Monday, 27 September 2004

Exam writing for dummies

I’ve been trying to come up with a decent essay exam question for my constitutional law class tying Korematsu together with the whole debate over Michelle Malkin’s book. I tend to agree with the assessment that Malkin is incorrect, although I do it in the “fact-free” perspective that encourages me to trust experts like Eric Muller rather than from the perspective of actually having read the book.

The slippery bit to me is that—reading between the lines of Muller’s snarkiness and Malkin’s disingenuity—Malkin seems to argue that the indefinite detention of some Americans of Islamic faith would be legitimate, and that other forms of racial profiling targeted at all Muslim-Americans would be legitimate, but full-scale removal of Muslim-American populations wouldn’t, and I’m not sure Korematsu speaks to that. In my mind, though, Korematsu is bad law anyway, and I don’t think anyone other than Thomas and possibly Rehnquist would support reaffirming it today—Scalia, to judge from his partial dissent in Hamdi, would probably be viciously opposed.

Anyway, I’ve basically concluded the question is a bust and I’ll have to move on to ask something more fruitful about some other cases. Since I already have a Hamdi question I think Korematsu is no great loss—and a clever student or three will probably work it in without my asking, anyway.

You are not X, say Y

I’m beginning to be increasingly fascinated by a certain strand of argument in the blogosphere. It started with Andrew Sullivan’s thoroughly non-sensical attempts to argue that conservatism necessarily required support for gay marriage, detoured through lectures by non-Christians to Christians about the necessity of their support for a particular American political party, and may have reached its apogee with a series of posts at Crooked Timber (made, incidentally, by people who make no pretense of being libertarian) alleging that any libertarian who supports the war in Iraq isn’t a libertarian.

What I find utterly fascinating about the last is that it originates from the longstanding view from left-liberals that the “wrong” (read “pro-war”) libertarians—folks like Glenn Reynolds, Virginia Postrel, Colby Cosh, and the libertarian-leaning Samizdatans—have dominated the blogosphere at the expense of the “right” (read “anti-war”) libertarians like Julian Sanchez, Jim Henley, and (never explicitly stated, perhaps because he actually says nice things about capitalism) Radley Balko. My general view is that expressed by Guy Herbert:

I was under the impression that libertarianism is a political orientation (opposite: authoritarianism) rather than a coherent ideological position.

Granted, I think there are people (Objectivists, for example, or the Libertarian Party) who conceive of libertarianism as a “pure” ideology, untainted by concerns motivated by the real world, but I don’t think most self-identified libertarians are among them. Of course, when the primary goal of one’s posting on libertarianism isn’t to analyze that political orientation, but rather to delegitimize it, I can see why one would want to hold it up to higher standards of conformity than liberalism or conservatism would be subjected to.

The second Late Shift

The New York Times reports that Jay Leno will be replaced by Conan O’Brien on The Tonight Show. The bad news? We have to put up with five more years of Jay—Conan doesn’t take over until the end of Jay’s contract in 2009. (þ Jeff Jarvis)

Incidentally, the NYT article is written by Bill Carter, whose The Late Shift recounting the Johnny Carson succession struggle remains one of my favorite books on the TV business.

Update: James Joyner also reacts, wondering why NBC has made Jay a five-year lame duck. One suspects it was to ensure O’Brien didn’t jump ship.