Monday, 18 April 2005


You know, when the folks down at Southern started talking about becoming more competitive with SEC schools on the recruiting trail, I didn’t realize they also wanted to compete with Ole Miss and State by outdoing them in recruiting thugs (þ: Jeff Quinton, via email):

Southern Miss president Shelby Thames sat down with the man who plead guilty to his role in the beating death of a high school student. The talk went so well, Southern Miss will offer the convict a football scholarship and a “second chance”.

There are more details here on the story of Marcus Raines. It isn’t exactly pretty.

You know, the Thamester isn’t exactly in the world’s most secure position to begin with, and you have to wonder what he’s is thinking. Particularly when you realize that up the road at Ole Miss, Coach O (from whose backyard this prospect is coming from) wouldn’t touch this kid with a ten-foot pole, and it’s not like Orgeron has been shy about pushing the reset button for problem children like Jamal Pittman. This decision just screams “bad news waiting to happen.”

On the other hand, I suppose I am marginally sympathetic to giving kids who do really stupid things a second chance, although it seems to me that if the kid really wants to redeem himself he ought to be content to go play for free at a Division III school.

The Avenger

Today, Kelly promised me that she would avenge my death, should it be from unnatural causes. I feel strangely comforted by this promise, although I am at a complete loss to explain why.

Yay economic substantive due process

Tim Sandefur* has a post on Lochner for dummies. I’m personally still wrestling with how to teach ESDP in my constitutional law classes†—in general, the economic liberties stuff in Epstein and Walker is the weakest material and the hardest for the students to understand—so every little bit I can get from alternative perspectives helps. Of course, the quasi-artificial division of ESDP in “Con Law I” and other forms of SDP—what normal humans call the right to privacy (with or without scare quotes), the right to travel, and the whole mess that is discrimination law—in “Con Law II” doesn’t help student understanding much either.

* Who I don’t read nearly often enough because he doesn’t ping any update services when he posts—hint, hint!
† Which I can mercifully put on hiatus while at Duke, though the over-under is that I’ll probably return to the role of jack-of-all-trades Americanist where ever I end up tenure-track (which actually I don’t mind that much).

Drink a colortini for Tom

Steven Taylor links an E! Online piece that says Tom Snyder is battling lymphocytic leukemia. While I don’t remember ever seeing Tomorrow (although my mother was something of a fan, so it’s possible I did see it back in that gray zone before my memory starts), I remember his show on CNBC and the post-Dave Late Late Show fondly; here’s hoping Tom pulls through.

Premise not computing

Normally, I’m in full agreement with TigerHawk about things, but this post on Ann Coulter will not stand:

Michelle Malkin, who certainly should concern herself with the press’s treatment of attractive conservative women, writes that it is all part of a pattern. [emphasis mine]

Of course, I don’t share my co-blogger’s apparent interest in emaciated women—not to mention his predilection in favor of Ms. Coulter’s cleavage—so I may not be an unbiased observer.


I thought teach-ins were only held by ultra-lefty nutbars who couldn’t get real teaching jobs. Apparently I was at least partially wrong:

I attended a teach-in about the current state of judicial nominations today [Jack Balkin on the Constitution in Exile: “I don’t believe it for a second.”] and came away with, inter alia, a map of the geographic boundaries of not only the Circuit courts but also the District courts (sort of like this only easier to read and less garish). It’s something of a surprise to me. New Jersey, the ninth most populous state, is a single federal district. Oklahoma, the twenty-seventh, has three. West Virginia, the thirty-seventh, has two. To be sure population and federal caseload are but rough correlates (witness, e.g., the District of Columbia) but still. Three districts in Oklahoma? Three in Alabama?

Is the mismatch because some local features turn up a surprising amount of federal case law, or because districts are created as prizes for local senators, who presumably get to fill the spots with their chosen folks? Presumably both.

How about a third theory: geography. Try dragging your court around a state the size of Alabama versus one the size of New Jersey. Pork may be a factor (though I’m somewhat skeptical—there are not a lot of patronage jobs in the courts), but I think the more compelling explanation is that Oklahoma and Alabama are a heck of a lot bigger than New Jersey.

Reapportionment math

Steven Jens has posted some dummied-up figures for how the reapportionment of Congress would go if the population trends in 2004 continue through the end of the decade. It’s moderately interesting that both Alabama and Louisiana would lose a representative each; like Mississippi, one presumes they are gaining population, but not quickly enough to keep pace with the national rate.

Also: will someone explain to me why when legislative districts don’t have equal populations people use the term “malapportionment”? Reapportionment refers to the process of allocating House seats to states, while redistricting refers to the process of redrawing district boundaries to compensate for population shifts within states, so why would bad (or nonexistent) redistricting be called malapportionment instead of maldistricting? (If I don’t get an answer here, I may have to interrogate my civil liberties students Wednesday on this topic…)

There's inequality and then there's inequality

I hadn’t really paid much attention to this Sunday Times piece by an American expat living in Oslo comparing Scandinavia with the United States, but this post from Brett Marston made me curious. Marston asks:

How can the New York Times get away with publishing a Week in Review piece on income in Norway and not even mention income distribution (except disparagingly), the GINI index, or the effect of income inequality on aggregate statistics?

Well, the first potential response is that it is, after all, an opinion piece, and the writer has the choice of what evidence to marshall or respond to. But I do think Marston has a point… at least to an extent.

Income inequality, of course, does bias some statistics like the mean income; comparisons of median income would be more helpful, since it is unbiased by outliers. My suspicion, however, is that median U.S. income is substantially higher than median Norwegian income, regardless.

I also think a focus on inequality (and the Gini coefficient, which is a measure of inequality) might be worthwhile… but what does inequality mean in this context. Is the poorest Norwegian better off than the poorest American? If so, that might be a problem. However, by most consumption measures, a large share of poor Americans are only “poor” relative to other Americans (consider that even many of the poorest Americans have cellular phones and cable TV, not to mention $100 tennis shoes), although certainly there are poor Americans who fall through the cracks—as, for that matter, there are poor Norwegians in the same situation.

Certainly income inequality can be viewed as a problem—consider, for example, the well-known problem of relative deprivation. I’m not sure the solution to that problem is to force rich people to have less money so poorer people feel better about themselves, which seems to be the implicit solution to the problem: giving the money the rich have to the poor, while a nice concept, probably wouldn’t materially help the poor that much—and they’d still be poor relative to everyone else, so relative deprivation would kick in again.

In other words, I don’t know that income inequality is prima facie bad; certainly, poverty is bad, and that is something most societies could do better at solving, the United States included. But I think a focus on inequality over objective conditions probably is counterproductive.

Update: Jason Kuznicki has nicer things to say about the piece, and also discusses the rather silly “constitution in exlie” piece that has all the lawprofs and law students atwitter.