Napoleon on the necessity of the Gospel

… apart from the precepts and doctrines of the Gospel there is no society that can flourish, nor any real civilization.

Sounds like something you’d find quoted at Conservapedia. The passage immediately continues:

What is there that makes the poor man take it for granted that ten chimneys smoke in my palace while he dies of cold–that I have ten changes of raiment in my wardrobe while he is naked–that on my table at each meal there is enough to sustain a family for a week? It is religion, that says to him that in another life I shall be his equal, indeed that he has a better chance of being happy there than I have.

This still may explain much of the GOP’s association with the Gospel.

(quoted in The Church in an Age of Revolution by Alec R. Vidler)

The bookshelf

Charles Stross, The Bloodline Feud – he’s revising his Merchant Princes novels, and this is the first two books in the series: a clever, if slow-building, take on the alternate universe concept, with emphasis on arbitrage (hence series name). Good fun.

Adrian Goldsworthy, Augustus – the 2000-year anniversary of the emperor’s death is marked by another Goldsworthy volume, this one aiming to rehab Augustus a bit from the wonderful, bitterly Tacitean view established by Syme in The Roman Revolution. Good job done, partly because G. doesn’t whitewash Augustus (a welcome contrast to the John Williams novel). Not necessarily something to run out & buy in hardcover, but worth a look.

Kingsley Amis, Colonel Sun – the first of the continuation novels after Fleming’s death, this one captures 007 well enough, but the plot and the villain are phoned in. A disappointment. OTOH, with China back in the villain’s seat these days, a typically unfaithful adaptation could play well on the screen.

Jean-Patrick Manchette, The Mad and the Bad and The Prone Gunman – Manchette brought Hammett and Chandler into French literature, literally by translation and in spirit with his laconic, ruthless, yet by no means nihilistic little novels. (I mean little as in physically; these damn things should be packaged at least two to a volume.) Of the three I’ve read so far, Fatale was my favorite, but each of these appeals in a different way, TMATB (a weird choice for his crazy French title, O dingoes! O chateaux!) for watching a villain’s plan degenerate into a clusterfuck, TPG for its twist on the “silent guy,” who at one point actually loses his voice and has to write notes. To be acquired secondhand, but do read him.

Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism – I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read a book about slavery, and this one is pitched at ignoramuses like me, while at least professing a controversial thesis: that slavery was not a quaint and archaic abnormality, but the economic engine that drove Northern and Southern economic progress alike. H/t Lindsay Beyerstein for pointing me to it. (This was also the book that gained The Economist some notoriety for its running a review that griped the slavers came off all evil-like.) I’m only in chapter 4 and not competent to judge it as a contribution to the field, but it’s certainly helping me see the centrality of slavery to the developing American republic. Note to self: never set foot in Maspero’s.


Easing back into the blog after filing The Brief from Hell, here’s a seasonal classic from McSweeney’s.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I’m about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables.

Printing electronically-filed pleadings: beware shrinkage!

Federal-court pleadings, and in Mississippi increasingly those filed in state court as well, are filed via the internet in PDF format. The software prints a docket number and date stamp across the top margin where it won’t interfere with the text.

Myself, it’s always seemed that the software also shrank the text on the PDFs, making 12-point type seem smaller when I printed off pages and compared them to the word-processor versions. Last week my paralegal and I (the blind leading the blind, as neither of us is a techie) tackled this problem.

We think the problem isn’t in the creation of the PDFs or in the filing software, but in printing off the PDFs. Adobe’s print-dialogue box defaults, it seems, to “Shrink oversized pages,” and I think the time stamp makes Adobe treat electronic pleadings as oversized.

So, esteemed attorneys (and even more esteemed judges!), if you’re not inclined to read pleadings on your computer or tablet and you want to print them off, I suggest clicking “Actual size” when you print your PDF. At least, it works for me. Legal writing is sad enough to read without having to squint.

Anyone with experience/expertise who wishes to chime in or correct this post, please do so!

Euripides on legal writing

Euripides, Rhesus 39-40 (tr. David Kovacs): “You have said nothing clearly for all your many words.”


Schopenhauer on appellate argument

The old curmudgeon wrote an essay, “The Art of Being Right,” which was even reprinted as a small book a few years back. Below (mostly below the fold) are his 38 tips and tricks. (H/t Ben.) Warning: results not guaranteed; sanctions possible.

1 Carry your opponent’s proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it.
The more general your opponent’s statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it.
The more restricted and narrow your own propositions remain, the easier they are to defend.

2 Use different meanings of your opponent’s words to refute his argument.
Example: Person A says, “You do not understand the mysteries of Kant’s philosophy.”
Person B replies, “Oh, if it’s mysteries you’re talking about, I’ll have nothing to do with them.”

3 Ignore your opponent’s proposition, which was intended to refer to some particular thing.
Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it.
Attack something different than what was asserted.

4 Hide your conclusion from your opponent until the end.
Mingle your premises here and there in your talk.
Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order.
By this circuitous route you conceal your goal until you have reached all the admissions necessary to reach your goal.

5 Use your opponent’s beliefs against him.
If your opponent refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.
Example, if the opponent is a member of an organization or a religious sect to which you do not belong, you may employ the declared opinions of this group against the opponent.

6 Confuse the issue by changing your opponent’s words or what he or she seeks to prove.
Example: Call something by a different name: “good repute” instead of “honor,” “virtue” instead of “virginity,” “red-blooded” instead of “vertebrates”. Continue reading

Supplement your record, Or Else

Today is Reverse-the-Court-of-Appeals-Day at the MSSC, with everyone’s favorite intermediate court going 0-2 today on certiorari reviews. Our attention is drawn to Shumake v. Shumake, an alimony-arrearage case. An order by the chancery court wasn’t in the record (para. 8 n.1):

Although the November 2010 order is not part of the record in today’s case, Leslie attached a copy of the order as an exhibit to his appellate brief. It appears that the Court of Appeals considered this order as part of its analysis. Because this Court will not consider information outside of the record, the contents of this order will not be considered in today’s appeal. See Hardy v. Brock, 826 So. 2d 71, 76 (Miss. 2002) (“Mississippi appellate courts may not consider information that is outside of the record.”).

Folks: the MSSC is increasingly tight on this issue.It’s M.R.A.P. 10(e) or nothing nowadays:

(e) Correction or Modification of the Record. If any difference arises as to whether the record truly discloses what occurred in the trial court, the difference shall be submitted to and settled by that court and the record made to conform to the truth. If anything material to either party is omitted from the record by error or accident or is misstated in the record, the parties by stipulation, or the trial court, either before or after the record is transmitted to the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals, or either appellate court on proper motion or of its own initiative, may order that the omission or misstatement be corrected, and, if necessary, that a supplemental record be filed. Such order shall state the date by which the correction or supplemental record must be filed and shall designate the party or parties who shall pay the cost thereof. Any document submitted to either appellate court for inclusion in the record must be certified by the clerk of the trial court. All other questions as to the form and content of the record shall be presented to the appropriate appellate court.

The Court may not be terribly happy that you’re supplementing the record after your Rule 10(b)(5) certificate that the record looked just dandy to you; but there are worse things that can happen, like the footnote quoted above. Tacking the missing portion onto your brief just won’t cut it these days. (And for heaven’s sakes, don’t put it in your record excerpts! One day, we predict, the Court is going to treat that as a misrepresentation that the document in question was in the record, and Cause will be ordered to be Shown.)

… Changing subjects, a sidenote: curiously, the MSSC cites the COA opinion by Westlaw pagination (“*4″ etc.). If anyone at the Court reads this blog, may we very, very, very respectfully submit: Please Don’t. Not everyone has Westlaw, and citing to the paragraphs of the slip op is accessible to everyone. That indeed is how we’ve typically seen the Court operate in the past, which is why this instance caught our attention.

… While we’re on “things lawyers should avoid,” Philip Thomas points out that you can’t get 6 extra pages in your 35-page limit by fiddling with line spacing … at least, not without your district judge’s noticing. Of course, federal judges can fuss at you even if you don’t break the rules. Y.t. noticed that the local rules didn’t specify a font size, a few years back, so we used 11.75-point TNR. The court evidently thought we were supposed to obey the unwritten rules. (Which we do, when they’re about playing nicely together, etc. However, we do not believe that the Ten Commandments were engraved in 12-point Times New Roman.)