Hmm, I'm absurdly busy right now. But file this under: there's a lot to talk about here. This afternoon's legal history email brings news of Frank J. Tipler's latest article on ssrn, entitled "The Obama-Tribe 'Curvature of Constitutional Space' Paper is Crackpot Physics." Professor Tipler's abstract reads:
The Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe published a paper entitled "The Curvature of Constitutional Space," wherein he argued that the strict constructionist interpretations of the U.S. Constitution were obsolete, being based on a Newtonian world-view, and need to be replaced by a more modern relativistic and quantum mechanical world-view. I shall show on the contrary that in using general relativity and quantum mechanics, we have never left the Newtonian world-view. It was shown in 1923 by the greatest geometer of the twentieth century, Elie Cartan, that in Newtonian theory, gravity is curvature just as it is in general relativity. The greatest twentieth century theoretical physicist in Poland, Andrzej Trautman, showed in 1966 that the equations of general relativity are mathematically equivalent to Newtonian gravitational field equations interacting with the luminiferous ether. Physics Nobel Prize winner Lev Landau showed in the 1930's that the Schrodinger equation, the basic equation of quantum mechanics, is a special case of the Hamilton-Jacobi equation, proven in 1837 to be the most powerful formulation of Newtonian mechanics. Erwin Schrodinger himself proved that his equation had nothing to do with probabilities or fundamental uncertainties. Since it was demonstrated mathematically decades ago that twentieth century physics is Newtonian mechanics, then by Laurence Tribe's own argument, it follows that all objections to strict constructionism are without merit. Tribe's physics is not post-Newtonian but pre-Newtonian, the physics of Aristotle, in which the arbitrary will of the powerful is the dominant influence in reality. Tribe's politics is, like his physics, profoundly reactionary, replacing unalterable law with the ever changing personal preferences of judges. As I shall demonstrate, the recent Boumedienne vs. Bush decision is a particularly egregious example of such replacement. Furthermore, Tribe's main books on Constitutional law are adversely influenced by his bad physics.
Like me you may be surprised to see that Senator Obama's name appears nowhere in the abstract. So what does Obama have to do with this? Tipler's first sentence says that Tribe wrote the "Curvature of Constitutional Space" with the "assistance of then editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review B. Obama." The article appeared in volume 103 in November 1989--and Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review for volume 104, so Tipler has the time-line mixed up. Obama was, however, listed in the acknowledgments as one of five research assistants. I've already cautioned against drawing inferences about Obama from what appeared in the Harvard Law Review while he was running it here and about his "lost" "article" here. Now we're drawing inferences from a faculty member he worked for (and sure, maybe he wrote some footnotes for this article--might even have written a little of the text above the line; who knows?). But, hey, why not throw in Obama's name.
Come to think of it, I may add him to all my papers. Senator Obama taught Ruffin's opinion in State v. Mann in his race and law course at the University of Chicago Law School. How's "Obama and Thomas Ruffin: Of Moral Philosophy and Monuments" sound?
One other quick observation: it's been a long time since I read Tribe's article, but wasn't he was using physics as a metaphor for what happens in constitutional law? Tribe's contribution, I thought, was on how we think about constitutional law. Anyway, Tipler's paper is available for download for free here.
This has, however, given me the idea to look in westlaw to see what other articles Obama worked on as an RA. And it turns out he was thanked by David Rosenberg for assistance on "Of End Games and Openings in Mass Tort Cases: Lessons from a Special Master," which appeared in the Boston University Law Review in May 1989 (69 B.U. L. Rev. 695). Alfreda Diamond Sellers was the first person to cite him in a law review article (for Dreams from My Father), in the Mississippi Law Journal in 1999.
And now back to work on University, Court, and Slave. Or, maybe I'll call it Obama, University, Court, and Slave....