14 October 2003

Caffeine Deficiency

Lots to comment on this morning before getting back to the thread I started yesterday, which won't happen until blood caffeine levels have risen to 0.10%:

  • Randy Barnett questions the distinction between peer-reviewed and student-edited law journals, particularly the snide remarks by some academics that peer-reviewed journals are always "better." This should sound remarkably like awards ceremonies in the arts, such as D.J. Taylor's description of judging the Booker Prize. Not to completely defend the excesses of the law reviews, one paragraph in Taylor's article resonates strongly with the general stance of the legal profession:

    There were the columnists who accused the judging panel… of being elitist, and there were the columnists who accused us of not being elitist enough. There was the novelist who begged us in the most manly and responsible fashion to select for our shortlist the kind of books people "wanted to read"—as opposed, presumably, to the kind of books that we the judges wanted to read. There was the character in Tribune who diagnosed a capitalist plot, hatched under the auspices of the "faceless" Man Group by a cabal of literary insiders with the deliberate aim of excluding anything of merit. And finally there were those innocent journalists, bidden to write Booker pieces by their harassed editors, who in other circumstances would clearly not have been able to identify a novel had it fallen on their heads from a great height.

    Perhaps my own prejudices for law review articles were formed by the highly unusual selecting board for my year as an Articles Editor: not one of the four of us was a snot-nosed kid just out of undergraduate work attending law school on daddy's dime. Two of us were well into our thirties, and about to become second-career lawyers. All of us had substantial graduate study before law school. Three of us had extensive scientific and technological backgrounds, which led us to reject a number of "fashionable" articles from "name professors" on intellectual property that made little sense. None of us had a business degree, which led to a great deal of skepticism about purely economic explanations for anything. And so on. It wasn't perfect; we had our disagreements; we made one mistake (we published one piece out of sixteen that, in retrospect, we should not have published); but I'll put the quality of material we published that year up against any of the peer-reviewed journals.

  • For a few giggles, Robert McCrum of The Observer (UK) has put together, presumably with some uncredited help from flunkiesresearch assistants, a list of "The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time". Leaving aside for the moment the language problems—less than one in six were not written in English—the list reflects a rather peculiar blindness toward irony and satire once one gets past the first work on the list. More tellingly, with only three exceptions every single work listed is in the "mainstream" of its day, and one of those three (1984) partly created a new mainstream by itself.
  • Today's Washington Post comments on a kind of gerrymandering that falls beneath public notice, precisely because the Supreme Court has stated that political gerrymandering is ok (it's just racial gerrymandering that's suspect). Given that I do not accept the so-called "political question doctrine" as anything more than sheer sophistry—law is merely a somewhat limited form of politics—my amusement at this controversy should not be surprising.
  • It appears that law firms have finally gotten around to blaming each other, instead of each other's clients, for some recent nastiness in patent litigation. Gee. What a surprise. Yet another way to put the blame on someone other than one's self. I have two words for the members of the law firms in question: Grow up. You are supposed to be members of a profession, not combatants at recess during fourth grade. Or, perhaps, is the public right about the legal profession—that there are only three lawyer jokes, because the rest are all true?
  • Today's Washington Post also notes that the Infternal Revenue Service is starting to scrutinize "non-profit" credit counseling services. This is only about eight years after my then-firm filed a lawsuit making similar allegations. I suppose an eight-year lag isn't too bad. It's only 20% of the average working lifetime.

   Much of my other ire will have to wait for more caffeine.