A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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politicalprof replied to my post, Manic Aggressive:

let us know when you can bend the structure of reality, Matrix-style …

Done and done. That’s like the whole point of becoming an attorney. You change reality with your words. A family that was one day away from being homeless now has shelter. I fixed it. With my brain.

Manic Aggressive

When a major pleading is due, I sometimes end up at the office a bit later than usual. Everything is quiet. There are no interruptions. Things start coming together beautifully. I take a bit of pride in my work. And that pride necessarily extends to the probable reaction of the sucker attorney on the otherside who’s about to get a few hundred pages of reality dropped on him. It’s not just imminent victory. It’s the growing probability that the victory will be so powerful and so glorious that the law itself will change.

There’s only one problem. It does something curious to my inner monologue. It starts channeling supervillains. There’s a lot of crushing of enemies and bending of wills. Sometimes it’s just manic laughter and explosions.

I assume this is standard career satisfaction stuff?

Anonymous asked: What are your thoughts on limited liability corporations? From my basic understanding, there are no ethical or moral reasons not to repeal limited liability, only utilitarian reasons. Would love to hear your thoughts!


This is now the most amount of time that I have ever spent thinking about limited liability corporations.

Oh! Tap me in! I’ve got this one.

First, utilitarian reasons are ethical reasons. This is doubly true when it comes to law and policy. This isn’t to say that utilitarian reasons are the only ethical reasons or that or that a utilitarian analysis is particularly special. It’s just that the probable result of any social policy is a morally relevant thing. “This policy will result in a thousand fewer kids having asthma” is certainly a plus in the morality column.

Second, limited corporate liability is really about how bad we expect failure to be. And should you be able to own a small piece of a company without massive risk to everything?

You and some friends start a business building a prototype solar car. You’re responsible for, say, the brakes. That gets you a 2% ownership interest in the company. Your friend Schlozo is responsible for the part that makes the car not explode. The good news is that your brakes work great. The bad news is that Schlozo wasn’t very good at his job. And … some people died. And now their families are suing both Schlozo and the company. Schlozo’s ruined. So is the company. But should you be? Your investment is wiped out. But should you lose your house too?

Or say you and your friends pool resources to start a music sharing service. Let’s call it Crapster. (Because, honestly, it’s 2014. You’re sort of behind the ball on this one.) Anyway, it turns out some people use your service for some copyright violation. And maybe you should have seen it coming. Or maybe not. Either way, the company gets sued for $1,500 for each instance of copyright violation. And were are a million instances. So that sucks for the company. And without limited liability you and your friends are on the hook for $1.5 billion.

There are certainly downsides to limited liability. But the upsides are enormous. Investment is possible. Even if, like me, you’re pretty skeptical of passive income, you can concede that investment can be a very useful thing.

So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

Jim DeMint, head of the Heritage Foundation, helpfully proving that he does not understand how slavery ended in the United States. Lincoln’s love, while real, needed millions of troops and workers to enforce, for example.

Ht: Lawyers, Guns and Money

(via politicalprof)

So … this has got to be an awkward topic for DeMint. It’s not just that the actual Civil War was pretty unambiguously the assertion of power by a federal government against certain states and their perceived rights for the purpose of ending slavery. DeMint’s other problem is that the entire abolition movement was basically things DeMint doesn’t like organizing against the darkest excess of the era’ capitalism.


Either you accept Leviticus, state the bible is selectively flawed, or discard the bible. If the bible is selectively flawed you are absolutely no more or less justified than some gay-bashing idiot in rooting your faith in any aspect of the bible.

The only responses I have ever received to this line of reasoning have been nine-paragraph circuitous garbage fires.

It needn’t take nine paragraphs.

The Bible is collections of texts. Some are poetry. Some are histories. Some are letters. The texts were written a long time ago. The texts were collected a long time ago. The texts were written for various purposes. The texts were selected for various reasons. Things changed. The texts were translated.

Insisting that the Bible should be read in the same way as Harry Potter is juvenile. So, chucking the whole thing because a few parts of one book seem to have some tension with other parts. Also it’s weird to call people hypocritical for learning things. “You used to believe electrons orbited the atom like planets and now you believe they hang out in a probability cloud. Hypocritical waffling!”

It’s just reading practices for grownups.

rationworld asked: RE: Squashed's constitutional amendment #6. Changing the Senate to be elected by proportional popular vote would change the dynamics of federalism in the US and raise the question: if the Senate is not representing the states (as intended by the constitution) why even keep the Senate? Why modify the Senate? Why not just abolish it and have a unicameral legislature base upon the House?

There are three questions in here.

  1. Do I care about changing the Constitutional balance between the several states? Not really. One person, one vote is far more important to me than preserving the historical curiosities that led to the Senate.
  2. Should be be concerned that adjusting the Senate to a proportional popular vote could result in electing folks without geographically defined constituencies? Yes. And this one bothers me a lot. In fact, my proposal would be a disaster on that front. The parties would nominate lists where the first handful of people are guys you might want to vote for. But after that, it would just be party loyalists. 
  3. Is there nevertheless a good reason for bicameralism? Yes. Can you imagine how rapidly and disastrously the law would change if the House of Representatives could make law all by itself Between 2008 and 2010 we’d have had a dozen different healthcare laws passed. Between 2010 and 2012 they would all have been repealed. And we’d probably have invaded Canada.

But overall, point well taken. Let’s strike my proposal to change the Senate until such time as I come up with a better way to do it. How about this:

  • Ninety-nine senators.
  • Ninety senators are elected from 30 districts of roughly equal populations across the country. Each person has three senators elected for six year terms. Every two years one stands for reelection.
  • Ever two years three other Senators are elected by national popular vote. 
  • Maybe there’s one other guy to make it an even hundred. I’m not sure how he gets chosen. Let’s make him Ron Paul to start out with. *But* at any time, any member of the Senate or House of Representatives can challenge him to single combat and the winner immediately gets the seat. But if you lose, you lose your seat and the Hundredth Senator gets to nominate your replacement. Per the rules of the new Senate, combat will have priority over any other order of business, so you can do a challenge as sort of a filibuster but more awesome.

I’m still working out some of the details of that last point.

englishprof asked: Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has a new book out where he proposes six amendments to the Constitution. Three are new; three are amendments to existing portions. What six (or however many you might have) would you like to see?

That’s a tough one. We haven’t amended the Constitution in over twenty years. I was eleven. And that was a tiny thing about Congressional pay that apparently took 202 years to ratify. Before that one, it was another twenty years. We haven’t amended the Constitution in my memory. At least, not explicitly. And it’s not even that we haven’t amended the Constitution recently. We haven’t even come close. So … it’s a bit intimidating to think of what I could do, given a chance. But … let’s try this.

1.  Change Redistricting. It turns out that this is the same as Justice Steven’s 2nd proposal. I couldn’t think of an elegant way to phrase it, but it’s such an obvious one that I assumed it had to be one of his proposals.

2.  Something to guarantee a quality K-12 education for all Americans. I’m not quite sure how to phrase this one. Basically if we have under-resourced schools, everybody’s taxes keep going up until things approve.

3.  All permanent residents are entitled to the same rights as citizens. Lawful permanent resident status converts to citizenship by operation of law after three years.

4. Civil Gideon. You have a right to representation by an attorney in civil proceedings involving child custody, property forfeiture, eviction, and so on.

5. Pay parity between prosecutors and public defenders.

6. Replace the Senate with a body selected by a proportional popular vote. When I first heard this one, I thought it was a terrible idea. But I also lived in Montana.

7. No more homelessness, hunger, or death from medically preventable causes. There’s no reason we can’t Constitutionally guarantee a minimum standard of living for everybody.

Now that I’m reading Stevens’ suggestions, I’d also like to abolish the death penalty. And I think I’d strike the second amendment in its entirety. 

nicodemus-blog asked: Do you think the GOP will take the senate?

I don’t think so.

It’s a tough year for the Democrats. The folks voted in in the 2008 landslide are now up for reelection. So that’s going to be tough. On the other hand, the Republicans have been *so* cooperative in self-destructing lately. The chances that they’ll make it to election without some epic meltdowns seem pretty low.


Sorry, guys. I may be turning into the world’s least interesting political blogger. Of late I’ve been increasingly convinced that:

1) Minute-to-minute analysis of any political situation is relatively pointless because single data points are less significant than long term trends; and 2) I don’t know enough about most things to be able to write intelligently about them.

Also, it’s not an election year. It’s hard to maintain even the delusion of relevance. Or perhaps it’s more that things have been good lately and the urge to seek validation on the Internet hasn’t been particularly high.

The point is, it’s the sort of quiet Saturday night that would be great to squander on the Internet. But I don’t actually have anything to say. Let me know if you have any ideas. Or just say hi. If you’re reading this on a Saturday night, you know how it is.

On Paying College Athletes



It occurs to me that the debate over whether or not college athletes should be paid is really a debate between three groups of people.

  1. People who think college athletes should be paid because talented and hardworking people should be appropriately compensated.
  2. People who think that college athletes should not be paid because I don’t know amateurism or something.
  3. People who think semi-professional sports teams are a distraction from the core mission of a university.

I suspect that group #2 is probably a pretty small group. And group #3 is primarily composed of people who don’t much like sports.

I thought they got paid with a college education? I’ve heard that’s expensive these days…

Yes, but also no, right? If you’re the star center on the basketball team and a critical piece of a billion dollar industry, a college scholarship is sort of a weird side benefit. It’s great if you’re there to get an education and a degree. It’s less great if you’re you’re primarily an athlete and have a schedule arranged to ensure that you maintain eligibility while distracting you as little as possible from athletics?

If my employer informed me that my salary was going to be replaced by an education scholarship, I’d be livid. Earning another degree isn’t part of my life plan at the moment. By the same token, if you’re giving out full ride college scholarships for people who otherwise could not afford to go, athletic prowess is only tangentially related to the educational goal.

Of course, I’m cool with schools giving out athletic scholarships if it results in a massive influx of money that can be used to advance things I care about.