, but that minimalism could be said to be a mechanism of coping with the mystery.)

All of this fascination has made me want to work for judges for a while.

Next year, I get to work with a Federal District Court judge here in town.

Yesterday, I dropped off an application with a Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

Let me say this: I love blogging. A lot. But I'd gladly leave all the brooding for the chance to deal with the real thing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Definitions in Action, Pt. 2

Today's definition is a personal favorite of mine.

Usufruct. It's a noun. It means the right to enjoy or profit from someone else's property, so long as you don't harm the property. Lawyers often speak of "usufruct" interests in land, for example. Somebody could have the right to harvest crops from the land of another, provided that the harvesting party did not otherwise damage the land. I think usufructuary interests often involve timber or mineral rights as well.

The derivation of usufruct is, most obviously, Latin. It comes from usus et fructus, which means "use and enjoyment."

But I think we could profit from thinking more on the usufructuary nature of all of our property. If we embrace the idea of stewardship, then we must recognize that we have only usufruct in all our property.

We can't take it with us. In light of this fact, many think of future generations as the ultimate owners, but I think they miss the point. The next generation is the successor in interest, but they can only get from us as much title as we have to give. If our usufruct is transient, so must theirs. They can't take it with them, either.

So either we embrace Ayn Rand and claim all the world in fee simple absolte or we recognize some ultimate Owner. I don't really see another option.

Note: I sometimes slip into using usufruct as an adjective. If anyone can find me the proper adjectival form, I promise to make the necessary corrections.

Note 2: Thanks, Mark. The sky is a couple hues darker and the grass a little sharper now that ya'll are gone. We'll see you soon.

Another Interesting NYT Article on Abortion and Disabilities

These articles are interesting. It appears that there are going to be 11 of them, so stay tuned for links to 9 more...

The most recent article explores the dilemma in which advocates of choice find themselves when they are confronted with the fact that a lot of women who discover that their child will have Down syndrome or some other "less serious condition" exercise their right to choose an abortion.

The Pro-Choice movement has focused on the woman doing the choosing. The emerging data on abortion and disability put the emphasis in the womb.

I'll close by including a quote I found interesting.

“You’ve got these two basic liberal values on a kind of collision course,” said Rayna Rapp, an anthropologist at New York University who has studied attitudes toward prenatal testing.

Without some mechanism, some Tao, to resolve these conflicts, how can anyone make a defensible decision?

Monday, May 14, 2007

A More Complete Statement of My Intentions

I think I've got a pretty good handle on my future as a blogger. With any luck, it will be witty; it will certainly be brief.

I am going to have intermittent internet access throughout the summer, and will probably be able to post in torrential spurts--lots when I'm "studying for the bar" and very little when I'm not.

Come fall, however, I'm done. I've taken a job with a Federal District Court Judge and I can find no way to square blogging with the nature of my work. I'll hopefully keep the family information flowing through Melissa. If I'm really lucky, she may even grant me posting privileges...

Consider the brooding omnipresence to be an extended experiment.

A Puff of Wind

Well, I've got some work to finish up at school today, so I figure a few posts couldn't hurt anybody...

I saw that Al-Qaida is claiming to have abducted some US soldiers and is "warning" us not to go looking for them. If you were in a position of strength, or if you had a really good hiding place, do you think you would issue such a warning?

I've been doing some reading. The "new" Tolkien book, The Children of Hurin, was wonderful--especially if you've read the Simarillion. I'm in the middle of Rand's Atlas Shrugged right now, and am busy remembering all the reasons why I love and hate objectivism.

John Piper wrote a thoughtful critique of objectivism. I recommend it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I'm Heading for a Blogging Doldrums

The wind that pushes this blog forward is access to a computer and the internet. I've got neither at home. And I plan on being home a lot.

So there may be less cause to waste your time here in the future. I figure one blog a day is okay, even if I've been averaging three for a couple of weeks...

Be good, ya'll.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'm About to Start My Last Exam

And the only honest answer I can give to how I feel is...

Nothing. I don't feel a thing.

An Email From Mark

Mark Hammond, good luck on your exam this morning.

Mark emailed me a link to the illustrious TaxProf Blog. I thought it was really interesting. I am not sure that I will support the ideas from a policy perspective, but the way the authors phrased the question was really interesting.

They argue that income inequality that flows from higher education is a good thing. In other words, we should hope that people who go to school longer make more money because their additional income supports economic growth.

But this part fascinated me

For many, the solution to an increase in inequality is to make the tax structure more progressive—raise taxes on high-income households and reduce taxes on low-income households. While this may sound sensible, it is not. Would these same indi­viduals advocate a tax on going to college and a subsidy for dropping out of high school in response to the increased importance of education? We think not. Yet shifting the tax structure has exactly this effect.

Again, I'm not about to abondon progressivity in the tax code, but I've got to admit that there is irony here. Politically, it appears to me that the same people who support cheaper education (aimed at keeping people in school longer) also tend to argue for more progressive taxes (which could have the effect of taxing college and subsidizing dropping out).

The way that we, as a country, pay for education is more than a little messed up. When we have rampant inflation in the price of education, what do we do? We lower student loan interest rates, letting more and more dollars flow into education, which causes inflation, which makes us need to lower interest rates, which cases inflation, which makes us lower interest rates...

Thanks for the ideas, Mark. Keep 'em coming.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Evangelical Mad Libs

I wish this weren't funny. But it is.

If it weren't at least a little true, it wouldn't be funny.

A Justiciability Question

For any of you legal-minded folk, there is an interesting problem posed by Speaker Pelosi in a comment she made to a reporter from the Daily Kos. She said "[w]e can take the President to court," if he decides to issue a signing statement on an upcoming war funding bill.

Signing statements are, oddly enough, statements that the President files when he signs a bill. These statements outline how the Executive plans to interpret the bill and often state objections that the Executive branch has to provisions of the bill that it considers to be unconstitutional. Signing statements have been around for a while, but nobody has used nearly as many as President Bush.

In effect, a signing statement is a junior veto. By issuing the statements, which go into the Federal Register (I think) but do not have the force of law, the Executive Branch says what it thinks the Constitution means in relation to the law with which the statement is issued. If the President thinks a law is unconstitutional, he obviously does not want to enforce it. Congress, likewise, has cited unconstitutionality as a reason for voting against a proposed bill.

What makes all of this stuff interesting is the Speaker's idea of taking the President to court over signing statements. This task may prove really difficult.

Signing statements don't actually do anything. They tell the Executive branch (which includes the Departments of State, Justice, Interior, Homeland Security et al.) how the President wants the law enforced. The Departments have no legal duty to obey the statements.

If the Speaker wants to sue the President, she'll have to get standing. I'm sure all of you remember that someone has standing if they have some injury, not too widely shared, that is caused or fairly traceable to the defendant's actions and can be redressed by the relief requested.

I imagine the Speaker's injury would be that the President cannot interpret the law--that "it is precisely the role of the judiciary to say what the law is." But that is an injury to the judiciary, not to the Speaker of the House.

Furthermore, if these statements do not really affect legal rights under a statute, I am not sure that they can give rise to a judicially-cognizable injury. Saying "the President disagreed with me" does not make me injured if nothing actually done or left undone does not injure me.

All of these questions are deeply political: enter the political question doctrine. The political question doctrine keeps questions out of court if deciding the issue would involve stepping too much on another branch's toes. Conflicts between branches are the classic case for invoking the doctrine.

But, Madam Speaker: If you're reading, I've got a way that might work. You couldn't have Pelosi v. Bush for your case caption, but you might find a way to get a plaintiff with standing.

If there is an employee of the Executive Branch that will directly involved in enforcing the law, and that employee both agrees with the law as passed by Congress and disagrees with the policies expressed in the signing statement, AND that employee is willing to disobey the signing statement AND willing to get fired for disobeying, that person would have standing to challenge the legal effect of the signing statement.

But I think our poor employee would lose. Bosses can fire us for anything.

If you're dissatisfied with a coordinate branch of government, don't sue. Please. Resolving these kinds of disputes is precisely what politics are for.

This Requires Our Attention

According to the New York Times, about 90% of women who discover that they are pregnant with a Down syndrome child choose to have an abortion.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Perhaps the Most Powerful Man in America

Meet Justice Kennedy.

The Supreme Court has had, by my count, eight big decision that were decided 5-4. Justice Kennedy was in the majority every single time.

He has yet to write a dissenting opinion this year.

His vote is likely to be the critical vote in the upcoming Equal Protection cases.

Our Supreme Court is becoming, at least from a statistical standpoint, a 4-1-4 court. It's fascinating. It may be necessary.

But it leads to some screwy jurisprudence and cannot help the certainty of our laws.

It is strange to argue that the law was more stable when there were two "swing" votes on the Court (whatever that means), but it looks like the departure of Justice O'Connor has unsettled many things.

The clouds are already gathering for the next big confirmation fight. Justice Stevens is really freaking old. Justice Ginsburg may be in poor health. Scalia simply cannot last forever (unless being an incurable curmudgeon is good for you).

God save this nation and this honorable Court.

Monday, May 7, 2007

An Odd Report from Reuters

This article from Reuters seems to suggest that Royale was right about the violence that would follow from the election of Sarkozy.

Apparently, 730 cars were torched and 78 policemen hurt. That sounds like a lot of violence.

But, keep reading and things get more interesting:

[A government memo] added that the level of violence was above that usually seen on July 14 Bastille Day, France's national holiday, "but below that of New Year's celebrations."

Police say on an average just over 100 cars are set ablaze in France each night.

100 cars a night? Less violence than New Years?

A law-and-order vote is starting to make more sense to me. Turnout rates about 85%(!!!) are starting to make more sense to me. The US had turnout just above 60% in 2004.

This was one heck of a vote.

Michael the Spiritual Advisor

The highlight of my Sunday nights is Michael the Spiritual Advisor and Relationship Counselor.

For you Birmingham listeners, he comes on 95.7 Jamz from 8-9 Sunday evenings, as well as Tuesday mornings 7-9.

Let's just say that his theology is interesting and his advice, well, a little predictable. His usual call involves someone asking about when and if they will [get married] [get into a serious relationship] [have a child] [find a new house] [get a job] [you get the picture].

His response, which I would say is in the affirmative 90% of the time, usually involves a date, a distinctive body feature (commonly a tattoo or birthmark, and perhaps some initials.

And he always reminds people that they've got to be good or God won't bless them.

But, far and away the best part of the show is that he plays all of Whitney Houston's "Count on Me" after every commercial break. The whole thing. Every time.

It's a cultural experience! It's a theological experience! It's a musical experience!

Sarkozy and a crazy morning

I've got so much to blog about but I've got this darn Federal Courts exam in an hour and a half...

So hang on.

But I can't pass up the opportunity to comment on the outcome of the French election. Sarkozy won. And, in honor of his pro-American views, some are calling for the renaming of Freedom Fries to Friendship Fries.

That's funny. It will get even funnier when we get to friendship poodles and friendship kissing.

Wish me luck (with the exam)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Best Band Name Ever

I was reading over the blogger profile of Bill McNeal, a cousin of mine who happens to have very good opinions about, among other things, music.

Check out his blog.

One his favorite bands is called The Firetheft. I've only listened to them a wee bit. The band is largely the reincarnation of Sunny Day Real Estate. I'm into their sound, but not nearly as much as I'm into their name. Genius. The name is lyrical and vaguely evocative of mythology.

I think The Firetheft is one of the best band names ever. Ever!

I know it is hard to separate the quality of a band's name from the degree of your personal enjoyment of their music, but do your best to be objective and tell me: what are the greatest band names of all time?

The Insanity Plastic

You know what I'm talking about. Everything new that I buy comes in "packaging" apparently made from unusable industrial diamond fragments woven into an invincible carbon-fiber shell. It is, to quote the Washington Post, "resistant to scissors, razor blades, and loud swearing."

It also sends 6,400 people per year to the emergency room.

I usually think Wendell Berry is a little over the edge (in his environmental ideas, not his personal ones), but, if the insanity plastic is the price of progress, sign me up as a neoluddite.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Why? or Where Is My Camera When I Need it?

There is a big sign a few streets up from mine. It's bright pink.

"Huge Gay Moving Sale"

Marketing on stereotypes? Degrading your own yard sale?

There is so much in that sign, so much that I don't understand.

An Early Indicator on Two Important Cases

Though it seems likely that this Supreme Court term will be remembered as the Carhart II term, there are some other big cases looming out there. I did not expect Carhart to be such a sweeping opinion--but I have long expected two cases dealing with Equal Protection and public schools to make a splash.

There are really smart people who keep track of which Justices are writing opinions and how many opinions each Justice normally writes. By cross-checking those numbers with the rules that determine who gets to assign the opinions to the different justices

The Chief picks who writes if he's in the majority, otherwise the most senior Justice picks. Practically, this means that, in hotly-contested cases, either John Roberts or John Paul Stevens picks who writes the opinion. Those two seldom vote together on the big ones.

These really smart people who can do Supreme Court math think that Chief Justice Roberts is writing at least one of the opinions in those cases. If he is the author, look for a ruling that strikes down racial quotas and views Brown v. Board of Education as a case about desegregation, not a case about integration.

In an ideal world, knowing who was writing an opinion would not mean anything about the result.

Exhibit 4,864,257,906 that our world is not perfect.

The French Election

Did ya'll know that there are whole other continents full of people out there? I find myself forgetting that often. Birmingham just feels like the center of the universe...

The French are involved in a very interesting election right now. French elections are all about winning the second election, because the first almost never produces a winner.

Note: European politics have always confounded me. In America, we keep one government and change administrations. They change whole governments. This whole coalition thing still is a little weird to me.

Anyway, there were three main candidates this time around in France. Sarkozy is center-right, Royal is socialist, and Bayrou was somewhere in the middle. I do not believe they had another far right candidate anywhere near as viable as Le Pen. Europe's flirtation with conservatism seems to have died with Pim Fortuyn.

Sarkozy and Royal came out ahead in the first election and are now courting the Bayrou vote. It looks like Sarkozy, who has been ahead in the polls all year, is claiming enough of the Bayrou vote to win.

In my humble analysis, immigration (by which I mean Muslim immigration) is driving Western European politics to the right. The demographic declines in France, Germany, Spain, and Poland will be offset by the influx of people from the Middle East and especially north Africa. Muslims have large families. Europeans do not.

I heard a Polish senator say that his country has about 10 years to set up a viable and self-sustaining economy before the wave of immigration will start sending GDP growth backwards.

Who knows if he's right, but it looks like Europe views the Muslim world not as a distant terror threat but as an invading horde.

Our world is such an interesting place.

And, Aunt Marty, I am studying.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Solar System Warming?

Apparently, Mars is warming as quickly as Earth. Do Martians drive Excursions? Do cosmic cows fart in space?

Maybe the sun is causing global warming. I have no idea. But I think the wars waged on the "comments" section of the above-posted article are hilarious.

Caleb Chancey

I've got a good buddy who happens to be a fine taker of pictures. Come to think of it, I've got several such friends. But today I can only talk about one of them. Yes, I'm talking about you, Caleb Chancey. Check out his shots of The Triceratops.

And then check out their music. The second song on Caleb's blog is a tune of theirs called Tigris Euphrates. I dig it. I have no idea how you pay the bills with a band that size, but I dig their music. Somehow I guess paying the bills comes second.

All of you out there, thanks for sharing what you love with us. And thanks for being really freaking good at it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Bird on my Porch

Tomorrow, the wife and I are hosting a party for Erin, my sister-in-law. She's graduating from Samford and heading to Northern Ireland in June to work with a church in a pretty rough neighborhood for a year. It's exciting stuff.

Anyway, because of the party, I spent a part of today getting the house ready. Part of getting the house ready involved getting some bird poop off the front porch. There is quite a story behind this bird poop.

On Sunday, Melissa called me up to the front windows to see what appeared to be a very sick bird perching on a chair on our front porch. It was pooping a lot. It looked very close to death. Melissa was rather upset and I wasn't far behind. Watching a creature die is not pleasant.

I went outside to see if he was well enough to fly. He tried to fly but only managed to hop on the ground. As I approached, he didn't move. He just sat there. It was rather wrenching.

We watched for a few more minutes. I was ready to gather the little guy up in a box and take him to the back yard where he could pass in peace, but we figured the front porch left him less exposed to cats.

When we come back a few sad minutes later, he was gone. Not gone as in dead, but gone as in not on my porch. I guess he wasn't so sick after all.

He comes back a little later, back to the same chair. He keeps pooping a lot. As I go back out to reexamine him, what I thought were the ruffled feathers of impending death looked a lot more like the down of new life. I helped him up on the railing of the porch. A bigger bird showed up a few minutes later and pecked his head a little bit. After that, the little guy hopped over to the other railing and flew off.

I guess he was just learning. I thought he was dead. There is a parable here, but it hits too close to what is happening in my heart to easily explain. The Lord speaks in amazing pictures. Give me ears to hear!

But, before you go thinking I was about to kill a baby bird, you've got to see the stuff that this guy was leaving on my porch. It was like puddles of neon. But it's gone now. That little dude had the spraints. Dang, did he ever.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Irony: Lawyers as Loners

One of the principal oddities of my profession is the common idea of the lawyer as a loner. In a law and literature class I took this semester, we read all kinds of books, and I was struck by how many of the lawyer characters were loners: Clarrence Darrow in "Inherent the Wind," the Judge Penitent Jean Baptiste in Camus's "The Fall," Harry in Gaddis's "A Frolic of His Own."

I'm a loner and almost a lawyer.

This fact is ironic. The law exists because other people exist: most of our laws are aimed at solving social problems.* When neighbors can't get along, enter the law of nuisance. When business partners can't get along, enter the law of agency, partnership, and corporations. Almost no law is addressed to what somebody does by themselves (many traffic and drug crimes are salient examples, but these are aimed at protecting society). Tort law addresses problems between strangers, contract law solves problems between friends.

So why are lawyers the way they are? Is it caused by the work, the long hours in the library, and the time spent writing and editing documents? Or are us loner types attracted to the profession? The law has not made me the way I am...

I think it is dangerous for people like me to think that we will be good at administering a law that is aimed at interactions we largely avoid.

If I want to be a better attorney, perhaps being a better neigbhor, partner, stranger, and friend will get me started.

*I am going to set aside the philosophical question of laws that bind individuals outside of society--most of those laws are physical if not supernatural, and lawyers thankfully have not taken over gravity or thermodynamics.

Dang, two more quick things

I hate it when I post and then discover the most post worthy stuff.

For the first time ever, the Supreme Court has linked to a video as part of an opinion (it's currently the 4th one down, you can't miss it). That's pretty cool. The video is a high speed chase, and it was apparently posted to make fun of the 11th Circuit, the very Circuit for which I am applying to clerk.

And what could possibly be cooler than the weird converter? I weigh as much as 16,667 sheets of paper but only as much as 11.22 cubic inches of air at sea level. If any of you can figure out how much I weigh, congrats.

Where have I been?

Don't worry, hypothetical readers, I have not lost my blogging mojo! Your wasted hours are safe!

Exams are a real drag. Let me offer up some things that have been going on with me.

Melissa tore the club up in her half-marathon. 1:57:30!

My good friends Jimbo and Hayley welcomed Carson James Tucker into the world on Sunday afternoon. I haven't been to see them yet, but I hear that the wee lad has thankfully escaped a resemblance his father shares to a certain children's book character.

Congrats to April & Jordan Stevenson, in whose lovely wedding I had the honor of participating this Saturday. Congrats also to Cara and John Stephenson, whose wedding I had to miss but heard was the bomb. May God grant you the loving fulfillment of your vows!

Incidentally, how many ste(v)(ph)ensons are there out there? Did they all get married last weekend?

My good buddy Ashby, who is also busy with exams, managed to find the time to post a new song on his band's website. It's a reinterpretation of S & G's sound of silence. I dig it.

I've got a longer post that' been swirling 'round in my head for a few days. More later.