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February 2008 Archives

February 28, 2008

Welcome

Greetings, and welcome to those who have found their way to this site.

I have no experience at blogging, so I’m not quite sure how to begin. But a bit of autobiography seems in order. Like David, I’m a law professor – I teach criminal law and criminal procedure at Harvard – and also an evangelical Christian. That puts us in a pretty small, and maybe pretty weird, demographic. I’m also a political junkie and a registered Republican, though I’ve cast as many Democratic votes as Republican ones. I’m interested in all those things – law and legal theory, crime and criminal justice, everything about American politics and political culture, the culture of evangelical Protestantism, and the intersections of various items on that list. David has a similarly broad set of interests – plus, he’s an uncommonly smart and interesting guy. Which is why blogging together seemed like a good idea.

I have one more pair of interests worth noting in this initial post. For the past eight years, I’ve lived with chronic pain in my back and right leg. The pain is constant now, and severe. Recently, another medical condition has joined that one: I have colon cancer – a piece of unpleasant news I learned about ten days ago. I’ll have surgery this week, probably followed by chemotherapy. These days, back and leg pain is joined by a lot of pain in my abdomen: sometimes, I think everything hurts. And I’m very, very tired.

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On Being Weary-- Stuntz

I’m unbelievably tired these days, and I know I’ll feel more so after this week’s surgery. I’m tired from the drugs I take, tired from the pain in my back and leg, and now tired from the tumor inside me. The end of Isaiah 40 seems to speak to that weariness. The words are famous:

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I’ve heard and read those words many times. Roughly translated, they seem to say: when we fall, God picks us up. Sometimes it works that way. But often, I find that when I fall, I stay down – or fall farther. Life is not always a happy picture of obstacles overcome, difficulties surmounted. Rotten things, like cancer and chronic pain, happen. Healing happens too, but not always. There are no guarantees.

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The Subprime Mess-- Skeel

As Obama, Clinton, and everyone else tout their remedies for the subprime crisis, I’m reminded of the old joke about a group of blind men who encounter an elephant. The man who grabs the elephant’s leg tells the others he has encountered a tree, the one who touches the trunk is sure it’s a huge snake, and so on. In the fall, subprime worries centered on the losses that banks were suffering, and the possibility that credit markets would seize up. Now the homeowners who are facing default are on center stage.

These parts are connected in ways that often get obscured.

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Michelle Obama's Pride--Stuntz

A lot of ink has been spilled on Michelle Obama’s comment that “for the first time in my life, I am really proud of my country.” I’m a McCain man myself, but the criticism seems dumb to me. She isn’t running for office, and she’s entitled to feel what she feels and express it as she chooses, as long as she doesn’t insult anyone else along the way – as she manifestly didn’t. Her comments are part of (and an exceptionally mild instance of) a long tradition of moral self-criticism that may be Americans’ greatest attribute. In the mid-1850s, at the height of Know-Nothingism, Abraham Lincoln wrote more caustically about his country’s history and character than any candidate or candidate’s spouse would dream of writing or speaking today:

"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it, ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read, ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

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