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Blindspot

A BLOG ABOUT LAW, POLITICS, AND CULTURE

November 25, 2019

What follows is the final 12-minute lecture from my Constitutional Law II: Individual rights course, which ended earlier today:

Each semester at the end of Constitutional Law I and II, I carve out about 12-15 minutes for a personal spiel. Although I intersperse reflections beyond the course content throughout each semester, I think of this parting shot as a final opportunity to encourage students to think carefully about why their career choice matters, how to make lawyering more fulfilling, and, I hope, how, with the benefit of legal training, each of you can work toward making the world a better place. Those of you who studied with me in Constitutional Law I this past spring heard me discuss the social science literature on happi...

November 8, 2019

Being rightly hard on the Trump administration cannot mean assuming that whatever the most progressive Democratic candidates, or their supporters, find appealing holds water. Take the, perhaps entertaining and perhaps tongue-in-cheek, Elizabeth Warren wealth-tax calculator. Enter it, decide if you are or are not a billionaire (I'm not, in case you were wondering), and if you are not, enter the same of your favorite (or least favorite) billionaire to see how much she or he would be taxed annually under Warren's wealth tax. 

Let’s start with Mayor Bloomberg, who’s now contemplating his own run for the Democratic nomination. Here’s what you'll learn: 

"MIKE BLOOMBERG WOULD PAY $3.079 BILLION NEXT YEAR UNDER ELIZABETH’S WEALTH TAX.

“Mike Bloo...

October 19, 2019

“I have a plan for that.”

Elizabeth Warren

There’s little doubt that Elizabeth Warren, the woman with a plan, is a force. She’s witty, sharp, and, most often, direct. She commands our attention. And she now holds the considerable prospect of securing the Democratic nomination. I do not question the sincerity of Warren's supporters, yet I am convinced that nominating her will be a profound mistake. That is not because as between Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump I personally would decline to cast a ballot for her or would throw away my ballot on a third party candidate. Of course, I would do neither. Instead, I would vote for Warren, and then, as a responsible citizen, I would commit to spending the next four years, should she win, using...

October 10, 2019

Note: I wrote this rather quickly immediately following the Yom Kippur holiday, and posted it on FB. I then realized that some of the blog readers might wish also to see it. It responds to this letter.

#1: Impeachment is not a criminal proceeding.

#2: Were we nonetheless to draw a loose comparison between the impeachment process and a criminal proceeding, the first step, the actual impeachment process in the House of Representatives, as opposed to the second step, the Senate trial, would be analogous to a criminal indictment, not to an actual criminal trial.

#3: During an actual criminal indictment, there is no right of a criminal defendant to call witnesses or to cross exam witnesses as those proceedings generally take place in ex parte...

September 29, 2019

Despite its extraordinary nature, try to imagine the ordinary course of a Donald Trump impeachment inquiry. It would center on three questions: 

1. Does quid pro quo corruption fall within the scope of the impeachment clause?

2. If so, does conditioning the receipt of foreign aid on a personal political favor, here investigating a political opponent and his son, constitute quid pro quo corruption?

3. If so, did Donald Trump engage in #2?

The answers to the first two questions are obviously yes. And the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests the same for question 3. But this is Donald Trump. 

Whatever happens, when historians look back on this administration, Donald Trump’s reputation as a routine font of misinformation—what we called...

September 12, 2019

I began my first post in this three-part series observing that the best kind of travel experiences, like the best books, make you think differently about the world. After three days and six separate excursions, I’m persuaded that few travel experiences do so more than a safari. The safari is at once a microcosm, metaphor, and instantiation of life, in all its beauty, richness, wonder, tragedy, and pain. Without the last two, the first three aren’t possible; after all, that’s what life’s circle is all about. But the safari offers more than insight into the circle of life. It opens thinking into evolution, sex roles, environmentalism, the outsized role of people in the lives of all creatures, and, for me at least, the rules of kashrut....

September 11, 2019

In Hebrew, Chai (or 18) means life. I vividly recall where I was precisely 18 years ago today, seemingly a lifetime. I was then visiting in Ann Arbor, and awaiting my early morning class when a colleague in the hallway informed a group of us about the first plane that crashed into one of the two twin towers. No one knew what was going on, and several of us struggled as to what to do. I believe everyone proceeded to teach their classes, as did I. Only in class did I learn from a student about the second hit on the twin towers, and then later still of the Pentagon hit and the diverted plane in PA.

So much has happened in the intervening years as to make the sense of unity arising from these unimaginable crimes, even in our then egregiousl...

September 6, 2019

During our trip to Victoria Falls, my family took the wonderful opportunity to visit and tour a local village in Zimbabwe. The tour was led by a forty-five-year-old man who explained that his seventy-four-year-old grandfather was the Village Chief. (I did not question the math.) We learned that the larger village community was coming off a particularly challenging period, with two funerals in a single week, juxtaposed to a wedding that had taken place two weeks prior. 

The larger community is separated into smaller family villages, each of which is mostly self-contained. The village we visited was home to the Chief and his immediate family, including his children and grandchildren. During the tour, we saw fenced-in goats, cows, and chic...

September 2, 2019

As with great books or art, the best travel experiences challenge the way we see the world. The travel experience offers new insight, unmasking premises so embedded in our small corners of the universe that they are barely perceptible until a very different set of experiences brings them into sharp relief.   

My family had the wonderful opportunity to visit South Africa and Victoria Falls, including Zambia where about 70% of the falls are situated, and Zimbabwe, capturing the remaining 30%, and where most of the spectacular views are seen. A Zimbabwe saying: “The best time to see the falls is when you are here.” Each season brings a different experience, dictated largely by the water flow, which variously covers larger or smaller p...

August 17, 2019

A man travels from rabbi to rabbi asking each to tell him all there is to know about Judaism while standing on one foot. The rabbis dismiss him summarily until he meets Rabbi Hillel. Hillel stands on one foot and says: “’Do not do unto others, as you would not have others do unto you.’ All the rest is commentary. Now go study the commentary.” 

Srugim and Shtisel, two Israeli television series (Hebrew, some Yiddish, English subtitles), depict separate Orthodox Jewish communities in Jerusalem. Srugim, completed after three seasons, centers on five modern orthodox friends, three women, Yfat (Yael Sharoni), Hodaya (Tali Sharon), and Reut (Sharon Fauster), and two men, Nati (Ohad Knoller) and Amir (Amos Tamam). The series depicts these...

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Maxwell Stearns

This is my newest book, Law and Economics: Private and Public (West Academic 2018, with Todd Zywicki and Tom Miceli). I have been teaching law for twenty-six years, and I am the Venable, Baetjer & Howard Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. My core areas of interest are Constitutional Law and Law & Economics, which I view as critically interwoven. 

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