Archives for June, 2002


THE ROOF, THE ROOF, THE ROOF IS ON FIRE: Here in our nation’s capital, firefighting can be a tad more primitive than in other cities. On Wednesday, a house in SE Washington caught on fire. The crew of Engine 8 received the report. Where was Engine 8? In the shop. Where was the reserve truck? In the shop. Fortunately, quick thinking by the firefighters saved the day. Well, that and the fact that the burning house was on their block. They ran down to the house, without gear, saved an old lady and worked on the fire with a garden hose. They saved her by tossing her in a wheeled garbage can and rolling her out to safety. In a city run like the district, it rocks that we have a few McGiveresque firestuds to mitigate the incompetence at the top. Check out the story here.

Posted on Jun 28, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


GATEKEEPER, I AM THE KEYMASTER: Here’s the dealio on the guest blogging arrangement. I am not permitted to blog directly, but must filter my posts through Jerry Brito. JB is not the gatekeeper for technical reasons, mind you, but because of something Gene likes to call “common decency.” What a prude. Anyway, I was hit in the face with this sad fact when JB declined my posting #1, a little blurb about plus-sized tank tops and [REMOVED BY BRITO]. I’m not certain which of these topics is taboo, but Zuul hastily rejected it out-of-hand. He also mentioned that I could only use naughty words if they are “in context.” So, in short, the once and future lawyers have conspired to thwart by blogging debut. So be it. In revenge, I’m linking to the complete script of Ghostbusters, available here.

Posted on Jun 28, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


REDESIGN, VACATION, GUEST BLOGGERS: You’ve likely noticed the spiffy new site design. Thanks much to Jerry Brito for the cool new look. Thanks also to PJ Doland, who hosts the site, for helping set it up. If you’re looking to start blogging, send these guys some work.

I’m off to Brazil for a week and a half, and I hope not to look at a computer or read a newspaper while I’m down there. Meanwhile, let me introduce you to my guest bloggers, who will be taking over while I’m on hiatus. Jerry Brito is a hard-core libertarian with a sensitive side. He likes britpop and kite flying. He does not believe in free will and that’s why he’s being driven inexorably toward a career in the law. Jeff Kiely is the inventor of the Vodka, Cigarettes and Steak Diet. He has been referred to as “the small-stakes Nietzsche.” Enjoy their bloggy musings while I’m gone.

Posted on Jun 28, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


WISH I HAD TIME to write more about the Ninth Circuit’s Pledge decision. On his blog, Julian makes some good arguments in defense of an extraordinarily weak position: that the Pledge is unconstitutional. He’s right, I think, that the decision is an honest and reasoned application of the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence, including the Lemon test. The problem is that the Court’s Establishment clause jurisprudence is only tangentially related to the actual Constitution. The Establishment clause, which, like it or not, was designed to protect established state churches as well as prevent the establishment of a national one, cannot fairly be read to prevent public, official proclamations of support for monotheism, even though the Lemon test makes such proclamations problematic. The same day the First Amendment was approved by the House of Representatives, September 25, 1789, the House also proposed, and later passed, a resolution asking President Washington to issue a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, asking the nation to set aside “a day of public humiliation and prayer.”

Similarly, the Ninth Circuit’s application of the “coercion test” has support in Supreme Court precedent such as Lee v. Weisman, but that precedent is completely ahistorical. The Court and the Ninth Circuit find “coercion” in practices that are coercive in approximately the same sense that casual Friday coerces those who prefer to wear suits.

I don’t think the Fourteenth Amendment changes anything here. The case for incorporation of the Establishment Clause is not that compelling, and it’s hard to make the case that “freedom from government speech that endorses monotheism” was any part of the privileges or immunities of American citizens circa 1868.

I think the Pledge is unseemly, collectivist, slavish, and stupid. But not everything that pisses libertarians off is unconstitutional.

Posted on Jun 28, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


“GEEKS READY TO BURST”: Noah Shachtman reports that D&D has leapt into the 21st century.

Posted on Jun 28, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


HOLD THE CHAMPAGNE: Yeah, I agree with the Supreme Court’s voucher decision. But voucher advocates ought to be careful what they wish for, as Jonathan Rauch argues in a nice, if dated piece (link via Glenn Reynolds):

Conservatives want to get the state out of public education; they may succeed at getting the state into private education. Twenty years from now, they may be slapping their foreheads and saying, “What were we thinking when we crusaded to hook private schools on public money?” And the teachers unions, which by then may have extended many of today’s anticompetitive public school rules to the private realm, may be saying, “Boy, were we ever lucky we lost that fight. Now all schools are public.”

Posted on Jun 28, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

QUESTION: Why is it impermissible,

QUESTION: Why is it impermissible, in this chick’s interpretation of Islam, for her to lift her veil for a driver’s license photo, but perfectly ok for her to drive a car (unlike, say, Saudi women)? My guess is, despite appearances, assimilation is working: she’s picked up on the venerable American tradition of making a pain in the ass out of yourself via the court system.

Posted on Jun 28, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

CHURCHES AND STATES: “Profoundly unimportant”

CHURCHES AND STATES: “Profoundly unimportant” says Radley on the significance of the Ninth Circuit decision striking down the Pledge of Allegiance. I think that’s about right. As for the merits of the decision, I don’t agree that every time the government utters the dreaded G-word, it’s established a religion. That would be news to the founders, who, it’s fair to say, were given to public, official endorsements of monotheism, c.f., “Laws of Nature, and of Nature’s God,” “Endowed by their Creator,” etc., etc. I also dissent from this loosey-goosy notion of coercion that holds you’ve been coerced whenever you feel uncomfortable.

But that said, I think the Pledge is deeply unamerican. Fascistic, in fact. The ACLU has a nice little history of the pledge on its site. It was developed around the turn of the (last) century by a Christian Socialist, Francis Bellamy, the cousin of utopian socialist Edward Bellamy of “Looking Backward” fame. It seems that “the original Pledge was recited while giving a stiff, uplifted right hand salute, criticized and discontinued during WWII.”

A free people ought not to be ritualistically declaring their allegiance to the state and its symbols like a bunch of malleable, goosestepping Eurotrash.

Posted on Jun 27, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

If I could have leveraged

If I could have leveraged my time like this, I’d still be practicing law.

Posted on Jun 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

SCIENCE FICTION: Saw Minority Report

SCIENCE FICTION: Saw Minority Report last night. Very entertaining flick. As most of you know, it takes place in DC 50 years from now, when the cops rely on three mutated “precogs” to predict and intercept crime before it happens.

I don’t know if MR had anything profound to say about civil liberties or privacy in the information age. I do know that I laughed like hell when the pre-cops made their first collar and Tom Cruise says, “you are under arrest by mandate of the District of Columbia Police Department, Precrime Division.” Can you imagine if the DCPD had this technology, how much they’d fuck it up?

Check out this revelation from an old Washington Post piece:

In 1993, a police report found that the property warehouse, which is used to store evidence in criminal cases, was administered under an “honor system.” It had no management controls or security, was without a tracking system for evidence and presented a “great opportunity for theft” of drugs and guns, the report said.

Or this indictment of DCPD’s Chandra investigation. Even after they found the body, Big Chief Ramsey was still saying “we have to determine if in fact she was murdered.”

Or how about today’s Washington Post, which announces that the Chief has cut DCPD’s homicide clearance rate goal back down to 50 percent. As Ramsey says, when you set lower goals, “it’s more encouraging.”

If you live in DC you can’t help laughing when you see the ruthlessly efficient corps of “precops” Tom Cruise leads. In real life, they’d be accidently slamming their jetpacks into telephone poles and poking each other with the “sick sticks” just for laughs. DC would still be your best bet jurisdiction-wise for getting away with murder. And if they didn’t let the precogs drown by accident, I’m sure that the number-one thing the DC cops would use them for would be for parking tickets–the only part of DC law enforcement that’s ever worked. Every time you’d leave the house, paramilitary meter maids would rappel out of nowhere to cite you for parking violations before you even got in your car.

Posted on Jun 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


CHEETOS AND LOST LOVE IN THE SUPERMARKET: I received the following email today:

Is this song about you?

If it is, please email me at so that I know that my message has arrived.

If it isn’t, help me out by forwarding this message, so that, with any luck, this song may eventually play beneath its intended balcony.

Thanks for your help.

Posted on Jun 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


ANOTHER REASON I’M GLAD I DON’T WORK IN A SKYSCRAPER: Scientologist John Travolta to pilot his own jumbo jet.

Posted on Jun 25, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

BLOGLOSSARY: Jim Treacher has a

BLOGLOSSARY: Jim Treacher has a neat site devoted to all those blog-related words bloggers have been coining. Send him your suggestions.

UPDATE: Actually, Jim says don’t send your suggestions. So send them to Radley instead.

Posted on Jun 25, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


VERIZON WITH GUNS: Some days it seems like the cops aren’t any better than any other monopoly service provider. Actually, make that “most days.” Check these two articles: In this one, Phoenix cops on an attempted drug bust shot a dog right in front of its 10-year-old owner. Oh yeah: they didn’t find any drugs either. This article tells the story of an heroic North Beach accountant (!) who did the San Francisco cops’ job for them while they were too busy munching biscotti: “When San Francisco police said they couldn’t spare an officer to arrest a man suspected of stealing Tom Van Lokeren’s credit cards and checks, the 47-year-old North Beach tax accountant took matters into his own hands.” He made a citizen’s arrest with pepper spray and a stun gun. The cops are pissed, of course.

It should go without saying that the DC cops are no exception. Check out this story from today’s Washington Post about the latest DCPD comedy of errors.

Posted on Jun 25, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

ME, ME, ME, ME: Here’s

ME, ME, ME, ME: Here’s a UPI story on Project Safe Neighborhoods which relies heavily on my Cato study. Very cool to be quoted with the great John Lott, who I used to bump into late nights at the U of C law library back when life was hell.

Posted on Jun 24, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off