Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Well, I'm Back

I am returned to New York, having successfully attended commencement (but not yet having successfully been graduated, since my last grade is not yet in, as is the YLS custom). Being a rank sentimentalist, I would have expected this to be a time in which I thought back wistfully on my three years in New Haven, but in fact I feel surprisingly cold on that front. Not that I'm not glad I went, or that I won't miss the carefree life of a law student, but, well, how can a person be nostalgic for law school? I suppose it will come in time, but I beg your forgiveness if I'm more focused on pending matters (like the Bar, or my wedding) than on waxing grandiloquent about happy schoolboy days gone by.

Also, now seems as good a time as any to say, in the words of the philosopher: hello, I must be going. I've had a good two-and-a-half-plus years blogging here at Mansfield Fox, but the time is fast approaching when I must leave you. First off, I no longer live on Mansfield Street, so it's a bit disingenuous to call myself the Mansfield anything any more. Plus, I suspect that the life of a young attorney, especially a junior associate at a tony New York firm, does not lend itself well to blogging: I won't be able to write about what I do most of the day (i.e., work), I'll have to steer clear of controversial topics for fear of cheesing off clients or partners, and so-on. And finally, I'd always thought of this as a law school project, a way to kill time and explore off-topic ideas without being a class-hijacking gunner or wasting professors' time in office hours. I think it's best for it to remain self-contained, a diary of and crude monument to my law school experience. I'll keep blogging sporadically over the next few months; I just wanted to give everybody a head's up so they can schedule extra appointments with their therapists now if they feel the need.

Friday, May 19, 2006

La, La, La, Happy, Happy, Happy

Guess who's en route? In the meantime, so much packing and cleaning to do. Oi, oi, oi.

Blogging, I suspect, will be muy light, if not non-existent, over the next few days as I prepare to graduate. I know, I know, your heart is breaking. In the meantime, occupy yourself, do please amuse yourself with the irrepressible cuteness of babies, neonates and preonates.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Catch Older Lemon Knower

Don't be fooled by fake-O codes involving hacks like Leonardo. There's only one true code, just like there's only one true genius! (h/t: Amy Welborn)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Robert Wright, Intelligent Design Advocate

Engaging Unduly Heightened Expectations

Looks like he's ready to do battle against the evil forces of: the Decepticons! (hat tip: Galley Slaves)

It's going to be a long thirteen-odd months, I think.

Guess Who's Done

Hint: he's massively fragglicious!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

For Whom Do Libertarians Vote?

Via Instapundit, an article by Ryan Sager that raises, but then doesn't really discuss, an interesting issue:
Perhaps the most interesting fact in the Pew survey, however, was that less than 6 in 10 libertarians voted for Bush in 2004. While few libertarians seem to have deserted the president between 2000 and 2004, they are split roughly evenly between the two parties. The Pew survey finds 50 percent of libertarians identifying as Republicans, 41 percent as Democrats.

Given that libertarians' traditional home has been in the conservative base of the Republican Party for about five decades, as part of a strained partnership with social conservatives, their almost 50-50 split between the two parties today is big news.
Sager treats the split as a function of the GOP's attempt to woo "populists" (people who are comfortable with more government regulation of both the economic and social spheres). I think there's something to that; one consequence of the abortion issue is that it's pushed a lot of people with moderate-to-liberal views on economics into the GOP coalition, shifting the preferences of the median GOP voter a few ticks to the left on economic issues.

But surely the more significant cause of the libertarian flight to the Democratic Party is the rise of the New Democrats and the movement of the Democrats to the center on economic issues over the last 20-odd years. Surely it became a lot easier for libertarians to cross party lines during the Clinton Era when the Democrats (traditionally the party of social deregulation) showed increasing openness to economic deregulation as well. A choice between wage/price controls and the regulation of pornography is one thing; a choice between increased EITC funding and the regulation of pornography is another. It's a lot easier to vote for Democrats (or at least not vote for Republicans) when you know the a Democratic victory isn't the first step on the road to socialism. A Democratic Party in which the social democratic wing has been largely disempowered (as it has in today's Democratic Party) is at least potentially as comfortable a home for libertarians as a fusionist Republican Party. It's not shocking that so many libertarians are Democrats.

To put it differently: today's GOP may be economically to the left of the GOP of 1980 or 1964, but it's well to the right of the GOP in the 50s when the libertarian-conservative coalition was emerging. It's just that today's Democrats are massively to the right of the Democratic Party of that era. Libertarian dissatisfaction with today's Republican Party has as much to do with the relative preferability of the alternative as it does the big-spending ways of Bush and the current congressional majority.

Bush's Immigration Speech

He should have delivered it 2 months ago. By waiting until last night, he allowed an enormous reservoir of ill will to build not just on the right but in the country generally. Everyone's already got a view of Bush's real position on immigration is. To those to Bush's right on the issue, he's a pro-amnesty squish, hopelessly in hock to the GOP's business wing, and any proposed efforts to toughen enforcement are just feints and/or boob-bait to distract from the real goal, to regularize the illegal immigrants we already have and encourage a further flow of cheap labor into the country. To those on Bush's left on the immigration issue, he's a thrall of his party's crypto-racist base, hell-bent on demonizing Mexicans and militarizing the border to bring home his base for the November elections, with the guest-worker plan just a concession begrudgingly granted to the business lobby as a way of bringing them on board. The lonely few who actually agree with Bush, like John Podhoretz, find themselves surrounded by distrustful crazies* on all sides. These views are unlikely to budge, because they've had months to harden under fairly intense intra- and inter-partisan sniping. If Bush had come out with his big immigration proposal in months ago, before the marches, before the rancorous failure of Congress to pass a compromise bill, he might have brought more people on board, but now I think it's probably too late. (I can't help but wonder if the Administration's successful use of the rope-a-dope strategy during the Department of Homeland Security debate and lead-up to the Iraq War didn't play a part here. The problem is, when it's your own party that's punching itself out you get weaker, not stronger.)

(The above, by the way, is just one iteration of the larger problem that's plagued Bush basically since 1999. The libertarian wing of the party thinks he's really a social conservative who doesn't really believe in limited government [except maybe tax cuts]; the social conservatives think he's a secret business conservative who occasionally panders to the religious right [on gay marriage, for instance] but only in even-numbered years. The real answer: he's just unprincipled!)

As to the substance, I basically agree with Matt Yglesias that the guest-worker program is a really bad idea, and that if we think the country has a labor shortage we should up the number of legal immigrants we bring in rather than create a class of second-tier non-citizenship-track residents whose continued presence in the country is dependent on the sufferance of their employers. (Though how bad an idea it is depends on what you envision these guest workers doing. If they're coming into the country for a month to harvest strawberries and then returning to their native country then it's a silly-but-not-disastrous idea. If they're coming into the country for an indefinite period of time to work in factories, or as construction workers or domestic servants, then the plan will be a genuine disaster, creating a large underclass of permanent non-citizens like Germany's gastarbeiten, only worse, since some of these guest-workers will have citizen children who will have a legal right to stay in the United States regardless of the employment status of their parents.) A high-tech wall would probably be a good idea, if we actually make the effort to make it work. Sending the national guard to the border seems silly, especially if they're not going to be allowed to do any enforcement. The earned legalization stuff really is amnesty, whatever Bush wants to pretend, and I'm fine with amnesty provided we've actually demonstrated some ability to control the border. Otherwise, amnesty'll just create incentives for more people to come across the border in hopes of being part of the next grand amnesty in 2026. Yes, amnesty is unfair to those who are actually waiting on line in their home countries to immigrate to the U.S. legally, but them's the breaks. Reality-based policy and all that.

*Full disclosure: I am, to some degree, one of those distrustful crazies!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tortoise vs. Hare, Lacedaemonian Edition

Am I the only one who finds this a little worrisome? The film-makers give the impression that we don't know much about the tactics the Spartans used. My understanding is that we actually know a great deal about Hoplite tactics. (As I recall, they locked their shields together to form an essentially impenetrable wall, array their spears forward, and charged the enemy en masse, like a giant anvil, in an effort to break the other side's line.) The problem, I suspect, is that actual Hoplite tactics don't look cool on the big screen, so the film-makers are feigning ignorance in order to spice up their battle scenes.

The irony is that they're making the same mistake the Persians made, for basically the same reasons. A disciplined army that stays in formation and wins by basically shoving the enemy back over and over again is l-a-m-e lame; skirmishers bravely hacking their way through the enemy, winning individual glory along the way, that's cool. This comports with human intuition, which is why genuine Greco-Roman style military discipline is relatively rare in human history. (See generally.) The problem is, as the Persians discovered, the dull, disciplined formation can kick the valiant skirmishers' collective butt, even when tremendously outnumbered. In their efforts to up the kick-assitude of their film, the producers of "300" seem to have completely missed the point of their story.

But other than that, it looks awesome. Pencil me in for Summer 2007. (Though it looks like that may be a busy time for movie-going.)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

As a Catholic and a Yankees Fan...

...I wholeheartedly endorse this glossary of Christianity.
(h/t: Eve Tushnet)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dueling Dantes

An interesting Open Book post on the different uses of the "Catholic university as Dante's pilgrim" metaphor. At least, I found it interesting; I can't vouch for your reaction.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Gay Marriage vs. Religious Liberty

Maggie Gallagher has a great piece in the Weekly Standard about the Massachusetts gay adoption fracas as a foretaste of the coming struggle between church and state over gay marriage (hint: state, not church, will be the aggressor). Worth a read for supporters and opponents of gay marriage alike. (She also briefly discusses the Bob Jones case, which I've come to regard as one of the two or three most pernicious - and deeply anti-pluralist - Supreme Court decisions of the last 25 years.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Quality of Mercy is Not Strain'd

Contra what Moussaoui himself seems to think, his having received a life sentence is not a defeat for America, is not evidence of American weakness. On the contrary, it is powerful evidence of American strength. We are powerful enough to be merciful. We will not kill Moussaoui not because we can't, not because we lack the nerve, but because we do not have to, because he has already been rendered harmless to us, because a civilized society does not kill unless it is necessary. Moussaoui's days as a jihadi have ended; his days as a prisoner have begun, and it is as a prisoner that he will live out the rest of his wretched, wicked life. When he dies, it will not be as a martyr but as a feeble old man, the captive of a nation that long before crushed his hateful movement. Whatever power over us he once had over us is gone. We have triumphed not only over Moussaoui, but over our fear of Moussaoui, over our need to kill this delusional, impotent underling to muffle our terror that another attack is lurking in the shadows.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Who Benefits from National Popular Vote?

This Res Publica & Cetera post got me wondering about something. We typically assume that the Electoral College disproportionately benefits small-state voters because of their disproportionate representation in the Senate. What I'm wondering is: doesn't it also disproportionately benefit voters in states with large non-citizen, felon and under-18 populations, who are disproportionately represented in the House (since House seats are apportioned by total population, not by number of voters)? I assume that the first effect is more substantial than the second, but it might not be that much larger.

What I'm trying to get at is that, while it's typically assumed that switching from the Electoral College would be a boon for big states and a loser for small states, this isn't necessarily the case. The biggest winners may in fact be voters in medium-sized states with small immigrant populations, like perhaps Kentucky and Indiana.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Kneel Before Ross!