August 25, 2008

Such a Noble Profession

"Doctors purge the body, preachers the conscience, lawyers the purse."

--German proverb (from my desktop calendar)

Posted by JohnL at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) |
May 20, 2008

The Truth About Law Practice

“Accuracy and diligence are much more necessary to a lawyer, than great comprehension of mind, or brilliancy of talent. His business is to refine, define, and split hairs, to look into authorities, and compare cases. A man can never gallop over the fields of law on Pegasus, nor fly across them on the wing of oratory. If he would stand on terra firma he must descend; if he would be a great lawyer, he must first consent to be only a great drudge.” —Daniel Webster

Lifted in toto from Timothy Sandefur's Freespace.

Posted by JohnL at 08:29 PM | Comments (0) |
January 19, 2007

Pithy Coleridge Quote

He saw a lawyer killing a viper
On a dunghill hard by his own stable;
And the Devil smiled, for it put him in mind
Of Cain and his brother Abel.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Devil's Thoughts (1835 version)

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November 07, 2006

Vote Today

Here's how I voted:

US Senator: Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), the Devil I know. The Democrat is a typical social democrat who supports socialized medicine. The Libertarian wants to repeal the income tax (good, if futile) and compel citizens to buy health insurance instead. Wrong answer.

US Representative: Sam Johnson (R), one of the few candidates that I feel really good voting for.

Governor: Kinky Friedman (I), purely as a protest vote for the least-powerful position in state government. I wouldn't have felt bad voting for incumbent Republican Rick Perry, as he ranked second-best in the libertarian Cato Institute's "Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors: 2006" list of American governors.

Lieutenant Governor: Judy Baker (L). This is the most powerful office in Texas state government, and should therefore go to the clear limited-government candidate. Dewhurst hasn't been bad, as Republicans go, and will likely get the job, but Baker says the right things about limiting the scope and power of government.

Attorney General: Greg Abbott (R). He was a good judge, and has done nothing I find objectionable in his first term as AG. The Democrat wants to step up antitrust enforcement (loses my vote), and the Libertarian candidate for this position is, in my opinion, a loon.

Comptroller: Mike Burris (L). He's been a state employee for 26 years, and therefore understands the nature of the beast. A certified internal auditor, I think he is best-qualified to root out waste and report on the fiscal condition of the state government.

Land Commissioner: Michael French (L). I wish I could vote to eliminate the office altogether. Barring that, a Libertarian vote is probably the next-best-thing.

Agriculture Commissioner: Clay Woolam (L). Seems a bit flaky, but not too much so. Better than either major party candidate, who both seem a bit too activist for my taste.

Railroad Commissioner: Tabitha Serrano (L). This misnamed office is the most powerful regulatory agency in Texas (it regulates the oil and gas industry) and should go to the outsider committed to smaller government. Aside from having the hottest name in the race, here's what she has to say about her office: "Heck! I'm not actually sure what a railroad commissioner actually does, so the first thing I intend to do is figure that out and then get the darn thing renamed to something that makes sense, or maybe do away with it entirely."

For the State Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, I voted against every Republican (for the Libertarian if there was one, otherwise for the Democrat challenger).

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October 11, 2006

South Park vs. The Truthers


Heh. Retards.

(What would you expect from South Park? Something sophisticated and subtle?)

Posted by JohnL at 09:10 PM | Comments (238) | | TrackBack
September 13, 2006

Ann Richards, RIP

Former Texas governor Ann Richards died this evening of esophageal cancer at her home in Austin, Texas. She was 73.

I didn't vote for her in either gubernatorial election, but I did think she had one of the funniest (and most accurate) one-liners in the 1988 Democratic National Convention about George H. W. Bush: "Poor George. He can't help it -- He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." (Source).

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July 31, 2006

Required Viewing on Jihad

Via Pixy, check out Obsession: What the War on Terror is Really About, an amazing one-hour-and-seventeen-minute video that puts together many pieces of the puzzle regarding the clash between Islamic fascism and the western world. Even if you think you've heard all this before or think your opinion can't be swayed, you need to watch this.

And for some background reading, I would heartily recommend Stephen Green's The Arm of Decision and Game Plan, together with Bill Whittle's Confidence.

Posted by JohnL at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
July 24, 2006

Haiku For Goldstein

Other blogs cover
Politics so boring. But--
Roseanne? Iran? Heh.

Posted by JohnL at 09:30 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
May 23, 2006

The Safety Nazis

Well, I've been pretty incommunicative around here recently. Sorry about that, but I've had my hands full with my job, family, and fighting a [so far losing] battle against the safety Nazis in Texas government.

Virginia Postrel has already posted a good wrapup, and I can't describe the situation better than Tim Rogers at D Magazine. Seriously. Go read those before you continue, or it might not make sense.

Back? OK. I would only add that Reason's Hit and Run recently referenced a Baby Blues cartoon that perfectly describes the current trend of protecting our kids out of their childhoods.

As I've written before, I'm a board member for The Texas Pool (whose website I happened to design and author during my copious free time).

For four and a half decades, the pool has operated without any diving board injuries that would have been prevented by the new regulations. When looking at the cost-benefit analysis of the new FINA-derived standards, it seems that our benevolent state government believes even one potential injury sometime in the future would be too many. That of course disregards the many risks that responsible individuals take and allow their kids to take every single day. I put my kids at greater jeopardy every time I drive them to school. Or let them ride their bikes to school. Or even let them walk across the busy street to school.

But what really cranks me is that this regulation was slipped through on the sly. There was no public comment and no public record in the Texas Register of any kind of justification for the retroactive application of the new depth and spacing standards to existing diving facilities. Also, the standards come from a set of rules governing competitive diving. It's HARD to hit the bottom of a 10-foot pool unless you dive with a really good form, and kids doing cannonballs is hardly good form (I doubt most of them ever get below 5 or 6 feet).

So how can you begin to fight the professional government inflicted on us by the late 19th-century progressives? Our approach is really two phases (possibly three): (1) ask the State Department of Health to reconsider their decision not to include a grandfather clause for existing facilities, (2) ask our state legislators to overrule the administrative agency, and apply a grandfather clause, and (3) initiate appropriate litigation, contingent on finding an interested pro bono firm.

This would be a great opportunity to try out an "Army of Davids" approach. I can't really take the time to research the epidemiology of diving board/pool depth injuries and in any case don't have ready access to a university library with medical or sports injury journals. But from everything I've read to date, there's no real evidence of significant danger, even from a 3-meter diving board, when the diving well is at least 10 feet deep (as is ours). Most injuries occur in less than 5 feet of water.

Would any of my intrepid readers like to take on a pro bono research project? I already have some leads (authors, journal and article titles). I'm totally serious. If so, contact me at

I will be blogging more, on this and other things.

Posted by JohnL at 09:06 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
April 17, 2006

Cannibal Blogger

Wow. Just read through most of the blog of accused murderer/rapist/would-be-cannibal Kevin Underwood. You know those films of Hitler being tender and "normal" with his dog? That's kind of the impression you get from this blog.

Underwood's victim was 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin (picture found here):


Reading his entries, you can tell that Kevin is frequently depressed and definitely has issues, but he doesn't really seem on the verge of this kind of sociopathic outbreak. You can also see that he has moments of great optimism. It also seems like he had a supportive family.

Except that his mom didn't seem to understand his mental state very well:

I told my mom, and told her about my social anxiety problem, and that I was going to drop out of college and start going to a psychiatrist. She didn't really understand my problem, and still doesn't (whenever I try to talk about how shy I am around people, her answer is, "Just stop, don't be that way."), but she was supportive anyway.

Wonder if she has any regrets now?

Was this guy ill, or just plain evil? Read through the blog and say that he was evil. I'm more inclined to say mentally ill, based on his writing. What was the psychotic break? What triggered this?

Not that his illness should excuse his behavior. I think he should be put down like a rabid dog. The time for psychiatric care is BEFORE the murder takes place, not after. I don't have much sympathy for "mentally ill" killers getting treatment for life when they have killed other human beings. They should be euthanized.

Too bad this guy didn't have more consistent treatment. It seems like a better social network and some regular medication might have prevented this horror from taking place.

That poor girl's father. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror he is living through.

Posted by JohnL at 09:40 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
April 06, 2006

Dan Simmons - Must Read

Several years ago my older sister passed along a couple of Dan Simmons' books, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. She highly recommended them, but I had a lot of trouble enjoying them. Not really my kind of Sci Fi, at least at that point in time.

So I approached this speculative piece by Dan Simmons with a fair amount of skepticism. But I am really glad I took the 10 minutes to read this.

Premise: a time traveler from the future drops in on Dan and describes the world of the future, dominated by Islam. He compares the West of the present to the Athenians before Syracuse (and explains the analogy for those without a grounding in classical history). Here's an early excerpt to whet your appetite:

I tried to relax. "What do you want to talk about?" I said.

"The Century War," said the Time Traveler.

I blinked and tried to remember some history. "You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . ."

"I mean the Century War with Islam," interrupted the Time Traveler. "Your future. Everyone's." He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again. He said, "It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were."

"You mean the War on Terrorism," I said.

"I mean the Long War with Islam," he said. "The Century War. And it's not over yet where I come from. Not close to being over."

"You can't have a war with Islam," I said. "You can't go to war against a religion. Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not a . . . the . . . religion itself. The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. I mean . . . I mean . . . the very word 'Islam' means 'Peace.'"

"So you kept telling yourselves," said the Time Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange and almost frightening edge to it. "But the 'peace' in 'Islam' means 'Submission.' You'll find that out soon enough"

Great, I was thinking. Of all the time travelers in all the gin joints in all the world, I get this racist, xenophobic, right-wing asshole.

"After Nine-eleven, we're fighting terrorism," I began, "not . . ."

He waved me into silence.

"You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago," said the Time Traveler. "Do you remember what Category Error is?"

It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma mater being called a "podunk little college" to be able to concentrate fully.

"I'll tell you what it is," said the Time Traveler. "In philosophy and formal logic, and it has its equivalents in science and business management, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means."

I waited. Finally I said firmly, "You can't go to war with a religion. Or, I mean . . . sure, you could . . . the Crusades and all that . . . but it would be wrong."

The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He said, "Let me give you an analogy . . ."

God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.

"Let's imagine," said the Time Traveler, "that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation."

"That's absurd," I said.

It takes a few unpredictable turns after this. Query: what do you think the "three words" are?

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March 26, 2006

Rahman Situation

Velociman has the right idea.

Posted by JohnL at 11:47 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
February 16, 2006

Hat Tip to Crooked Timber

The other day, Ted at Crooked Timber identified some low-hanging fruit ripe for elimination from the US federal budget. After citing an egregious example of useless waste, he wrote: "My first response was 'This is why good people turn libertarian.' Upon reflection, that’s my second response, too."

Crooked Timber is a consistently good read on the center-left side of the political spectrum. Check it out.

Posted by JohnL at 10:27 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
February 15, 2006

Do I Seem Like an Anarchist to You?

You scored as Anarchism.

















What Political Party Do Your Beliefs Put You In?
created with

The strange thing here is the orders of the runners-up. Democrat? Republican or Socialist? Yikes.

(via Donkey Rex Ferric)

Posted by JohnL at 11:23 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack

Ghost in the Moon

This post earns Matoko Kusanagi a move from the The Green Hills of Earth to the The Moon is a Harsh Mistress portion of my blogroll.

(The TMiaHM section is reserved for libertarians/classical liberals).

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January 24, 2006

Worse Than A Wuss


(Hat tip: Jeff Goldstein).

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January 17, 2006

Great Jefferson Quote

Can you imagine any modern President drafting a statement with the eloquence, economy, and profundity of the following?

[O]ur rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

From the E-text Center, UVA Library.

...It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. There in but nine words is the purest distillation of a libertarian's opposition to criminalizing "victimless" conduct.

(Hat tip: Timothy Sandefur, whose thoughts on Blackstone and the common law you should go read. Now.)

Update: Be sure to read Timothy's co-blogger's thoughts on Blackstone, too. Very, very good stuff.

Posted by JohnL at 09:26 PM | Comments (5) | | TrackBack
December 14, 2005

Save the Anglosphere

Do you know about ITAR? The acronym means "International Traffic in Arms Regulations" and refers, essentially, to an area of US export control law intended to keep the United States from exporting critical military technologies without proper scrutiny.

Unfortunately, as currently applied, it is needlessly pushing away our closest allies in the world: the UK and Australia. In fact, it has gotten so bad that the UK may withdraw from the Joint Strike Fighter program(me).

Both Presidents Clinton and Bush have pushed for basically a blanket waiver to allow the UK and Australia to participate with the US in weapons development and other areas of military cooperation. Unfortunately, Republican Congressmen Henry Hyde [IL] and Duncan Hunter [CA] oppose what should be a no-brainer. Read the linked articles above, educate yourself, and send a letter to your congresscritter encouraging him or her to support waiving the ITAR restrictions on the UK and Australia.

(Via Instapundit).

Posted by JohnL at 11:28 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
November 30, 2005

No Bias Here. Move Along.

From the Yahoo main page, under "In The News":

Bush Attempts Hard Sell on Iraq Progress
AP - Wed Nov 30, 1:57 PM ET
WASHINGTON - President Bush's depiction of Iraqi security forces as "helping to turn the tide" is difficult to square with persistent setbacks in handing control of the country back to its own people. His suggestion that Americans are solidly behind the mission also understates opposition at home, and his hard sell on the rising quality of Iraqi forces overlooks complexities on the ground.

Nope, no editorializing here. Just the news.

Posted by JohnL at 08:20 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
November 08, 2005

Vote Against Proposition 2

This is for my Texas readers. I'm post-dating it to stay at the top of my blog until after Tuesday's elections. Texans are heading to the polls on Tuesday, November 8, to vote on nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

Proposition 2 would amend the Texas Constitution with the following text (from HJR 6):

SECTION 1. Article I, Texas Constitution, is amended by adding Section 32 to read as follows:
Sec. 32. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.
(b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
SECTION 2. This state recognizes that through the designation of guardians, the appointment of agents, and the use of private contracts, persons may adequately and properly appoint guardians and arrange rights relating to hospital visitation, property, and the entitlement to proceeds of life insurance policies without the existence of any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
SECTION 3. This proposed constitutional amendment shall be submitted to the voters at an election to be held November 8, 2005. The ballot shall be printed to permit voting for or against the proposition: "The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Before we get into the actual black-letter meaning of the amendment, let's look at the intent. This is designed to keep any sort of gay marriage or similar legal arrangement such as civil unions, from being accorded any legal status in Texas.

While I hope that gays may someday legally marry, adopt and otherwise enjoy the equal protection of the laws and the same privileges and immunities as heterosexual couples, there are two very good reasons for all Texans -- including those opposed to gay marriage -- to vote AGAINST this amendment:

First, Texas already forbids same-sex marriages by statute.

Second, the plain text of the amendment lends itself to a construction outlawing all marriage. Read clause (a) closely. It defines marriage as only a "union" between a man and a woman. What kind of union? Physical? Are straight couples only married when in fact they are engaged in sexual congress? OK, maybe that's a silly argument. But look at clause (b). Neither Texas nor any political subdivision of Texas may "create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

What does "identical" mean? Exactly the same as? Isn't the only thing identical to marriage, marriage itself?

Could Texans really be about to abolish the legal institution of marriage altogether? I know some libertarians -- not me -- who would be delighted at that prospect.

Certainly section 2 of the House joint resolution could be used by a creative lawyer to argue that the Legislature knew that it was incumbent on couples (of whatever kind) to get their affairs in order as to guardianship, survivorship, etc., as they were about to obliterate all the legal privileges appurtenant to marriage.

I know the right wingers will say this isn't what they meant. But they should have been more careful drafting the amendment's text.

One very real potential casualty of this amendment could be common-law marriages. Like most Western states, Texas has a fairly short statute of limitations for the formation of a common-law marriage. But since common-law marriages are not formalized by a license, I would read this amendment to forbid any family or probate courts from recognizing the entitlement of the common law spouse to their share of the community property.

This is just a needless, largely symbolic, and ugly mess. One driven by bigotry and closed-mindedness. I hope (without much optimism) that my fellow citizens will keep this abomination from becoming part of the Texas constitution.

If you are registered to vote, PLEASE VOTE. And vote AGAINST Proposition 2.

Update: Be sure to check out the discussion in my comments. Here's my explanation of the legal futility of the proposed amendment to prevent "activist judges" from imposing gay marriage:

Third, this is all a red herring, because the status quo under both Texas and federal law is that gay marriage is and remains illegal and need not be given full faith and credit, even if permitted in other states. This is the case NOW. Prop. 2 will do NOTHING to change this, and in fact may undermine long-customary common law marriages (to the detriment of the abandoned common--law-wife, typically). You may call that FUD, but have you read the plain text of the amendment? It is sloppy and unforgivably vague. Which means everything will end up in court, which is what the amendment is supposed to prevent.

Fourth, speaking of court... the same federal constitutional challenge that would lead to a change in the status quo (see 3) would also lead to an invalidation of the proposed marriage amendment. The supremacy clause of the US Constitution would bind Texas, if activists manage to win an extension of marriage rights as a basic liberty under the 9th, 10th, and 14th amendments. Think of all the dead-letter miscegenation laws that were on the books in the South after Loving v. Virginia.

I think Virginia Postrel sums it up much more elegantly:

Since Texas already defines marriage by statute as the union of one man and one woman, Prop 2 is nothing more than a gratuitous attempt to build Gov. Rick Perry's social-conservative voting base by attacking gays. Supporters say an amendment is necessary to control "activist judges." But the only judges the amendment would bind are Texas state judges. Texas state judges, including the state's Supreme Court, are elected by Texas voters. Texas state judges are quite conservative. They are, to put it mildly, highly unlikely to find a right to same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

(Voting guide for all nine amendments beyond the jump):

Prop. 1 - AGAINST (don't give the state the power to create another agency)
Prop. 2 - AGAINST (see above)
Prop. 3 - AGAINST (make it harder for the state to spend money)
Prop. 4 - FOR (make it easier to keep bail-jumpers in jail when they're caught again)
Prop. 5 - FOR (allow the legislature to grant more freedom for commercial lenders to charge interest exmpt from usury limits)
Prop. 6 - FOR (technical change to expand State Judicial Commission by 2 members)
Prop. 7 - FOR (gives certain borrowers more freedom)
Prop. 8 - FOR (state relinquishing title to certain public lands)
Prop. 9 - FOR (technical amendment to stagger 6 year terms of certain board members)

Posted by JohnL at 10:00 PM | Comments (18) | | TrackBack
October 24, 2005

Contra Miers

For the sake of N.Z. Bear's tracking system, I oppose the Miers nomination.

I've kept mum until now on the Miers nomination. I was initially underwhelmed, and my estimation of Miers' adequacy for the job continues to decline.

It was bad enough that she took a swipe at the Federalist society as being too political (while claiming the NAACP wasn't). Her few writing samples are simply banal. I would love to get a hold of a few of Judge Posner's thank you notes. I bet they're considerably better-written than the "Way Cool!" cards authored by Harriet.

Part of me hopes this is a setup to make Janice Rogers Brown look stellar by comparison. If so, then Miers is truly a team player for the most brilliant man she has ever known. But I really doubt it. This President is simply not an intellectual, and this decision bears the hallmarks of a "gut call" as opposed to a well-reasoned selection process.

For further thoughts, consult Jeff Goldstein (just click and scroll), whose opinions on this matter largely reflect my own.

Also, check out the intellectual firepower on the board of advisors to the new Americans for Better Justice, which was formed by conservatives who support the President, but oppose the Miers nomination.

Posted by JohnL at 11:02 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
October 05, 2005

Ten Big Things

OK, Joe tagged me with this meme several days ago. This one took some thought.

The source of the meme, Dan at Searchlight Crusade, explains his concept thus:

We've been allowing ourselves as a society to lose sight of the big stuff in amongst all the little day-to-day stuff that goes on every day, rather than keeping focused on the end result of the big projects.

Not everybody has the same list of Big Things, and most of them tend to be personal, not public or political in nature. It can be hard to keep them in sight, especially when you're thinking tactically from day to day and you need to be thinking strategically. People whose list of big things are different from one another, whether different in priority on the same items or having completely different items in the list of Big Things, are predictably going to have intractable arguments between themselves, which do not often admit of a mutually satisfactory conclusion. Nonetheless, if both sides to an argument are aware of their differences on Big Things, they are far more likely to come to an agreement to disagree more or less amicably, even if one wins the voting and the other loses.

Big Things tend to be broad based, not specific issues themselves. It is rare that one vote on one item directly resolves a Big Thing. Big Things take dedication and years of work to resolve; on a day to day basis there are victories and defeats, some more important than others but few, if any, critical to the point of being a sure overall victory or defeat.

So what are ten eight of my political "big things"? Check them out beyond the fold...

  1. The War Against Militant Islam.

    The main reason I voted a straight Republican ticket this last election was the utter failure of the Democratic Party to take the war declared against Western Civilization at all seriously. Mark Steyn reminds us of the nature of the struggle.

    I think Afghanistan has been a qualified success (especially given the dire predictions during the first week or two of the conflict). Capturing Osama would be nice, but at this point he has been largely neutralized without being martyred.

    As to Iraq, I think Wolfowitz had the right idea when he stated in an amazingly candid interview on September 13, 2001 that we must "end" states that sponsor terrorism to prevent another 9-11. That seems obvious. Too bad that was not the case made by our President when we went in. Unfortunately, I don't think our president likes to be bothered with big ideas, and distrusts ideologues, at a time when ideas and philosophy are critical weapons to preserve our way of life.

    And whatever one's feelings on going we shouldn't bring the troops home until the job is done. (Why the insistence on bringing them home so soon? We still have troops stationed throughout Europe and Asia as a result of WWII and the Korean War).

    Bottom line: as long as the political left continues to align itself with objectively illiberal and fascist regimes against American "hegemony", I will continue to be a very reluctant "clothespin" Republican for this reason.

  2. Respecting the Constitution.

    Despite its original failings (3/5ths and "such persons"), our constitution set up a system that keeps power from concentrating too much in any single place. When there are numerous competing sovereigns, the rights of the people are most secure against wholesale deprival.

    The Civil War and the "progressive" movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s led to some systemic changes (the 13th through 17th Amendments) that changed this balance.

    Joe describes government as the only "means to an answer" and distrusts corporations. I share some of his concern, but would ask from where corporations derive their power? They are fictional persons, created by the state, and playing by the rules of the state. I don't understand why government would be any more trustworthy of a monopoly. Our founders understood this and tried to create a system that would prevent a monopolization of power by anyone. I would like to see us move our system back toward that fragmentation of factions. Gridlock is good!

  3. Opposing Religious Fundamentalism.

    A corollary to the War on Militant Islam. I don't want to live in a "Christian" republic any more than an Islamic, Jewish, or Communist one. I like living in a secular nation. One in which all faiths are free to practice as they see fit, but none may force their beliefs on others through the clumsy machinery of the state. Next time a fundamentalist Christian tells you our country was founded as a Christian Nation, be sure to direct them to a history of Rhode Island, where Baptists originated the idea of freedom of religion from the state.

  4. Lowering Taxes.

    Another reason I voted for Bush last time around. I like keeping the money I make. Of course, we need to make sure the government cuts spending (or at least slows the rate of increase of spending) to match the tax cuts.

  5. Ending Prohibition of "Victimless" Crimes.

    My definition of a crime is an action by an individual that deprives a victim of some right of the victim through force or fraud and without justification or excuse. Purchasing and consuming drugs, procuring the services of a prostitute, sleeping with a member of the same sex -- none of these activities are crimes to me. Where is the victim? (Naturally, I see these activities as occurring between competent adults - activities where one party isn't competent to consent are a completely different matter).

    What about the deaths involved in the drug trade? What about prostitutes getting raped or murdered by their pimps or johns? Aren't those people victims? Of course. But they are victims of the crimes of murder, rape, assault, etc. And they are victims of the legal regime that criminalizes consenting behavior.

    The war on drugs has been disastrous: driving the drug market underground has led to the (predictable) consequences of any black market. We obviously didn't learn the lessons of Prohibition (one "progressive" experiment that -- thankfully -- was repealed). Mandatory prison sentences, erosion of fourth amendment protections, civil forfeiture laws that give the police the incentive to take private property to finance their operations, wiretapping laws, and many other tools that were originally designed to win the war on drugs are no longer used just to prosecute drug crimes. What about when the government decides to criminalize consumption of fatty foods? What about when the government decides to criminalize sharing an opinion negative of the war on terror?

  6. Biotechnology and Medical Ethics.

    I believe we should research embryonic and adult stem cells. I think therapeutic cloning could lead to the development of healthy, rejection-free organs to replace diseased ones without a donor. I don't think human life starts at conception, and I think the argument that it does is based on religious mysticism rather than science or an honest assessment of what makes us human. (More here).

    Having said all that, I actually cannot condemn the President for withholding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research any more than I could condemn him for not financing abortions or not paying for granny's prescriptions. Oh, wait. He mortgaged the future to give the boomers a huge and unearned prescription drug benefit, so I guess I need to condemn him about that.

    There is no constitutional basis for federal financing of medical research or medical procedures, so see item 2 above.

  7. Shrinking the Nanny State.

    This goes with respecting the Constitution. Another outdated "progressive" notion to me: the idea that agency administrators can best decide how legislation should be implemented and enforced. The technical enabling laws are subject to drafting by special interest groups and the agencies thus created are highly likely to be captured by the very businesses they are supposed to regulate. And even when they work, the agencies impose costs that ripple through the whole system. When you have thousands of regulations on the books, there is no way possible to comply with them all, so you basically create a nation of petty criminals that don't obey the law. This, I believe, eventually erodes the confidence that makes the rule of law work in our culture.

  8. Reforming the Legal System.

    I'm a lawyer. I think our system needs some radical changes. In every state of the union, our profession is a monopoly empowered by the legislature or highest state court (or both). I think breaking the state monopoly on lawyering would improve legal services across the board. There would be some wrinkles (mainly some effect on the attorney-client privilege), but de-regulation and competition always leads to improvements. I also think we should have the "English rule" -- i.e., losing party pays, as a deterrent to frivolous litigation.

That's all I could think about for now, though I may update at some point in the future. I appreciate Joe's prompting me to reflect on these and I appreciate his reasonableness and courtesy in handling topics that can be so divisive.

Posted by JohnL at 11:05 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
September 20, 2005

Political Test

Absolutely no surprise here:

You are a

Social Liberal
(73% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(88% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

(Via Eric, with whose answers I'm sure I differed only in my reluctance to use "strongly" too much).

Posted by JohnL at 10:28 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack
August 22, 2005

Two For One Special -- Or, Legal Writing

One argument that plain-English legal drafters often face when cleaning the cruft out of old contractual boilerplate is that the old language is somehow more "precise."

Take, for example, the familiar phrases "due and payable" and "null and void." They are so common that ordinary lay people bandy them about when trying to "formalize" a business arrangement.

Yet a quick look at the respective terms' definitions reveals that these are needless dualisms. The words mean basically the same thing.

Of course, give a clever lawyer two words and she'll argue that they have different shades of meaning. After long use, there will be a strong reflex against deleting "due and payable" and substituting the simple "due."

Which is why it is very refreshing to run across a legal opinion like this one every now and then. This judge not only "gets" plain English, he explains one of the reasons why legal English frequently uses two words where one will do. Here's how he smacks down a lawyer for trying to argue that there is a difference between "free and clear" and simply "clear" title.

"Monfort contends, 'Although a "clear title" is one that is not subject to any restrictions, the case at bar involved a "free and clear" title, which is the same as a marketable title.' So, according to Monfort, a free and clear title is worse than a clear title. Say what?

"Would that Harold had not lost the Battle of Hastings.

"Free and clear mean the same thing. Using both is an unnecessary lawyerism. Free is English; clear is from the French clere. After the Norman Conquest, English courts were held in French. The Normans were originally Vikings, but after they conquered the region of Normandy, they became French; then they took over England. But most people in England, surprisingly enough, still spoke English. So lawyers started using two words for one and forgot to stop for the last nine hundred years.

"So free and clear do not mean separate things; they mean, and were always meant to mean, exactly the same thing. Just as null and void and due and payable mean the same thing. All of these couplets are redundant and irritating lawyerisms. And they invite just what has happened here - an assertion that they somehow have different meanings.

"The Norman Conquest was in 1066. We can safely eliminate the couplets now....

"Nine hundred years later, courts in Ohio are still dealing with the consequences of the Norman invasion. We can only hope that some day logic will prevail over silly tradition."

Would that there were more judges like Judge Painter. And more lawyers that would think rather than merely ape what previous lawyers have always done.

Posted by JohnL at 09:52 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 11, 2005

Jimmy Carter Pwned By George Will

Must read. (via Vodkapundit).

Or, for another thousand words, just look at the picture in the extended entry...


(Picture via

Posted by JohnL at 10:05 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

The Loony Academic Left

Via James Taranto, I learned that the American Political Science Association will hold its annual convention in Washington, D.C. in just a few weeks. On the program is a panel discussion entitled "Is It Time to Call It Fascism?"

Do you think the good scholars will finally take an honest look at the parallels between the Ba'ath Party in Syria and the NSDAP in Germany?

Oh, don't be silly. The email forwarding the conference announcement states:

The panel, which is cosponsored by the Conference Group on Theory, Policy, & Society, the Latino Caucus, New Political Science, and the Women's Caucus, emerged from a question that Kathy Ferguson started asking last winter-spring (at ISA and WPSA) to focus on both substantive aspects and strategic/tactical ones: is there theoretical-definitional grounding to make a claim for the present US administration as fascist, and is it useful, critically, to use that language at this point in time? One of the original intentions was also to create a teaching tool out of this discussion--a handout that presents these questions and offers relevant information to students to think about it for themselves. (Emphasis added).

I would love to get my hands on one of those handouts. I wonder just how much they will encourage students to "think about it for themselves."

Here's a political science experiment: Establish how long a culture can survive philosophical poison like this.

Too bad we live in the experimental society and not the control group.

Posted by JohnL at 09:41 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
August 09, 2005

Abortion and Brain Life, Redux

I note with some pleasure that John Hood, a contributor to National Review Online's Corner expressed exactly the idea I framed last week about "brain life" being a way to start to untangle the emotional mess around abortion.

Not surprisingly, the dynamic half of the dogmatic duo, Ramesh Ponnuru (the other half being the grammaticaly-challenged but equally dogmatic Katherine Jean Lopez) leapt into the fray to defend the life-begins-at-conception idea. He did acknowledge the possibility that there is a distinction between human "life" and human "personhood" and even gave a nod to the idea that the key issue in Hood's (and my) proposal is a functioning cortex, though he wouldn't want to go too far down that road.

An emailer to "K-Lo" then criticized the whole concept of "brain birth" as fetishization of the brain. The same mailer later stated through Lopez that (paraphrasing) defining humanity based on brain function would lead to harvesting organs from people in comas. This is typical emotionally-charged sentimentalism that the mystics use to oppose human cloning and embryonic stem cell research (e.g., likening the harvesting of stem cells from a blastocyst to carving up people for spare parts).

In any case, National Review's pundits have taken up the issue and there is a good deal of civil, well-stated discourse. Just click to Hood's original post and scroll up.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 04, 2005

Three Rules for Happy Living

Most of the time around here, I try to avoid the sensitive issues of the day (which usually bring me little joy) and focus on the things that make my life fun to live: my family, music, science fiction, space, and many trivial little things that I find here and there on the internet. Of course, underlying all these is a strong appreciation for liberty together with the culture and legal environment that fosters my ability to enjoy these things.

One reason I really enjoy reading Stephen Green is that he seems to have a similar outlook on life as a joy to live. And, even though he tackles more political issues than I do, he does tend to avoid the hottest-button political issues. But in a late-night ramble tonight, he stakes out his position on three topics that tend to lead to holy wars: abortion, gun control, and evolution. So, lest I be dismissed as a lightweight, or at least as one too cowardly to state his views on the same subject, here are my thoughts:

Abortion: People's opinions on this issue are driven by their definition of human life. A mother has a right to liberty, which in my mind includes almost total control over her being. However, at some point before birth, a fetus becomes a human being. I tend to think "viability" is a bit of a red herring in the argument until the fetus is actually human. I believe human life begins (and ends) with a functioning (or not) human brain.

At some point around the end of the first trimester, the fetus' brain begins to exhibit steady brain-wave activity --call it "brain life" if you will. At that point, I think the the fetus' viability is more of an issue. I.e., since both the mother and fetus are now human, their rights must be protected. But the fetus is essentially parasitic on the mother's life. As long as the fetus remains non-viable, I think the scales tip heavily in favor of the mother's choice. And I believe that the balance always should tilt in favor of the mother's life (even if just a little) right up to birth. Based on the above, I also think that an anencephalic or gravely ill fetus could be terminated at any point before birth without any major ethical qualms.

Gun Control. Read the Second Amendment. Read it again. See what Steve said.

Evolution. It's just a theory. Yeah, just like special relativity or quantum mechanics. A very powerful predictive theory that underlies tremendous advances in biology and medicine. But "just a theory." Intelligent design and creationism are not theories, but beliefs. Much less powerful than a scientific theory. To be fair, I am intrigued by the anthropic principle (soft creationism, perhaps), as well as the need for an "observer" to collapse certain quantum waves (in theory), but do not think you can "prove" the existence of a creator. You have to believe.

One question for Steve, though: what about Apple versus MacPC???

Update: I made some edits to the above, which was pretty poorly-drafted in its original form. Even the title is pretty godawful, but I'll leave it as a monument to my incompetence. Just imagine that the title reads "Three Subjects to Avoid..."

Posted by JohnL at 12:32 AM | Comments (4) | | TrackBack
July 17, 2005

Thoughts on Immigration

Eric has posted a very good 1000-word essay on immigration. He does a good job laying out a libertarian position on immigration close to my own. Key points: our current illegal immigration situation is a result of the laws of economics and our misguided minimum wage laws and even a police state environment would not be able to keep out illegal immigrants who wanted in. Read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 03:28 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
July 07, 2005

1000 Words on the UK Bombings

What can I say that this picture doesn't?


For the first time in US history, a foreign flag has the honor of flying above the Department of State.

Via Publius Pundit (via Instapundit).

Update: Yes, we are all Brits, for now.

Posted by JohnL at 10:50 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
July 02, 2005

Supreme Court Shuffle

With Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retiring, the blogosphere is abuzz with speculation about whom the President will name as her successor. I have previously posted my criteria for what I would want to see in a justice, and a "short list" of potential nominees I would like to see. Of course, none of them are within the Bush circle (all are too libertarian, and not conservative enough) so it's just a fun speculative game.

Other posts that are more useful:

Professor Randy Barnett provides a helpful guide to following the debate, with the most insightful [to me] comments critiquing conservatives:

LESSON ONE: Watch the switch from a list of ignored textual provision to good and bad results.

This debate should not allowed to be turned into a debate over results. It should instead be a debate over constitutional method and the restoration of portions of the text that have long been discarded. This includes challenges to judicial conservatives who, like Justice Scalia, would continue to ignore the Ninth Amendment or Privileges or Immunities Clause because they fail to meet his standard for a "rule of law." Ignoring portions of the Constitution because they fail to conform to your theory of the "rule of law" is no different than ignoring portions that fail to conform to your theory of "justice."

(Emphasis mine). Of course we libertarians often share much common ground with "conservatives" in critiquing the excesses of past activist supreme courts that abandoned original intent. So the most interesting debate to me is the one between the libertarian and conservative philosophies. Read Barnett's other two lessons here.

Nick at Crime and Federalism has a list of questions he would like to ask.

But the best post I have found so far was Annika's Freakin' Idiots Guide to the Supreme Court. The choice cut is her handy cut-out-ready pocket guide to the court, which describes Scalia thus: "Anthony Scalia: The first Supreme Court Justice to score perfect 18's in intelligence, wisdom and dexterity on the LSAT. He carries a short sword, is skilled in the use of the bo staff, has 36 hit points, and is also a 13th level Palladin [sic]. The ABA rates him as: good.

My predictions about candidates below:

I expect that Bush will seek to put forward a Hispanic candidate rather than a woman, since Ruth Bader Ginsberg remains on the Court. I hate tokenism, but that's the way they play the game these days. Two Hispanic front runners are Al Gonzales and Emilio Garza. Gonzales is a close Bush friend, which I think gives him an edge over Garza. He was also a Texas Supreme Court justice, whom I remember to be moderately conservative. Expect major distortions of his record (like what happened to Priscilla Owen).

If Bush goes with a woman, I expect him to pass over the far superior Janice Rogers Brown and go with Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones.

We'll see what happens next week. No matter what, I expect the political left to howl in indignation.

Posted by JohnL at 11:14 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
July 01, 2005


Jeff Goldstein nails MSNBC's Brian Williams, just like our patriotic forefathers did with their blunderbusses loaded with nails and glass at the Battle of Bunker Hill (which, when you get right down to it, is not all that different from the nail-and-rat-poison methods of the modern-day minuteman, right?)

Posted by JohnL at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Heinlein Quote of the Month (July 2005)

Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.

- Mr. Dubois in Starship Troopers.

Posted by JohnL at 12:27 AM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
June 28, 2005

Marketplace of Ideas

Looking at my Google AdSense ads, I marvel at the diversity of opinions seeking to be heard.

They represent, quite literally, a marketplace of ideas. People are spending money to get these small commercial blurbs read by web surfers (please click on them to support this site, btw).

Looking at them today got me to thinking about the figurative marketplace of ideas. Consider this quote, from the originator of the phrase, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:

"Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care whole-heartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country."

Whenever some leftist gets the vapors over some alleged suppression of dissent, read the facts in the case that led to the above dissent and ask whether we are more or less free today. Are we hauling Michael Moore into court under some sedition act? Are we shutting down or the Democratic Underground under the Espionage Acts?

Call me Pollyanna, but I think we have it pretty good.

Posted by JohnL at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) |
June 16, 2005


So leftist fever-swamp proprietor DailyKos likens the "torture" allegedly perpetrated by American troops in Iraq and Guantanamo to the torture inflicted upon Iraqis by Saddam Hussein. In fact, they are "equally bad" in his eyes.

Bullshit. [Warning! Graphic images provided for the sake of providing perspective].

Only the willful mischaracterization of [allowed] aggressive interrogation techniques or occasional instances of abuse or mistreatment by Americans as "torture" allows Kos to draw that conclusion. This same sort of reality-distortion field also allows the loony left to compare Gitmo to the gulag.

Posted by JohnL at 10:49 PM | Comments (1) |
June 01, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (June 2005)

"At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that "news" is not something that happens to other people."

- Jake in Number of the Beast

Posted by JohnL at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
May 04, 2005

General Motors = Twentieth Century Motors?

Reading Random today, I was reminded how the blogworld recently noted, and analyzed, General Motors' decline.

The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins, quoted by Virginia Postrel, provided this damning (to me) assessment of GM:

GM's boss should be the media's darling, running his company to provide job security and health care for its workers first, second and third. Wonder why GM invests just enough in new product to keep the game going, not enough to make its cars really sought after? Because the extra capital that would have to be invested goes instead to doling out gold-plated health care -- no copays, no deductibles -- to workers and to plumping up their pension fund, which two years ago required the largest corporate debt offering in history to top off....

Has anyone else here read Atlas Shrugged? Remember the Twentieth Century Motor Company, where the book's hero was originally employed? Remember how that company met its end?

"Were you familiar with the production of that factory? With the kind of work they were doing--or planning?"

"Certainly. I took a personal interest in all my investments. I went to inspect that factory very often. They were doing exceedingly well. They were accomplishing wonders. The workers' housing conditions were the best in the country. I saw lace curtains at every window and flowers on the window sills. Every home had a plot of ground for a garden. They had built a new schoolhouse for the children."

"Did you know anything about the work of the factory's research laboratory?"

"Yes, yes, they had a wonderful research laboratory, very advanced, very dynamic, with forward vision and great plans."

"Do you . . . remember hearing anything about . . . any plans to produce a new type of motor?"

"Motor? What motor, Miss Taggart? I had no time for details. My objective was social progress, universal prosperity, human brotherhood and love. Love, Miss Taggart. That is the key to everything. If men learned to love one another, it would solve all their problems."

It seems that GM might have gotten its priorities mixed up, much like Twentieth Century Motors. Let's hope they can find a way out of the trap their workers' union and social conscience have led them into.

Posted by JohnL at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) |

IP Rights

Yesterday I was leafing through my new issue of IP Law & Business at the office and was happy to see some coverage of a CopyNight gathering in New York city. It's unusual for an industry magazine to acknowledge the existence of another side of the debate about intellectual property rights and the public domain.

Unfortunately, the article's author (or editor?) chose to run only one quote from an attendee regarding technologies like Grokster:

"Why can't it be like in headshops? ... You know, you can sell a bong but like not explicitly for weed."

No bias there, hmm?

The rest of the article was somewhat more balanced, exploring the parallels of the free-culture movement to environmentalism. But it didn't really delve into any of the really interesting strands in the current debate over technologies that enable widespread duplication and sharing of copyrighted materials.

If you want to better understand the contours of the debate over IP rights, avoid IP Law & Business and check out Timothy Sandefur's article from yesterday instead.

Posted by JohnL at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) |
April 02, 2005

Talking to Lawyers

Talking to lawyers -- about as fun as talking to dentists, or used car salesmen, right?

Seriously, though, you may find yourself needing legal advice someday. And Timothy Sandefur has prepared an excellent list to help you get the best value out of your lawyer.

Number 1 on his list is one of the hardest to get across. What seems important to the client is not necessarily legally important. The challenge for the lawyer is to explain why certain things are not legally relevant, even though they seem very important to the client. (Unfortunately, the law is often not "fair" and the client can feel a sense of injustice that the things that are important to them won't be heard in court).

Number 10 (don't call every day, but do call) is also equally important for both the lawyer and client to observe.

Go read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 09:25 PM | Comments (0) |
March 31, 2005

All I'll Say About Schiavo

I haven't said much about the Schiavo matter, because I strongly believe that it is none of our damn business. This cartoon pretty well sums up my thoughts and feelings on the politics involved in this.

Stephen Green, Timothy Sandefur, and, surprise of surprises, John Derbyshire, all approach the issue much like I would, so I point you to their thoughtful opinions on this, too.

Just as an aside, my wife and I both have wills and medical powers of attorney, which we prepared a couple of years ago. I plan to pull out the powers of attorney to make sure they still say what we want. I'm pretty sure they address specifically the issue of withholding extraordinary care, including feeding tubes and hydration. But we have also given each other a fair amount of discretion to try what is reasonable (like what Michael Schiavo did for about three years) while granting each other the final say to consent to discontinuing treatment.

If you plan to write an advance healthcare directive or power of attorney as a result of this mess, I would recommend the same approach. Be careful not to be too specific.(*) What I mean is that in addition to granting certain explicit instructions (for the most foreseeable situation), be sure to include a general blanket authority to the person you want to speak for you. If you are married, after the Schiavo case, you cannot count on your spouse presumptively having that power anymore. (Way to strengthen the institution of marriage, conservatives!) If you want your parents or kids or siblings to have input, say so. Having written it down, be sure to discuss it, too. If there is one good thing to come out of this mess, it's that we are all talking about a topic we usually avoid. Take advantage of this moment to get your opinions expressed and memorialized.

(*)Usual caveat applies: I am an attorney, but not your attorney. You should discuss the terms of any legal documents (including without limitation advance healthcare directives or powers of attorney mentioned above) with a qualified lawyer of your own choosing before signing them. My general comments are intended to focus you on some issues that I myself have discussed that I think are relevant to planning.

That's all I plan to say on this.

Update: She (what's left of her) has passed away. May she rest in peace.

Posted by JohnL at 08:00 AM | Comments (2) |
March 21, 2005

Funny Legal Writing

I've written a few legal writing rants, criticizing stuffy, wordy legal writing. This past Friday, I ran across a hilarious Force Majeure clause in a contract. While it may seem like a joke, the rest of the quotation to which this term was attached was perfectly serious.

For those of you non-lawyers, force majeure is an intervening event beyond the reasonable control of either party to an agreement that prevents one or both parties from performing. The most common of these kinds of events are colloquially referred to as "acts of God." Parties usually agree to waive performance by the other party for some period of time during an event of force majeure.

The person who drafted this clause wanted to cover all the bases:

Issuance of a PO or other engagement of [Consultant] services enacts full force of this proposal and constitutes acceptance of the terms and conditions set forth above regardless of purchasing or other corporate contractual policies. In the occurrence of natural events, World War, biological or nuclear holocaust, whereby such events cause delay in travel, installation or other on-site and delivery schedules, customer/client agrees to hold [Consultant] harmless against such misfortunes and pay for reasonable and customary costs incurred by [Consultant] during travel at such instance. In the event of the End of the World, this contract becomes void in its entirety. Should either party survive the End of the World, World War, biological or nuclear holocausts, both are released from any remaining obligations.

I didn't fix any grammatical mistakes; I just deleted the names of the parties to protect the innocent.

Posted by JohnL at 11:07 PM | Comments (4) |
March 17, 2005

Steroid Hearings

I haven't really been following this in any way (just saw the headline for this story on Yahoo), but I find myself wondering -- just where is the Federal interest here? And under which enumerated power in the Constitution is Congress acting?

Posted by JohnL at 10:02 PM | Comments (1) |
March 12, 2005

On the Moral Use of Force

This month's Heinlein Quote of the Month (mentioned here), prompted an interesting comment from new-to-me reader [the best kind!] Tommy Hall:

"...conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate [the doctrine that 'violence never solves anything']. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon."

There seems to be some unintentional irony in the Heinlein quotation. He has Bonaparte pleading the case for pacifism while Hitler acts as impartial moderator. Logically someone like Ghandi or Martin King should argue the effectiveness of soft power, but of course Indian independence and the passage of the voting rights act undermine the point Heinlein wished to make.

Napoleon and Hitler were among the staunchest champions of naked force the world has seen during these last few blood-soaked centuries, to their everlasting regret. All their example shows is that those who rush to plead their case before the bar of violence run the risk that justice will hand down the harshest of verdicts.

First, I wouldn't agree that Bonaparte is pleading the case for pacifism, unless it's the case that his enemies should be pacifists.

Second, I don't really see any irony in Heinlein's choice of Napoleon or Hitler to illustrate his point. They were both initiators of violence who were stopped (and only stoppable) by violence. Sweet talking, negotiating, cajoling, and conceding would not have ended Napoleon's or Hitler's respective reigns over continental Europe. Only the use of overwhelming violence stopped them.

When is the use of violence in foreign affairs appropriate? One of the fundamental principles of what we call "libertarianism" has always been that one should never initiate the use of force against another. At the same time, it is morally required to use violence to respond to the initiator of force. So the Waterloo and WWII examples make pretty easy cases.

But what about the current war? Whether a pre-emptive use of force is ever justifiable is one of the issues that has split libertarians over the war in Iraq (and to a lesser extent, in Afghanistan). I think that one of the great mistakes of the anti-war libertarians is in their conflation of individual morality with international law. While states are technically "persons" (like corporations) in classical international law, they are not people. They are not endowed with the natural rights to life, liberty, and property.

Indeed, to the extent that they dishonor those natural rights, they lose legitimacy. So in my view, an illegitimate state should not benefit from some abstract non-initiation principle designed to protect an individual. There's quite a bit more to write on this, but I can't do it justice tonight. I hope I get some good comments to help guide some future refinements of this idea.

Tommy's conclusion is undoubtedly correct: if you initiate violence, you should be prepared to be dealt with violently. Or, more pithily, "live by the sword, die by the sword."

Posted by JohnL at 10:33 PM | Comments (5) |
March 01, 2005

Martinis and Heinlein

I'm sure glad that Vodkapundit Steve Green has returned to blogging. And over the past 24 hours, he has blogged with a vengeance. Just click over and scroll, but pay particular attention to this veritably den Bestean analysis of the Lebanese goings-on.

Just a couple posts later, he covers this hilarious summer project of a couple of British students who are planning a scofflaw vacation. That is, they intend to embark on a crime spree, breaking old and silly laws that are still on the books, though no longer enforced.

This reminds Mr. Green of the proposal in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to have a bicameral assembly in which one house would be the house of legislators and the other the house of repealers. The legislators would need a 2/3 majority to pass new laws while the repealers would require only a 1/3 vote to repeal existing laws. Great idea, I think.

Speaking of Heinlein, I have updated the quote of the month for March, with a Starship Troopers quote appropriate to the changes underway in the Middle East:

"Anyone who clings to the historically untrue — and thoroughly immoral — doctrine that 'violence never solves anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."

Update: I was referring above to Steve's month-long hiatus over December and into the New Year. Not sure if that was clear as originally written.

Posted by JohnL at 09:55 PM | Comments (3) |
February 21, 2005

Another Legal Writing Rant

If you've ever tried to slog your way through a pre-printed contract, you've probably assumed that the stilted, archaic language is just the way that legal documents should be written. You wouldn't be alone. Most people seem to think that contracts, pleadings, wills, and all kinds of legal instruments need to sound like the King James Bible to be effective. THEY DON'T!

Moreover, after paying $300 an hour or more to document a straightforward business transaction, businesspeople have to wonder why they receive such incomprehensible work product for so much money. (At the same time, some of those clients are suspicious when they can actually understand what their lawyer has written; they wonder whether it's really legal).

Legal documents can be written in clear, precise English. When I encounter legaldegook -- writing that is good for nothing other than sounding "legal" -- I save it both for amusement and to use as an exercise in improving my own writing. Fixing someone else's mistakes is a good way to learn to recognize and fix my own.

That's where tonight's post comes from. I pulled this example from a contract I reviewed just today. I didn't rewrite it for the deal at hand, because it's just a no-cost product evaluation agreement. But because of its high concentration of pretentious legalisms in one short paragraph, I thought it would be a good editing challenge for the blog. I've italicized all of the objectionable parts of this section:

At the end of the Evaluation Period, Customer shall promptly return the Products to [Seller] at Customer’s sole expense. In the event that ten (10) calendar days following the end of the Evaluation Period Customer has not returned the Products or issued a valid Purchase Order to [Seller] therefore, this Agreement shall be considered Customer’s Purchase Order and [Seller] shall invoice Customer, and Customer shall be obligated to pay [Seller], for such Products at the then current list price pursuant to [Seller’s] standard terms and conditions of sale as set forth on the invoice issued by [Seller] to Customer and/or on its website.

Note the redundancy of words like "promptly" (there's a 10 day time limit!), "sole" ("Customer's expense" doesn't express or imply anyone else's expense does it?), and "calendar" days (the contract doesn't use "business" days elsewhere, so there's no need to distinguish, and the word "day" without modification commonly means "calendar day") .

Also note the multiple archaisms and pretensions of legal writing: "shall" instead of "will" or "must," "in the event that" instead of "if," "therefore" (which, if it is to be used at all, should be spelled "therefor" -- meaning "for that" -- a Germanic artifact in the English language), and "pursuant to" instead of "under."

Note also the lazy "and/or," which can almost always be replaced with "or." Here, the "and/or" actually tries to gloss over an ambiguity that the drafter didn't want to deal with (but would have been forced to, had he or she used only "and" or only "or"). What if both the invoice and the website contain different terms of sale? Which set of terms governs?

Addressing these issues, here's what I would do to clarify and invigorate the above:

At the end of the Evaluation Period, Customer will return the Products to Seller at Customer's expense. If Customer does not return the Products or issue a purchase order for them to Seller within 10 days after the end of the Evaluation Period, Seller may invoice Customer against this Agreement at Seller's then-current list prices for the Products. Customer must pay Seller the amount due under the invoice within [x] days after receiving it. Unless contrary or supplemental terms are printed on the invoice, Seller's standard terms and conditions found at [Seller's web address] will govern the sale of the Products to Customer.

OK, it's not Hemingway, but surely my version is both easier to read and legally clearer than the original, isn't it?

Posted by JohnL at 08:58 PM | Comments (1) |
February 17, 2005

"Sod Off, Swampy" (Or, Just Desserts)


More here, here, and here.

Posted by JohnL at 10:40 PM | Comments (5) |
February 10, 2005

Congressional Moron's Oxymoron

Two days ago, Congresscritter James Oberstar introduced a bill to "enhance" the safety of the infant commercial space flight industry. Here's a sampling of his verbal diarrhea (via SpaceRef):

"We can and should protect the safety of passengers on space flights in this new and emerging industry, without placing unreasonable limitations on industry development. I urge my colleagues to join me in working to pass this important legislation."

(emphasis mine)

It's clear from the context of Oberstar's comments that he's not merely concerned with range safety (i.e., innocent bystanders). No. He wants to use the blunt instrument of federal regulation to "protect" the safety of early passengers on commercial spaceflights.

Yeah, right. We all know what a good job the government does at protecting passengers in spaceships. (Cheap shot, I know. But I'm not sorry). I'm not sorry, because there is one trait of government that I simply cannot abide, regardless of party affiliation: nannyism. Manny, in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, put this unsavory aspect of government, as a reflection on human nature, most eloquently:

Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws -- always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: "Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop." Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them "for their own good" -- not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.

In a nascent industry like this, which is just an exotic form of "extreme tourism," participants should be allowed to make up their own minds about risk tolerance. Asshats like Oberstar either (a) want to strangle the private space business in the cradle (look for donations from entrenched contractors like Boeing/LockMart) or (b) are stupid enough to think there is such a thing as safety regulations for experimental spacecraft that do not impose unreasonable limitations on commercial space flight startups. Either way, he should be turned out of office.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (1) |
February 09, 2005

Better Living Through Asbestos

BoingBoing had an interesting article today about Google's AdSense technology. I thought I would test it. Warning: boring autobiography in the extended entryfollows.

If you've followed my site for a while, you might know that I play an attorney in real life. Although I used to be a musician, I eventually had to grow up and "get a real job." Through a combination of decent grades and acing the LSAT (99th percentile, thank you very much), I made it into a top-10 (or top-25, depending on your poll) law school.

Funny thing, though: few Texas law firms wanted to hire anyone out of Georgetown in the early 90s unless they were in the top 10%, which I wasn't. When I got back to Texas - with a very pregnant wife and no job - I pretty much had to scratch and scrape for work. The first real job I got was as a staff attorney (read: underpaid associate attorney NOT on the "partner track") in a big insurance-defense firm doing asbestos litigation.

I lasted in that job exactly one year. During that period of time, I attended 80 or so depositions of plaintiffs asserting that their lung disease had nothing to do with their 2-pack-a-day smoking habit and everything to do with the brief exposure they had to my then-client's insulating cement during a few-year period in the 1960s.

I think there was only one legitimate claim among those 80 or so plaintiffs; a man with mesothelioma (a lung cancer which is caused pretty much only by asbestos exposure). Of course, my client was one of 25 or so defendants, so it was hard to tell what, if any, role my client's cement played in the poor guy's cancer. It costs too much to take the cases to trial, so we settled for nuisance amounts. I thought it was a complete waste of time and resources.

I took particular joy in John Kerry's loss, since the chairman of his Victory '04 committee was one of the name partners in that asbestos plaintiffs' mill.

Posted by JohnL at 10:16 PM | Comments (2) |
February 02, 2005

SOTU Address

Steve Green blogged it so I didn't have to.

Check out the blow-by-blow here.

Posted by JohnL at 09:09 PM | Comments (0) |
January 31, 2005

Appropriate Heinlein Quote

I found a perfect Heinlein quote for the coming month, to mark the momentous Iraqi elections yesterday:

Democracy is a poor system; the only thing that can be said for it is that it's eight times as good as any other method. Its worst fault is that its leaders reflect their constituents--a low level, but what can you expect?

From Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

Posted by JohnL at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) |
January 30, 2005

They Voted!

I didn't really doubt that the Iraqis would vote in high numbers today, but it's nice to see the people of Iraq put the lie to the "vote and die" meme spread by the MSM and their hack political cartoonists.

Tim Blair seems to have the best roundup of links to positive and negative coverage. I like Scrappleface's take on the event, too.

Some faces of freedom in the extended entry:

Giving the finger to the terrorists (are you as sick as I am of the lame euphemisms like "insurgents" or "militants"?).


For those clue-deprived individuals who think requiring a photo ID to get into a polling location is "vote suppression," take a look at this picture. (Though shot in the face by a terrorist outside a polling station in Mosul, he is expected to survive).

Posted by JohnL at 09:31 PM | Comments (1) |
January 12, 2005

Health Insecurity

When I saw President Clinton hold up a mock "Health Security" card during his 1995 State of the Union address, I had what I thought was a brilliant flash for a science fiction story of some kind. I imagined a future in which the Health Security card became a regular part of commercial life in the same way that our Social Security numbers have become a part of our everyday credit approval process. Since it was described as a "smart card" with medical records embedded on it, I imagined a world in which people weren't allowed to buy ice cream, butter, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. because their card indicated they were a health risk to the cash register.

Well, it looks like someone else has had a similar idea, even though a different political party is now in power.

Posted by JohnL at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) |
January 06, 2005

Was Tolkien A Conservative?

Rob the Llamabutcher tries to figure out whether Tolkien is the property of liberals or conservatives. Certainly a lot of hippies and counterculture types usually thought of as "liberals" loved Tolkien's fantasies. Conservatives love the struggle (and triumph) of good over evil.

I posted a lengthy comment there, and reproduce it below the fold:

Timothy Sandefur has had an interesting string of posts about the philosophical differences between libertarians (i.e., classical liberals) and conservatives (Start here and scroll down for about a week).

One problem in using the terms "liberal" and "conservative" is that they have been burdened with political baggage inconsistent with their strict and classical meanings.

I think Tolkien was a classical conservative. He liked social order and was skeptical of industrialism and how it disrupts an idyllic pastoral life (Shire=England). Much of his epic works had to do with preserving the best of the past in the face of change and destruction. All conservative ideas.

The reason so many leftists (think the 1960s hippies) liked him is that they themselves are "conservatives."

Posted by JohnL at 10:48 PM | Comments (6) |
December 08, 2004

Trade Dress and Hooters

Thank goodness.

Hooters doesn't have a monopoly on waitresses selling hot wings in mildly provocative get-ups.

Update: For my kind commenters, ask and ye shall receive. (All links are mildly NSFW).

Posted by JohnL at 09:45 PM | Comments (2) |
November 24, 2004

Textbook Evolution Disclaimers

Via Rand Simberg (who got it from Jay Manifold), an entertaining set of satirical textbook disclaimers parodying the efforts of school boards to undermine evolutionary theory. The first "sticker," in the upper-left-hand corner, is the only real one on the page:

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

My favorite parody:

This textbook contains material on gravity. Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding a force that cannot be directly seen. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

(Cross-posted at Freespace).

Posted by JohnL at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) |
November 16, 2004

Dear Johann Letter

A small dose of politics tonight, courtesy of Rand Simberg: an open letter to our friends in Europe. Perhaps a bit triumphalist, but I cannot debate much of its content (though I am uncomfortable with excessive invocations of religion in the public square).

I have to say I best liked the line about sending people to the moon and robots to Mars in our "spare time."

Posted by JohnL at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) |
November 10, 2004

Good Riddance

I hope he enjoys the smell of brimstone.

Posted by JohnL at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) |

Red vs. Blue

Red vs. Blue is a humorous animated series created using the Xbox and Halo multiplayer engine to act out the scripts. (They have some fun Halo 2 promos, too, to stay consistent with recent hype around here).

Unfortunately these days, most people associate "Red vs. Blue" with the recent election and the infamous maps going around the internet (or internets, if you're the President).

I am completely with Ted on this one. Despite the rhetoric of a nation divided, we are all Americans, and we all need to live together. Although I think several on the left have acted like moonbats (anyone who takes Michael Moore seriously goes down several notches in my opinion), I presume that the vast majority of Kerry voters are people of good faith who thought they were doing the right thing with their vote. I also assume that the most obnoxiously vocal folks bemoaning the stupidity or backwardness of Bush voters is a small minority akin to the Falwell Republicans.

(More in the extended entry).

This kind of map does nothing to help us come together as a nation:


It really is an inaccurate representation of the real story, too. It does not account for population or for percentages of support for each candidate in each region. It reflects an unhealthy "winner take all" mentality that is dangerous to our republic in the long run.

I saw this map today (here), and it really provides a nice dose of perspective:


While I think the election counts as a landslide in comparison to recent elections, we need to remember the golden rule and treat the opposition as the loyal opposition, hoping they live up to our high expectations. It is a certainty that if we don't, then they will live down to our low expectations.

Posted by JohnL at 10:00 PM | Comments (3) |
November 04, 2004

Supreme Court Qualifications

A question for my readers, especially of the lawyerly persuasion. We are guaranteed, I think, at least one vacancy if not three or four on the court during President Bush's second term.

Putting ideology and "confirmability" aside, what would you want to see in a future Supreme Court justice? What do you think makes a good Justice? Please email me your criteria or leave a comment. I'm working on a short list of folks I would like to see on the court based on the below standards, and would be interested in some other qualifications. Names of your favorite potential nominees are welcome, too.

Here are a few quick nominees that I think meet the above (alpha order, not by preference):

Richard Epstein, Law Professor, Univ. of Chicago
Alex Kozinski, Judge, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Richard Posner, Judge, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Glenn Reynolds, Law Professor, Univ. Tennessee, Knoxville (I'm not kidding, nor am I trolling for an Instalanche here. See above criteria!)
Eugene Volokh, Law Professor, UCLA

Posted by JohnL at 11:30 PM | Comments (4) |
November 03, 2004

Election Recap

Random thoughts this morning:

The President won the first popular vote majority (not plurality) since the 1988 election, with record turnout and the largest absolute number of votes ever.

The GOP apparently is picking up seats in the House, Senate, and State Governors' mansions.

The President has a statistically insurmountable lead in Ohio, New Mexico, and Iowa, which should give him a comfortable final tally in the Electoral College of 286 versus Kerry's likely 248252.

This was a landslide, in the context of where Bush started four years ago, and in the context of no popular vote majorities since 1988.

Instead of gracefully conceding at around 2:30AM, when he still had his crowd and it should have been evident that it was statistically improbable (well-nigh impossible) to win Ohio, Kerry chose to flirt with the Al-Gore Armageddon strategy.

Why didn't Kerry concede? I think it was to poison the morning news spin. Instead of focusing on the above facts, the talking heads in NY and California this morning were talking about how we are still such a closely divided country and that President Bush must govern from the center. Funny that the lefties always win a mandate, even with a mere plurality, and that there's no obligation on them to govern from the center.

Kerry is so far refusing to concede, but surely he has to be looking at the statistical likelihood of erasing the President's 150,000-vote lead in Ohio. But even if Kerry now concedes, the MSM will not be trumpeting what was an astounding show of support from a record number of the American people yesterday for the President and his policies. They will instead be focusing on the "lingering divisions."

All I can say is, way to f*ckin' go, Al. Your lack of grace four years ago continues to infect the process.

Update: Looks like Kerry is a bigger man than Al Gore, and that he has more grace than I was expecting.

Posted by JohnL at 08:29 AM | Comments (1) |
November 02, 2004

Election Coverage

As usual, Glenn and his guest bloggers are masters of the links today (and I'm not talking golf).

Steve the Llamabutcher is liveblogging all day long (seriously, he started last night after midnight). Check out his excellent visual aids.

Stephen Green, while uncharacteristically sober (hey, it's still early), notes good news in the last Rasmussen tracking poll results and is posting regular updates.

Ace promises to liveblog tonight, but is posting at his usual pace in the meantime.

I await with bated breath Martha Stewart's take on the election, as channeled by Jeff Goldstein.

Wizbang is keeping an open "breaking news" thread, so check back there throughout the day.

I won't be duplicating the efforts of the above worthy bloggers. But depending on how the election returns are playing, I may try to get something apolitical posted tonight. No promises, though.

Update: Ask and ye shall receive. Goldstein delivers the goods: Martha Stewart Chronicles, Day 27 and a hilarious interview with Vietnam John Kerry.

Posted by JohnL at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) |
November 01, 2004

Endorsement and Prediction

For what it's worth, I am endorsing President Bush and the Republican Party this year. I'm concerned about two issues in this election: (1) the war on Islamic terrorism and (2) tax relief. Kerry, Nader, and the Greens are wrong on both issues. The Libertarians' Badnarik is wrong on the war. Only Bush is right on both issues. This year, mine is a cold calculus, like fellow libertarian Virginia Postrel's (who is basing her endorsement of Bush on his positions on foreign and regulatory policy, together with the fact that a President cannot reasonably influence much else with the current Congress).

I have always voted for a mix of Republicans, Libertarians, and Democrats, on the general principle that a divided government governs least (and therefore, paraphrasing Paine -- or Jefferson -- governs best). But this year, for the first time in my life, I will hold my nose and vote straight-ticket for the Republicans, as much to punish the alternatives as to support the President in the areas he has the most influence over. I plan to punish the Libertarians for nominating a self-styled "constitutional law scholar" (read: fraudulent tax-evader, in my opinion) and barking anti-war moonbat as their standard-bearer. I also plan to punish the Democrats for absolutely failing to take the war to preserve our way of life seriously. And I cannot vote for the Greens, as long as they continue to push an anti-technology, anti-market command-and-control agenda.

Fortunately, I can take some comfort from the fact that most of the libertarians whose opinions I respect such as the aforementioned Virginia Postrel and Glenn Reynolds, Stephen Green, and Timothy Sandefur have also endorsed the President for re-election. Even the first Libertarian presidential candidate, John Hospers, has endorsed President Bush. (See also Libertarians for Bush).

Now, inspired by Stephen Green, my prediction of the outcome. Expect litigation, but unless I am totally wrong, this election will not be close enough for the Democrats' voter fraud and litigation strategy to be effective. I think this election mirrors the Nixon-McGovern election of 1972 in some eerie ways, and that year the "silent majority" showed up at the polls to give Nixon a landslide. This year, I also expect the silent majority to show up and, with some help from disciplined GOP GOTV efforts in the upper Midwest and the cooperation of the weather, give Bush an Electoral Vote landslide along with at least 50% of the popular vote. My Electoral Vote map is in the extended entry:


Posted by JohnL at 05:33 PM | Comments (1) |
October 20, 2004

"Edwards to Fabulous, Come in Fabulous..."

Best assessment yet of the candid John "Breck Girl" Edwards primping clip:

Getting prepped for the harsh blare of TV lights is a peculiar experience, and you learn to sit still and think of England. So no, the clip isn’t particularly unusual.

Until he whips out – well, you’ll see. It’s like Captain Kirk whipping out his communicator to contact the USS Fabulous. Set phasers on stunning!

My not-so-inner geek loves that.

Posted by JohnL at 08:49 AM | Comments (2) |
October 04, 2004

Celebrities for Bush

OK. Why would anyone in their right mind rely on the opinion of a mere celebrity to determine whom they would vote for? It seems that the vast majority of Hollywood celebrities support Kerry.

But Gene Expression gives us a list of the celebs supporting the President.

Posted by JohnL at 11:08 PM | Comments (1) |
October 03, 2004

Proverbs 3:8b

David Boxenhorn points out the obvious: imminent war with Iran. War with or without the US. Would Israel really stand by and wait for the vaporization of Tel Aviv?

Yet another reason I'm voting for Bush, even with my many misgivings about the Republican Party platform. I have more confidence that the President will do what is necessary to secure the nuclear facilities in Iran before it is too late. I am just worried that Bush is constrained by election politics from doing the right thing now.

Just a few nights ago, John Kerry said with one breath: "Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons and the world is more dangerous."

But just a few minutes later, he explained what he would have done differently than Bush: "I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together. The president did nothing."

I know that Bush understands we are at war. A war that was declared on us. And I know that he will not surrender to the Islamists. And I am certain that he will not arm the enemy and call it a gesture of good will. I can't say the same about John Kerry.

Posted by JohnL at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) |
October 01, 2004

Debate Wrapup

Lileks is on fire this morning. Best wrapup I've seen so far.

(Virginia Postrel was watching the debate after oral surgery; a novel way to either deaden or compound the pain).

Instapundit has all the links that are fit to print, and Stephen Green is handing out way-inflated grades to both candidates.

Update: Steve the Llamabutcher was liveblogging the debate with his own inimitable style. Click and scroll.

Posted by JohnL at 08:42 AM | Comments (0) |
September 13, 2004

Rathergate Wrapup

I've been tracking this story since last Thursday morning, but haven't felt compelled to write anything about it, given the excellent efforts of Little Green Footballs (start here and scroll to the present), PowerLine (start here and scroll), Ace (again, here and scroll), and the Creator of Worlds (here), among many others.

This animated GIF, created by Charles Johnson (of LGF) is an overlay of the alleged 1973 memo to file with the same memo typed in Word 97 with default margins and 12 point Times New Roman Font. This really is all I needed to see to settle my opinion, and I would argue it is all any open-minded person would need to see:


Contrast that with Charles' efforts to overlay a reproduction of a real typewritten memo from the era:


Here's the original memo without overlay:


And here's another overlay, debunking the notion put forward by Edward Mendelson at PC Magazine that an expensive IBM typesetting maching (the Selectric Composer) would have produced an identical document:


Other good links here and here.

Update: Ouch. That's gotta hurt. Certainly nobody can accuse the Washington Post of partisan bias in favor of the President. (Link via Instapundit).

Posted by JohnL at 10:46 PM | Comments (1) |
September 02, 2004

I'm a Liberal Democrat. . .

. . . In Australia, that is, according to this quiz.

Of course, their "liberal Democrats" are quite a bit different from ours. . .

HT: Yobbo.

Update: Prompted by Yobbo's comment, my scores were 17 for Economic Freedom and 15 for Social Freedom.

Posted by JohnL at 12:14 AM | Comments (4) |
August 30, 2004

Oh, That Media Bias

I seem to recall the major networks covered the first night of the Dems in Boston. In fact, I thought they carried footage all four nights.

McCain -- as close to a media darling as the Repubs have to offer -- is currently giving a speech, which is carried only by our local PBS affiliate. I don't have cable or satellite, so I don't have a clue what kind of coverage this is getting elsewhere.

Disappointing, if not very surprising.

Update: Rudy Giuliani's on now, and the three "majors" are still showing their normal lineup. What is the effin' deal???

Posted by JohnL at 09:18 PM | Comments (4) |
August 25, 2004

Health Insurance "Crisis" Explained

VerukaSalt examines the proposition of what "car care" would look like if we gave employers an incentive to create car insurance plans that cover maintenance and disconnect the consumer's price paid (i.e., the copay) from the actual cost of the service. Interesting.

Posted by JohnL at 11:02 PM | Comments (1) |
August 12, 2004

What Media Bias?

One of Ace's funnier commenters, VerukaSalt, has finally set up a blog of her own.

Today she completely nails the media's [non-]coverage of our recent push in Iraq. Money quote(s):

Update: From Fox News - Dude, we are kicking their asses, the enemy is running away like a red headed kid that just pissed off his step mom. . . .

Update: From The Washington Post - Innocent Iraqi militia men are being slaughtered in the street by US and Iraqi military forces, We have the audaucity to return fire on these innocent freedom fighters that are puting up a game but futill attempt to overthrow the American's currently occouping Iraq. A relief fund for the families of these Militia freedom fighters is currently being set up by our good friends at with almost 2 quarters of a percent going to the freedom fighting militia.

VerukaSalt doesn't hold back on the four-letter words, so you have been forewarned. But I have laughed more reading her blog tonight than any time recently, so she goes on the blogroll.

Posted by JohnL at 10:48 PM | Comments (1) |
August 09, 2004

Another Kerry Ad

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising.jpg

Found at Spiced Sass. I love this one, especially since I'm a lawyer (I cannot stand those cheesy phonebook ads).

I know it makes my own Kerry p-shop look pretty amateurish, but in case you missed it, check out "Kerry Poppins" here.

Posted by JohnL at 10:23 PM | Comments (1) |
July 29, 2004

Don't Worry, Help Kerry Poppins Is On The Way

Kerry almost lost me tonight with his "reporting for duty" salute. So I blew off the tedious family tributes to go walk the dog. I would rather watch my dog produce sh_t than listen to John Kerry's sh_t.

A short while after tuning back in, I picked up the vibe that we are in dire straits. We need help. Forget W and his corporate puppet-masters, we need help: "America can do better, and help is on the way."

Heh. Don't worry. We're from the government and we're here to help you.

Inspiration struck. What we need is a nanny. A nanny with a funny-talking sidekick:


Update: On a similar wavelength:

"Ok, so if we elect Kerry-Edwards, people will never have any bills to pay, we won't have to work long hours ever again, and there will be no more dangerous wars? And I suppose everyone gets a pony, too?" - The Poliblogger, via Wizbang.

Posted by JohnL at 11:09 PM | Comments (5) |
July 28, 2004

Waffles Galore

Do you like waffles? I like waffles. Mmmm. Good.

Wafflers? Nope.

Here is an extensive video showing the gradual deterioration of John Kerry from being a legitimate war hero candidate to just another pacifist has-been tool ready to surrender to the jihadists.

Posted by JohnL at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) |
July 26, 2004

Reagan Feedback

Well, the voice of Reagan in his prime appears to be propagating into cyberspace nicely, thanks to the efforts of Timothy Sandefur (who I think was the first to link to it), Virginia Postrel, Stephen Macklin, both Llama Butchers, Southern Appeal, and Chris Berg.

I appreciate the traffic, but I love the thought of Reagan's message spreading to a wider audience than the AMA originally intended even more.

While turning back socialism may seem a Sisyphean task, Reagan and Thatcher both showed it could be done. This 40-year old recording is still relevant today. Medicare persists, and President Bush recently expanded it in an astonishing abandonment of "conservative" principles. As Stephen Macklin points out in his comments linked above, Kerry offers an even worse alternative with his health care plan. People who believe that the national government should not interfere with the doctor-patient relationship need to write their Senators and Representative, following the advice spelled out by Reagan here.

Thanks again!

Posted by JohnL at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) |
July 23, 2004

Operation Coffeecup

I know it's about a month late, but this is my tribute to Ronald Wilson Reagan, may he rest in peace. He was not a "libertarian" in all aspects, but he truly loved liberty and believed in the American experiment.

I offer for your consideration a wonderfully-preserved example of pre-Internet, multimedia political opinion, produced and distributed by the American Medical Association and deployed via the "Women's Auxiliary" (not the Spouse's Auxiliary): Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine:

Coffeecup Cover.jpg

Enclosed in this record, I found a letter addressed to my grandmother (actually, to "Dear Auxiliary member"):

woman's auxiliary

April 15, 1961

Dear Auxiliary member:

The Woman's Auxiliary has been charged with the most important assignment in its history.

Physicians have asked doctors' wives to assume full responsibility for OPERATION COFFEECUP, an all-out effort to stimulate as many letters as possible to Congress opposing socialized medicine and its menace as proposed in the King bill (HR 4222).

OPERATION COFFEECUP hinges upon use of the enclosed record, "Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine" in informal groups in individual Auxiliary members' homes to stimulate friends and neighbors to write their congressmen.

Instructions for OPERATION COFFEECUP are printed on this record jacket. Informational literature is also enclosed. When you receive this package, don't waste a minute. Follow through with your part in OPERATION COFFEECUP at once. To be most successful, this record must be kept moving.

When you have finished with it, please complete as many of the enclosed report forms as you need and mail them to the Woman's Auxiliary headquarters, 535 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago 10, Ill.

American Medicine has given the Woman's Auxiliary this opportunity to prove its value as helpmates in this vital campaign. Let's demonstrate we can accept this challenge and meet it successfully.


Mrs. William Mackersie, President
Mrs. Leo Smith, Legislative Chairman
Mrs. James Morrison, Vice Chairman

Much more in the extended entry:

Open the cover to this vinyl album and see:

Coffeecup 2.jpg


Here are ten good suggestions from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on how to write your Senators and Representative.

1. ADDRESS THEM PROPERLY--don't confuse a Senator with a Representative.

2. BE LOCAL--tell them how a national question affects your business, your industry, your community.

3. BE BUSINESSLIKE--if you're for something, say so, and tell why. If not, don't hedge, but tell why not.

4. BE SPECIFIC--make your letter brief and to the point.

5. BE POLITE--members of Congress deserve respectful treatment.

6. BE REASONABLE--ask only practical action.

7. BE YOURSELF--use your own letterhead and your own letter style.

8. REQUEST ACTION--your representative is elected to do something.

9. ASK FOR AN ANSWER--you've told him where you stand and why. Now ask him where he stands.

10. BE APPRECIATIVE--thank him for good votes, compliment his better speeches, and praise his staff, too.

Good advice still, I'd say.

Coffeecup 3.jpg

In case you can't read the text in the picture:


Coffee and conversation with friends and neighbors about a crucial issue facing America today.

The legislative chips are down. In the next few months Americans will decide whether or not this nation wants socialized medicine . . . first for its older citizens, soon for all its citizens. The pivotal point in the campaign is a bill currently before Congress. The King bill (HR 4222), another Forand-type bill, is a proposal to finance medical care for all persons on Social Security over 65, regardless of financial need, through the social security tax mechanism. Proponents admit the bill is a "foot in the door" for socialized medicine. Its eventual effect--across-the-board, government medicine for everyone!

Medicine and its allies must stimulate as many letters as possible to Congress opposing such legislation.

To the Woman's Auxiliary American medicine has assigned complete responsibility for OPERATION COFFEECUP.

It is the Auxiliary's major part in this campaign to defeat socialized medicine.

Will you help launch it today?


On the enclosed record film star Ronald Reagan effectively expresses his own views about the dangers of government in medicine. This new, thought-provoking record is the property of the Woman's Auxiliary. It can be the instrument for eliciting thousands of letters opposing the King bill and similar legislation.

Here's what you can do:

As soon as you receive this package, listen to Reagan's record. You can play it on any 33 1/3 monaural phonograph. Then, read the enclosed literature and learn as much as you can about the King bill and why it is "bad medicine."


Invite some of your neighbors and friends in for coffee and play the record for them. Tell them briefly why you want them to hear the record. From the enclosed leaflet, "Medical Aid for the Aged," you can draw information to state the case against legislation like the King bill. You can also point out that Reagan volunteered to make this record because of his own strong personal convictions. He was not paid to do so.

Remember--this record is especially created for playing to informal groups in homes of individual Auxiliary members.

When your visitors have heard the record, discuss the issue thoroughly. This means that you'll have to do your homework on the King bill and others like it before your friends arrive. They'll raise questions you'll have to answer.

Out of discussion should come action--in the form of letters from your guests to congressmen in your district and senators in your state. These letters should express personal opposition to socialized medicine in general and to the King bill (HR 4222) in particular.

Make letter-writing easy. Provide guests with stationery, pens and stamped envelopes. Don't accept an "I'll do it tomorrow" reply--urge each woman to write her letters while she's in your house--and in the mood! Advise your guests that letters should be short and to the point, objecting to the King bill (HR 4222) and giving reasons for opposing it. Each woman should write her own letter in her own words, not merely copy a stereotyped form. See that each woman addresses her own letters to her own congressmen on the spot. You can mail them all later. A list of congressmen, with instructions for addressing letters to them, is enclosed.

Start all over again with a new group of friends. Use the record as often as you can. When you've played it to the women in your circle of friends and neighbors, pass it along to another Auxiliary member. Every moment counts . . .

Each letter you help send off is a step along the way toward stopping socialized medicine. So join the COFFEECUP CORPS today!

And now, in mp3 format, the Great Communicator on Socialized Medicine:

Intro -- The recording opens with humble and self-deprecating comments about Reagan's show-business background. He quickly (around 45 seconds into the program) summarizes his theme, using the enemy's own words, in this case from American Socialist Norman Thomas: "The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."

Part 1 -- Having established the theme, Reagan now moves the topic to medical programs as being particularly suited to the goal of getting the socialist camel's nose under the tent. He covers the history of attempts to introduce socialized medicine. The Socialists and labor unions approve of the approach. Again, using the socialists' own words: ""Once [this medicare bill] is passed this nation will be provided with a mechanism for socialized medicine capable of indefinite expansion in every direction until it includes the entire population."

Part 2 -- The call to action. After summarizing the legislative background, Reagan offers a heartfelt ode to the framers who created a system that protects the rights of individuals and minorities from encroachments by the majority. He emphasizes that the American people must write their Congressmen and Senators in opposition to socialized medicine, and closes with this appropriate quote from James Madison: "Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think.

Posted by JohnL at 12:01 AM | Comments (4) |
July 22, 2004

Bipartisan Humor

I've seen links to this brilliant play on Woodie Guthrie's "This Land" several places, but most recently at Catallarchy.

Finally watched it tonight.

Hilarious throughout, but the jokes on the Donks seemed funniest -- especially the John Kerry as a "UN pu--y," the Howard Dean "yeeargggh," and the brief cameo by William Jefferson Clinton ("To the New York I---" [slap!] -- "Hey wha'd I do?").

The jokes on Bush were predictable and fell flat (he's dumb, can't pronounce nuclear, he's a crusader), but they were well-executed.

As they say, the no-hot-beverages-rule is in effect.

Posted by JohnL at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) |
July 13, 2004

Reagan Teaser

OK, OK. Just what is Operation Coffeecup?

A brief foray by me into Lileks territory. About a year ago, I found an old vinyl record that my parents had recovered from my grandmother's house. Here's the cover:

Coffeecup Cover.jpg

I'm converting it to digital. Soon you can hear the mellifluous strains of the Great Communicator speaking out against the evils of socialized medicine. Too bad our current President doesn't share Reagan's principles on this issue.

I'll soon include more cover art and transcriptions of the "liner notes," which are charmingly anachronistic.

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (3) |
June 18, 2004

Bride of Frankenst---, er, Lurch

Grabbed this off Drudge:

Tootsie Heinz Kerry.bmp

And got this via a Google images search:

Kerry Lurch.bmp

Posted by JohnL at 07:41 PM | Comments (1) |
June 09, 2004

P.J. O'Rourke on Talk Radio

Well, actually, not on the radio, but in the Atlantic, covering current conservative commentary.

I really need to get a P.J. O'Rourke book to take on vacation this Summer. Any suggestions?

(Yet another hat tip to one of my favorite Australians).

Posted by JohnL at 08:54 PM | Comments (2) |

GR8 G-8 Pix

Via Tim Blair, I found Florida Cracker's entertaining sequence of pictures and captions from the G-8 summit in Georgia.

Favorite pic: the "Dubya and Tony are pals" one.

Posted by JohnL at 08:53 PM | Comments (0) |
May 20, 2004

Right Wing Hotness

Ace-of-Spades summarizes the factors that make Lara Flynn Boyle "dirty kinky right-wing hot."

Posted by JohnL at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) |

Current Events

One reason I don't blog much about politics and the war is that other bloggers have already covered the news in greater detail and in a more timely manner than I could. I don't blog from work, and therefore my surfing and posting are at the end of the day.

If I can't think of anything more than "me too," then I don't write about it, even though I may be in complete agreement. I'll be damned if I'm going to become an online "dittohead." I got into this blogging thing to force myself to write regularly, not to create some grand unified theory of politics. I hope someday to retire from the law racket; I would love to supplement my retirement income as an author.

So I write.

As frequently seems to be the case, James Lileks has already stated this thought for me:

"I’ll tell you why I haven’t written more about [the war, Abu Ghraib, Nick Berg] lately – it’s because there are others who do it so much better, have more to say, and have first-hand experience. I suppose I should be linking to them, but I assume that anyone who’s interested in these matters hits the other spots on the web that provide more authoritative content than I can offer. What’s more, I haven’t wanted to address The Gloom because that would simply add to it, and I think The Gloom is a mistake, a caul we’ve draped over our own heads. It will pass.

"I’m not interested in hand-wringing. Obsession about the details of the current news cycle is the best way to ensure that the future smacks you on the back of the head hard some day. Live micro, but think macro. Inhabit the day, but apprehend the week, the month, the year, and beyond."

Go and read the whole Bleat.

Posted by JohnL at 10:23 PM | Comments (0) |
May 03, 2004

Mayday, mayday, mayday . . .

Well I'm a few days late to observe May Day. We don't attach any great meaning to the holiday around here, and in any case, I would not commemorate a socialist holiday.

In fact, I think it appropriate that the international distress call for a grave and imminent danger is phonetically the same as the international socialist holiday. (Yeah, I know the word "mayday" comes from the French word m'aider, or help me, and has nothing to do with "May Day").

Why should one see socialism as a grave and imminent danger? Catallarchy explains much better than I could. Read the whole thing, including the linked articles.

Posted by JohnL at 11:42 PM | Comments (0) |
April 09, 2004

Alan Brain on International Affairs

Australian Alan Brain, sometime author for the Command Post, has a long and thoughtful piece on the revolution in International Affairs currently underway in the world.

He briefly lays out the historical development of and reasons for the western fetishization of "national sovereignty" as a reaction to the suicidial wars Europe committed against itself from the 17th through the 20th centuries.

He traces the development of the "religion" of transnationalism from WWI on and explains that the United Nations' failure to live up to its obligation, its promise to enforce collective self-defense, has given rise to a new doctrine of "righteous retribution" by a world power -- the United States. He has some misgivings that the vigilante USA is doing what the lawful authorities should be handling, but in all seems supportive of America's efforts in doing what must be done.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 12:19 AM | Comments (1) |
April 07, 2004

Right Wing Eye

For some reason, we libertarians are often mistaken for right-wingers.

While I think the whole "[Whatever] Eye for the [Whatever] Guy" is getting pretty tired, the personalities spoofed in this funny little flash animation are anything but libertarian, and are the reason I refuse to identify myself as a conservative.

(Hat tip: Crooked Timber).

Posted by JohnL at 11:44 PM | Comments (0) |
April 02, 2004

Homeowners' Associations

Timothy Sandefur doesn't like them very much, even though he prefers them to zoning laws. In my previous law firm life, I represented several condominium associations, so I have some familiarity with the enforcement side of things.

As a matter of principle only, I prefer HOAs to zoning laws, but just barely. And for practical purposes, unless you can prove laches or inconsistent enforcement, it is likely easier to modify bad zoning regulations (simple majorities at the ballot box) than restrictive covenants that run with the land (usually requiring a supermajority or
unanimity to modify).

Posted by JohnL at 08:51 PM | Comments (0) |
April 01, 2004

Praise Allah

Another Photoshop, funnier than anything he did with Dean.

(Favorite caption: "Hello Clarice").

Posted by JohnL at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) |
March 17, 2004

Three Square and a Bed

Go to jail for a crime you didn't commit.

Spend 16 years behind bars.

Get released.

Get a bill.

Via Reason's Hit and Run.

Posted by JohnL at 09:37 PM | Comments (0) |
March 04, 2004

Legal Writing Rant

Every now and then, I run across some really clunky contract language. I keep a running list of the worst. Today I found a truly awful one:

"Services. Supplier warrants that all Services and/or work performed under this Agreement shall be performed in a diligent, work-person like and professional manner, in compliance with industry standards, and in accordance with all specifications, drawings, instructions and or documentation as agreed upon by the Parties in this Agreement or a statement of work ("SOW") that will be attached to this Agreement or an SPA or Service Order and incorporated by reference hereof or as otherwise documented in a writing signed by both Parties."

First off, ignore the use of shall, the use of the passive voice, and the double use of and/or (a crutch for the lazy-minded lawyer who can't understand a Venn diagram). Ignore, too, that this is one run-on sentence. Focus instead on that gem of political correctness: work-person like. Compare the previous section:

"Product. Supplier warrants to Company and End User Customers that Products furnished will be new, merchantable, free from defects in material and workmanship and will conform to and perform in accordance with the specifications. These warranties extend to the future performance of the Products and shall continue for the longer of (a) [x] years after the Product is accepted by Company; or (b) such greater period as may be specified elsewhere in this Agreement including a specific project agreement ("SPA ")."

Why isn't that "free from defects in material and work-person ship?" Don't get me wrong. I strongly prefer to use gender-neutral language wherever possible, by recasting or substituting neutral words for masculine ones. (And I abhor the largely academic tendency to apply the goose/gander justice that makes all indefinite subjects feminine instead of masculine). I sometimes use the singular they, which although still not widely accepted, has a long and distinguished pedigree.

I'll even use humanity or humans in place of mankind (though I'm sure Jay Nordlinger would disapprove). But work-person like? There is no such thing.

While I would welcome comments on gender-neutral versions of workmanlike or workmanship, I think it's possible to redraft just as effective a clause without using the offending terms:

"Services. Supplier warrants that it will provide Services diligently and professionally and that they will comply with all applicable industry standards, specifications, drawings, and documentation under this Agreement." [Omit the rest; in a well-drafted agreement with tight definitions, a good amendment clause will take care of the remainder here].

That's all for the writing lesson today.

P.S. Until I get a link to my own terms of use here, I incorporate these by reference. Go read them.

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) |
February 20, 2004

Definitive Piece on Offended Canadians

Essential Mark Steyn (via the Corner).

Posted by JohnL at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) |
February 19, 2004

Ninth Amendment Debate

If you want to learn more about the Ninth Amendment, Tim Sandefur has been typing like mad on the subject for the past couple of days, carrying on a running discussion with the bloggers at Southern Appeal about the history, interpretation, and modern application of one of the least-understood amendments in the Bill of Rights.

He even scored a complimentary link from con-law guru Randy Barnett, who finds that Tim has been doing a good job defending the original meaning of the amendment.

I tend to side with Tim on this, at least in this part:

"We must not allow ourselves to be spooked into thinking that the end of good government is for the judiciary to defer. History reveals that the worst abuses of Americans have proceeded from a combination of the legislature and the executive, and that judicial restraint has far more often been a license for these oppressors than a protection for our freedom. Of course we don't want unelected judges running everything. But we do not want elected legislators running everything, either. The reason we have a constitution is to stop the legislature from governing certain things. The Ninth Amendment tells us that those 'certain things' are not limited to the things specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights -- there are other things. What are they? Well, there you must consult history, law, political philosophy, and so forth. That is what the Ninth Amendment means. That is what the privileges or immunities clause means. Any other interpretation would tend toward legislative absolutism and to rendering the Ninth Amendment a nullity, and must therefore be a flawed interpretation."

Click over and keep scrolling down.

Posted by JohnL at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) |


To Rob the Llama Butcher, sorry about the "blowback."

You didn't touch the nerve too badly, and what you say is right. I typically have no problems with very specialized outside counsel (say, our patent lawyers or employment counsel). The key to being a successful in-house lawyer is knowing when to stop being a jack-of-all-trades, and to defer to the expertise of competent outside counsel. Lord knows I have been saved more than once by a good lawyer on the outside (much more often than I have had to argue about a junior lawyer missing the point or padding a bill).

Posted by JohnL at 09:03 PM | Comments (0) |

In-house Lawyer Grumbling

Unsolicited advice from Rob the Llama Butcher:

"If you want a memo on a particular point of law to present
to some government agency, don't write one yourself and send it to your
outside counsel for fixing up. Instead, just let them write it from the
ground up.

"Buh-lieve me, you'll save yourself a lot of time and money."

Unsolicited response from in-house counsel (me):

Only if you promise not to stick some first-year associate trained in law school to spot problems instead of answers on the project!

I've noticed that much of the work product outside lawyers prepare for me is wordier and covers far more ground than required by the scope of the project. Of course we're tossing around generalizations here, but. . .

<rant mode>Outside lawyers seem to focus more on problems than solutions. When you have a limited budget, you get pretty frustrated that a ham-handed rookie with no business sense is anally citing and shepardizing the basic principles of law known to all of us in perfect Bluebook fashion, but forgetting to answer the question we asked, all the while charging us close to $200 an hour!</rant mode>

Posted by JohnL at 12:08 AM | Comments (0) |
February 12, 2004

"A lot of people don't know what freedom means. I do."

Jan Cydzik survived the Nazis. Then, he suffered the Soviets. He got a $1500 reparations check from the German government and bought a grandfather clock to commemorate the three years of slave labor he performed for the Germans. The Russians haven't paid him anything. Not that he's complaining.

Read the whole thing (minimal registration required to access).

(Hat tip: Catallarchy).

Posted by JohnL at 08:42 PM | Comments (0) |
February 06, 2004

Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

Heh. Now I'm part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

As a libertarian, I don't see myself as "right wing" in much of anything, but I appreciate the recognition. On the really big issues (especially regarding limits of federal power), libertarians and conservatives tend to share quite a bit of common ground.

I guess the link resulted from Tim Sandefur's mention of our postings on the Supreme Court Canon.

Looking at Tim's list, it's obvious that I haven't done much to keep up with Con Law since my graduation from law school in 1994.

Posted by JohnL at 09:07 PM | Comments (0) |
February 05, 2004

Supreme Court Canon

I'm just a commercial lawyer. I almost never have to think of Constitutional Law, unlike the esteemed Tim Sandefur, who makes his living as a real life Constitutional litigator for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

So it's hard for me to even think of ten Supreme Court opinions, much less the ten that every American ought to read.

But here are the "top five" I would nominate:

1. Wickard v. Filburn. Ordinary people should understand just how radically the Court stretched the commerce clause during the New Deal ("What? You mean I can't grow corn on my own land for my own consumption???"). I remember being outraged at federal overreach when I read this case in law school. I would hope ordinary people would be equally outraged today.

2. Miranda v. Arizona. We all know the warnings from cop shows. We should read the original case to find out where they came from. Then, read the fourth and fifth amendments and decide where the court found the rule.

3. Marbury v. Madison. Why does the Supreme Court get the last word?

4. Roe v. Wade. Most people with an opinion on abortion talk about this case as though they understand what it means. Have they even read it?

5. Dred Scott v. Sandford. When the talking heads were running around three years ago yammering about the Court losing its "legitimacy" in the wake of Bush v. Gore, they evidently had no sense of history. This is arguably the lowest point in the Court's history, and one that gravely undermined the Court's (and much of the early Republic's) legitimacy.

Posted by JohnL at 09:55 PM | Comments (0) |
January 28, 2004

Age of Empire

Readers of Jerry Pournelle's weblog know that he believes the USA is well on its way to becoming an empire.

One of his readers sent him a link to this article, which reviews a six-part series on BBC on the subject of American empire.

Even if there is disagreement about whether America actually is an empire, there is agreement that America doesn't want to be an empire.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 09:18 PM | Comments (0) |
January 20, 2004

Why have NASA?

In looking for his comments on the DC-X, I ran across some written testimony that Jerry Pournelle presented to the House Subcommittee on Space in 1995 posing this critical question.

Of course, a cynic might answer that we have NASA in order to employ some 18,000 government employees in space centers distributed throughout many powerful congresscritters' districts.

Posted by JohnL at 09:30 PM | Comments (0) |
January 15, 2004

Make My Day

I'm not sure Tim Sandefur's guest blogger Eric Anderson has this right:

In the United States, one may only employ lethal force in the defense of life, and only when the ability, opportunity, and intent of the adversary to inflict serious bodily injury are simultaneously present. I think Texas was among the last of the states to keep legal the use of force in defending one's property, though it too has caved in to the times.

According to the Texas Penal Code, a person may use deadly force:

(1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under [the section of the code covering self-defense];

(2) if a reasonable person in the actor's situation would not have retreated; and

(3) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary: (A) to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or (B) to prevent the other's imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.

If the person uses deadly force against a person who is in the process of breaking into the person's home, then the reasonableness standard of subsection (2) doesn't apply. See Texas Penal Code sec. 9.32. This is much like Colorado's "Make My Day" law which allows an occupant of a home to use "any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force" against an intruder when the occupant reasonably believes that the intruder "has committed a crime in the dwelling in
addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant." See Colorado Revised Statutes sec. 18-1-704.5.

I haven't researched any other western states' laws, but at least these two states don't require much justification for a homeowner to waste an intruder. Disclaimer: Although I am an attorney and am licensed to practice law in Texas, I am not a criminal lawyer, and more importantly, I am not your lawyer. So don't do anything in reliance on this off-the-cuff assessment of these statutes.

Update: We see now why I'm not a criminal defense lawyer. . . Both commenter Michael Parker and the Curmudgeonly Clerk correct Eric and point to the more relevant "Make My Day" provisions (9.41-9.44) in the Texas Penal Code.

Posted by JohnL at 09:11 PM | Comments (1) |
January 14, 2004

Space, The Final Frontier. . .

Not much blogging tonight, as I'm reading the speech.

My immediate reaction is somewhat negative, beginning with the setting. First, the President is at NASA and is addressing NASA employees, not the American people: "This will be a great and unifying mission for NASA, and we know that you'll achieve it. I have directed Administrator O'Keefe to review all of NASA's current space flight and exploration activities and direct them toward the goals I have outlined."

I don't want to watch superhuman astronauts exploring on my nickel. I want to do exploring for myself. And what's up with this? -- "We'll invite other nations to share the challenges and opportunities of this new era of discovery. The vision I outline today is a journey, not a race, and I call on other nations to join us on this journey, in a spirit of cooperation and friendship." Just what we need. Another feel-good international boondoggle like the ISS. I am afraid that these
steps will turn outer space into an Antarctica -- another preserve for PhDs and noone else.

Rand Simberg has some preliminary thoughts on this. Check out Jerry Pournelle, too. His prize proposal, and his favoring a higher-profile military role both parallel my thoughts on federal government involvement in space.

I would actually like to see several "dreamer fithp" (read this, if you don't get the reference) on the President's commission -- Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Burt Rutan.

Most other space policy bloggers are getting in on the action:

Rocket Man.

Fred Kiesche, who should put up a tipjar on his site.

Jay Manifold, who is promising more details real soon.

Still waiting to read Chris Hall's assessment of the speech.

Coming soon: my opinion of why we need to go (prompted by Anne Applebaum's execrable spew), and some thoughts on how I think we ought to go.

Posted by JohnL at 09:54 PM | Comments (0) |
January 13, 2004

Excellent Opinion Piece on Medicare Expansion

Scott Burns, a financial affairs columnist for the Dallas Morning News, has an excellent piece today spelling out the true impact of the recent Medicare expansion. (Free registration required. Destined for the archives in the near future).

Scott is a member of the boomer generation, but his thinking on this issue is, refreshingly, fair and clear. He calculates the bill that our current elders are presenting to my children as $43.5 trillion. He essentially restates the libertarian nugget "TANSTAAFL." At some point benefits must be decreased or taxes increased (no!) to prevent a massive default under the system.

I hope in my lifetime to see some significant extension of the human lifespan. I expect it, actually. I am ready for the future of Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire,
even its dystopian aspects.

As a consequence, I think we need to be ready to rethink our "social obligation" to our elders. Medicare and Social Security, in my mind, are unconstitutional -- they are well beyond any reasonably necessary or proper enumerated power of the federal government. But are we ready as a society to take more personal responsibility for saving, for being ready to work in our retirements, to take care of our parents and grandparents? We need to be. Fortunately, if we do see some sort of "boosterspice" in our lifetimes, we will be young and healthy enough, even at the age of 65, 70, or even 90 to continue to be active and productive citizens and not wards of the state.

Posted by JohnL at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) |

Excellent Opinion Piece on Medicare Expansion

Scott Burns, a financial affairs columnist for the Dallas Morning News, has an excellent piece today spelling out the true impact of the recent Medicare expansion. (Free registration required. Destined for the archives in the near future).

Scott is a member of the boomer generation, but his thinking on this issue is, refreshingly, fair and clear. He calculates the bill that our current elders are presenting to my children as $43.5 trillion. He essentially restates the libertarian nugget "TANSTAAFL." At some point benefits must be decreased or taxes increased (no!) to prevent a massive default under the system.

I hope in my lifetime to see some significant extension of the human lifespan. I expect it, actually. I am ready for the future of Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire,
even its dystopian aspects.

As a consequence, I think we need to be ready to rethink our "social obligation" to our elders. Medicare and Social Security, in my mind, are unconstitutional -- they are well beyond any reasonably necessary or proper enumerated power of the federal government. But are we ready as a society to take more personal responsibility for saving, for being ready to work in our retirements, to take care of our parents and grandparents? We need to be. Fortunately, if we do see some sort of "boosterspice" in our lifetimes, we will be young and healthy enough, even at the age of 65, 70, or even 90 to continue to be active and productive citizens and not wards of the state.

Posted by JohnL at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) |

Plain English

As a lawyer, I regularly have to try to tease some meaning from the "hereinbefores," "wherefores," "shalls," and other assorted legaldegook that other lawyers (and lawyer wannabes) use in their "legal" writing. I'm sorry, but if you're a standard American English speaker, you have no business using the word "shall" in modern usage, except in flippant "what shall do now?" constructions.

And what's with the hereinaboves, hereinbelows, and wheretofores? I majored in German in college, and those constructions are very much alive there. But not in English. Ask someone to write a "legally binding" document and they for some reason start sprinkling "shalls" and "shall nots" like Shakespearean actors.

(That "someone. . . they" construction was intentional, by the way). I actually had a mild debate with another lawyer about this once, who felt that some "grandeur" in legal documents and court pleadings was a good thing. Oh, please.

One of my ongoing missions is to update all of my corporation's forms to use plain, modern English, and to do everything I can to revise other lawyers' forms for style whenever I am forced to use them. One of my key resources is a book by Bryan Garner, a noted authority on legal writing and the English language. Legal Writing in Plain English is one of my bibles (along with the Chicago Manual of Style, Lapsing into a Comma, and the invaluable Strunk and White). Even if you are not a lawyer, these are excellent resources for writers.

If you are interested in matters grammatical, Garner provides a daily usage tip here (where you can also sign up to receive his daily usage tips via email, as I have done).

Posted by JohnL at 09:34 PM | Comments (0) |

O'Neill Flap

If you're interested (I'm not), Instapundit is all over this topic today. Not that he needs any linkage from me. . .

Posted by JohnL at 08:53 PM | Comments (0) |
January 06, 2004

Where's That Vorpal Sword. . . ?

I wonder if the guys at SFSignal have seen this? Via the Corner, here is a listing of the Democratic candidates for president as D&D characters.

I love the extended riff about the Zeppelin-versus-Rush-inspired-band in the Wes Clark profile. Brilliant.

Posted by JohnL at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) |
December 23, 2003

Meaning of the Libyan Turnaround

Much of the anti-war movement seems to want to paint the Bush administration as out-of-control in its willingness to use military force overseas, and some of the wackier members even characterize the overthrow of the Hussein regime in Iraq as some sort of personal vendetta ("He tried to kill my daddy!"), unrelated to the war on terrorism. But in the days after September 11, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz enunciated a clear strategy that he thought would be required to prevent a 9-11 from happening again. A strategy that extended beyond merely capturing the responsible parties and "bringing them to justice:"

"I think one has to say it's not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism."

From the perspective of previous world wars, we are only a short way into this global war on terrorism (or, in my un-PC opinion, Islamic extremism), so it is probably a little early to gauge the overall success of this strategy.

But Libya's recent turnaround provides some preliminary support for the success of the strategy. Today's Dallas Morning News has a very forceful editorial connecting the dots between the takedown of Hussein and Libya's voluntary capitulation.

"Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi may be a madman, but he's no fool.

"He saw what happened to Saddam Hussein, and doesn't want to end up being dragged out of a spider hole by American soldiers. . . .

"European Commission chief Romano Prodi is hailing this a victory for
'discrete diplomacy and engagement.' Don't you believe it.

"Libya first reached out to the West in March, as American soldiers prepared to
shock and awe Saddam Hussein into collapse. Col. Gadhafi saw that when President George W. Bush said that nations were either for us or against us in the war on terror, and would be held accountable for their actions, he meant it.

"And note well that the Libyans did not approach France or Germany for help with the Americans, but Britain, the United States' staunchest ally. Col. Gadhafi knows which nations matter in the post-9-11 world.

"This development is first and foremost a ringing vindication of the Bush terror-fighting strategy, which depends on the use of force to back up diplomatic initiatives. When dealing with thugs like Col. Gadhafi, an able military and the
political will to employ it are the most useful tools of international relations. It's amazing how clarifying a few well-placed daisy cutters can be for Middle Eastern despots, and how persuasive the tender ministrations of the U.S. armed forces are to even the most obstinate potentate.

"Libya's stunning decision could prove a real intelligence coup for the United States, given that nation's role in funding international cutthroats and radical movements for decades. Additionally, the Libyan foreign minister is now saying that trade between his nation and the U.S. and Britain will improve.

"Washington and London now have a tremendous opportunity to show how no nation, no matter how outcast, is beyond rehabilitation if it will only turn from
its rogue ways. As we reward Libya for playing nice - and we should - let's not forget that what brought Col. Gadhafi around was not endless carrots offered by the European Commission, but a large stick swung hard by Mr. Bush."
(emphasis added).

I think Libya remains on probation, but I am heartened by this development.

Posted by JohnL at 12:21 PM | Comments (1) |
December 16, 2003

Clothespin Republicans

Glenn Reynolds mentions South Park Republicans again today.

I like South Park. I grok the Simpsons. I prefer the Canadian rock group Rush to the big fat idiot Rush. I've never been a big fan of Pat Boone (except for this) and do not belong or want to belong to a country club. I support gay marriage. I support the legalization of drugs. I support a woman's right to choose to have an abortion until the fetus exhibits a steady alpha-wave pattern on an EEG (the beginning of "brain life"). I am in favor of human cloning and stem cell research. I am opposed to most aspects of the PATRIOT act.

But I support very strongly the overseas war on terrorism. And I am opposed to any income taxes (one reason I live in Texas!) I would love to see the entire welfare state dismantled completely. I hope the Boomers choke on the "free" drugs they've decided to purchase with my (and my kids') money.

I should probably vote Libertarian. After all, based on the above, I am a "small-ell" libertarian. But I couldn't really be a "big-ell" Libertarian, as I prefer the Blue Man Group to blue man candidates and the other assorted nutballs that tend to run for office under the Libertarian Party banner. So how can I possibly vote? Usually, for the lesser of two evils. Which, for me, is usually the Republican candidate.

But I have to hold my nose when I do so. Thus, I propose a new term -- "clothespin" Republicans. For those of us who vote Republican, but put a clothespin on our nose when we punch the card.

What do you think?

Posted by JohnL at 10:41 PM | Comments (0) |

Obscene Waste of Police Resources

Now this makes me soooo proud to be a Texan.

Good coverage of this particular case on Instapundit, Volokh, and Freespace. And be sure to check out the comments at Hit and Run, where I first learned of this particular bust.

Posted by JohnL at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) |
December 08, 2003

What's Missing From This Picture?

No, no, no, no. . . not that picture.

This one. (Inspired by Scrappleface).

Posted by JohnL at 11:24 PM | Comments (0) |
December 03, 2003

The Other White Meat

144 individual servings of it, to be exact.

(Thanks to The Eternal Golden Braid for the link).

To be fair, some of these line items appear innocent enough (say, #103, 105, or 144) but most are just complete oinkers.

Finagle forgive me for saying so, but where is Proxmire and his golden fleece when you need him?

Posted by JohnL at 11:52 PM | Comments (0) |

We Don't Need No Education

"When we grew up and went to school, there were certain teachers who would hurt the children anyway they could. . ."

I don't always agree with the ACLU, but am awfully glad they are around when they take on a case like this one.

Be sure to read the little boy's own account of what he did "wrong." He said "bad" words?????

You don't have to be a radical gay activist to see that what the Louisiana school did to this 7-year-old was simply wrong. This, speaking as a father of three, two of whom are old enough to have brought home "problem solving sheets" that look much like this one. Feh.

Posted by JohnL at 11:04 PM | Comments (1) |
December 02, 2003

Another One for the Wish List

In commenting on one of Rand Simberg's posts, I ran across this review of this book by Stephen Ambrose covering the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad(s). I'll have to get this, as it seems somewhat relevant in the current debate over what role, if any, government should play in opening the space frontier.

My wish list has grown long over the last year or two, but I'm hoping it will be a few items shorter after Christmas.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) |
November 13, 2003

No More Moore

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary voted today to remove Judge Roy Moore from office as a result of his defiance of a federal court's order to remove the graven image of the [Baptist version of the] Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama State Supreme Court building.

About da*n time. This joker has no business presiding over the highest court of any state in the Union, even Alabama. Although the order he defied was based on a 1st Amendment Establishment Clause basis, this need not be a federal issue. Judge Moore quite clearly defied the letter of the Alabama Constitution, section 3 of which reads:

[That the great, general, and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, we declare]: that no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a
qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

As I have discussed elsewhere, the very listing of the 10 Commandments on "Roy's Rock" slights both the Jewish and the Catholic/Lutheran traditions. By presenting the Southern Baptist list of the Decalogue, Judge Moore gave preference to the Southern Baptists in the building that housed the highest court in the State of Alabama. Forget the federal case, this guy thumbed his nose at the Alabama Constitution.

It will be interesting to see what Roy does next, as he clearly shows no signs of fading away into the background. He should read his bible: "a man's pride will bring him low." (Proverbs 29:23).

Posted by JohnL at 11:53 PM | Comments (0) |

No More Moore

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary voted today to remove Judge Roy Moore from office as a result of his defiance of a federal court's order to remove the graven image of the [Baptist version of the] Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama State Supreme Court building.

About da*n time. This joker has no business presiding over the highest court of any state in the Union, even Alabama. Although the order he defied was based on a 1st Amendment Establishment Clause basis, this need not be a federal issue. Judge Moore quite clearly defied the letter of the Alabama Constitution, section 3 of which reads:

[That the great, general, and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, we declare]: that no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a
qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

As I have discussed elsewhere, the very listing of the 10 Commandments on "Roy's Rock" slights both the Jewish and the Catholic/Lutheran traditions. By presenting the Southern Baptist list of the Decalogue, Judge Moore gave preference to the Southern Baptists in the building that housed the highest court in the State of Alabama. Forget the federal case, this guy thumbed his nose at the Alabama Constitution.

It will be interesting to see what Roy does next, as he clearly shows no signs of fading away into the background. He should read his bible: "a man's pride will bring him low." (Proverbs 29:23).

Posted by JohnL at 11:53 PM | Comments (0) |
November 05, 2003

Big Ass Advertising

Eugene Volokh, who has forgotten more about commercial free speech than I have ever learned, cites a local government official's desire to outlaw a creative billboard that uses a donkey's hindquarters to sell large industrial fans.

The company, Big Ass Fans, took its name from its customers' spontaneous initial reactions to its up-to-24-foot diameter products. Big Ass Fans' marketing "guy" describes the marketing campaign as tasteful. I agree with Prof. Volokh that, while crude, this is certainly not obscene.

Posted by JohnL at 09:39 PM | Comments (0) |
October 10, 2003

Kalifornien Ueber Alles

I wonder if the Dead Kennedys will re-release their 1979 hit with updated lyrics.

(But how do you replace "Jerry Brown" with "Arnold Schwarzenegger" and keep the same rhyme/rhythm scheme?)

(And how do you deal with your tasteless band name when the governor is married to a Kennedy?)

Posted by JohnL at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) |
October 09, 2003

First We Kill All The Lawyers

Steven Den Beste has nightmares. So do I.

What can we do to rein in out-of-control lawyers?

I personally favor the "English" rule (discussed at length, including pros and cons, here).

One thing's certain: if bar associations (and judges) think lawyer jokes are the cause (and not just a symptom) of declining respect for the profession while ignoring the real causes, then other solutions will be imposed from outside, for better or worse.

Posted by JohnL at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) |
October 07, 2003

Hasta La Vista, Gray

Early polling results showing a win by Ah-nold.

Posted by JohnL at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) |