Archive for October 2007

Strange tidings from the sketchiest sports league

October 26, 2007

Formula 1 is the most political sport in the world, and the 2007 season was no exception. The U. S. Grand Prix was an occasion for haggling between F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone and Indianapolis Motor Speedway leader Tony George over future installments of the race. Ecclestone implied the race was a gift to Americans because the league didn’t need any U. S. presence. George will hold him to that: F1 is not returning to Indianapolis for the near future.

The season-ending standings were even more emblematic:
(1) Raikonnen – Team Ferrari – 110
(2) Hamilton – Team McLaren – 109
(2) Alonso – Team McLaren – 109

It’s a just conclusion for Alonso, who declared war on his team early in the season because he thought handsome phenom Lewis Hamilton was getting more attention. A little cooperation off the track could have put either over the top. Alas, Hamilton collapsed in the last two races, and Alonso doesn’t even have a trophy to show for it. The two have not even earned McLaren an award for being the best team. This trophy does exist, but McLaren is not eligible because it stole secret documents from Ferrari a few months ago. So actually, I don’t feel badly about McLaren at all.

This being F1, even Raikonnen’s win is in dispute. He was perfectly ethical, but three of the drivers who finished between him and Hamilton in the last race cheated. If they were disqualified, Hamilton would jump in the standings and take their title. F1 did not award Hamilton the points at first, but the case is still working its way through appeals. When you win several days after the fact by DQ, does the champagne taste the same?

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J. K. Rowling is the world’s #1 Harry Potter fanfiction writer

October 26, 2007

J. K. Rowling completed her descent from “Harry Potter Creator” to “Harry Potter Fanfiction Writer” this week. You’d think this sort of thing would be impossible, but I was quite the fanfiction reader in my time, and her recent statements have practically filled the checklist. Before I begin, I must acknowledge my debt to my friend Andrew Shvarts, who proffered much of this analysis:

Not being original. Ok, she has a big advantage over the fanfiction writers here because she created the universe, but after four books, she largely coasted on the formula and the past creations. Every time she needed something scary, she brought back the Dementors because they were more compelling than anything else she could create. (As Andrew noted, the “new villains” in the sixth book were zombies.) It would have been impossible to run out of aspects of human society to satirize; she just stopped trying as hard.

Assuming that a “darker” story will automatically be more mature and hence more meaningful. Fanfiction writers could turn Super Mario Bros. into a bloodbath, but that doesn’t mean they should. Since the first book, Harry Potter was a happy universe that had tragedy in the background. People could relate to this. The last books had lots of tragedy and no happiness.

Forgetting the subtle reasons the source material is great. This is related to my first point: after she “got serious,” she stopped inventing cool magical things. Enchanted “Potter Stinks” badges and knights who actually lived inside their paintings were half the fun!

Sexualizing characters for no apparent reason. Dumbledore isn’t the only one, though his case is the most egregious because it’s so utterly random. I mean, Dumbledore was more asexual than the Pope. Now he’s a tenant in Lemon City.

Mawkish romantic writing. For any given work, 30% of the fanfiction is violent; 30% is porn; and 30% is speculation about certain characters hooking up. (Many works combine the three.) Lupin and Tonks and Bill and Fleur were pleasant match-ups, but they came out of nowhere. I know Rowling introduced Ginny’s attraction to Harry in Book 2, but they never developed chemistry. Book 2 Ginny was the best, really; afterwards, she was never more than the generic “good girlfriend” character. Harry’s feelings for her, or at least Rowling’s descriptions of them, never got past two dimensions.

Writing a story in serial format, then losing interest and never finishing. This didn’t actually happen because Rowling had basically the entire world waiting at her doorstep, but we were close. If Rowling were working without pay, like fanfiction writers, I don’t think she’d have finished this. Check out the release dates: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007. I know she was also working on the movies during this time, but by her own admission, writing the fifth book at least was a “chore.”

Publishing the first draft. Fanfiction writers don’t have time to edit, and who’s keeping track anyway? The Potter books got longer and more convoluted without saying more. How did the fifth book, which was nine hundred pages, become a two-hour movie without losing any plot? Plot logic also suffered. Hogwarts must make students dumber, because the twelve-year old heroes were suspicious of Tom Riddle’s diary, but the sixteen-year olds fell for Snape’s Potions Book, which was practically the same device. I think after she hit the big time, J. K. Rowling’s editors were too intimidated to do their jobs. Besides, when she struggled so much to make deadline, it didn’t make economic sense to give the works serious revisions.

Continuity errors. The most famous example was when her readers informed her Marcus Flint was due to graduate in the 2nd book, not the 3rd, but there have been others.

Inventing previously unknown powers for well-known objects and places. Fanfiction writers have to do this so they can fit their stories inside a certain universe/time frame without openly committing continuity errors. J. K. Rowling did this with just about everything in the last couple books: the snake, the invisibility cape, the wand rules, Quidditch… This is a category of Deus Ex Machina.

Rewriting one’s favorite books by proxy. After I read the seventh book, I was fairly certain Rowling had read both The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Writing oneself into a corner. Harry claimed he was devoted to defeating Voldemort, and various events indicated he’d have to do it himself. His weakness in Occlumency was presented as a serious problem. Yet Harry never got serious about his studies (perhaps because this would break formula), and this was all brushed under the table later.

Post hoc additions to the universe which interfere with the work. Can you imagine if Shakespeare had cleared up all the mysteries in “Hamlet”? No one would read it. Rowling’s statements about Dumbledore’s sexuality, the characters’ future vocations, and about what various characters said off camera both restrict the reader’s imagination and destroy certain scenes. Some readers said the epilogue was OK because all that mattered was that Harry had a family. But now it’s clear she should have just rewritten the epilogue. You have to let the work stand on its own.

Inserting oneself as a character. Just kidding.

The last book was released only three months ago. “Transformers,” which was released a couple weeks prior, is still showing in hundreds of theaters, yet the seventh Harry Potter feels dated. The book gave us the vitals, and the ending made us verklempt for a week, and then we moved on to other things. The Dumbledore announcement was random not only for its weirdness but also because it seemed to come from the distant past. Given the way people still tear up over “Romeo and Juliet” and quote “Casablanca,” (“I am shocked, shocked to find that there is gambling going on in this establishment!”), this silence is damning to the evaluation of the book among all-time greats. I think the first three books will be classics, but the rest will eventually be glossed over, like “The Magician’s Nephew.” Jim Davy pointed out to me that movie-making may have stunted her imagination, and I wouldn’t be surprised. After spending so much time putting her universe on the big screen, how could she not see Daniel Radcliffe when she thought of Harry Potter? It’s a shame. Halfway through, Rowling was threatening to do so much more. Instead, she ended up no better than her hardcore fans.

Noche de San Juan

October 25, 2007

‘TWAS THE NIGHT OF JUNE 21st, and noble hedge knight Peter van Tassel was on his way home after another productive day of acquiring honors and assets for his lords, Morgan and Stanley. After passing three long summers as a squire, with countless vigils in front of his computer and quixotic quests for parking spaces for his superiors, he was now jousting with the most able gentlemen in all the Emerald Isle.
Manhattan is verdant not for its bushes and trees, however, but for the color of the currency that abounds there. To most men, finance is a mystery: they haphazardly sow their investments with no strategy from one day to the next, and pray to the rain gods for success. They subsist but rarely produce anything more. Peter’s comrades, however, needed no superstitions or harvest festivals, for they understood the science of the matter. Everywhere they wisely sowed their dollars, businesses sprung from the ground.
Whenever he closed deals or received his paycheck, Peter felt like quite the magician. There were other times, though, when he felt something itching him. Like when he missed an entire rainstorm because he was sitting in his cubicle the whole time. Or when he returned to his matchbox apartment and his sleeping roommate was a veritable lord of the forest, so lively was he in comparison to the bare walls and mute appliances. Or when he saw the dirty hands of sun-baked workers on the subway, and he struggled to remember what mud felt like.
The itch had Peter tonight. He’d heard it was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and yet he hadn’t been outside for one minute of afternoon sunlight. From its peak, to the middle, to the setting, the daylight changed, but the whitish tint inside Peter’s office was exactly the same. Now, he was finally outside. He’d only had to work until 3 AM. He usually took a taxi from his Times Square office to his home on the Upper West Side, but today he felt a compulsion to frolic, so he elected to walk through Central Park. Sure, there was the threat of robbery, but police would be around. More importantly, if petty criminals had the discipline to work as late as investment bankers, they would have never run afoul of the law in the first place.
Our man enjoyed himself from his very first steps into the park. He was not too old to feel ashamed of adventures, and as he strolled down the path, he felt like one. The wind soothed his face, and so romantic was he that he imagined it was singing to him. The trees were leaning over him, shielding his path. “How are you guys doing?” he said in a voice that sounded loud to him but was really quite quiet. He reached out to touch the bushes and was surprised when they scratched him. Clearly, he’d forgotten much since the day Little Pete crashed through the forests, nicking himself in a hundred places, in order to escape a single bee.
Peter’s Cub Scout reverie was shortly broken, not by any sudden event but because he couldn’t concentrate amidst all the noise. The cicadas, crickets, and frogs were having a contest to find out who was more irritating. There was the low buzz of moths around the lampposts and the twitter of ever-more-numerous fireflies. Odd raccoons and squirrels and other animals were scrambling for food. (These curfew-breakers must be the teenagers of the breed, thought our very funny protagonist.) Most disconcerting were the things that would suddenly fall, causing Peter to whirl around and clutch his hand to his wallet in defense. Were they branches? Acorns? Men? In his apartment, objects only fell when something went wrong. Here, he didn’t know.
He tripped. What was…ah, it was just a vine caught on his ankle. Which was strange, really. He wasn’t walking through any shrubbery. He pulled it off his shoe, only to have it stick to his hand. Didn’t it get the message the first time? He sighed and turned into a faceful of bird. He cursed and knocked it away, after which it yelped and fluttered into the trees. Peter stomped forward, indignant, pushing aside both tree branches and his brain, which was telling him birds don’t sound like that-
Another tug, on his right wrist this time. He thrashed his arms, and light scattered. He paused too long; the lights flashed in front of him, and then twenty pairs of fingers pulling at his hair. Something grabbed at his eyelashes, and he blinked it away, but not before catching a glimpse of something he’d never forget: a tiny face, an inch away, laughing at him. He felt naked for the proximity. As he asked himself whether he’d ever looked at a lover as closely as he’d seen that mysterious visage, he felt his watch go loose. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it fall to the ground, but too slowly, as if someone had penalized the laws of physics. The pressure on his head loosened, and the things – fireflies? – flew toward the timepiece. He reached to grab it and then stopped. He recognized them now, and he was so awestruck he had to shout their name like an infant: “FAERIES!”
Having suspended his disbelief this much already, he asked no questions when a crowd of little bearded men rumbled out of the forest and clustered around the watch like ants. “Hey!” “That’s ours!” “Ya damn faeries!” they grunted. The watch clattered on the asphalt path like a tin bell, and the match began. Gnomes leapt into the air, tackled the faeries, and slugged them. The faeries, in turn, blasted away with their wands, sending many gnomes hopping around, holding their rumps and yelling “HOT! HOT! HOT!” Beards were tugged; wands dueled with pointy hats; faerie dust splattered against the pavement.
Peter could have easily taken his watch back, but he was laughing too hard. This was air v. land, brains v. brawn, beauty v. money, and most importantly, “metros” v. “real men,” and just another installation of a fight that had raged for thousands of years without our knowledge. All he needed was some popcorn and a buddy.
Something nuzzled against him. It was a white teddy bear which stood on its hind legs. It had bat wings, but how could something so fat fly? It had a filament on its head with a bright yellow ball hanging off it – why? The most ludicrous thing of all, though, was the leather pouch hung over the bear(?)’s shoulder. Inside it was…mail?
The being, as he would learn later from Wikipedia, was named a moogle. He had to rub its belly, it was too adorable. It was appreciative but focused instead on pulling something from its bag. Peter’s jaw dropped to the earth. The package wasn’t just bigger than its own mailbag; it was bigger than the being itself. The beast, which had carried himself with such ease moments before, tottered and fell to the ground from the object’s inertia.
Peter tore off the wrapping paper like a kid expecting a Nintendo 64. This was not a good idea, as he cut his hand open on the object inside and bled on his nice work clothing. (What was his job again? He couldn’t remember.) The bear noticed the blood and backed up. “No! Don’t go away!” Peter protested, but he didn’t have to, because it was instead clearing room to break-dance. It shuffled its stubby legs, pumped its wings so its body could move in directions no human being could go, spun around on its side, and then bounced up and down on the ball on its head. The being’s strange anatomy suddenly made sense to the man. He was astonished, and he felt much better. The best part came, though, when he looked at his wound: thanks to the dance, it was gone.
“Thank you!” he said. Then he turned his attention to the package which had bitten him so badly. What was inside was even better than video games…it was a sword! His very own! Peter jumped to his feet and swung it every which way, yelling “Hyaa!” and nonsense Japanese. The moogle ducked around his awkward swings, then tugged at his pant leg and gave him a handwritten note:
“Good luck! You’ll need it.”
And that’s when the evil cackling started.
“This man’s soul is ours!” shrieked voices from behind Peter. He turned to see three cloaked wenches flying on broomsticks. He wanted to make some kind of joke about his ex-wife, but he didn’t have one, so he ran instead.
And what a chase it was! The little stone animals from the clock at the Children’s Zoo followed him, playing urgent music. Imps prodded him with pitchforks and snickered, an activity they usually reserve for people who are desperate to hail taxis. Trolls cast bets on whether he’d live or die. When he ducked inside bushes to hide, he swore he could hear animals whispering about how slow he was. And everything, from trees to lakes to flowers to water fountains to the clods of dirt he kicked behind him, at some point transformed into a beautiful woman importuning him to sleep with her. Not only from running was he hot around the collar.
Hours, even days passed, it seemed, inside the forest. He almost didn’t want it to end, so much did the place match his childhood dreams. He’d never seen so many new colors. He felt like he was on the edge of something big: only an investment banker would walk through the park at 3 in the morning, and only he was brave enough to do it. His world, so sterile before, was now teeming with life. It was never quiet here. There was always something behind the next tree: something to fear, yes, but something to anticipate for the same reason. Had the homeless men known about these creatures the whole time? Were they then cursed or blessed?
He stumbled into a large clearing in the middle of the park. He’d seen a massive green structure inside it, and he hoped inside he could find allies, weapons, anything of use. When he came within ten feet, however, he slid to a halt. For the mass was no building at all.
The witches knifed into the clearing and into the mouth of the dragon.
Peter looked up. The reptile was about thirty feet tall, and more fat than strong: likely, this was one of Giuliani’s schemes to solve New York’s crime and stray animal problems. It had the same rich green tint as the Manhattan grass which is watered every day. It seemed to have gills, all the better for hiding in the ponds. Cracker Jack boxes, Poland Spring bottles, and other refuse were stuck between its scales. Most importantly, it didn’t seem hungry anymore.
Peter backed away from the dragon diagonally, thinking that taking the more difficult route would improve his chances of success. No good. It spotted him and lazily swatted its tail. Sending Peter flying twenty feet backwards.
He was sore, all right. He was bruised and cut everywhere from his run, and on top of that, he hadn’t exercised in three years because he worked such long hours. But that was no reason to cede his honor! Trumpets blared, and faeries threw flower petals on him, and our hero clambered to his feet for battle!
Peter charged. The dragon yawned, and the heat from its breath singed our hero. He danced forward, imagining he was floating like a butterfly, and jumped and stung the dragon with his sword. It reflexively kicked back, but Peter rode the kick, flipped, and received an 8 from the judges for his landing. Pant, moan, repeat.
An experienced knight would have found the disjointed efforts of Peter and the dragon humiliating, but inside the young man’s mind, he was going full speed. Eventually, he became familiar with the dragon’s movements. He learned to hop sideways to avoid its swipes, that his magical sword repelled fiery breath, and most importantly, to only attack when it wasn’t looking. The grass was soggy from the day’s rainstorm, but he thought he was sloshing through the dragon’s blood.
Then, from nowhere, came the climax of the fight. The reptile had digested the witches and was ready to feed again. That bothersome boy and his fishing rod would do. So it leapt to its feet and struck its head down, opening its jaws wide to eat Peter. The man’s eyes grew as wide as the full moon in the clearing sky. He slid to the side, feinted unnecessarily, and stabbed the dragon in the cheek.
Its roar was not as mighty as the cheering that came from the woodlands. All of a sudden, dozens of people were around them, tending to Peter’s wounds in one corner and muzzling and leashing the dragon in the other. Peter collapsed in the grass, basking in the adulation from all sides. He hadn’t felt like this since he’d won a game of Red Rover for his class at the age of ten. “What if I-bankers lifted the boss up on their shoulders after a big deal?” he thought. “Wouldn’t the world be a better place?”
The faeries laid him on a seat of laurels. A spry young man bowed and sat across from him. He wore a sepia suit with vines and branches strewn across it. On anyone else, the outfit would seem disheveled, but with his ruddy countenance, thick brows and open face, such decorations gave him vitality.
“Do call me Robin Goodfellow.” He tipped an imaginary hat and twinkled his eyes as if on cue. His wild hair did not distract Peter from his wilder eyes; the man seemed to be thinking faster than anyone he’d ever seen.
“Well, hello, sir,” he responded. “My name is Peter Van Tassel. I work for Morgan Stanley.”
“Ah! Mucho gusto,” he laughed. “We’re always hoping more of you boys will come down and play with us, but you always just taxi by.”
“Oh?”
“Indeed! The chaos of finance! I love it! Everybody running willy nilly, stocks falling, crashing, crazy hunts for parking spaces…oh, ho, ho! The faces I see here are priceless. You stockbrokers punk each other in ways I never could have imagined.”
“But it is ordered…it does all come together…”
“Come now, don’t spoil the fun! Do you know, really know, what’s going to happen to any stock over the course of a year? Oil shocks, new technology, personal scandals, there are hundreds of ways to confuse things. More than once have I witnessed secret deals, even – ho, ho, trysts! – happening here in this park. Sure, it all holds together and has its own distinct character, but be honest, Peter, if the game weren’t thrilling, you wouldn’t play.”
“Well, that is a fun way to think of it.” Peter smiled. “Perhaps I’ll have the courage to leave this magical place after all. By the way, if you don’t mind my asking, what the hell is going on?”
“What’s going on? My good man!” Robin grabbed some grass and blew it into the wind, just because he could. “¡Es La Noche de San Juan!
“Pardon? Noche de San Juan?”
“Ahh yes, I’d forgotten that you Anglos don’t celebrate it. This was the longest day of the year, which makes it the shortest night of the year as well. This is the night the Chinese wall between the world of magic and the world of men is broken! It is a night of adventure!” He was on his feet now, striking various poses usually reserved for football players. “And you wandered right into our spectacular!”
“The world of magic? For real? I mean, it seems more likely that I worked too late, and I’m making this all up…where have you guys been all this time?”
“Oh, we’ve been around. There are as many of us now as ever. Didn’t one of your playwrights say that a faerie dies when no one believes in her? Bollocks, that idea’s part of the problem. Humans – especially the ones who say they’re open-minded, like that writer – assume that nothing outside their perception can exist.” He couldn’t concentrate when he wasn’t moving, so he picked himself up by his hands and slowly turned in a circle. The rotating soliloquist was childlike but compelling. “Your grandfathers had a better sense of it because they slept and worked their days out here with us. There is no privacy in a forest. You always have the sense that something is out there, moving, even watching you. So the fellowship between your kind and ours was strong.
“Then came big houses, high walls, running water, and air conditioning. Life was safer for you, but our fellowship was broken. We didn’t leave, Peter; you left us. Well, don’t you feel lonely sometimes? Shut up in your walls, totally alone? Going to a tanning machine because you can’t make time for the sun? Turning up the stereo because silence is so unnatural?”
“Yes,” he responded softly. “That’s it. The romance is missing. We tell our children stories about it, and then we forget it all.”
“Perfect!” he clapped his hands. “Well, my friend, I’m glad we could bring you a night of adventure. Come back and commune with us! Bring a potted plant to the office! And have lots of children!”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me! Do it!” He whisked Peter to his feet. “Now, it’s time for you to go to bed.”
“No luck. The sun’s rising already. It’s time to get breakfast and go back to work.”
“Ho, ho, ho! The shortest night of the year, indeed!” He clapped Peter on the back. “And here’s your watch. To get to your company, take the first star on the right and go straight on ‘til morning…hmm…” he pointed. “Which is that way. Goodbye now!”
Peter made his exeunt to applause. Everyone, from the largest troll to the smallest imp, wanted a piece of his sound financial advice.
“Say, Pete, I’m taking a trip to the end of the rainbow this weekend for a pot of gold bigger than anything we’ve seen before. When I find it, I’m going to turn it over and invest it in the market. Want to come with?”
“Gold’s hot right now, but I’d feel badly about making like the Spaniards and adding to our inflation rate. Thanks anyway, mate.”
“It’s taken me thirty years of trolling fountains, boy, but I’m finally sitting on the largest stash of spare change in all of New York. Aren’t you proud?”
“Actually, I’m disgusted. Why don’t you use it to use any of it? It doesn’t matter how many shekels you have if you smell like compost.”
“So I’ve always wanted to know, what’s bond liquidation? Is an investment bank really a bank? How can you split a stock into the present and the future? Doesn’t that require time travel? And how is it possible to have money that doesn’t even exist on paper? Is it just a concept in everyone’s head?”
“…I don’t even know what to say to you. Just stay here with the pixies and don’t think about it.”
The walk down Broadway had never been more captivating. He saw each detail clearly. The people crowded on the sidewalk became individuals to him, each walking with his own distinct gait, hundreds of moving parts within a single frame. Nor were the humans alone. Was that a faerie in that orange tree? A gnome treasure-hunting in that squeaky garbage can?
One, two, three, forty floors on the elevator, and he entered his office. Donuts and orange juice were set on the table. The herd stood around it and chewed. Peter cut through them and tore into the spread with abandon.
“Hey Peter,” muttered a body next to him.
“Hey! How are you?”
“Um. Fine. Um. Is that a tree coming out of your collar?”
“Oh, just a branch! Haha, that tickles. That’s great! I think I’ll keep it there, it’ll add some life to the place.”
“Um. Okay. Good luck with the pura vida, Tarzan.”
“Thanks for the support! But you can just call me Puck.”

In and out of Room 1408

October 20, 2007

“1408” is thrilling but random. Three different themes are presented, but none are developed enough to make an emotional impact. This isn’t surprising because the source material is a short story Stephen King wrote to have fun with hotel room scenery. The film adaptation seems to be a training exercise for something more meaningful. I recommend it for action directors who wish to learn more about timing.

I’ve been writing for student publications the last few weeks. I’ll make a more specific announcement when they go to press.

Hart, Holmes, Aquinas, and the Basis of Law

October 15, 2007

H. L. A. Hart introduces the concept of a “rule” as an improvement upon J. L. Austin’s “command.”  A command occurs when one person orders another to do something and makes a credible threat of retaliation if the order is not obeyed.  The law, according to Austin, is simply the set of commands the sovereign makes to its subjects.  Austin, a positivist, believes that the morality and quality of the laws, being outside the framework of the command, do not reflect the laws’ legitimacy.

Hart criticizes Austin’s view for its lack of sophistication.  He implies that the command theory is the equivalent of “might makes right”: since power is the only source of legitimacy, there is no difference between an armed robber and an armed police officer.  According to Hart, there is a significant distinction between being “obliged” to follow a command and being “obligated” to follow it, and he devises the system of primary and secondary rules to embellish this observation.

According to the philosopher, law is the “union of primary and secondary rules.”  Primary rules are the directives for human behavior which typically come to mind when we think of laws.  If we only needed these, Austin’s command theory would suffice, but in fact secondary rules are address the shortcomings of uncertainty, stasis, and inefficiency (i.e. inequality, illegitimacy, inflexibility, and lack of law enforcement) which would plague a system made up of only primary rules.  The three types of secondary rules are rules of recognition, which establish the legitimacy of the sovereign and equality under the law for citizens; rules of change, which detail how the sovereign can create or modify primary rules; and rules of adjudication, which establish law enforcement and criminal justice systems.  If the majority of the people, including the authorities, obey the primary and secondary rules, then the legal system is valid.  Hart’s argument is somewhat circular: which comes first, the secondary rules or the acceptance of the rule-makers?  Nevertheless, it conforms in my opinion to the way the law actually works.

Oliver Wendell Homes seems to come closer to Austin’s views.  In The Path of the Law, Holmes says that the law is a prediction of what the courts will do.  While value judgments affect the creation of laws, values do not substantiate the legitimacy of laws.  The law must apply not only to those who feel obligated to follow it but also to those who will follow it only to avoid punishment.  Since the law is also effective for those with no moral fiber, it does not have implicit moral content.

Hart addresses Holmes’s point when he writes of the “internal” and “external” aspects of the law.  They are basically in agreement that the law must account for the person who is only loyal to avoid external consequences.  As Holmes and Hart both lie more on the positivist side of the legal spectrum, the two pieces do not conflict much ont the issue of morality.  Their disagreement is over the metaphysical status of a law: is it a “rule” or a “prediction”?  Holmes’s view is criticized because if applied universally, it would instruct judges to predict their own actions.  This is most true with a body such as the Supreme Court which has no one to overrule it and thus no one to anticipate it.  My biggest problem with Holmes’s view, though, is that while it has been promulgated for several decades now, it is still counterintuitive, even for parking violations, which are as devoid of moral content as any other edicts.  I believe this is due to a tacit acceptance of rules of recognition: as long as our sovereigns are humans rather than computers, our laws will feel like rules.

Unlike Hart, who draws the legitimacy of laws for the recognition of its subjects, Thomas Aquinas ties the law to the universal, unchanging laws of God.  To interpret him in a less theological way, law draws strength from its accordance with natural law, the commands of reason for the best way to live.  A law that harms the people, whether intentionally or unintentionally, loses legitimacy.  If there is no such objection, a man has a moral obligation to follow the law.

Aquinas’s view is dependent upon the existence of both reason and the common good, not to mention an omnipotent, omniscient, unchanging God.   So Hart’s argument is safer for our deconstructionist era.  I do believe in the same concepts Aquinas does, however, and I believe they are universal to all men.  Thus, while I respect Hart’s view, I believe the Thomist philosophy is the most adequate.  Without being circular, it provides rational arguments for both obedience and conscientious objection to the law.