!http://www.henryfarrell.net/blackandtan.gif!

Via “Sivacracy”:http://www.nyu.edu/classes/siva/.

Reaching into the Past

by Kieran Healy on April 4, 2006

David Bernstein has been “taking a few pot-shots”:http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_04_02-2006_04_08.shtml#1144185824 at Oliver Wendell Holmes, suggesting that his reputation has declined. (This is part of David’s role as a footsoldier in the battle to rehabilitate “Lochner vs New York”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lochner_v._New_York as one of the Great Supreme Court Decisions.) I have no view one way or the other about Holmes, though I’m surprised that David didn’t throw in the fact that one of Holmes’ last clerks was “Alger Hiss”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alger_Hiss. Anyway, I bring this up because I use Holmes as an example in my undergraduate social theory class, thanks to a comment made to me ages ago by “Mark Kleiman”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/. The goal is to convey to my students that the modern world has come into being in an astonishingly brief period of time. But they think of the 1980s as essentially equivalent to the Paleolithic, so I need a something corresponding to the inverse of Douglas Adams’ line that “You may think it’s a long way down the street to the Chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Holmes provides it. He died in 1935, and so there are still many people alive today who knew him, or at least shook hands with him. Holmes was born in 1841, and as a boy he met “John Quincy Adams”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Quincy_Adams, who was born in 1767. So (I tell my students — maybe I should chew on a pipe when I say this, for added effect) you are just three handshakes away from a man born before the French Revolution, the American War of Independence, and arguably before the Industrial Revolution, as well. There must be many other examples. How far might we go back today with three or four handshakes?

_Update_: Post edited for elementary arithmetic.

Best introductions to …

by John Holbo on April 4, 2006

Scott Kaufman has an interesting distributed intelligence project. He’s soliciting suggestions for ‘best introductions to’ various standard topics in literary studies. Feel free to contribute. It’s a nice project. Lots of subjects could do with good lists of this sort.

Low stakes legal gambling?

by John Holbo on April 4, 2006

I’m thinking about issues of copyright and fair use – specifically, the rather unfortunate lack of clear legal precedents in certain areas. The inability to be sure a given use is fair has an unfortunate dampening effect. (But this situation is no doubt mirrored in other areas where black letter implications are unclear, and precedent is thin on the ground.) What is to be done? Could you engineer the setting of precedents like so: semi-staged, lowball lawsuits. That is, someone claims ‘fair use’, in the secure foreknowledge that they won’t be sued for huge damages (because this has been informally settled or determined with the plaintiff in some manner, in advance.) So the defendant doesn’t have to risk catastrophic loss, just – say, a couple thousand dollars, plus legal fees (not trivial, but not crippling to certain folks.) The suit needn’t be strictly a fake, in that there could be real disagreement between the parties about what constitutes ‘fair use’. But the main idea is making it attractive as fairly low-stakes gambling for both parties. Presumably this would work best if both parties felt that setting a relevant precedent would be a considerable value in itself. Obviously aspiring fair-users will see the value of this; but some rights-holders will, too, if only because they may foresee wanting to make confident fair uses themselves; or perhaps because they are just plain idealistic. So you arrange for such parties to sue each other … slightly.

I can see that the law, in its majesty, might frown on this as slightly disrespectful of its aforementioned majesty. There is something frivolous about agreeing to disagree, just for the sake of taking up some judge’s time. But the goal – setting a precedent – is distinctly non-frivolous. Is there any precedent for setting out to set precedent in this way?

Veritas odit moras

by John Holbo on April 4, 2006

Anyone want to discuss the Hammer’s announcement of withdrawal from the race [Time, NY Times)? There’s a thread developing at Redstate. Realamerican writes:

Look, I’ll be honest. I don’t care if DeLay broke a few laws. He was good for our side, and I’d rather have a corrupt Republican than an honest Democrat (not that there is such a thing).

But by dropping out, he might as well put on a T-shirt saying, “Yes, I AM guilty!” This will paint the entire Republican Party in a bad light, and put our majority in real jeopardy. The honorable thing for him to do would have been to resign before the primary. By waiting until now, he makes it look as though Earle or someone has something really damaging on him. Even if he’s innocent, he looks incredibly guilty.

This is bad. Just really, really bad. Truthfully, I think we just lost the House.

Interesting use of the word ‘honorable’. To be fair, realamerican is getting a bit of pushback from the others in the thread. Not as much as one would hope for, however.

I think Powerline nails it about right:

It’s too bad, I think. DeLay was an effective leader, albeit too liberal in recent years. It’s possible, of course, that he did something wrong along the way. But there is no evidence of that in the public domain; as I’ve often said, the politically-inspired prosection of DeLay by Travis County’s discredited DA, Ronnie Earle, is a bad joke. As far as we can tell at the moment, DeLay appears to be yet another victim of the Democrats’ politics of personal destruction–the only politics they know.

As to my post title. I’ve used that joke before, but it seems extra super appropriate today.

And just to be clear: realamerican and hindrocket are mostly here to provide black humor. You don’t need to talk about them unless you want. You might consider discussing levels of denial of Republican corruption problems, however.