Monday, December 31, 2007


Prof. Leiter's latest post reads in full:
The top two results for a Google search of "Leiter" are my philosophy blog and this blog. Take that Al Leiter and Felix Leiter!

Interesting. In his final post, Buffalo Wings and Vodka (a UT law student at the time) wrote:
I’d like to thank the network administrators at each and every American law school for making wireless internet access available in classrooms. Without you, my readership would have consisted mainly of my mom. (And maybe Professor Brian Leiter, provided that I took the time to mention him so that his weekly self-Google would bring him here.)

I think levity is a good way to end the year. Feel free to use this to make your predictions for '08.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Should Nuts and Boalts Sell Out?



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Least Popular Agency

As I sit in the Seattle airport I read that TSA (the airport security people) are neck-and-neck with the IRS for status as "most disliked government agency." Apparently, they are also likely to surpass the Post Office as the butt of jokes.

Which was on point for this traveler, because TSA was in fact the MOST disliked government today at noon when he was subjected to a "random security search" at Pullman, Washington. (That always happens to me, by the way. Is it that jaywalking ticket, the fact that I never check luggage, or just proof there is a God and He hates me?)

The article above consists of a piece of investigative journalism, followed by boiler-plate denials and mission statements by TSA -- the he said/she said content is not particularly informative. The two questions I had (only one of which was addressed by the article) were:

Why does TSA rate out so much lower than law enforcement agencies with comparable missions and practices? And, aren't the invasive, cumbersome, time-consuming airport security procedures a good reason to be irritated, in face of the fact that they are also expensive and obviously arbitrary and ineffective?

I can't bring myself to engage in anything other than polite cooperation with airport employees who slave away for about 30,000 per year (I also would like to board the freaking plane!) but the spokesperson who lied to the AP about complaint response policies (first linked article, above) and managed to tell readers exactly nothing about the agency's perspective on the issue . . . is that really the voice of the agency in charge of keeping the skies safe?

Anyway, Happy Holiday.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I do not fancy I know what I do not know*

Prof. Somin of the VC links to the handy poll results below.

He is surprised by how little people know about the issues based on the percentage of people who claim they need more information. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Given the modern news-cycle, it's really hard to have informed knowledge about a lot of things other than Britney's sister getting pregnant. I think the more revealing numbers are the LOW percentages for certain key issues: abortion, gay marriage, faith and values, and the war in Iraq. The opinions are essentially formed on these issues and there is no budging. The voters in Iowa will in all likelihood vote based on these issues that they are firmly wedded to and not really sweat about Sen. Dodd having a better proposal about the nation's long-term debt.

* Socrates said this after he basically harassed all the other professions and realized that they pretend they know everything but in reality they know nothing. I make no comment whether law professors fall under this category.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No, the World Is Not Ending

The New Yorker reports that reading will soon be extinct. There's a lot in the article to ponder (only 11% can contrast two editorials' view points?!), but I think it neglects one possible explanation: the rise of reading in the workplace. As the economy has become more white-collar and services-oriented, there's more reading at work. Think of all the (pointless) emails people read daily that they never read before 1990. It is possible people don't read at home because they're sick of reading from their workday. For example, I'll occasionally read a book when I come home from work. But far more often, televised sports triumph after a day of reading briefs, laws, articles, opinions, etc., etc.

So maybe there's cause for hope. Otherwise, my daily newspaper's going to be a lot more than a buck in twenty years.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Numbers Game

For those who recently swore in to the California Bar, your bar numbers should start popping up on the website. That is all. Also, this whole bar number thing is a lot like the Stonecutters.

[For bonus points: the partner next to my office has to attend a Boy Scouts event where Jerry Mathers of Leave it to Beaver fame is the guest of honor. Please guess the appropriate TV reference that immediately came to my mind].


In response to John Steele's question below, a review session for the MPRE is much more useful 1 week before the test rather than 2. The general consensus is that students spend a minimal amount of effort to study for the MPRE. As a result, last minute cram session works best. Second, students generally do not have access to review sessions by BAR/BRI until 3L year. This is simply because the vast majority of people end up at firms. And firms that offer to pay for bar prep courses do not do so until you accept your offer during 3L year. That's just a long way of saying that the number of students who have access to a commercial review session is not as large as you'd think.

As a personal tip, if you're the obsessive type, then read all the comments to the model ABA rules. And if you're really on an ethics binge, feel free to read and discuss this ruling by the California Supreme Court about what not to do when you see privileged docs.


Oh, Berkeley

From the San Francisco Chronicle, regarding the Downtown Planning Advisory Committee's recommendations on what Berkeley should do next:


Another potential problem with the plan is that no one knows if it's economically feasible. Developers might not be able to make a profit with the proposed height limits and green construction requirements, ultimately leaving downtown in the long-term slump it's in now.

"We're very much concerned. We want to see some real economic measurement," said Deborah Badhia, executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, which represents business owners. "There's a lot we agree with, but we very much want to see the business sector remain healthy."

The committee didn't look at economic factors it ran out of time, and "the majority (of members) felt they couldn't trust economists," Travis said. "We felt it was our job to come up with a Christmas wish list for the city. It's up to the parents to decide what we actually get."


When I think about how beautiful the town could be, and how it's run, I feel sad. I suppose two points pop out to me: 1) the committee didn't finish its work completely, but instead decided to turn in a speculative report, and 2) the committee does not appear to have wanted to economically vet the plan anyway ("the majority felt they couldn't trust economists").

I think the last point should have gotten that majority of the committee fired, but I don't think that will happen in Berkeley. My current bet: no one can economically develop given the constraints imposed by the plan, downtown continues to deteriorate as investements by UC, others are wasted.

Counterhypothetical: would downtown improvement proceed more smoothly without a planning advisory committee, but with a constant police presence instead?

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Contrarian Theory of the Iowa Caucuses

Politics posts tend to fare poorly on N&B, but if people are desperate for procrastination, I want to suggest a new theory about Iowa & NH primaries. Here goes.

It has become very trendy to bash Iowa and NH for their central role in the primaries: They have too much influence on the nomination (see, e.g., what Iowa did for Kerry in 2004). They have poor judgment about the general election viability of the candidates (again, Kerry). They're not representative of the national Democratic electorate. Only a few thousand people vote or caucus. It's cold there, etc.

But is it possible that Iowa and New Hampshire aren't really disproportionately shaping the results of the race -- but simply ratifying the conclusions the rest of the country is slowly coming to?

Political reporters always assume the rest of the country is paying as much attention to politics as they are. But this isn't true at all. In fact, most of the country -- even Democratic primary voters -- could care less for 98% of the year.Survey after survey shows that voters don't pay attention at all until a few weeks out from the election. And so when pollsters come calling months ahead of time asking people who they're voting for, name ID and other handy mnemonics tend to decide the results. (Remember Joe Lieberman's "lock" on the 2004 nomination in early 2003?). But when voters finally start to think about things, their opinions can change dramatically.

Iowa voters are starting to think about things. NH too. And so forth through the early primaries. With this in mind, take a look at this list of current polling in the first six major Democratic primaries or caucuses, in the order in which they go to the polls. The number represents Hillary's average lead over Obama, according to Slate's Election Scorecard (and the most recent NV poll, which Slate doesn't have).

Iowa: + 0.1%
New Hampshire: + 7.3%
Nevada: + 8%
South Carolina: +9.6%
Florida: + 30.9%
California: +32%

In other words, in perfect lock-step, the sooner the state is about to vote, the more Hilary's lead shrinks. The more the voters are thinking about the election -- filling out their sample ballots, meeting the candidates, seeing TV ads, watching debates, reading newspaper coverage -- the more they like Obama instead of Hillary.

This could be bad, bad news for Hillary -- even more so than the pundits are already talking about. It looks like the more the public sees of Senator Clinton, the less they like about her.

If Obama indeed wins the nomination, it might not necessarily be because of his last-minute surge in Iowa and New Hampshire. It might just be because when voters finally think about things, they're not so keen on the Senator from New York.

(PS -- I'm personally torn about all three major candidates (and I even like Biden a little too), but I figure I have winter break to worry about that.)


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Arcane Bluebook Question

Pardon the interruption, but I have a challenge for the Bluebook mavens out there. Which of the following is correct:

1. N.D.W.Va.
2. N.D.W. Va.
3. N.D. W.Va.
4. N.D. W. Va.

My co-workers seem to think it's 4. They're probably right. But it looks ugly on the page. Can someone find a reason that 1 is better, or an example of it?

Oh, and can you do that in the next 2 hours? We have to publish this sucker.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Let's give grants to the [poor] rich

Just as our Dean is celebrating his recent win to raise our tuition (err- the UC calls it "student fees" because the state supposedly doesn't charge "tuition" - but that's a long story), I see Harvard's recent announcement.

I'm not offering any solutions with this post, and I know there will come a time I need to put my money where my mouth is (when DE comes calling). I'm just evoking discussion among those who seek to procrastinate (as I am).

My take: Call it envy, call it frustration, call it a huge "motha-*#*$&@$@" debt load, but I'm hoping that those elected to be in charge of this state (and the university) are taking notice. There's something fundamentally wrong with the notion that a private school is performing the task of providing education second-to-none at a price that remains affordable (laughably so - capping at 10% of family income for even those making $180k?!) and our public school system cannot.

The consensus in previous discussions regarding our raise in tuition was that the extra cost would be worth ensuring our place among the best universities. The problem with that line of thinking (in light of new developments) is that those higher fees could hinder our ability to fill the seats with the type of students who would have their choice among those best universities. If any further evidence were needed, see here.

PS: good luck on [remaining] finals everyone...

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The Good Old Days of Martial Law

COL Morris Davis, USAF, has an opinion piece in today's LAT that is worth sharing. Just to put things in context, COL Davis is an Air Force JAG officer who was appointed as the chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. During the case of Australian David Hicks, COL Davis threatened to bring charges against Hicks' lawyer, MAJ Mori, USMC, for bashing Bush in the Aussie media. How can I say this tactfully? Davis will not be thought of as carrying on any fine Berkeley traditions. That's why the op/ed is so intriguing. More importantly, last week the SCOTUS heard arguments in two consolidated cases challenging the adequacy of these Commissions. Hopefully an enterprising clerk will read this piece.

Speaking of SCOTUS, man they are really bulldozing the guidelines to the ground. I was right on the result, but way off on the makeup of the majority. Oh well.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Continuing That Fine Berkeley Tradition

Many 1L's expressed frustration this fall that they were required to take (2) elective courses, regardless of the credit load. IP-ers could take intro to IP (which is now divided into two classes, totaling 5 credits) and satisfy the requirement. Con Law-ers, who will also be taking 5 credits, were required to take another elective, for a heavier credit burden.

I confess that I (a Con Law-er) wasn't particularly concerned with the issue. What do I care what other students are taking? I WANT to take classes. I think they are interesting and I like law school. But I could see their point. There is something unfair from a workload/study time/grade curve point of view -- if that's your bag, and all. Although I never saw the petition that was signed and sent to Dean O., I probably would have signed it. I'm in Berkeley, after all.

Long story short: "V" is for Victoria, "O" is for Ortiz, and apparently they letters may also stand for "occasional victory." Hat tip to the folks who put so much time into the petition while others of us were, err, blowing off studying. This email just came to 1L's from Dean O.:

Dear 1Ls:

Dean Shelanski and I have spent a good bit of time discussing the issues raised by the requirement that you each enroll in two electives regardless of the number of units that gives you for the semester. As many of you know by now, depending on your choices, some of you might end up with 17, 18, or even 19 units, a very heavy academic load.

Dean Shelanski and I are extremely sympathetic to the concerns of those students who are worried about such a heavy semester. At the same time, we are to some degree bound by the faculty decision that second-semester 1L students take two electives, regardless of unit total. Our concern in all of this is to balance academic requirements, professor preferences, and student needs. The issues many of you are facing in this regard have been increasing year to year, and therefore we are planning an in-depth review of the second 1L semester program by the Curriculum Committee, in order to determine what changes, if any, might be warranted.

In the meanwhile, as an interim matter, I will happily authorize those of you wishing to take one of the 5-unit electives to forgo enrollment in a second elective. However, I am asking that you each complete and leave for my signature (during the first week of the spring semester will do) a Petition for a Waiver of an Academic Rule, indicating your desire for me to approve the waiver of the two-elective rule.

Best of luck on your first law school finals!! Don't forget to come to the Goldberg Room (as early as 7 a.m. if you want) for breakfast on those days with morning finals scheduled.

Dean Ortiz

Boalties changed something substantive about their quality of life. "Mark it, Dude."

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I <3 GMail

Breaking News: Gmail has added a new feature integrating AIM buddies to its chat. This is the latest of several changes including colored labels, and yellow smiley faces. I am seriously in love with gmail.

Straight Fom the Horse's Mouth: Fall 2007

I stumbled across "professor quotes" threads from years past, and have a few of my own to share. I'll post them in the comments section, so as not to bury the morbidly interesting _____ thread below.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Grinch Who Stole You Know What

"Homer, a man who called himself You-Know-Who just invited you to a secret wink-wink at the you-know-what." -- Marge Simpson

Finals Distraction A
Finals Distraction B


Monday, December 03, 2007

The Jack London Bar Crawl

Because you really want to put off studying for finals until the last minute...
Because you study better once you've had a few drinks in you...
Because P's are for overachievers...

I present to you the Jack London Bar Crawl. (Not to be attempted by amateurs).

Start: Quinn's on Embaradero in Oakland
Time: around noon
Highlight: eating peanuts and thowing the shells on the floor, into the Estuary, or at the waitress

Next up: First and Last Chance, in Jack London Square
Time: Somewhere around 2pm
Highlight: You're not that drunk yet; the floor really is slanted.

Hungry?: Try the Happy Hour at Kincaid's (at the end of Franklin St; any further and you're in the water)
Time: 4-6pm, Monday Thru Saturday
Highlight: $3 margaritas and mojitos

Proceed to: The Warehouse, 4th & Webster
Time: 6ish
Highlight: All the off-duty cops (inconspicuously) still carrying their guns.

Still standing?: The Fat Lady, Broadwayish. Just ask your friendly street person for directions
Time: If you can read your watch, you haven't been drinking enough
Highlight: A good chance to meet the 'locals'

Only one left: Merchant's, On Franklin & 2nd, before Produce starts
Time: Last call at 2am
Highlight: How can you not love a bar who's official slogan is "When you're having more than six..."

And remember, kids, when you drink, always drink responsibly! (Translation: I hereby disclaim any liability for you injuring yourself or others as a result of your visiting the fine establishments listed in this post.)