Thursday, April 01, 2004

Pretty pictures

Chief Justice Rehnquist, repository of all that is gold-trimmed in the American judicial tradition, has occupied three roles on the US Supreme Court; Chief Justice; Justice; and, a couple of decades earlier, law clerk to Justice Jackson in 1951-2 and 1952-3.

In the latter capacity, Rehnquist wrote a memorandum to his Justice urging the court to uphold the segregationist Plessy precedent in the school cases (Brown v. Board of Education etc). The memorandum is well-known in one sense - it's been written about in quite a few books, and was discussed during his confirmation hearings and so on, but you don't actually see it very often, hence this post. Rehnquist's claim has always been, even under oath during his confirmation hearings iirc, that the memorandum was written in order to put on paper some of Jackson's own thoughts. That seems to me implausible; firstly, because, while Jackson probably hoped the segregation cases would go away and be dealt with by other institutions, there is not much evidence Jackson was much tempted to uphold Plessy. Secondly, because the memorandum is similar in style, content, and paper type (that cute round-cornered stuff) to any number of memoranda written by law clerks to their Justices in that era as attempts to persuade them to take some position. I guess, though I don't know for sure, that this material was written by the law clerks themselves, whereas material produced for the Justice's own use was typed up by a secretary and appears quite different. Anyway, that may be all a bit too archive-geek for public consumption, but the real interest here is wondering how far Rehnquist's views on majoritarianism have actually changed, even if he now accepts Brown as good law.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Occasional graphology

Data from pollingreport.com.

The boy emperor is in trouble (and the recent CNN poll showing Kerry behind Bush in a matchup is also a clear outlier for approval rating, implying that it's just a particularly Republican sample). I really wish the press would talk about polls more sensibly...

UPDATE: Gosh, I post several times a day and six people read it; I post once in three months and the world comes to my door, thanks to the crooked timberites and the washington monthlies. Anyhow, it seems like a good idea to send people onwards to a more comprehensive set of similar charts, though of course their graphs are nothing like this pretty. I should initially have pointed out that it was frustration at the continued absence of Dr Pollkatz that drove me to post these charts, which I have been keeping up for consultancy work purposes, even if it's not RAEable. Oh, and the Y-axis does not start at 40-ish out of some grand conspiracy to encourage people to think that GWB now has approval ratings near zero, but because that's the number selected by openoffice to show all the data efficiently. This should not cause problems for people capable of reading two-figure numbers; note that the Y axis is no different to any of the other parallel horizontal lines.

UPDATE II: I think presidential matchup polls should be consumed with suspicion until "Labor" Day. That said, if you liked these two graphs you will probably find The Things I've Seen poll of polls fascinating...

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