Archive for 25 January, 2010

Bias in constitutional criticism

25 January, 2010 Leave a comment

Civil rights lawyer and journalist, Glenn Greenwald writes today on the Supreme Court decision that removed certain limits on political campaigning my corporations, “Follow-up on the Citizens United case“, in which he makes the point on the reaction of political commentators to cases decided in constitutional courts. Commentators on both sides of an issue tend to respond on the basis of their policy preferences, rather than the constitutional merits of the case, which is what the court is there to decide.

I say that’s to be expected because, in our political discourse, it’s virtually always the case that opinions about court rulings perfectly coincide with opinions about the policy whose constitutionality is being adjudicated (e.g., those who favor same-sex marriage on policy grounds cheer court rulings that such marriages are constitutionally compelled, while those who oppose them on policy grounds object to those court rulings, etc. etc.). When a court invalidates Law X or Government Action Y on constitutional grounds, it’s always so striking how one’s views about the validity of the court’s ruling track one’s beliefs about the desirability of Law X/Action Y on policy grounds (e.g., “I like Law X and disagree with the Court’s ruling declaring Law X unconstitutional” or “I dislike Law X and agree with the Court’s striking down Law X”).


Harper’s Index

25 January, 2010 Leave a comment

I came across a fun internet tool, Harper’s Index. Put in any term and it will try to find some interesting statistics.

I found that

  • West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd quoted all 37 of Shakespeare‘s plays in both 1995 and 1997.
  • In November 2001, The Economist apologized for implying that President George W. Bush had been elected.
  • The Oscars love tragic stories: the last year in which no film, screenplay, or performance relating to mental illness was nominated was 1953.
  • 22 of Thomas Jefferson‘s slaves fled to join the British Army during the American Revolution.
  • There were ten page references to ‘vanity of’ under Kissinger in a 1992 biography.
  • 28 of the brands mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses were extant at the Bloomsday centenary in 2004.
  • Mary, Jesus‘ mother, is mentioned 19 times in the Bible against 34 times in the Koran.
  • Child injuries declined by an average of 46% on the weekend of the release of books in the Harry Potter series