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July 19, 2006

99 Years

Via Doug Berman, I see that The Seventh Circuit (per Judge Evans) appears to have just reversed as unreasonable a sentence within the allegedly advisory sentencing guidelines. [It is possible to read the opinion as suggesting that the district court mis-calculated the guidelines, instead.]

In any case, of even more interest (to me) was the Court lyrical footnote one:

One hundred years is a long time-- one year longer, in fact, than the standard lyrical shorthand for an unimaginably long sentence.(1)
1: See, e.g., Bruce Springsteen, “Johnny 99” (“Well the evidence is clear, gonna let the sentence, son, fit the crime / Prison for 98 and a year and we’ll call it even, Johnny 99.”); Bob Dylan, “Percy’s Song” (“It may be true he’s got a sentence to serve / But ninety-nine years, he just don’t deserve.”); Johnny Cash, “Cocaine Blues” (“The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen / Ninety-nine years in the Folsom pen / Ninety-nine years underneath that ground / I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down.”); Ed Bruce, “Ninety-Seven More To Go” (“Ninety-nine years go so slow / When you still got ninety-seven more to go.”); Bill Anderson, “Ninety-Nine” (“The picture’s still in front of my eyes, the echo in my ears/ When the jury said he’s guilty and the judge said ninety-nine years.”); Chloe Bain, “Ninety-Nine Years” (“The sentence was sharp, folks, it cut like a knife / For ninety-nine years, folks, is almost for life.”); Guy Mitchell, “Ninety-Nine Years” (“Ninety-nine years in the penitentiary, baby, baby, wait for me, around twenty-fifty-five we’ll get together dead or alive.”).

Note the appearance of the illustrious Johnny Cash, unforgivably relegated to third in the list. Also, given the minor discrepancies in lyrics between various performances, I would have Bluebooked these according to rule 18.6.1, (Commercial Recordings). E.g., Johnny Cash, Cocaine Blues on At Folsom Prison (Columbia Records 1968) ("The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen / Ninety-nine years in the Folsom pen / Ninety-nine years underneath that ground / I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down.")

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The Maximization of Employment

In the course of suggesting (correctly) that the City of Chicago is being unduly hostile to Wal-Mart's planned invasion of the city, Alec Brandon writes:

There is a simple principle at work here, that government's, whether they be national or local, should maximize employment. That can mean bringing in United, but it should also mean that Wal-Mart should be allowed to enter. ...

The idea that government should attempt to maximize the amount of employmeny strikes me as very odd, and I cannot believe that Alec really means this. At the limit, governmental "maximization" of employment would mean that sleepand leisure were strictly forbidden except to the degree absolutely medically necessary to getting work done; unemployment would also be criminalized. The government would have a standing offer to hire anybody without a job to do useless busy-work. Everybody would be employed, miserable, and poor.

Anyway, I meant to make two substantive points. One, there is an optimal amount of leisure and unemployment, and neither are zero. In a literal if not statistical sense, I was unemployed for the first many years of life, as well as some periods during college and law school. I can see no reason these things should have been fixed by any state or local government. Two, even if we are not at the optimal employment level, it is not clear that governments-- local or national-- should do everything to fight this. There are macroeconomic tradeoffs.

I do think that Wal-Mart ought to be permitted to buy land, erect large ugly stores selling cheap goods, and employ people at not-terribly-high-but-highly-desirable wages, but I don't think the case for this needs to rest on any sort of manifest destiny towards the maximization of work.

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Some time ago I received a lot of helpful advice in response to my blog post about the worthwhileness of taking evidence. Now Eugene Volokh has his own list of strongly-recommended courses. They include Tax, Corporations, Evidence, and Remedies. That last one almost made me both laugh and cry. There are law schools that teach Remedies? I don't think it will have been offered at Yale any time during my three years.

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Dylan, complaining about, inter alia, this post of mine:

I've been sneering at the enthusiasm displayed by a couple of other bloggers over Veronica Mars lately. ... I remain convinced that adults shouldn't blog obsessively about their slightly obscure pop culture fixations.

In blogging, of course, to each his/her own is the truer than ever. But I strongly disagree. I have found more valuable pleasure through Tyler Cowen's "slightly obscure pop culture fixations" than whatever it is that Dylan would have him cover instead.

Besides slightly obscure fixations-- cultural or academic-- are pretty much this blog's reason to exist.

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Quote of the Night

Someday I will learn what it is that impels people to pay to stand around in crowded smelly spaces with pounding noise shouting to their friends for hours on end. Oh, and the quote:

"I don't know . . . I've always expected parties to be exciting and brilliant, like some rare drink." She laughed; there was a note of sadness in it. "But I don't drink either. That's just another symbol that doesn't mean what it was intended to mean." He was silent. She added, "Perhaps there's something that we have missed."
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

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