Saturday, September 12, 2009


(Sorry for the hiatus. Was in Australia. Will post photos and recap some day...)

I had never really understood the fascination people have with the surpreme court (nor with the continuing coverage of the space shuttle though that I can explain to historical path dependence) but people seem to love talking about Nina Totenberg (a favorite answer in nytimes crosswords and this comic) and the latest antics of Scalia or Roberts, or that Thomas never talks, or the excitement over Sotomayor.

Though a recent minor change allowing surpreme court proceedings to be taped may change my mind. Flipping on CSPAN as is my habit on the elliptical, I happened on the latest hearing on campaign finance reform.
From the cold logic of propositional calculus and induction based machine learning, to the somewhat rigorous forms of economic proofs, to the styles of academic argumentation, it amuses me to think formally how conversation/debate/dialectic/dialog works. These other forms are easier for me to follow, but it is interesting to see the logics employed by the supreme court. The reliance on analogy and precedent, the backward induction and strategic consequences of various statements, what is allowable as evidence and what is not.

I guess I knew some of this given that I teach it in class and have been working on a model of malpractice, but it is neat to hear it directly. I imagine allowing the voice recordings will help (a bit) get people more involved in the courts; I'm surprised it took so long.

Though one thing that sadly may be lost, is Nina Totenberg's dramatic re-enanctment of surpreme court debates on NPR, now that we have actual recordings.

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