October 2006 Archives

Rape and Formalism

This opinion by a Maryland appellate court has been making the rounds of the feminist blogosphere. Most of the responsa have expressed outrage at the decision, but sadly few have failed to actually read the case before leaping to very nasty conclusions about the judge who issued it. Of the four posts I linked above, only the last by Happy Feminist actually read the case and responded to its argument.

The brief, take-away point about the case: an appellate court judge in Maryland reversed a rapist's conviction, ostensibly on the grounds that, under Maryland law, once consent to sexual intercourse has been granted it can't be withdrawn. After the victim in this case consented once to sex it didn't matter how forcefully she tried to ger the defendant to stop, anything he did could not legally be considered rape.

Needless to say, this is repugnant. What's interesting is reading the case itself, because I believe the judge has actually done a very clever thing that might not be readily apparent. The ruling is still wrong, but I get the feeling that the judge, feeling himself constrained by certain guiding judicial philosophies, essentially did the best he could under the circumstances.

The procedural posture of the case was a challenge to a jury instruction by the trial judge informing the jury that consent to sexual intercourse could be withdrawn mid-coitus, and that continuing with sex after withdrawal of consent constituted rape. The defense appealed this instruction.

Looking to case law, the appellate court found Maryland's history surprisingly bare when it came to cases on this question. In fact, the only case that directly addressed the issue was Battle v. State, a case decided in 1980, and this question was only discussed in the dicta of that case (Dicta are the speculations and off-the-cuff remarks not strictly relevant to the facts at issue in a given case; dicta in cases are not binding, while the holding is). Nonetheless, Battle was decided by the Maryland Supreme Court, and its decisions are binding on appellate courts.

Judges of a certain persuasion would think little of deciding the question of law presented here de novo, determining what the law should be based on reasoning, social science, law from other jurisdictions, etc. The judge in this case is not a judge of that persuasion. This judge feels that judges ought only to make law when there is absolutely no precedent to work off of. He is, in that sense, a classic formalist jurist. What is important is following the precedents and maintaining fidelity to stare decisis.

However, if you read the case below the surface level, it is plainly apparent that this judge really loathes the decision he is handing down. He devotes several pages to discussion of the reasoning in Battle, which is heavily rooted in ancient Common Law commentators. The Maryland Supreme Court, in Battle, argued that Rape had been a common law crime prior to its incorporation by the state into a statute in 1976. Thus, the court had to look to the Common Law to determine how to define rape.

The court then quoted several 18th and 19th Century legal commentators. These commentators agreed that Rape was a form of property crime; women were properly to be considered chattel, owned by their fathers until passed to their husbands in the marriage ceremony. Rape diminished the value of the woman by deflowering her, making her less valuable in a marriage bargain and thus diminishing her worth to her male owner. Thus, consent was unimportant to whether rape had occured once there was penetration. At that point, the damage had been done and the woman's value could not be restored.

The appellate judge quotes this portion of the battle reasoning at length, throwing in bits about ancient Biblical conceptions of women as property and the role that conception played in the development of rape law. He then moves on to various other state laws, nearly all of which have ruled that consent can be withdrawn mid-coitus. And he wraps up by saying, "But, alas! My hands are tied and I must rule that consent cannot be withdrawn."

My feeling is that this judge felt the law was wrong, but also felt it wasn't his place to change it; the Supreme Court or the legislature had to do it. He therefore ruled according to what he felt to be an unjust law, but wrote an opinion that provides all of the opposition research needed for the Supreme Court to overturn it. He wrote this opinion explicitly so it would be appealed and the law changed throughout Maryland, rather than just in his department. And he did it in a way consistent with his personal judicial philosophy of adherence to precedent.

Of course, this is exactly the sort of case that shows the weakness of formalism as a judicial philosophy. It encourages moral cowardice, as judges choose to avoid making tough decisions by hiding behind precedent. We can only hope, at this point, that the Maryland Supreme Court does not play the same game.


I've a grammar/linguistic question that's been annoying me for a while. What is with the tendency to use the article "an" before the word "history" or its derivates? e.g. "This could be an historical election for Democrats." My vague understanding is that you use "a" for words beginning in consonants and "an" for words beginning with vowels, but lots of people seem to use "an" for "history." Are people pronouncing History with a silent H, as though with a cockney accent? "I just read An 'Istory of the Modern World"? You don't see this with other H words, like Head or Hill. In any case, every time I see "an" prefacing "History" it pulls me out of what I'm reading and forces me to mentally correct it.

Off My Meds

Yesterday I accidentally took a double dose of my medication (I took one pill when I woke up, took my shower, then forgot that I had taken the pill and took another one). This had some odd effects and gave me something of a headache. I decided today that I would take a day off the medication to normalize again.

One of the effects of taking my medication is to make me notably less impulsive. It used to be that I would be sitting at my desk at home and think to myself, "I don't want to read this history assignment! I want to see a movie!" and before I thought twice about it my boots were on and I was out the door. I'd go to a movie theater not knowing what was on, figure out which movies were playing within an easy wait of when I arrived, and then pick randomly between the reasonable choices. No room for rational thought! That doesn't happen so much anymore, and one of the upshots of my taking this medication is that I only really go to the movies when I'm at home. Which is a shame, because I like seeing movies in theaters.

But the movies are neither here nor there. The point is: when off my meds, I'm quite impulsive. So today I went out for something to eat. When they didn't have any eggplant for an eggplant marinara sandwich, I found myself walking three miles downtown to get a slice of vegan death by chocolate cake from a store I quite like. It was quite tasty.

And because I was in an impulsive mood this evening, I called a friend I haven't talked to in a few months, Pam Woo, who's started a Ph.D. program in Film at Chicago. I'd been meaning to call for a while, but tonight I just picked up the phone. And we chatted for over an hour. And it was fun.

And then I hung up and, in a move I probably wouldn't have made if I had sat back and soberly reflected on the situation, I booked a round-trip ticket to Chicago and back for the weekend before Thanksgiving to see Pam. That week is going to be a very heavy travel week for me, between a trip to Chicago, then back to New York, then out to Arizona, then back to New York again.

But I'll probably have a lot more fun than I would have sitting around my apartment in New York, and I almost certainly wouldn't have gotten anything productive done here, anyway. Hell, I'll likely get more productivity out of the flights there and back than I would have gotten from a weekend "studying" around the apartment.

I am beginning to wonder if being in control of my impulses isn't somewhat less of a good thing than it's cracked up to be.

The Greasy Pole

This is a fun article from the Daily Mail, a British Newspaper. Apparently Tesco, a department store in the UK, was selling the Peekaboo Pole Dancer Kit in the children's toys section of their website. Outrage ensued. In fact, according to Dr. Adrian Rogers of the Family Focus campaign, doing this will "destroy children's lives".

The story's written for shock value, so I have a tough time figuring out what really went on here from Tesco's side. It seems as though the Peekabook Pole Dancer Kit might be a sex toy or some sort of off-beat workout gear, as the Tesco spokesperson claims. At the same time, it does look very child-oriented. The kit consists of a telescoping 8 1/2 foot pole, a CD of stripping music, a garter, and play money to stuff into said garter. The play money makes me suspicious that this might actually be marketed at a younger audience; if it's a work-out kit, why bother with money at all? If it's a sex toy, can't you just get your partner to use real money? It just seems a little goofy to set everything up, put on stripper money, then run over and say, "Here's some play money to stuff in my garter when I come over to give you a lap dance!"

More on Dr. Rogers, the Family Focus campaigner. He helpfully informs us that poles are "interpreted in the adult world as a phallic symbol." I don't want to give Michel Foucault short shrift, but I'd have to argue that, among the veritable plethora, the virtual cornucopia of arguments available to Dr. Rogers about why marketing pole dancer kits to children is a bad idea, the phallic symbolism involved is quite possibly the weakest. After all, you can find phallic symbols everywhere. For instance, horseraddish:

My favorite Rogersism of the article, though, comes half-way through, when he says "It ought to be stopped, it really requires the intervention of members of Parliament. This should only be available to the most depraved people who want to corrupt their children." I completely agree, if only for the comedic potential. I feel Parliament absolutely should require a Depravity License, Ministry of the Interior form ZZ-9-Plural-Z-Alpha. You should have to fill out a lengthy application and wait six months while government depravity experts certify that you are, indeed, depraved enough to purchase this toy for your children. In fact, I'm not certain this level of depravity can probably be assessed without a timed multiple-choice examination.

And the second part of his statement is equally vital: that it should only be made available to parents "who want to corrupt their children." There should be an airport check-in style question when you buy this kit.

"Sir, do you have any children for whom you are purchasing this kit?"


"Do you intend to use this kit in order to corrupt said children?"

"Yes, I do."

"Very well. Cash or charge?"

I am also a fan of the photo of the Gallimore family. "Alright, everyone, we're condemning Tesco, so everyone put on your grimmest condemnation faces!"

As for the substantive issue involved here, um... Here, let met get a coin. I think the fact that Tesco sold this product is... a good thing, morally virtuous, they're champions of... I dunno, free market capitalism and empowerment and stuff.

My roommate's turning our apartment into a den of partying tomorrow night for Halloween, and I suppose I should attend. Given that Mohammed has thus far failed to move to the mountain, I guess tomorrow night the mountain is moving to Mohammed.

This leaves me in need of a costume. Ideas? I'd prefer to cobble something together myself, as costume shops tend to sell stuff that's cheap of make and overpriced. Right now I can fashion a sorta-quasi-half-decent ninja costume out of a black long-sleeve t-shirt, black lounge pants, black socks, black flip-flops, and Ninja Scarf. Still, I feel like I could do better. My other easy option would be The Guy from the Power Grid cover. Any ideas?

(instantiate die ("cast"))

This afternoon I called LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, LLP, to accept their offer of a summer associateship for next year.

That is all.

Hands Up


Now that New Jersey's Supreme Court has decreed that the legislature must provide something functionally equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples, there's an interesting geographic pattern developing with respect to gay rights. First Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions. Then Massachusetts provided for same-sex marriages. Now New Jersey and Connecticut have or will have same-sex civil unions. And somewhere along the line Canada legalized same-sex marriage. If you look hard enough at a map of New York and its surroundings...

...you'll notice that all of the North American political regions that have recognized same-sex intimate partnerships border on New York state. And yet, thanks to New York's Court of Appeals and a legislature that's dragging its feet on the issue, New York itself has not allowed for same-sex unions. All that's left is for Pennsylvania to legalize marriage or same-sex unions and New York state will be entirely surrounded by water and land where gay people can be married/united.

On the plus side, though, at least New York doesn't have a law on the books expressing public opposition to same-sex marriage and forbidding recognition of same-sex unions created in other states, unlike certain Californias I could mention.


For those who have heard good things about the computer game Civilization, but who have heretofore held out on purchasing a copy for themselves, perhaps bewildered by the variety of Civilization options available, a fantastic opportunity has presented itself. The set includes Civilizations I through IV, plus all the expansions released for Civilizations II and III. Moreover, Chronicles comes with a book detailing the design process and evolution of the Civilization series, a DVD on the making of Civilization IV, and (and this may be the greatest pack-in bonus I have ever seen in a video game) a complete 250-card table top Civilization card game.

This is a product that I profoundly do not need. See the list of Civilization titles along the right side of the screen? I purchased every single one of them. And each one was bought at or near the release date, at full retail price. And I still have all of them, sitting here next to me in the drawer of my desk. And yet the fullness, the totality of this collection compells me to purchase it. And the card game! My God, the card game!

Though actually, the collection isn't entirely complete. There's an expansion that was just released for Civilization IV that isn't included. I'm very, very tempted to buy said expansion, which would be entirely silly of me. You may recall that I was very excited about the release of Civ IV some months ago. And then I was oddly silent. This is because, unbeknownst to me, my poor laptop is too pathetic to run it. So Civ IV has sat, despondent, on my shelf. I periodically glance at it sheepishly, only to watch it roll its eyes and look away. I hang my head in shame at my poor computer's impotence. And now I'm considering buying an expansion to a game my computer won't run. But! Civ IV: Warlords has so many amazing features! With Warlords, now when you conquer an enemy nation rather than destroying them you'll have the option of making them your vassal state! The mere possibility of theoretically being able to advance my hypothetical Civ IV game with that capability is more than worth the $30 for the expansion, isn't it?

No Value Added Here

Engadget has a fascinating (fascinating!) article up now on the dispute between TiVo and Cable Companies over the integration of decryption features into set-top digital cable boxes before the FCC. I recommend that everyone read it. The authors, editors at the Science and Technology Law Review of a highly prestigious law school, do an excellent job of drawing out the fine legal issues involved. Indeed, this will no doubt go down as the seminal work in the area of CableCARDs and the FCC's integration ban.

Letter to the Editor

To the editors of the Wall Street Journal:

I am a long-time subscriber to your fine periodical. Each morning as I rush out the door to the class that I am five minutes late to, I am greeted by your illustrious newspaper on my doorstep. The sight fills me with a profound sense of shame, shame at my utter failure to adhere to my plan of waking up an hour earlier each morning to skim your paper's headlines. This, however, is entirely a failure on my part, and in no way reflects upon the quality of your journalism. On the infrequent occasions when I have the chance to glance through the Journal, typically on weekends, I am quite pleased by the content. Moreover, I have found other, highly valuable uses to which to put the paper.

It is often remarked, on the subject of the timeliness of newspapers, that today they provide news, tomorrow they provide fishwrap. Given my current dietary restrictions, this adage is not literally true in my case. I have, however, discovered that the Wall Street Journal is excellent for pressing tofu. As you are no doubt aware, tofu must be well-pressed in order to maximize its flavor when marinaded. The curd of the soy bean has very high natural absorption, but in order to make room for whatever flavorful marinades one wishes to fill the tofu with one must first expunge as much water as possible. This is usually accomplished by placing some sort of towel or cloth beneath the tofu, another cloth above it, and some heavy object on top of that. The tofu is then left to slowly expunge its fluids over the course of about an hour. The trouble with this method is that it leaves one with towels that are soaked in tofu juice. The towels must be washed quickly or the tofu juice will dry, imbuing the towels with a rather unfortunate odor. Omitting the towels just leaves one's counters covered in tofu juice.

It is here where the Wall Street Journal has proven my savant. I take the first two sections, fold them in quarters and place them under the tofu, and after dealing with the second two sections in a similar manner place them above the tofu and below the heavy object. An hour later I am the proud owner of a bone-dry square of tofu, a clean counter, and a soggy Wall Street Journal, which is soon placed in the recycle bin in the hall. My tofu pressing problems are solved.

For the most part. It has come to my attention that tofu possesses certain properties not unlike Silly Putty. I learned this one afternoon when I was chopping up tofu to grill and found myself confronted with a story on the current Hewlett Packard spying scandal, pressed across the broad side of my bean curd. This, you can imagine, has caused me some concern.

I am writing to request that you modify your printers to use a non-toxic ink, the better to assure that I am not poisoning myself when I press my tofu with your paper. Failing that, I would request that you switch to an ink possessed of a more pleasing taste; the one that you currently use has been conferring a slightly bitter, tinny flavor to my tofu. I am, as mentioned, a great fan of your periodical, and would hate to be forced to switch papers over a problem so easily resolved as this one. If, however, you fail to rectify your current ink problems, I may have no choice but to cancel my subscription and start purchasing the New York Times.

Yours, etc.,
Phineas T. Bumbershoot, Esq.

Movie Review: Tillsammans (Together)

"I think that loneliness is the most awful thing in this world."


Tillsammans is a difficult movie to sell people on, because the most accurate brief summary one can give of it is that it's a foreign-language film about life in a swedish commune in the 1970s. Yet it's funny and human and real and very much worth the effort to watch.

The movie is about the residents of a commune, named Tillsammans, and is set in Stockholm in 1975. To start, we have Göran, an amiable pushover who's in an open relationship with Lena, who exploits the relationship's openness far more than Göran would like. The other sort-of couple in the house are Anna and Lasse, who recently divorced when Anna discovered that she was a lesbian. Lasse did not take this very well, but still lives in the house directing vitriol towards Anna and the other residents. Klas, a hapless gay resident, is meanwhile attempting to seduce Lasse. In the middle of this is Anna and Lasse's son, Tet (named after the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War). The house is also home to Erik, a young Marxist who dropped out of school to work as a welder so that he could be closer to the Proletariat, and Signe and Sigvard, a couple that, possibly due to incautious editing, we don't realize live in the house until the scene where they make a big deal of leaving.

The action kicks off when Göran's sister Elisabeth, a housewife with two children, Eva and Stefan, leaves her abusive husband Rolf and comes to live in Tillsammans. We then watch Elisabeth, Eva, and Stefan slowly assimilate into the commune

The director, Lukas Moodysson, doesn't really do plots. Things at Tillsammans are one way when the movie starts and another way when the movie end, and we get to see the events that transpire between the two points, but it doesn't really have a coherent storyline. Instead we have about a dozen characters who interact with one another, and whom we watch grow and change over the course of the film. Moodysson is great at these very realistic character studies. He extracts very naturalistic performances from his actors, such that we can hardly tell that they're acting at all, yet he gives us a real feel for them.

Tillsammans is helped by its ensemble cast. In the other Moodysson films I've seen, Fucking Åmål and Lilja 4-Ever, he takes much the same character study approach, but because he only focuses on one or two characters they tend to drag. In Tillsammans, there are so many characters that Moodysson manages, as I mentioned above, to lose track of a few of them. Still, it means that there's a lot going on in a film that doesn't have any notable plotting.

Moodysson is particularly insightful in his portrayal of lonely characters. There's a notable tendency in most films to cheat with the lonely; the film will make a great deal about how alone a given character is, then hope you won't notice that the lonely character has been given a passel of friends to serve as the hook for forcing the character out of her shell. Moodysson presents us with lonely characters who literally have no friends, who sit around all day doing nothing, who break their plumbing so that they'll have a chance to have a conversation with the plumber when he comes to fix the pipes.

Yet for all this, Tillsammans is a hopeful movie. We watch people leave the commune, we watch people enter the commune, we watch the commune change in character over the course of the film. Yet through it we see the enduring value of togetherness. The residents of Tilsammans are an odd collection of leftists and revolutionaries, yet they're living healthy, fulfilling lives. They're contrasted with the various neighbors and outsiders, living conventional modern lives, who find themselves isolated and desperate and, above all, alone.

At the same time, the film isn't a utopian paean to the glories of the commune, at least as they existed in the mid-70s in Sweden. The film is willing to show us the disagreements that disrupt the commune, from arguments over dish clean-up to Marxist sermonizing. Moodysson takes a balanced view and argues for the communal ideal of human living, without the specific ideological baggage that often comes with real-life communes.

Tillsammans had a very brief theatrical release in the US in the Fall of 2002. I've been looking for a home video release for years without success, but apparently Universal has just put it out on DVD. I can't recommend it strongly enough.

Impulse Drives


Tonight I went to Bar Review. For those not familiar with the world of standardized law school humor, law review is the weekly law student excursion to a local bar. This gives law students who spend half of their waking life with people they secretly hate an opportunity to spend a further evening each week with the same people they secretly hate. The most entertaining part is watching people who are so immersed in The Law try to think of non-law things to talk about with their law school students:

"So... Ummm... I hear there's... a sport... that's played this season... How about that team that's doing well?"

"Yeah, the, um, Mets, I think, are going to play the... Ah... Forty-Niners? Is that right?"

"Sounds right."

"Should be a good game... So... How about that Rule Against Perpituities?"

"Oh, man! Don't get me started on the RAP! We had this amazing case where a guy who was 80 years old tried to leave his estate to 'his wife,' and..."

I haven't gone to Bar Review since Legal Methods, the three week boot camp before real classes begin in the first year. There are a number of reasons for this. First, I'm not very social. Second, I hate my fellow law students. Third, why cart myself all the way to the Upper West Side to go to an over-priced, over-crowded trendy bar overpacked with people I hate when I can just go to the gay bar around the corner and get all-night indian food while I'm there?

But I'm trying to be more social lately, and socializing with law students is like training wheels for socializing with real people. So I treked down to 80th street and went to the sports bar that was selected for this week's venue. I managed to stay about 30, maybe 40 minutes.

The problem is that alcohol is a bad thing to give me when I'm trying to be social. As you know, Bob, I am profoundly weak sauce. I get notably tipsy after a single pint of beer. You are, perhaps, expecting that my problem is that I get drunk fast and do or say things that I feel embarrassed about later. You would be wrong. The problem is that my short attention span leads me to grow quickly disinterested in the bar scene. When my impulse control disappears, as it does half-way through my first beer, it isn't long before I'm gone.

Thus, this evening I arrived, scouted around a bit, then went to the bar. I found a friend I hadn't talked to for a few months and we chatted for a while (her father's the mayor of a large town in the South. He recently won his primary, so things are good in that regard). We had beers. We parted afterwards. I found a friend from the board game club. We shook hands. I was alone again. I looked around.

It is more or less at this point that my Id said to my Ego "Hey, I've got an idea: Let's go home and play Megaman!" Had I not drunk that beer, my Superego would have replied, "No, we have to stay here and socialize. It's for our own good. We need to learn how to talk to people informally and have fun in an extroverted fashion." Thanks to the pint of beer in me, my Superego instead replied, "Hey! Megaman! Fuck yeah!" I didn't realize I had screwed up my master plan for the evening until I was sitting on my couch at home in sweatpants, fighting for everlasting peace.

I don't have a snappy ending to this story, so I'll instead relate a conversation I had earlier today with the school's Director of Student Services! She posted a couple of weeks ago on the law school discussion board that she had some CDs she was selling dirt-cheap. I took her up on the offer, and went into her office today.

Director: Well, I've got this Sleater-Kinney CD that I found. I already have a copy of this, so you can have it for $5.

Me: Oh, cool!

Director: I'll throw in this CD by the Doves and this one by Beth Orton. I just cleaned out my office last week and found these under a pile of papers. I didn't even remember I had them. But I already bought myself replacement copies, so they're yours.

Me: Oh, thanks! I guess some things you lose, some things you give away...

Ugh. The news at Columbia, of late, involves an East Coast version of a story that I saw play out half a dozen times while I was at Berkeley.

In brief: The College Republicans invited a controversial speaker (in this case, Jim Gilchrist, the leader of the Minute Men). Various student groups, including but not limited to the National Lawyer's Guild and the Latino/a American Law Student Association, showed up to protest. There was picketing outside. Gilchrist had security protecting him. Gilchrist got inside, got up to speak, and, before he finished his first sentence, a group of students leapt onto the stage with a big banner expressing their distaste at Gilchrist's presence. After this a group of about 20 more students swarmed onto the stage with Gilchrist and shouted him down. Things got fuzzy and a brawl ensued. Nobody's exactly certain who threw the first punch, whether it was the protestors or Gilchrist's security.

Now we're going through the long, painful process where the Columbia administration attempts to ham-handedly put the protestors up for trial, the right-wing students get to posture and preen for Fox News and Bill O'Reilly, and the various left-wing student groups angrily denounce the administration.

I don't much care who's right and wrong here (though, frankly, everyone's acquitted themselves pretty pooly). I've come to expect undergraduate activist groups to act like children. Still, I had hoped that by the time they got to law school people would have grown out of it. Sadly, though, the Federalist Society, the National Lawyer's Guild, LALSA, and the others involved shot that hope to hell.

To make clear the reason for my annoyance: The Federalist Society, in inviting Gilchrist, was performing the student group equivalent of the "Does this bug you? I'm not touching you!" thing that one sibling does to another so that the other sibling will lash out, incurring parental wrath. The NLG and LALSA, seeing an opportunity for publicity and operating on the theory that all publicity is good publicity, rather publicly planned to intimidate Gilchrist off of the stage. The entire event was staged as protest theater so that a bunch of students would be disciplined and could be made martyrs of.

Moreover, the left-wing group's behavior was not only immature, it was counterproductive. Does anyone remember David Horowitz? The anti-education, anti-affirmative action guy who caused a number of conflicts remarkably similar to this one at Berkeley? He was astoundingly popular in right-wing circles and got a lot of media attention a few years back. And the entire reason he became a public persona is because left-wing student groups decided that the best way to deal with him was through physical intimidation. When student groups stopped paying attention, he faded away. Jim Gilchrist could not have dreamed of better publicity than getting attacked by a gang of angry left-wing New York City Ivy-League intellectual students. And the net result of the whole thing is that the pro-immigration groups look like a bunch of strong-arm thugs, while the actual, honest-to-goodness thug gets to be a martyr for free speech.

It is often said (by Berkeley tour guides) that Berkeley is the Athens of the Pacific. Apparently Columbia is the Berkeley of the Atlantic.

Unmentionables on Gilmore Girls


**This post contains spoilers for the most recent Gilmore Girls episode!**

I forgot Gilmore Girls was on and missed the first half of tonight's episode, so maybe this was covered then, rendering this whole post irrelevant, but...

Given that Lane is nothing but upset about this baby, given that Zack isn't keen on it either, given that both Lane and Zack are young and this pregnancy is unexpected and they're entirely unsure that they want to do this, and given that the entire Lane plot this episode consisted of her stressing and complaining about finding out that she's pregnant to a variety of young, socially-liberal comrades...

Why has noone even mentioned the possibility of an abortion? I'm not saying that an abortion is right for Lane, I'm not saying she should get one, but it's really odd that noone even brings the subject up. Again, I missed the first half, so maybe that's where Lane had an "Ohmygod I'm having a BAAAYBEEEE!!!" moment of joy and bliss, but the general tenor of what I saw from Lane was "I can't believe this fucking happened to me." And yet the attitude that she and everyone else takes is 1. well, I'll/you'll just have to endure. These things happen, and 2. you'll change your mind once the baby comes and you realize how awesome it is.

And yes, I know Lane has a strict Baptist upbringing (the flaunting of which has been the defining element of her character since the show started). And I also realize that Lane is pregnant in a life circumstance that is arguably slightly better than Lorelai's when she had Rory, and that it might be tricky to have an abortion discussion when so much of the show is built around the premise that Rory is smart and perfect and wonderful, yet was born under inauspicious circumstances.

Yet it's surprising to me that noone even brings up the possibility of an abortion. Star's Hollow has a liberal bent. Lane and her friends have a liberal bent. The whole show has a liberal bent. Rory used to have pro-choice posters on her wall at Yale, for Pete's sake. So why is abortion so taboo that noone dares speak the word?

Maybe (hopefully) they're saving an abortion discussion for a later episode. Perhaps this episode was meant to set up Lane's discomfort about the baby, with a future episode down the line handling the issue in full. Still, I would think it'd deserve at least a mention as a possibility. I don't necessarily think Lane should have an abortion (though I'd lean in that direction) but I think it would be unfortunate if the show just pretended the option didn't exist.

Postscript: Before anyone comments about it being a fictional melodrama, so why get into a snit about characters behaving out of character, I'd like to add that this ties into broader concerns about popular views on women's rights. This is a show that makes a hero of a single mom (and she's a single mom because of non-marital sex, rather than divorce). The show doesn't apologize for Lorelai, and in fact lauds her conventionally immoral behavior. Moreover, it's a smart show in which the women are fully-developed characters and the men are ornamentation (where most shows are the other way around). Gilmore Girls is arguably the most friendly environment on television for an abortion discussion, and yet it's not even mentioned in passing. I think it's unfortunate that abortion has become so stigmatized that it can't even be mentioned in a highly natural context on a very feminist TV show.

And again, all of this doesn't apply if they go ahead and have the abortion discussion next week, which they probably will. Still though! I am conditionally outraged!


Law school takes regular people and turns them into boring people. Well, actually, let's be honest: law school takes boring people and turns them into more boring people. One of the principal means by which this transmogrification is accomplished is The Bluebook.

The Bluebook is jointly created by the editors of the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review (Cornell is the only Ivy League law review not to get a piece of the lucrative citation action, because nobody likes Cornell). It provides style guidelines for citation of sources in law review articles and other legal documents. You would not thing that an explanation of how to cite sources would take too long. You probably got a brief explanation of citations in high school or college, with an explanation that fit on a sheet or two of paper. Naturally, so concise an approach to citation is inadequate in a legal environment. What are you going to do for all the odd and unusual documents that you will never actually encounter in your legal career? What is the proper citation format for a scribbling on a cocktail napkin by a Supreme Court justice? By a district court judge? By a law professor? What if it's a judge on a foreign court, like the Supremo Tribunal Federal (the highest court of appeals on constitutional matters in Brazil)? What if it's a beer mat?

The Bluebook answers all of the questions you could possibly have about citation with a mere 415 pages of rules, all in a compact spiral-bound volume. Here, for instance, is the first page on shortform citation:

More about Id. than you ever wanted to know! Including this useful tidbit:

Which is why I spent a large chunk of last night painfully checking to ensure that the periods after the id.s in a document with 350 footnotes were italicized. And that's before I got to the substantive part of the cite-check.

I offer, in conclusion, the following assertion: Knowing on sight the difference between an italicized and an unitalicized period makes you a boring person.

Science and/or Technology

I am up at 4 in the morning reading In Re Cruciferous Sprout Litigation, 301 F.3d 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2002).

Once finished, I will be checking to ensure that it is properly cited in the article I'm editing for the Science and Technology Law Review. This involves, among other things, ensuring that the author properly states the holding, that the quotes are entirely accurate, that the citations point to the right pages, that the freaking periods after the Ids are italicized, etc.

I am not, as they say, a *happy camper*.


From a BBC News article entitled EU 'has to slash business rules,' comes the following lead paragraph:

"The Dutch and Danish governments have issued a forceful plea for the European Union to adopt an aggressive policy on cutting red tape."

Further on, we learn that

"Both nations have embarked on schemes to simplify their business legislation."


"In a letter published in the Financial Times, the ministers point out that the Dutch and Danish governments plan to reduce administrative burdens on business in their countries by 25% between 2007 and 2010."
"It suggests that 'this systematic approach could also work in Brussels.'"

Thus, the solution to too much red tape is to adopt a firm policy on the reduction of red tape. Moreover, this policy must be embodied by a concrete system. A system controlled by rules, guidelines, and standards, given teeth by enabling legislation, and powered by hundreds of hard-working civil-servants, working tirelessly at the task of cutting the size of the civil service. Indeed, the only effective approach to cutting the size of the bureaucracy is the creation of a bureaucracy-cutting bureaucracy.

Some (and by "Some" I mean "I") might assert that, at this juncture, the EU at large is probably doing a better job of keeping its bureaucracy under control than The Netherlands and Denmark, simply by dint of not pursuing agressive red tape-cutting.

To be less snarky and more substantive, I'll point out that The Netherlands and Denmark are long on plans and goals and short on evidence of success thus far. I think cutting bureaucracy can be incredibly valuable, but it's not an easy thing to accomplish. Growing a bureaucracy is easy, but shrinking it is quite difficult. It's easy, and arguably necessary, to create more bureaucracy that has the goal of shrinking bureaucracy. It's far harder to keep that new bureaucracy under control, to make sure it's offering useful and practical suggestions, and to actually implement the red tape-cutting policies.

This is all a long way of saying: I would be far more impressed with The Netherlands' and Denmark's pleas for more bureaucracy reduction in the EU if they could offer a more tangible example of their own than a planned 25% reduction in business regulation by 2010.


I came upon a great passage in The Red and the Black that seemed worth sharing. This comes from the Lloyd C. Parks's translation published by Signet:

"Following I don't know what notion, derived from some account of high society, such as the old surgeon major had seen it, wherever Julien happened to be with a woman, he felt humiliated as soon as there was silence, as though it were his own particular fault. This sensation was a hundred times more painful during a tete-a-tete. Filled with the most exaggerated and Spanish ideas about what a man ought to say when alone with a woman, his imagination had nothing to offer him in his perplexity but inadmissible ideas. His head was in the clouds, and yet he could not find a way out of the most humiliating silence. Thus, the stern look he wore during his long walks with Mme. de Renal and the children was accentuated by the cruelest suffering. He despised himself horribly. If unfortunately he make himself speak, it occurred to him to say the most ridiculous things. To crown his misery, he was aware and had an exaggerated idea of his own absurdity. But what he couldn't see was the expression in his eyes. They were so handsome and revealed such a fiery soul that, like good actors, they sometimes gave a charming import to words that had none at all. Mme. de Renal observed that, if alone with her, he never said anything well, excepting when, distracted by some unforeseen occurrence, he was not thinking about how to turn a compliment. Since the friends of the house did not exactly spoil her with new and brilliant ideas, she took great delight in Julien's flashes of wit."

I'm quite enjoying The Red and the Black, to the point where it's interfering with schoolwork. This weekend, every time that I meant to read for Corporations or start cite-checking sources for the Science and Technology Law Review I found myself picking up Stendahl instead. Now I'm wondering if I can get away with sneaking it into class and reading it under the desk while pretending to take notes. Or, to avoid arousing suspicion, I could read the book surreptitiously while pretending to play computer solitaire. If I looked like I was actually taking notes and paying attention to the professor somebody would think something was up.


A recent conversation I had with my sister, Kelsey:

Me: So I'm taking an on-line matchmaking personality test thingee. In one part of the test, they give a number of character traits and ask whether you find them attractive, unattractive, or acceptable.
Kelsey: Alright.
Me: One of the traits they ask about is Punctuality. "OMG PUNCTUALITY IS TEH SEXAY! IT MAKES ME SO HOT!!!"
Kelsey: Heheh. Though actually, punctuality is important for me.
Me: Me too. I'm going to put attractive.
Kelsey: I would, too.
Me: "Kiss me, you punctual boy!"
Kelsey: Yay, punctuality!
Me: Woo!
*High fives!*
Me: Alright, "Is always on the go."
Kelsey: Attractive.
Me: Really? You seem like such a slothful person. I would think you'd want a similarly low-energy mate.
Kelsey: Nah, I'd need him to go and do stuff for me. You know, pick stuff up, get me food, that sort of thing.


I am, once again, filling out on-line dating profiles and am confronted, once again, with the uncomfortable uncertainties that accompany filling out said profiles.

To wit:

The About My Date section always makes me anxious. It's easy enough to fill out the About Me section; I know what level of education I have, whether I smoke, whether I want children, etc. I've a bit of trouble filling in the various text boxes about my interests and the like, but I get by.

Then I come to the part where I check the boxes to indicate what sort of person I'd like to be matched with. This includes categories like religion, ethnicity, profession, height, body type, and so on. The trouble is that, while I might have preferences one way or the other on such things, I generally end up talking myself into picking the "I'm cool with anything" option. I generally don't care about religion, so why should I exclude, say, a Scientologist from consideration? I come to the height box, which starts off with a lower boundary of 3 feet and an upper boundary of 9 foot 11. At first I adjust it to a minimum of 4'6"-6'6" range, but then I worry that this might make me look heightist. And where does that end? By the time I'm up to a maximum height of 9'6", I end up saying to myself, "Well, why exclude a 9'10" mate?" Smoking. Well, this is an easy one; I don't smoke, and I'd prefer someone who also doesn't smoke. But... what if they only smoke socially? That wouldn't be the end of the world. And maybe a more frequent smoker wouldn't be too bad. Soon I've checked the "Anything Goes" box and I'm off to rationalize my next maximally-inclusive choice.

I don't think I'm alone in this, because I've noticed a strong tendency towards false-positives in on-line matchmaking. My inbox is quickly filled with folks with whom I have a 90%+ match in tastes. Which is to say, because I made choices that include every possible group or variant, they match my desires in every category. And because they ticked every box, I match everything they're looking for by dint of being a member of the human race. This, I would submit, is not necessarily strong evidence of compatibility.

Or perhaps it is. Maybe the match mail should say something to the effect of, "Congratulations! You're both painfully self-conscious, politically correct liberals who are too paralyzed with fear at the prospect of giving offense to someone to express any preferences whatsoever! You're perfect for one another!"

And a side complaint: There ought to be some sort of reference to explain what the various euphemisms for overweight mean. Under "Body Type" the options are Slim, Athletic/Toned, Average, A Few Extra Pounds, Full-Figured, Curvy, Stocky, and Heavyset. It doesn't make a practical difference for me, since I'm checking all the boxes, but I'm curious how one differentiates between, for instance, Stocky and Heavyset.

I will also add that, while I attempted to waffle on the sex of my potential match ("Well, that's easy. I'm looking for women. Although... I suppose if the right man came along, I'd hate to rule that out...") the dating site in question requires a firm commitment to one sex or the other.

Amalgamated Panties, Incorporated

Apropos a conversation from last Friday, there are indeed sites where you can purchase used panties on-line. The industry has gotten so large, in fact, that it now supports a sanctioning organization, The Used Panty Trust (Not work safe). The Used Panty Trust serves as a clearinghouse for complaints about double-dealing used panty sellers and buyers. They also certify sellers of panties so that the panty purchaser can purchase sweaty underthings with complete confidence in the integrity of the transaction. The Used Panty Trust is essentially the Better Business Bureau of the soiled undergarb industry.

The development of a panty sales trade association makes me wonder, though, what further organizational developments are around the corner. Perhaps a union (The International Panty Workers Union, or IPWU) isn't far behind? And from there, how long will it be before the IPWU falls under the control of the Panty Mafia, breaking the kneecaps of scabs selling non-Union panties? Finally, good hard-working American panty-workers will slowly be put out of work as their jobs are exported to cheap overseas panty-workers, willing to soil six pairs of panties for 15 cents a day. But the upshot for the used panty consumer will be discount twelve packs of used panties available at warehouse stores at bargain prices.


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I have a tattoo! I got it whilst visiting Dianna in the Bay Area.

My piece was done by Rocio of Black and Blue Tattoo in San Francisco. The experience was delightful; the shop was clean and inviting, and Rocio produced the exact tattoo I imagined when I drew my painfully artless sketches.

I also credit Dianna for doing yeoman's work in making this happen. She kicked my butt to get the design done and to call the shop to talk with Rocio about the design, she arranged the appointment, and she ran my sketches and reference art over to the shop so that Rocio would have time to prepare my sketch before the session.

My one complaint about having at tattoo is that, now that I have one, it makes the rest of my skin look so boring in comparison.

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