Recently in Off Topic Category

How to Win a Case in One Line

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This is not a criminal case, but it's an example like few I have seen of how to write an appellate opinion.  The author here is Judge Ray Kethledge of the Sixth Circuit.  I've known Judge  Kethledge for years, and starting in August, one of my students from two years ago will be clerking for him.  The opinion, handed down today, is in this employment discrimination case.  Judge Kethledge's first line is:

"In this case the EEOC sued the defendants for using the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses."

For the EEOC, it was downhill from there.

National Punctuation Day

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That is today, according to this website.  "A celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis."  Let's not forget the apostrophe, easily the most misused punctuation mark in the land.

Gettysburg Sesquicentennial

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This week is the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the pivotal events of American history.  George Will has this column at the WaPo.  Historian Allen Guelzo has this article at the WSJ.

Things You Don't Need To Worry About

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As Kent has noted, CJLF takes no position on DOMA.  Although some readers might be quite concerned, in one way or the other, about how the DOMA case will turn out, there are other issues involving sex that, I am happy to report, probably will not pose immediate problems on the legal front, or any others  --  unless you and your significant other are planning a trip to the moon.

First Person Language

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Blogger Neuroskeptic offers his thoughts on an editorial by Roger Collier in the Canadian Medical Association Journal about the use of politically correct language in formal writing.  Some excerpts: 

There's a reason Ernest Hemingway didn't call his novel The Person Who Was Male and Advanced in Years and the Sea. He valued economy of language over verbosity, so "Old Man" worked fine to describe his titular character. One can only imagine what Papa Hemingway would think of person-first language.

Of course, the purpose of person-first language -- such as "person with a disability" instead of "disabled person" -- isn't to produce writing that is more concise, clear or lyrical. It's supposed to promote the idea that personhood is not defined by disability or disease.

***

"Whatever is negative or taboo, such as disease or illness, we try to avoid talking about it," says Halmari. "It's a fallen world, and we need to talk about unpleasant and sad things."

The structure of person-first language also does a poor job of de-emphasizing disability, notes Halmari. In English, emphasis naturally occurs at the end of sentences. This is why, when asked if there are rules for humour writing, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten replied: "Only one. I always try to put the funniest word at the end of the sentence underpants."


As a Gen X'er myself, I'm somewhat accustom to the revised model of describing people with disabilities.  I also sympathize with those who prefer the terminology of "a person with schizophrenia" rather than a "schizophrenic" because it signifies that schizophrenia is not the whole description of that person.  But I also realize that writing that way really does change how we think about people, behavior and responsibility.  People are not criminals but "people with criminal justice histories" and murderers are instead people convicted of murder.  Some may say it is humanizes but it also obfuscates.

I'm reminded of the late comedian George Carlin who once said poor people are not folks with a negative cash-flow position.  No, they're just plain broke.     

Emancipation Sesquicentennial

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Stephen Mansfield has this article at Fox News.

Merry Christmas To All

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We will take a break from our usual topics today and wish all our readers a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year.

Still Here

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The end of the world would be news, but the fact that the world did not end on a given day shouldn't be.  It is, though, because the world contains a disheartening number of unbelievably flaky people.  Vanessa Gera has this story for AP.  Prior post here.

As long as we are on calendar predictions, though, I will stick my neck out and boldly predict that days will be getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere for the next six months.  See also this post by Justin Grieser at the WaPo.

End of the World Update

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Previous posts on this blog noted the previously scheduled end of the world on May 21, 2011 and October 21, 2011. The end of the world is currently scheduled for December 22, 2012, a little over two weeks from now, due to the end of the Mayan calendar.  The calendar on my refrigerator, from my local car parts store, ends nine days later, but no one seems to think that is the end of the world.

Yesterday, I received in the mail an offer from my local credit union, generously offering what lawyers call a "force majeure clause," also known as an "Act of God clause." In the event the world ends due to a catastrophic event on December 22, the credit union will waive the balance due on a new car loan.  Decent of them.

Swift's Law Strikes Again

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Totally off-topic.

Neuromyths

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Off-topic but interesting.

The Budget for Science

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A bit off-topic for C&C, but the always insightful Tom Smith at The Right Coast has a reflective commentary on public funding for science.  Professor Smith states:

But anyway, I'm not all that sympathetic to the moans and groans of physicists who say, we must have more billions of dollars, else we shall not come to understand the deep nature of universe.  Even as to astronomers, though I am enthusiastic about astronomy, I feel the same way.  The problem is in the coercive taxation of people to pay for Big Science.  Sure, it's less of a waste than other things government wastes our money on.  In Libertarian Paradise, I might even donate some money to the Big Science Fund so they could look for bosons.  But honestly, my current budget doesn't allow for a lot of pure research on stuff I don't understand and is unlikely to benefit me.  Yeah, I admit that makes me a limited sort of altruist.

I agree with the professor's sentiment in many ways.  On the one hand, of all things we spend public money on, science seems worthy, particularly health science.  After all, spending money on health science has a great public benefit.  Yet it is also true that given the fiscal realities of our time, some adventures in science just might need to wait.  Perhaps all of those studies on postmodern addictions could wait a bit.

MSNBC Outdoes Itself

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Off topic but irresistable:  Right now (8:30 p.m. EST, January 24), MSNBC has up a headlined story titled, "Mortgage deal offers little homeowner relief."

Seven inches below on the computer screen, it has the following story, also in headlines, "Deal could help many troubled homeowers."

See for yourself (but you'll need to be quick because these stories change all the time). 

When the mainstream media takes opposite postions at the same time on the same page, you can see why there is room for, ummmm, doubt.

Tebow Notes

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Michael Medved has this op-ed in the WSJ, titled The Secrets of Tebow Hatred.  "The NFL is generously stocked with forgiven felons, including millionaire wife beaters and dog killers. So how did a clean-living quarterback with deep commitments to charitable service and miraculous last-minute victories become the most controversial player in the league?"

Yesterday, Fran Tarkenton had this op-ed in the same paper.

Before every game, no matter what team I was on at the time, the coach would always ask the most devout player to say a prayer....  No one ever asked to win the game, probably for fear that God would punish us for asking. After this moment of devotion, the team would all shout in unison, "Now let's go kill those S.O.B.'s!"

Excessive entanglement of church and football notwithstanding, it's so refreshing to see a good role model in sports that I will root for Tebow and the Broncs, particularly given that they are the underdogs.

The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy

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Off topic but interesting.

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