Monday, January 26, 2009

Argumentum Ad lolwut?

The scene: Federal Courts. The actors: two clueless students. The results: teeth-grinding rage boiling up in our narrator.

All right, here's the first one. Talking about Justice O'Connor's dismissal of a "slippery slope" bogeyman as a reason to strike down a reasonable statutory scheme (O'Connor is right for once, just on this point; I want to forestall any confusion by pointing that out), a student refers to her "reference to a slippery slope argument."

There are no slippery slope arguments, pal. Try it this way, if that's not clear. Imagine that I applauded your cunning use of the "red herring argument." That's another way of saying, "Congrats, your blatant sophistry won the day, you intellectually dishonest tool." Right? Or am I wrong? Is the slippery slope fallacy the greatest rhetorical device in the history of ever?

It sure is law students' favorite fallacy, and not qua fallacy.

OK, the other mental face-plant from the same class - explaining Justice White's dissent in Northern Pipeline Constr. Co. v. Marathon Pipe Line Co., 458 U.S. 50 (1982), a wannabe gunner chick said that "he wanted the Court to look to the strength of the legislative interest and ask itself if that interest is more compelling than the values further by Art. III." Awesome, except this is what Justice White actually said: "I do not suggest that the Court should simply look to the strength" &c. It's hard to get something more wrong.

Grading on a curve is now the most awesome thing ever.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Setting the Record Straight

I finished Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View some time ago. A review may follow but likely will not. What will follow, directly below, is a common-sense refutation of weird academic wishful thinking.

Here's the situation: among Kant's correspondence is a 1762 letter received from Maria Charlotta Jacobi, which includes the line: "Well good, we shall await you and then my watch will get wound." This remark is cryptic to say the least.

Two interpretations are current.

First: it's a reference to Tristram Shandy. In the words of Arnulf Zweig, editor of the Cambridge edition of the Correspondence, "Tristram's father would wind the house-clock every Sunday night, in time to attend to his marital duties."

Second: it's a reference to a comment Kant makes in Anthropology. "As concerns scholarly women: they use their books somewhat like their watch, that is, they carry one so that it will be seen that they have one; though it is usually not running or not set by the sun."

The supposed refutation of the second theory is that the Anthropology was published in 1798, thirty-six years after the letter was sent. This attempted refutation falls short of the mark for two reasons. First, though the book wasn't published until decades later, the joke itself may have been current in Kant's social circle for a long time. Second, the Anthropology was a collection and revision, by Kant, of his lecture notes for the anthropology course he taught from 1772 to 1798. To suggest that its contents only received wide distribution following the publication of the book ignores that much of the anecdotes and substantive matter must have been known at least to Kant's students.

So what's more probable? An obscure, strictly incorrect, barely comprehensible reference to Tristram Shandy, or a teasing allusion to one of Kant's off-color jokes? I know that scholarship in the humanities is driven to uncover any evidence of sexual scandal it can find, but be reasonable.

Frau Jacobi was...Frau Jacobi, incidentally. I'm sure it would have been contrary to duty to, you know...wind her watch. So I must remain unconvinced by this supposed evidence of Kant's having had a sex life.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Two law school anecdotes:

A person actually described Obama as a "beacon of light" on Tuesday. Because this was the same guy who feebly attempted to embarrass Mark Krikorian when he came to speak about immigration, I tend to take that comment seriously. Raise the admission standards, Villanova!

And the other do I put this...

I knew law students were half-wits, but how hard is it to avoid pissing all over a
toilet seat?

what happens when i email

Here's a weird subject line for an e-mail: "It's An Emergency".

That might lead you to think that there is an emergency and that the e-mail has something to do with that emergency.

You are wrong! The e-mail is from Westlaw and it's completely trivial! You know what, go ahead and read it:
Welcome Back!

I hope everyone is off to a good start for this semester. Enjoy the January email contest below.

It's an emergency!

It's always important to know the proper evacuation procedures.

1. Go to:

2. Using FIND by Citation enter the following citation: 2 No. 24 ABAJEREP 7

3. Scan the document to find the answer to the following question:
Per this article, what is the preferred order of evacuation of the law firm personnel during an emergency?

4. E-mail your name, law school and the answer to Westlaw Manager, Tilman Larson ( You MUST include your NAME & LAW SCHOOL in addition to the answer in your e-mail. Entries that do not have this information will not receive points and will not be entered in the additional bonus drawing.

5. Entries must be received by Noon Jan. 28, 2009. Limit one entry per student.

All entries will receive 100 points. An additional 5 students will receive 200 points from a random drawing of all properly submitted entries.
All points will be deposited by Feb. 1, 2009.

Tilman Larson

West Academic Account Manager
I don't know how annoyed I can be at that - if there were a real emergency relevant to my interests, I am sure I would have received a phone call, been incinerated by radiation, or heard something on the news. Still, if I were the type of person to care, I might be really angry. In fact, this is what Mr. Larson had to send shortly after the first e-mail:
Just a quick note and clarification about the January email contest: there is no real emergency involved. I sincerely apologize if any of you were offended or concerned by the subject line for the email contest. For future email contests, the subject line will include an indication that the email is for an email contest.


Tilman Larson

West Academic Account Manager
My guess is that Mr. Tilman Larson is soon going to find out what the job market is like.

Make sure those fries are piping hot, buddy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Beacon of Light

So, now we have a spend-happy Ivy-Leaguer who couches his rhetoric in religious terms as President.

Thank goodness for change!

My only hope is that this guy's screw-ups are sufficiently outside my sphere that I won't be affected by them. That's a tall order when government's as big as it is, of course. I'm sure it's also a horribly individualistic, mean-spirited, misanthropic way of viewing government, to hope for nothing but the absence of its compulsory influence on my life.

In other words, I'm an American! What are you people? What have you people been for the last 100 years?

Friday, January 16, 2009


I know this isn't Canada and some of you are going to be stupid and object to my units of measurement, but WHAT?


It was 13 degrees Fahrenheit today.

My breath condensed on my beard and then froze. I had icicles on my BEARD.

That's not acceptable.


Circuit City - what happened? I thought things were going so well. You were selling things at higher prices than Best Buy and you launched an ad campaign based on the supposition that many people like electronics enough both to buy them and to put their penises into them (I'm not trying to be discriminatory, ladies - presumably Circuit City also though you'd do unspeakable things with digital cameras. You've seen the commercial.).

How did it come to this?

Apparently, CC couldn't get approval of their Chapter 11 plan, which is odd. I mean, if I were one of their creditors, I'd probably think, "Wow, this bold new sex-with-computers idea is going to pay off big-time." Maybe the idea was there but the credit dried up.

Quick, someone patent that business method (Method for Selling Consumer Electronics as Sex Toys)!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mean-Spirited Thought of the Day

If you find Hart and Wechsler's too hard, you can just scrub out of law school. You don't have to write a bitchy review on Amazon.

You have options, people.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thought of the Day

Circuit City's ad campaign, which is premised on people engaging in romantic relationships with anthropomorphized electronics, is not drawing me in.

But then I've never had sex with a flatscreen TV. Maybe I'm just not the target demo.

Friday, January 09, 2009

That's Weird

Kirk Herbstreit was discussing whether anyone has a gripe with Florida's #1 ranking...talking about whether USC could have defeated them. I don't know if USC gets to whine after losing to an unranked team, especially when there is still an undefeated team out there.

Basically, to take the BCS seriously you have to be unable to count from 0 to 1, because otherwise you'd get that 0 losses is better than 1 loss.

Our math education SUCKS.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

First day

Car's fuel door will not open, making it a few cubic inches of fumes away from being a paperweight.

A patch of ice in the shade that was nearly invisible made me fall. The patch was right at the bottom of the steps leading down from the front door of the law school. Bad facilities management or practical torts exam? You decide.

And finally, this e-mail is what I came home to:
Mr. [Vernunft],

Have you received permission to take Trial Practice without taking Evidence? Normally, to take Trial Practice you need to have taken Evidence prior to enrollment. Please let me know.
That is the first I or my online schedule ever heard of being in Trial Practice.

Negating all that negativity was the experience of seeing perhaps the most beautiful undergrad in the entire world while I bought books. Wow. Albright <<<<<< Villanova, dudes.


I hope the overrated team loses the BCS National Championship game.

Oh wait.