Sunday, March 30, 2008

A 'Peer to Peer' Legal Aid Clinic

Speaking as we have been of legal aid (see generally here; here), I share this good deed the kids over at USF School of Law have been up to.

According to the linked article, the record industry has been sending letters to college students they believe may have shared music online. The letters threaten civil and criminal litigation unless the students settle within twenty days for sums ranging from three to six thousand dollars. Apparently many students, scared by the threatening tone of the letters, simply pay up without negotiating or exploring their options, or even determining whether they are actually liable. I find that frustrating, but not very surprising.

What IS surprising, frustrating, and also disappointing, is that the respective universities (Stanford, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University and University of California-Santa Cruz) have been providing students' names and personal contact information (un-subpoenaed) at record industry request.

That's just lame. Make 'em work for it, for chrissakes! Student privacy and freedom from trolling and harassment (which is not a completely unreasonable way to construe the letters) is valuable and worth protecting -- just ask Dean O!

Anyway, USF Law: kudos for taking care of your peers. I like it.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nuts, Churches, Zealots, Child Sacrifices!

Here is a news story of from this week that I keep thinking about:

Diabetic Girl Dies as Parents Pray Instead of Calling For Medical Aid.

The headline makes it sound like Mom and Dad exercised poor judgement in a rapidly changing situation. But that's not quite what happened. Primary diabetic ketoacidosis generally involves a long, slow spiral around the drain before a patient actually succumbs. A patient (or their guardian) generally has lots of time (in this case, about a month) to consider their response -- indeed, the fact that this child's parents called on the "Elders" for advice a number of times shows they were considering their situation.

This morning the Church issued a press release. Oddly, it was nowhere to be found an hour later (maybe they got some good legal advice?) At any rate, I was able to dredge it up with my browser's "back" button and upload the release to Cal Webfiles:

Press Release from Unleavened Bread Ministries Regarding the Death of 11-Year-Old Madeline Kara Neumann and Our Experience with Her Parents, Dale and Leilani.

"[The AMA 'admits' to medical mistakes, but nobody goes after that organization] We know that the doctors do the best they can with what they have and we do not condemn them. We would like the same consideration."

The lunacy of that quote speaks more loudly than anything I could say here.

There is something important about the freedom of ideas (including religious ideas). There is intellectual value in allowing departure from the cultural norm (think: Galileo) and there is 'justice value' in not telling other people what to do with their lives, how to raise their children, etc.

But there is also social value in basic level of education, in training young people how to get by in the modern world, and in allowing our children to (*gasp*) reach an age where they can make their own choices.

The state of Wisconsin is exploring criminal charges. Good -- I'm thinking of the Chuch and complicity/conspiracy in reckless homicide, and Tort damages to the extended family. I hope someone makes it stick. It may or may not be fair to throw the parents under wheel here, but surely it is less fair that an eleven year old girl died for no reason. Something tells me the that the 'word of God' as quoted so freely in the press release might reveal dramatic new interpretations if the old interpretations required the Church to start paying zillions in damages and in criminal defense fees every time their "faith" adversely affects the health of a child.


Also, Boalt 1L Danielle M (who is definitely *not* a religious nut-job) gave an interview at the Shark, which slipped through the cracks earlier this week. She's a cool lady and she has some insightful things to say. Check out the interview if you get a chance. As a little bonus, if you read the comments below the video, you will discover that not one, but two of your fellow Boalt 1L's are from North Idaho. 

Lucky you!

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Your own backyard...

The New York Times (aka "the paper" to my NY friends and family) apparently has us all figured out.

Check out the write-up here.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

And the winner is...

Mark Yudof, our new university president.

Read more here.

Of note: Yudof is also a "lawyer and expert in free speech, education and constitutional law" at the University of Texas.

Since the UCOP office is in Oakland, it may not be outside the realm of possibilities that we'll see him soon here at Boalt.

Let's hope so, as he also comes with a much higher price compared to Dynes (the man he replaces). A 50% increase to $600k+++.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

US News: Great Rankings or Greatest Rankings?

[HT to The Shark and CF] Boalt is now 6th in USN&WR rankings, ahead of Chicago (which lost Sunstein AND the internet in the classroom) and UPenn, which as I've said before, does not belong in the top 10. Kudos Boalties, now on to the difficult task of not turning into DBs.

[Update: PDF of 20008. Cf., the 2006 rankings].

Speaking of daunting and impossible tasks of improving Boalt, Michael Bazeley is in charge of improving your school's humble website. Please offer your feedback's to him at this blog that he has created.


Monday, March 24, 2008

W for Wrong

I watch The Daily Show/Colbert Report religiously (true to my racial* preferences), but today I couldn't change the channel because of Frontline's "Bush's War." It's really surreal to imagine that there are some Boalties now who were not even in college when this War started. But more than a refresher, it's borderline unbelievable to see just how completely wrong this Administration has been about well everything.

Relatedly, Prof. Yoo had an op/ed in the WSJ yesterday. I really don't understand why he writes these pieces. Cherry-picking quotes from the Constitutional Convention to tar and feather the Democratic Party's use of super delegates? Really? That's undemocratic? How about we concentrate on quotes that, you know, thought it was dangerous to leave the power to make war in the hands of a single person.

* It is with great regret that I report yet another speeding citation. They marked my race "O" yet again (scroll down to update). Bastards.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Vernal Equinox?

[Homer orders a weight loss tape that's supposed to contain subliminal messages. Little does he know that the tape they send him is a vocabulary builder]

Dad, do you know what today is?
Homer: The vernal equinox?
Lisa: No! It's been two weeks since you got that tape. Let's get you on the scale!
[Homer gets on the scale]
You've gained thirteen pounds.
Homer: Disingenuous mountebanks with their subliminal chicanery! A pox on them!


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Westlaw search of the year

To my friends seeking a career in litigation: I only hope you have a deposition one day that is HALF this entertaining.

Well, it probably wasn't entertaining to the attorney at the time, but hilarious for all of us to read about it afterward!

The best summary of the transcript has been provided by the Court:
"In fact, Wider used the word “fuck” and variants thereof no less than 73 times. To put this in perspective-in this commercial case, where GMAC's claim is for breach of contract and HTFC's counterclaim is for tortious interference with contract-the word “contract” and variants thereof were used only 14 times."

To see the transcript highlights, search for yourself: 2008 WL 542386



But in the meantime (and only tangentially related), see the post below on the homelessness topic.  I'm a lazy blogger sometimes and it may take me some time to convey a position properly!

Monday, March 17, 2008

This time Harvard's reducing tuition at the law school

You may recall a prior post concerning Harvard's tuition reduction for undergrad students. Stanford and Yale (and others with equally ridiculous endowments) matched shortly thereafter.

Today Harvard announces a new plan that would eliminate tuition for 3Ls who promise to work 5 years for non-profits or government.

I found the article unclear whether the tuition elimination would be in addition to their current form of LRAP. If these students ALSO have LRAP, Boalt no longer has a tuition advantage for people interested in those fields.

Assuming the pattern continues with peer institutions matching, how do you see Berkeley continue to compete?

The Few, the Learned, the . . . Cuddly?

It has come to my attention that each of the following gentlemen-Boalties strikes one or more of my lady-peers as "cuddly."

The list, which is set forth below, is best left to speak for itself:

1) Eric Bib*r (Property), from Jeopardy
2) Paul Schw*rtz (Information Privacy), from Brooklyn
3) Hect*r (Manager, Cafe Zeb), from the other side of my morning coffee
4) John Y*o (Con Law: Structural Issues), from the Bush Administration
5) Christopher Edl*y (Interim Dean), from the Obama Administration and the Campaign For Boalt Hall

These people have nothing in common, right?


Apparently, they seem to have the better half of Boalt Hall in common! This is fascinating.


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March Bracketness?

So the best three weeks of college sports / illegal gambling are about to descend upon us, and I just have one question: is someone running the Boalt pool this year? Cause I ain't heard nothin'.

Now, I know it will be hard to imitate the inimitable MW, who has run the pool in years past but is now here only in spirit and through the occasional North Oakland house party. But I hope someone steps up to the plate. In fact, if someone is willing to run the logistics and the math, I'd be happy to send out the sardonic round-by-round update emails (and offer full abuse of my journal's copier too.) Yeah, that's not the fairest division of labor, but I'm up for it -- and I'd hate to see the Boalt pool go the way of the Boalt Briefs.

In the meantime, in case anyone feels a need to argue with someone other than a televised Billy Packer (he couldn't hear you in real life either!), I offer the following questions to whet your whistle:

1. Is Memphis the most overrated 1 seed since...Memphis in 2006?
2. The Pac-10 officiating crew will be locked in the broom closet of the Staples Center for the duration of the tournament, right? Cause finding three homeless bums from under the 110/101 interchange and giving them whistles would be a more preferable option than allowing these clowns to blow another game.
3. Stanford's Mitch Johnson: Worst point guard in the Pac-10 -- or all of college basketball?
4. Are you honestly going to listen to the selection committee and take Wisconsin over SC in the second round?
5. If Duke and UNC both lose before the Sweet Sixteen, will Dick Vitale's head explode?
6. Come on, Kansas plays one (admittedly) awesome game on national TV, and suddenly they're everyone's favorite?
7. If that guy with the pony-tail from Washington State hits one more goddamn clutch three...
8. Excuse me, but who did Xavier play again?
9. You'll get no pity from me Arizona State!
10. How many minutes can a normal human endure a UCLA fan hyperventilating about how "Wooden is great!" and "Howland is great!" and "The yellow C means we're the first to get to a 100 championships!" before you have to beat yourself unconscious with your own flip-flop?

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Question Begging, Et Alii

Twice today I have heard abuse of the phrase, "It begs the question . . . "


Misuse of that phrase is a pet target of my uptight side, right up there with hearing "milk" pronounced as "melk" and "height" as "heighth," as well as overuse of the semi-colon and legal latin, conjunctive use of "thus," use of "complicated" in place of "complex," "creative" instead of "imaginative" and . . . well, the list is long and admittedly arbitrary. (And all that stuff is probably only marginally more irritating than hearing someone gripe about grammar.)

I'll spare you exposition of my personal quirks, and instead open the forum for what may be important to only the very dorky and uncool (like me): if you were grammar police for a day, were where would you strike first?


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can helping homeless hurt them?

Here's an article in the Chron regarding attorneys helping fight homeless citations.

Essential premise: had attorneys not fought a particular homeless man's citations, he would not have died by OD'ing in the city's public library.

Do well-intentioned lawyers actually end up doing more harm than good?

It's a particularly relevant question for us to ask as (1) we have a ton of homeless in Berkeley; and (2) we've got a number of students and professors who volunteer in this way.


EDIT: I'm not sure if people really got the purpose of this post - I guess I kind of threw it out there without a position. I was lazy and was seriously expecting some clear and prompt disagreement. I had even sent it to some friends I expected would be best at refuting him, as I didn't agree with his rather ridiculous column, and they would be best at putting him in his place.

The one thing I can say is that I didn't expect people to so readily agree with the author. Wow. People say I'm conservative, but I'm not CRAZY (I'm not all that conservative either). Mental health and homelessness are serious problems that require solutions beyond the author's suggestion that the legal system could handle it. And it's offensive to say that the people trying their best to correct the system are, in fact, to blame for making it worse.

For future reference: if I throw out an article/column without more than a "what do you think" - do NOT assume that I agree with the author. I'm trying to spark an intelligent debate in an open (yet anonymous for y'all) forum. Often the columns/articles that I disagree with most will be ones that I'll rely on my anonymous commenting friends to refute.


Our Mazillion Dollar Makeover

My fair lady of the stacks shares a few words about upcoming Boalt Hall renovations:

At the Town Hall Meeting [ ] some of you expressed hope that we would be able to upgrade the Boalt Hall facility. As Dean Edley noted [adept fielding of the question at 10:39, here], we have already begun work on this, and we intend to step up our renovation activities this summer (you'll be hearing from us soon about the details). In the meantime, we thought you might like to see some before and after shots of a few of the spaces that we have already worked on. (Note that the photos don't always do justice to the changes. If you are a 1L you'll have to ask a 2L or 3L just how uncomfortable the 1951 fiberglass, fixed seating in 100, 105 and 110 actually was).

She also shares some before-and-after photos of projects already completed.

I gotta tell you, compared to the old UCC at the University of Idaho, Boalt Hall is the lap of luxury. I'm happy as a clam.


Also, hat-tip shiny gold star to Boalt grad (from back when Boalties were from Boalt) Larry Frankel, who is the ACLU's new Legislative Counsel.

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Washington and Lee Cuts Class for its 3L's

A commentator in an earlier post asks: what's wrong with the current structure of legal education?

The Dean at Washington and Lee, supported by a unanimous faculty, answer that question thusly: "For some time, members of the legal profession, practitioners, judges and scholars alike, have urged law schools to place greater emphasis on professionalism and learning in context."

His solution? Replace the entire third year curriculum with "experiential" learning, including actual interactions with clients. It's being implemented as we speak.

Here are his words, a National Law Journal article, and a WSJ Law Blog post.

3L status remains far, far over the horizon for this chap. But, which should I value more: the opportunity finally play lawyer, or the opportunity to finally take Wine Law?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is Law School Really That Awful?

The law blog reports on a pamphlet that will be distributed as part of a "mental health toolkit distributed to ABA Student Division Presidents. I do not downplay stress and depression. These are serious threats to health and well being of young people in general—not just law students. And the pamphlet, which is based on “two generations” of law students, teachers, and lawyers trumps my anecdotal accounts, but . . . I’m sitting in a lecture hall full of people who seem pretty cheerful. These people really do look happy. Is my school (or maybe just my property class) an anomaly, or is there a much darker picture under the social exterior?

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Hat Tip to Shiny Gold Star for Liu

Looks like we managed to get one inside.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A time and a place

Thank you again Patrick for live-blogging the DE event. It gave me the opportunity to go to the 49ers event instead. I encourage people to see the town hall post below this very long one.

For those who missed the 49ers event, it featured the 49ers' Executive VP of Football Operations and the 49ers' Football Operations Analyst. These two people handle contract negotiations and some legal work for the 49ers (salary cap, budgeting, land use with the new stadium, etc). The point of the event was to be a Q&A-style opportunity for people interested in sports law (learn their daily routine, background, etc). The analyst also happens to be married to a 2L in our class, but that's somewhat tangential.

The event was sponsored by SELS- which is mostly made up of three people.

The event started a bit late because the speakers got caught in traffic. They arrived and some kid got up and started walking all around the room with a camera taking pictures of the speakers. I thought that the kid was with the school, as he was snapping a ton of pictures and had a very expensive camera.

It progressed well for about 20 mins of introductions and got about 5 questions into the Q&A before a Boalt student asked about disability pay for former players. The main speaker got about 3/4 into his answer (recall: he doesn't work for the league, he's just the contract and negotiations lawyer for one of its teams) before the same student cuts him off to ask another pointed question on the same topic.

This continues with progressively more awkwardness and hostility before the student reveals he had invited a former NFL linebacker. The linebacker then starts reading off of a speech he had written about how he was injured, the NFL had been denying his claims for disability, and how he's now poor and unable to pay for his college kid (which he then identifies to be the kid with the camera who has been snapping pictures the whole time). [edit: the connection to the photographer actually being his son, versus simply gesturing to any old college kid, has been disputed- anyone else get a read on the accuracy of this? At a minimum, expect to see this in some newsletter or college paper. The greater point is that it was clearly orchestrated.]

One of the SELS organizers then asks the linebacker if he'd allow students to ask questions, as this detour had taken 20 minutes of the total 30 thus far. The main speaker said he'd be more than happy to talk to him about the subject at the end after other people asked all their questions. Three or so more students ask questions. Then another student asks a question to bring back up the mental health issue again. The topic carries on for another 10 minutes of awkwardness. The main speaker has been very gracious thus far (no frustration visible, though I'm sure it existed) and the other speaker is being relatively ignored despite I'm sure having had plenty to say about his job. It hits 2:00 and the same SELS organizer would have to interrupt once more because there was a class coming in to the room.

My gripe: we have a hard enough time getting high profile business or sports related speakers to come to Boalt as it is. We also have a hard time with our lesser funded student orgs getting coordinated to throw events that people would enjoy. Here's an example of a small group with passionate members getting high profile people to come speak at our school, but one of our own students organizes an ambush of the speaker during the middle of the presentation. To make it worse: neither the speaker nor the topic had anything at all to do with the ambushee's goals.

I'm all for people having their causes. - especially this particular one. The NFL's retired players ARE getting the shaft on disability pay (though both the league and the union are to blame).

BUT neither speaker had anything to do with disability pay and SELS certainly doesn't need to be stabbed in the back by its fellow students. I sincerely hope today's events do not discourage either SELS or future speakers from coming again. Thanks to them both for at least attempting to give me and my fellow interested Boalties a window into sports law in the NFL.


UPDATE: Confirmed the event was a staged sabotage with media on hand to witness it.  Why couldn't they at least have given their fellow students a heads up?


Live Blogging D.E.'s Town Hall

There is no reason for me to be the only person doing this, especially if anyone else was thinking of doing something similar. But how to make it easy for others to play along from home, or the office, or the other side of Booth Auditorium? Here is what I came up with:

I'll transcribe the questions and answers in the comments section, in real time. That way the forum will be wide open for anyone to contribute. And this (60 minuets early) shout out will serve as a heads up. That way anyone can tune in (or tune out) as they see fit.

Does that work? Hope so.

See you at 12:45.

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I've got a bucket of SH!T and I know how to use it!

We've all heard of the tree sitters protesting the stadium expansion.  But it would be a parallel tree sitting protest that made news today, this time regarding the school's BP contract.  See Here.

To tell you the truth, I've been skipping a lot of these updates to not bring attention to their cause(s).  However, this post caught me by surprise.

I've been sleeping easier at night because these crazies were out of towners, hell bent on bringing Berkeley back to the crazy way it was in the 1960s.  With this fact, there's hope people would see them for their crazy ways and it would not reflect poorly upon the school I now attend.  But this guy in the article was identified as a former business student.  Damn, we breed them too evidently.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Semper Fi Code Pink

Awwww, I just had fond memories cross my mind while watching the Daily Show [No. 35] report by MAJ Rob Riggle (USMC) on the Marine recruiting fiasco. I'll link to the video clip as soon as it's up tomorrow.

Money line: "Wouldn't it be great if there was some organization sworn to defend that freedom of speech?" And the video [HT: Matt in comments].

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"Waste" By Any Other Name

. . . weekend SF Gate article about highly educated Indian women, married to highly skilled professionals, who are not allowed to work because of their immigration status:

[There are] thousands of women who came to the United States on the coattails of their husbands' H-1B visas, granted to highly skilled professionals to fill jobs at the software companies and technology labs of Silicon Valley. But under the conditions of their H-4 dependent visas, spouses are not allowed to work here. Often highly educated and skilled, they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of social and financial dependency on their husbands, while struggling to adjust to life in a new country.

. . . followed by a comment from "jmp":

I know most will disagree with this comment because Xenophobia is all the rage now...but it is sad that the people who grow up as citizens in this country are raised to be too stupid (through homeschooling, poor schooling, etc.) to be much use except for working at WalMart or aspiring to be the next drugged out celebrity. Whereas the highly talented and educated people that come here ready to work hard and contribute high-value to our economy and not allowed to. It is no wonder we are slowly being crushed in the global economy.

. . . Tom?

What is the Fletcher Perspective on this one?


What the?


My Con Law professor just explained that the Mann Act is a relic past its prime. I wish.


Now that I have recovered a bit, I can register my disappointment. Other Boalties with whom I have spoken today have given me knowing smile or a wise nod, and said things like: "I'm not overly surprised. You know how it is with men in power."

Well, sure.

But prostitution? From Eliot Spitzer? There are many things about him that I have admired -- particularly his aggression toward white collar crime and Wall Street -- and I think my my admiration is why today's news feels like such a kick in the crotch. I have always kind of hoped to see Spitzer as US AG. Maybe even a Presidential candidate.

Well, forget it now.

No matter where you come down on the right/wrong of Prostitution, or adultery, or even the Mann Act, Spitzer's move is a special knife-wrenching kind of hypocrisy. This is exactly the kind of thing Spitzer is supposed to be against, both professionally and personally. It sounds childish, but the truth is my feelings are hurt.

He has angered a lot of people in the last decade. People hate him. People are gunning for him. And he KNOWS all this. So, what on Earth was he thinking?

In other, much more hopeful news, a quick nod goes to Boaltie David, the latest Boaltie to be interviewed at the Shark, as part of a series of interviews to include both students and faculty.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Brain Enhancement is Wrong, Right?

A commentator in another thread recently mentioned drug abuse for intellectual inhancement. The NY Times ran a story about the ethical implications of this phenomenon today, and it is worth a read.

The piece asks some interesting questions. Is there a meaningful distinction between substance abuse in athletics and academics (because unlike athletes, intellectuals' successes drive social progress)? Is there an ethical distinction between a scenario in which an employee chooses to use, say, Adderall, and a scenario that person is asked to use Adderall by their employer? Will we someday put asterisks after Nobel Prize winners' names?

One comment in particular caught me off guard. A graduate student interviewed for the article said, "You can usually tell who’s using [stimulants] because they can be angry, testy, hyperfocused, they don’t want to be bothered."

Ummm . . . right.

Who has been spiking my coffee?

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Really? The Claim . . .

I am long-time fan of the NY Times' Health section column, "The Claim: . . ." 

This week's piece is no let-down.  While we have always heard about the dehydrating effects of caffeine, studies suggest suggests moderate amounts of coffee are only as dehydrating as moderate amounts of . . . water!

Sip, sup and swallow with peace of mind, my friends.  Your kidneys will be just fine.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Does LRAP Need More Funding?

More than 40 Boalt Hall Student Groups have signed on to a letter encouraging the Dean to "take substantive and expeditious action in improving LRAP to keep pace with the rapidly increasing tuition."

I have copied the letter into the comments (rather than post here) due to its length.

Initial reactions:

1) If the school's going to represent to its public interest students that loans will not be a future problem, they should honor this promise.

2) I'm not in-the-know, but how does this dove tail with the Federal Government's new loan forgiveness program?


3) Those who work at firms this summer lose their grants starting next year. 

To many, that's a $9,000 hit each year it would apply.  Yes, I know that $9,000 is less than the $30,000 they make while working for a firm.  

I assume this money is being re-distributed to those who work for public interest. Given that there are far more students who work for firms their 2L summers, that's a lot of extra money being dumped on a relatively small portion of the student body, thus reducing their debt burden before they even graduate. 

Again, I'm not in-the-know, but is there a problem here in the first place?

Note: These comments apply to the suggestion of raising the tuition limit of $90,000 - not on the proposal to expand to additional people who are currently not covered by LRAP (other than maybe to ask about how much the federal government plan would apply to these people as I stated above).

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WOA Woes

Five papers due - about 5 hours each.
Twenty three cases to read - about 225 pages.
Class twice a week - about 17 hours.
Relevance to the "real world" - extremely high.
Moot Court requirement - fulfilled.
Grade - Pass/Fail.

Credits - one.

Shouldn't WOA be worth more than this?


Friday's lighter side...

Possibly best gag to ever hit Mac-o-files at Boalt?

What's the verdict?  Evil or funny?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A firm-issued iPhone?

Secretly (or not-so-secretly) hope that your firm is the first to adopt the iPhone to replace the Blackberry?  

Apple's taken one step closer to allowing that to happen today when it announced the beta version of "Enterprise" - software that makes the iPhone work with your firm's existing email and calendar exchange servers.

I'm a huge fan of the iPhone's interface - especially the web browser.  I have yet to find one that's as intuitive or effective at capturing what the site is actually supposed to look like.

Big downside in this realm, of course, will be the lack of a real keyboard.  Hopefully through beta testing Apple will address this issue (such as allowing you to turn it sideways for a wider keyboard when sending emails).

Maybe ready by September 2009?  Please?


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Do People Care About Comments? People Do

A commenter wrote in another thread:
Can we talk about the media coverage on OPEC and oil prices? I'm not sure anything has happened recently except the fall of the dollar. But none of the major media outlets are discussing whether oil prices have effectively changed in euros or any other currency. This just kind of pisses me off. Even the president of OPEC referred to the drop in the dollar, but none of the media seemed to pick up on that and do any analysis.

Well, I happened to have discussed something along these lines with a good friend of mine who is far more knowledgeable about economics than me. So, I asked him to share his thoughts. Here's what he wrote.


As u can see above, while oil prices have increased 226% from 2003 to 2008, the price of the Euro, in U.S. Dollars, has increased by 30%. So no, Europeans are not paying the same amount in Euros for oil today as they did in 2003 or, for that matter, only a year ago.

There are various theories as to why oil prices have seen such a dramatic increase over the last several years. I would argue there are five reasons worth highlighting here.

1) Yes, as long as oil is denominated in dollars and the dollar weakens relative to other currencies, there will be that marginal impact on the price of oil. However, this accounts for only a part of the overall movement in the price of oil.

2) As long as emerging market economies the size of India, China, Brazil, and Russia develop at a rate that is 2 to 4 times that of U.S. GDP growth, demand for oil will continue to increase ahead of supply, driving the price of oil higher (you can google the rate of oil supply growth to compare it to the rate of demand growth if you're really interested).

3) As the price of oil has increased, so has demand from investors, both retail and institutional. Oil futures contracts are now finding their way into Average Joe's brokerage account via direct contracts or an oil ETF or a newly created commodities mutual fund. Of course, demand from alternative hedge funds and the like has increased exponentially since 2003. More recently, chaos in credit markets and weakness in equity markets have driven more money into the commodities markets. I wouldn't be surprised if these "investors" aren't behind as much as a third, if not more, of the increase in oil prices.

4) U.S. oil companies and stand-alone refiners did not build much additional refining capacity during the 90s when oil was cheap and it wasn't "worth it" for them to add refining capacity. Lo and behold, as the price of oil has increased since 2000, not much refining capicity has been added. Hmmmmm....

5) During the Clinton adminstration, when the price of oil increased a couple of percentage points, Bill would summon an OPEC meeting at the White House and threaten to release the U.S.' Strategic Oil reserves, which would promptly bring the price of oil back down. In the 90s, this effectively put a cap on the price of oil. Conversely, when asked what he thought of $4/gallon gasoline, President Bush answered, "$4/gallon gasoline? Wow! I didn't know that."

Hope you're happy for making me stay an extra hour at work.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Next Topic

#1 WTF, Berkeley Law. These new "deluxe" automatic paper towel dispensers provide less paper than my receipt from the Wells Fargo ATM.

#2: WTF, Zeb. Not only did you raise coffee prices this year, but now you shrank the size of the cups. I smell rebellion.



Sunday, March 02, 2008

SF Legal Aid & The Panhandling Law

Interesting SF Gate article discussing on San Francisco's panhandling law. The City feels the law is being frustrated by the court calendar and by free legal aid attorneys who they perceive as 'over lawyering' the cases. Defense attorneys, on the other hand, feel the law targets people who are down on their luck and trying to get by, and that as a method to identify and deliver services to needy populations, the law is a flop.

It's obviously a mix of cases from across the board. But I wonder what our CLO-ers think?