Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's that Time of the Year Again (oops!)

I sense imminent roasting in the comments, but what can I say? I'm a word-lover. Better to be roasted for being a nerd than for any of my other unseemly qualities.

This post is inspired by the fine ladies and gentlemen at Lake Superior State University, who have released their annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. I enjoyed their most recent offering, just like I enjoyed the 2008 list last year. Here is what they have to say (or, more specifically, what they have to not say) for 2009:
  • Green (pertaining to environmental conscientiousness)
  • Carbon footprint or carbon offsetting
  • Maverick
  • First dude
  • Bailout
  • Wall Street/Main Street
  • Monkey
  • <3*>
  • Icon or iconic
  • Game changer
  • Staycation
  • Desperate search
  • Not so much
  • Winner of five nominations
  • It's that time of year again
Lake Superior's website includes detailed and humorous rationales for banishment, so if you are confused you can find an explanation there.

I also have offerings of my own. They are not as commonplace (and and probably not as egregious), but my position is that these babies can be cast right on out with the bath-water listed above:
  • Completely inconsequential (this is redundant)
  • Given the current state of the economy (okay, okay, this one may be debatable)
  • Entered into a contractual relation (what's so wrong with just saying, "contracted," Armen?)
  • Impression (one makes an impression when stepping on soft dirt; when imitating another, one makes an "impersonation." So, to say, "let me show you my my impression of so-and-so" is nonsense)
  • Secret confession (it's either a secret, or a confession)
  • Czar (as in "druz czar." Our government officials already have titles -- why borrow from Russia?)
  • Bisons (the plural of buffalo is still "bison." Ahem)
  • It's like X on steroids (to say this rarely makes sense, unless X really is on steroids . . . in which case it's not "like" X is on steroids at all)
  • Hype (I was wrong. See ) (this word is shorthand for "hyperbole," not some sort of nebulous enthusiasm, so, it should be used when hyperbole is present)
  • In the X context (a sure sign someone is making things more complex than necessary)
Lastly, and in order to end on a positive note, here are a few words I discovered or re-discovered this year, all of which have brought a smile to my face. (Word-loving nerd, remember?) I have listed definitions from the OED, and then explained why I find the particular word so damn lovable:

Dandle, v.
  • To move (a child, etc.) lightly up and down in the arms or on the knee; to move (anything) up and down playfully in the hand.
  • What is not to like about "dandle"? It is one of those fine English words that suggests repetition by ending in “le” (compare “spark” to “sparkle”), it is rare yet has an air of familiarity about it, and it is as loving and innocent a word as there could be.
Pickle, n. and adj.
  • "A rod in pickle" (and variants): a punishment kept in reserve, ready to be inflicted when required.
  • Some kind of pointed weapon.
  • A single grain or particle of sand, dust, etc. A pellet.
  • To pick in a small way, or a little at a time; to peck, nibble; to eat sparingly or delicately.
  • To treat or alter (a painting) so as to pass it off as an old master.
  • Who knew it meant so many things? Not me. Yet every definition seems to fit!
Pontificate, v.
  • To speak in a dogmatic or pompous manner; (also occas.) to behave in an arrogant or high-handed way.
  • I like this verb, because it comes from a noun meaning the office of high priest. Zing!
Besotted, a.
  • Intellectually or morally stupefied or blinded.
  • Been there. Still there.
Retroworter, n.
  • The German word for ‘palindrome’ (which is a word that is spelled the same backward or forward, like ‘level’).
  • Proof that the Germans are more clever than the English: retroworter is a palindrome, too.
Lascivious, a.
  • Inclined to lust, lewd, wanton.
  • I especially like the sound of the phrase, "lascivious intent," which is surely sufficient mens rea for any criminal offense. Just walking around with lascivious intent invites liability -- one misstep and you're screwed.
Crapulence, n.
  • Excessive indulgence, or the sickness resulting from same.
  • Here is what Montgomery Burns, Springfield's incompetently evil tycoon said to the police after he had been shot: "With Smithers out of the way, I was free to wallow in my own crapulence."
Fractious, a.
  • Refractory, unruly; now chiefly, cross, fretful, peevish; esp. of children.
  • The default psychological state at Nuts & Boalts.

Happy 2009, everyone!

* This is supposed to be the emoticon for a heart (less than sign + the numeral 3). Google blogger thinks it is a broken html tag, and keeps "correcting" it for me -- that's why it doesn't look right. Grr.

[Updated January 1 by Patrick to reflect his wrong-ness.]


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Where's Witkin?

There are two kinds of legal scholars in California: those who recognize the name Bernie Witkin, and those who should.

Witkin was a Boaltie (1928) who described his attitude toward law school as "loathing," who argued that the Socratic method dishonored Socrates and insulted students, and who was ever-on-the-verge of flunking out. He may also have been a bit of a schemer; legend has it that while studying for exams he used to make money on the side by selling to other students carbon copies of his notes and outlines (remarkable, given his grades, no?). After graduating, he developed those notes first to teach bar review courses, and then to create a treatise on California law. That treatise became both the seminal authority on California State Law, and the backbone of his career. For over sixty years, then, Bernie Witkin was a professional outliner -- a fact which may make him the only Boalt grad to make a living from the skills he learned in law school.

And to what effect? WestLaw shows that Witkin has been cited by the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal over 20,000 times. Justice Chin of the Supreme Court once remarked, "For me, Bernie Witkin and California law have always been synonymous." Any sentence that succeeds the words "Wikin says . . . " carries the weight of appellate authority. All this despite the fact that Witkin neither practiced nor taught law. I say that's pretty good for a self-described misfit.

The Witkin story is fascinating enough (at least to me) as it stands, but the Chronicle this week reveals a heartwarming twist: although Witkin passed away over ten years ago, his wife's philanthropic work has steadily disbursed his wealth to needy organizations in California generally and the Bay Area specifically, and has made possible many noble undertakings at Boalt, in San Francisco, and across the state. Read the article for yourself -- it's an impressive list.

Without grasping at platitudes, I would submit that Witkin's story and his wife's work proves that good things can come out of the law. It also suggests that people who disagree with the Socratic method (*cough*) may be wiser to stick it out.

J'Accuse Ms. Nichols

Co-blogger Max Power tipped me off to the odd number of votes for Ms. Shannon Elizabeth Nichols' blog on the ABA Top 100 Blawgs vote thing. E.g., her total votes given an average of 100 visits per day according to Sitemeter, the fact that her total votes is twice as much as ATL, where she posted a while ago until the commenters ran her out of town, etc. This is a silly thing, but it sucks to be cheated out of a win by a voting program. What BS.

The Big Rakowski

A commenter below wonders why we quote The Big Lebowski so much. First, I love that movie. Second, it's really a great movie for isolated quotes. Third, there's a special tie to the Boalt community. You young 'ens may not recall the video below from that thing at the end of fall semester, but us grizzled vets thought this was pure genius at the time. For your enjoyment.


Friday, December 26, 2008

At Midnight, All the Agents...

Who watches the Watchmen? Federal Judges, apparently.

As self-appointed nerd correspondent, I thought I should share the news that the district judge presiding over the much-ballyhooed Watchmen case has issued summary judgment in favor of Fox, ruling that Warner Brothers had no right to produce a Watchmen film.

No one really has any idea what this means for the movie's future, or if it will affect the planned March 3rd release date (which I've pretty much been waiting for since I could read).

You can check out the fancy WSJ law blog entry here, or read Entertainment Weekly's solid summary of what it means for Hollywood, or--if you really want some fun--pore through the Fox-bashing from my people at Ain't It Cool News.

Lessons 1Ls Either Should Have Learned or Should Be Prepared For…

First of all, congratulations to all 1L’s on finishing the first 1/6 of your legal education.  To all those 3Ls who are one semester away from it being over, my condolences ahead of time.

Here I will impart to 1Ls (and really slow 2Ls and 3Ls) a few things about law school that you will likely learn on your own someday, but will help you much more if you can grasp early on.  For some people, these ideas never sink in.  These people are determined to define life as a struggle.  I cannot reach these people.

First, the classroom.  By now you have probably experienced the much ballyhooed “Socratic method”.  Look, it is complete bullsh*t.  It need not cause anyone an ounce of anxiety. The sharp ones out there have already figured this out: if you get cold-called in class and proceed to make an absolute ass of yourself, there are ZERO consequences for your grade.  Sure, maybe you feel embarrassed or disappointed in yourself, but these stem from your own vanity and conceit and have nothing to do with your grade (do away with those and you will be forever better off, but that is another story).  Behold, the beauty of anonymous grading!  Your grades in almost every class in law school will be 100% the result of a the mixture of your final exam plus randomness (see below).  So enjoy the opportunity to make crap up on the fly when you are cold-called and generally unprepared.  This will much better prepare you for real practice, when you will frequently have to act way more prepared than you actually are, than will investing way too much time preparing for class by boning up on useless case law.

Second, reading.  If you are really hung up about doing the casebook reading, you are wasting your time. If you don’t know this yet, you will once your grades come out (see below).  For certain classes maybe it is helpful…but for the most part, you can read a case brief, get the gist, and then go enjoy some free time.  There is nothing wrong with reading assigned case law, if you can, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking it is necessary and making yourself crazy in order to do 100% of it.

Third, grading.  You will find out your first semester grades sometime before you graduate.  Maybe even before March.  Your grades are, for the most part, random.  Professors will read your exams with varying degrees of attention.  For the smaller classes, sure, they will scrutinize more, and good work is likely to get rewarded.  But for the huge 1L classes, here is what will happen.

The professor will read your exam and quickly recognize it as one of three types.  The first type is the really well written, reasoned, top-notch law exam.  That exam will be considered for an HH, depending on how many others fall into this group. 

The second type is the really poor exam, missing important issues; lacking facility with legal reasoning; and poorly organized.  However, this is not a “sub-P”; rather, as long as there is SOME evidence of the student having attended class, this student will get a P. 

Then there is the third group of papers falling in the middle.  Not superb, not brilliant, but quality.  These will be all so similar, that the professor will give them a very cursory reading and have little ability to rank the exams against each other.  Most of the papers will be P’s, but some will creep into the H range depending on the size of the first category. 

So, the professor will either (a) throw the papers down the stairs and rank them according to how they fall; (b) have his/her 3 year old decide how to rank the papers; or (c) ask Zoltar how to rank each paper.  (Option (c) is unlikely, because of the required investment in quarters).

I know some of you will find this incredible.  Others of you are going to write exams that fall into the first category.  But for the rest of us, the results will demonstrate my point here.  You will either believe it, or you will resist it and keep overworking and stressing about your grades as if they really correlated to your stress level and work ethic.  But if you can take this lesson to heart now, don’t find it despairing.  Do not be disappointed; be uplifted, for it is a blessing.  You do not need to worry about your grades, because you are mostly going to be in the random category anyway, so find fun and productive and edifying ways to spend your time in law school.  Get involved in a clinic.  Get into yoga.  Make moonshine in your bathtub.  Organize the 2nd Annual Unofficial Boalt Hall Paintballing Extravaganza (for those who were at it last year, you know it was freakin’ amazing, and you’re welcome; carry the torch, and I promise to show up).  Try and get laid for once.  Do something interesting for once. 

The randomness of grading, and thus the insanity of really investing much hope in good grades, also allows you all to focus on the classes that really matter.  Anyone who has taken the bar exam and/or worked in the field can tell you most of your classes are largely irrelevant to either the bar exam or working as a lawyer.  Of course the 1L classes are on the bar exam, but you will be re-learning these subjects in whole for the bar exam, and especially for criminal law and property, they will be very different beasts.  Your success on the bar exam will have almost no correlation with how hard you worked on those subjects as a 1L.  To the contrary, your success at a job will be related to how well you can write.  So you probably don’t want to blow off LRW or WOA.  Yeah, they are undervalued, unit-wise.  But your other grades are random, and those classes don’t matter for sh*t, so you might as well give a little more attention to LRW and WOA. 

(In my opinion, beyond 1L year, the most bar-helpful classes are evidence, civil procedure II (you be a fool if you don’t take it), and criminal procedure.  A bonus is that these subjects are not especially difficult.)

Two important points are worth mentioning here.  First, if you want to clerk, my comments about grades not mattering do not really apply to you.  Grades definitely matter for that.

Second, some of you might be wondering whether grades matter more today because of the economic clusterf*ck in which we are mired.  I think there is some merit to this, but it should not be overstated.  Firms are hiring fewer people right now, and will naturally gravitate towards students with better grades.  That said, there are counterbalancing factors here.  First, law firms may have a better idea of how they are faring by next August, when they will start looking at your transcripts.  Hopefully things will look better by then.  Second, whether you care about your grades or not, your grades are most likely random…this is in beautiful harmony with the utter chaos of the universe in general.  Learn to love it.  If you do, besides being more attractive to nihilists, the energy you can divert to other interesting activities (both school-related and otherwise) will also make you seem more interesting to law firms.


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Thursday, December 25, 2008

An Item to be Shot Dead, Without Rites or Cigarette

I keep on my computer's desktop a running list of words and phrases deserving of ridicule and banishment, similar to this. I'll post them here on New Year's Day in case anyone needs help coming up with resolutions, but there is one phrase in particular that must be killed off sooner rather than later:
"Given the current economic climate . . . [insert some vague and open-ended comment, then close the sentence with a dramatic shrug] . . ."
Precisely what in the name of Festivus do you suppose that means? Anyone? Anyone at all?

Even if one could look past the verbal junk show that is "economic climate" (and that's a big if) there is still the word "given." The phrase does not refer to anything that is given about the current economy. "Given the current . . . " in this case is really a backhanded way to introduce a discussion about events that might happen in the future, as in, "given the credit freeze, legal markets could retract." Why attempt to gesture at profundity by asserting a "given" consensus on a subject no one completely understands? Why not just admit that the future is unpredictable but current signs do not auger well, and get on to the meat of the conversation, which is to speculate about the future?

I know this is a losing battle, but that doesn't mean I cannot formally register my protest. Thanks for listening. In the meantime, have a happy holiday. Given the current state of the economy, Christmas Day is an excellent opportunity to reflect upon what matters.

*dramatic shrug*

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Carbolic Defends Traditional Holiday Values

Feats of Strength? Airing of Grievances? This attack on traditional, consumption-based holidays cannot be countenanced. Also, Seinfeld-lovers must accept that the show was canceled ages ago.

It's time return fire in "The War on Christmas" in the only meaningful way possible--a Youtube faceoff.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twenty Years for Sailor Moon?

I'm going to out myself as a bit of a nerd by posting this, but my interest in comics and the law collided today, when I came across this. It seems courts are upholding child porn convictions for porn that doesn't actually involve children. Twenty years for possessing erotic anime featuring girls that appear underage? (Don't all girls in anime look underage?)

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (one of my favorite NPOs) has become a special consultant for the defense of a manga collector charged with possessing child pornography. This has split the comics community between those who view this as a first amendment issue (like Neil Gaiman) and those who see it as defending perverts.

I side with the former. I don't buy the argument that people inevitably act on their fetishes, so I don't see why we should imprison people for fantasizing. In this case, I certainly don't approve of the fetish, but once you allow censorship of drawings, where do you draw the line? As Gaiman points out in the link above, the law is a blunt instrument, and it's very difficult to ban animated porn without also banning art.

Happy Festivus

The holiday for the rest of us. Hopefully I'll finally get some serenity now. For the uninitiated, here's an explanation.

Carbolic Commemorates Prop. 2 Supporters


Enjoy the break, everyone.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Nothing Says "Happy Holidays" Like an Old Fashioned Airport Camping Trip

This morning I hauled myself out of bed at 4:30, hiked to the Downtown Berkeley BART station, rode to the Coliseum, stood in the rain for twenty minutes, fumbled for three dollars on AirBart, arrived at Oakland International,  jogged to the ticket counter . . . and learned that my flight was delayed for "the foreseeable future."

(Did I check the little "call me with updates on my flight" box when I bought my ticket? Yes. Did they call me with updates? No. But did they call to offer me a "bargain" on rental cars? Oh, hell yes -- about five minutes ago. WTF?)

I understand that delays happen.  I'm headed to northern Idaho via Spokane, which was socked this week with two feet of snow, and where temperatures have been hovering around zero degrees. I'd be moving slowly, too. I get it. But I don't have to like it, and the whole airport experience seems to add insult to my injury.  I sometimes wonder if the "airport" is really some evil deity's pet invention, specially engineered just to piss me off. It wouldn't be the first time that happened.

If your life is like mine, some days you wake up in the morning and are immediately hit with a big pile of crap. And some days you realize: the only thing you can do with a big pile of crap is spread it around.  This post is about today, which is one of those days.  Apologies, all, but here comes a little pity-party-rant for myself and for any other sentient creatures at gate C-6:
  • The waiting areas. Each seat has an immovable armrest. Am I the only one who thinks this is ridiculous? Immovable armrests are anti-homelessness devices.  Is there some sort of homelessness problem in Concourse C?
  • Airport coffee. It sucks.  Period.  (There is a blanket exception for PDX, in Portland, Oregon. Why can't I be stranded there? Why can't everyone else be more like them?)
  • The horn-tooting, bull-hollering airport personnel who cart the morbidly obese on those electric powered flatbeded sloth-mobiles -- all while yelling at ME to get out of the way! "Wonk, wonk, coming trough, people. Move to the right, people, move right." Look, if anybody should be allowed to yell at anybody for not moving enough . . . ?  The way I see it, we're either going to be polite, or we're not.  That means that if if the sloth haulers can yell their personal thoughts at me, I should be able to holler my own observations in return. Right? What's so wrong about that?
  • Security. Oh, god, don't get me started on airport security. Can you carry a bottle of water through a security checkpoint? No. Can you carry 24 ounces of saline solution through the same checkpoint? Yes. "Why?" you may ask. Well, apparently there is an exception for "medical supplies." I would like to know, however: exactly how does that works out in real life? Is it that medical supplies are excepted, or that stuff labeled medical supplies is excepted? I would really, really like to know -- I NEED to know -- because a 24 ounce "bottle of saline" can hold a lot of shampoo. Or vodka. Or C-4.
  • Christmas music. I'm not a Grinch, but I swear to God if I hear Silent Night one more time before 8:00 a.m., something in my brain might rupture. Further, I find the fact that the holiday music here has been cleansed of any culturally sensitive references to God is somehow even more insulting than just singing preachy Christmas songs. It's like they had the political correctness to note the possibility of Islamic or atheistic travelers, but without the intelligence or grace to realize that some people might prefer not to have the tune piped down their throats, either.
  • Special security announcements: "This is a special security announcement: please maintain control of your personal belongings at all time. Unattended baggage is subject to search, inspection, damage, and removal. Do not accept items or packages from unknown individuals. Unattended vehicles will be ticketed and towed." Okay, first of all, this message has been playing in airports every 80 seconds for at least the last seven years. So, there is nothing "special" about it. Second, what's with "ticketed and towed"??? Is that really the TSA's car bomb strategy? Seriously? I'd hate to be the tow-truck driver. If writing tickets is all it takes to deter terrorists, then why not skip the announcements, the cameras, the 7 billion dollar budget, and just start ticketing terrorism?
I freely confess the real problem here: I'm being a cranky whiner because I went to bed late, got up early, and am confined to furniture that forecloses any possibly of rest for "the foreseeable future."  I admit that.  This is a weak moment.  Just because I'm cranky, though, doesn't necessarily mean I'm wrong. How could this place NOT drive a person mad?  I think it is fair to say airports embody everything that is wrong with the American approach to problem solving. An airport is a huge, ponderous machine that works -- I'll grant that it works -- but it never works quite right. It's American-made, I guess.  Like a Chevy Tahoe, a Democrat, or a SAM.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What an HH Exam Looks Like

By one-half of the Notorious B.O.A.L.T. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You've Been Served

Via Facebook?

Evidently if you live in Australia:
The Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court last Friday approved lawyer Mark McCormack's application to use Facebook to serve the legally binding documents after several failed attempts to contact the couple at the house and by e-mail.

Well, I Guess We Can Close the File on That One!

Congrats on being 1/6, 1/2, or 5/6 done with law school! At the request of anonymous commenter #29528, this thread is for the posting of and gloating about holiday plans. So what's in store? Hittin' the slopes? Hittin' the whiskey?

As for myself (please contain your jealousy), I'll be in the beautiful, thriving metropolis of Scranton:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Float Like a Butterfly

President Bush proved today that he has better moves than my starting fantasy football running back did this week.

See here. You HAVE to click the video link- it's definitely worth it.

Bush's response?
"So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?" Bush told a reporter in response to a question about the incident.

"Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It's one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers.

"It's a way for people to draw attention. I don't know what the guy's cause is. But one thing is for certain. He caused you to ask me a question about it. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it."
Have to hand it to the guy: that "not gesturing with all five fingers" bit is pretty good. I may use that one myself in the future...

Aside: Let's hope Secret Service wises up a bit. People may not like the guy, but he's still the President and deserves a little better protection (as we'd hope the service would provide for the guy that's about to take his place).

Rumors of His Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Who was Samuel Langhorne Clemens? If you know the answer to that question, you be delighted to learn that the world will finally be given a piece of his mind on free expression and whether it is safer to express your thoughts after you are dead -- just less than 100 years after he died! A sly move by a sly man, indeed.

As he once remarked:
Now there is hardly one of us but would dearly like to reveal these secrets of ours; we know we cannot do it in life, then why not do it from the grave, and have the satisfaction of it?

Monday's New Yorker. Look for it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Am I a Plaster Saint?

Author's note: This post is not a jab a the Mormon church, or the good people whom I grew up with and who often get a bum rap they do not deserve.


When it comes to extremist sects, I tend to get soft on property rights. I believe that there are circumstances in which our government should be able to step and remove children (or "wives" in fundamentalist parlance), and I completely support such invasions so long as they are based on adequate evidence.

But when it comes to the Amish, who don't want to follow building codes, my property rights values flare, and out comes the dander in my pre-14th Amendment primal self. Why should the government be able to tell you how to design your private home? What does the government care if you don't use grade certified lumber, stainless steel fasteners, toilets, or electricity?

That makes me a hypocrite. I can't think of a single meaningful distinction between the two issues and yet I am willing to draw the line. Take, for example, this snippet from my inner monologue (and, no the voices do not have names):
  • The relationship between building codes and social harm is tenuous when compared to statuary rape . . . but so what? They're still public safety laws.
  • Sexual assault and gender subordination are pressing social concerns . . . and indoor plumbing isn't? Besides, you can't seriously say a fifteen year old Amish girl is free or liberated.
  • Religious extremism (distinguished from religiousness) is a historical problem worthy of rigorous government intervention . . . and so is building and housing safety.
  • The Amish are expressing their religious beliefs, which makes them worthy of a special kind of deference . . . okay, but then what's wrong with polygamy? Besides, try telling that to the non-Amish neighbor who has to spend thousands of dollars on galvanized nails and percolation tests.
  • The difference is that the Amish are harmless . . . now you're just being a bigot.
The bottom line is, I think I'm two-faced and dishonest on this one. Is it bad that I feel okay with that?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oakland is F--ing Dangerous

. . . and the Oakland Tribune thinks de-nial is a river in Egypt.

Last Sunday, Susan Gluss (AKA the public relations face of Boalt Hall) published an op-ed in the SF Chronicle about her personal decision to leave Oakland. Her motivation was personal security -- which is, of course, a politically handy euphemism for "bald fear." After the personal drama of her daily life repeatedly cast her into the role of Unwilling Crime Victim, she decided to move to Marin, and suffer the commute. The Chronicle backed up her piece with a simultaneously published staff article that creates factual support for Gluss' anecdotal story; the bottom line is that Oakland is freaking dangerous, and people are afraid to live there.

(Even if you do not read the article, you should peek at this incredibly disturbing google map of Oakland homicides in the last 12 months. It rattled me. Next to the map there is a scroll down list of hyperlinked victims' names that is beyond sobering -- think about it long enough and you'll want to cry.)

Apparently, the Gluss op-ed pissed off the Oakland Tribune. Yesterday they fired back with this article, which attempts to argue that Gluss' experience in Oakland is an anomaly, and the city is growing at a "jaw-dropping pace," "multi-faceted," and "thriving."

Wow.  Just, wow.  

I'm not sure if I find the Tribune funny or infuriating, but it is certainly a fine example of steadfast denial. Consider that this year Oakland was the 5th most dangerous city on a list of over 400 (down from 4th last year, whoop-dee-freaking-doo!), or that there have been so many armed robberies that the city can't even put them on a map -- instead they create safety "zones," which by definition of the crime rate are facially unsafe.  If you prefer more concrete examples, consider the Chauncey Bailey shooting

The truth is that over the last three years violent crime in Oakland is up while arrests are down (see this in-depth discussion), that bright and imaginative people like Gluss are leaving -- if they can be enticed to move to Oakland in the first place -- and word association with "Oakland" on any American street-corner probably conjures images including "gunshots," "weeping children," and "burning tires."  Worse, as far as I can tell the city has nothing that even resembles a plan to address what is indisputably its biggest problem.  True, the roots of urban crime are nebulous, and they touch upon poverty, race, class, and all kinds of other socio-economic undercurrents that no one fully understands.  Even I understand, however, that ignoring those issues (as the Tribune and the Mayor seem wont to do) harms everyone. It harms victims by allowing crime to continue, and it harms perpetrators by tacitly maintaining the social forces that create them. Heck, it even harms the atmosphere by driving down the carbon balance in Gluss' commute.

So: boo, hiss, and shame upon the Tribune -- a good Op-Ed speaks the truth, it does not not spin it. You should have conceded that Oakland is dangerous, you should have lamented the loss of people like Gluss, and you should have asked what could be done. That would have earned credibility out the wa-zoo. Instead, your thin and unrealistic PR campaign smells like bullshit, and taints this reader's confidence in everything else you have to say.


Note: Berkeley seems no safer, by the way -- recall that last spring not one, but two people were murdered within blocks of Boalt Hall. Perhaps the difference is that Berkeley is better at landscaping its public image.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Do the Torts Shuffle!

The latest from the Notorious B.O.A.L.T. Good job guys!

Note: Youtube has been finicky lately, probably due to the failure of our government to meet our infrastructure bandwidth needs. If it doesn't work, you can 1) try reloading the page, or 2) move to Sweden.

Self-Promotion Redux

Not to detract from the discussion of Skadden's new website below, but I'd like to shamelessly echo Armen's shameless self-advertisement (those of you in Negotiations this fall probably find that unsurprising.) Please, take a moment to vote for this blog. We got spanked last year, and would rather learn from that experience than repeat it.


Skadden, Arps Has a New Website

I like the old one better.

(Make your own link. It's finals and I'm busy.)

EDIT: Here's a link just for you, Matt.

[Update (Patrick):  Carbolic's tastes err -- the old site is much worse than new one, for the same cardinal reason that LEXIS is worse than WestLaw.]

Patrick doesn't realize that no color truly matches the unique culture and ambiance of Skadden like communist red. [Carbolic]

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Corruption in Chicago? I Don't Believe It

It's the news of the hour. TV's most photogenic US Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, has arrested the governor of Illinois for, among other things, trying to "sell" the U.S. Senate seat vacated by (technically-not-yet)-President-Elect Barack Obama.

(Actually, there's more to the indictment. But let's stick with the sexy stuff.)

In exchange for appointing any particular individual, Governor Blagojevich attempted to negotiate any of the following: (a) a high-paying job for himself or his wife at a union-affiliated organization; (b) a highly-paying corporate board member position for his wife; (c) an up-front grant of campaign funds; or (d) a cabinet or ambassadorial position for himself. (from HuffPo).

In other words, it was mostly about the benjamins. And we're not talking McCain or Kerry money. (You have to marry rich for that.) Blagojevich was looking for midlevel Biglaw associate money: the ability to earn $250k-300k annually.

Here's my thought. Some of these demands (e.g., the cash payment) are clearly graft. A few of the others, though--particularly the demand that the appointee help fund-raise--sound like the quid-pro-quo of politics, except taken to an unreasonable (i.e., clearly criminal) degree.

To put it another way: Blagojevich had every right to say "F-ck Obama" (that's in the indictment!) and appoint himself to the vacant seat. There's no reason for Obama's designee to get any particular consideration. Clearly, their's an inherent promise here: appoint my chosen successor, and I'll campaign in your state, or invite you on Air Force One, or otherwise give you national prominence. The difference here is that Blagojevich attempted to monetize the transaction, in a particularly transparent way.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Good Idea?

I have a secret confession to make. I love infomercials. I even love the not-quite-an-infomercial "As Seen On TV" product ads. The products that they put out there, especially during holiday times, are, for lack of a better word, absurd. Every year there's a product that makes me scratch my head and wonder, "There can't possibly be any people dumb enough to pay a nickel for this crap. Who the hell forgets where they parked so frequently that they need a digital audio recorder to carry around? And if you're THAT forgetful, won't you just forget to record where you parked or where you left the recorder? Won't forgetful people forget to order the product? [Expletives] society!"

This year is no exception. I hereby nominate the "Loud 'N Clear" as this year's winner. The Loud 'N Clear helps the Grampa Simpsons of the world hear every word around them by "disguising" as a Blue Tooth set. That's right, it's not that grandma is as deaf as a plywood, she's just eager not to miss that important conference call about Matlock. Other nominations welcome.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A Resolution of My Own

If the Berkeley City Council thinks it knows what's best for Boalties, I figure so do I. But the proposal I have in mind is a lot less kooky, therefore, boring.

Adam Chandler has this essay at Slate on cert stage amicus briefs. Orin Kerr thinks this might be a good idea for law school SCOTUS clinics.

That's the background. Now what I see is Boalt doing this for IP/Tech cases--both at the SCOTUS and at the Federal Circuit. We have plenty of professors admitted to the bars of both. If they're willing and able (and possibly coaxed by some extra $$$ from DE's fundraising), then we can easily have an appellate IP/Tech law clinic. This would be an invaluable experience for the IP folks going into the litigation side. It would also be a great experience for any litigator in general.

Are there any downsides/barriers?

Another Reason to be Thankful

Today is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

Here is a Time Magazine article from 1930, as the repeal effort was building.  It is a hoot.  Now, go out and celebrate!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Berkeley City Council Delves Back into National Politics

The Marine Corps issue may have fizzled, but apparently the City of Berkeley's passion for national and foreign policy burns on.

Next week the Berkeley City Council will vote on a resolution demanding the United States charge Boalt Professor John Yoo with war crimes. The Council will also consider "whether to order Boalt to offer alternatives to Yoo's courses, so no student is forced to take a class from him if they don't want to." (SF Gate article here.)  Never mind that the truth is any student CAN avoid his classes, or that the City can't "order" the law school to offer courses -- the Council couldn't order the Marines out of its recruiting office either, but was that a stumbling block?

While it is difficult to imagine a dumber idea than attempting to go head-to-head with the United States Marine Corps, at least the City's behavior in that fiasco was (relatively) harmless. As I recall, it mostly amounted to a lot of public kissing. This resolution, however, is actually dangerous. Freedom of speech and liberal ideals cannot be squared with the idea that a city government may publicly disapprove of a political point of view by taking affirmative steps to sequester it. The use of governmental power to suppress controversial (even dangerous) viewpoints is a neo-conservative tactic more befitting Karl Rove than a local municipality. The City is taking exactly the kind of reactionary moral-low ground that the "birthplace of the Free Speech Movement" is supposed to stand against. Berkeley's mindset here is cancerous, it is dangerous, it is abusive, and (from this liberal's point of view) it is embarrassing.

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Shameless Self-Advertisement

[Update 12/05 (Patrick): I'm taking the extraordinary step of bumping Armen's post to the top, because it's just too important to let slip to the wayside. Let's try to avoid last year's beating.]

Much like [insert reference to a famous electoral defeat, maybe LA Confidential against Titanic], Nuts & Boalts took a beating at the ballot box last year for the ABA's best blawgs. But the honor of being nominated was good enough. This year, Nuts & Boalts has been nominated again in the student blog category. So please vote by clicking on the link below.

I also want to thank the current crop of Boalties who blog here. Good job. Of course, we all know it's the wit of the anonymous commenters that makes it all worthwhile.


More Prop 8 Re-hashing

With all of the discussion about Prop 8 on N&B thus far, I figured at least a few of you may find this new study more than a little interesting.

A commonly cited fact since the election is that black and Hispanic voters overwhelmingly supported Prop 8. However, this study has found education and income may have been confounding variables.

From the article:
"...while a majority of non-white voters backed a ban on gay marriage, the key finding in the new survey was that voters' position on Proposition 8 was determined more by their level of education and income than their race or ethnicity, said PPIC president Mark Baldassare. Among Californians with a high school diploma or less, 69 percent voted for Proposition 8. Among college graduates, 57 percent voted against it."
Check out the rest of the article. Worth a read - especially when you're avoiding [insert your class subject here].


DE and Yudof to Crowd: We're Screwed

Think your education is expensive, and yet the University may be in jeopardy? DE and UC President Yudof think you're right:
Three of the state's leading higher education officials gathered Tuesday to elaborate on what they've known for months: Major financial woes face the University of California, and won't be leaving any time soon.

With the university losing millions of dollars in recent months and bracing to lose millions more, Yudof told the nearly 50 scholars and officials in Pauley Ballroom, "Higher education is not treated as a public good anymore."

And while 85 percent of UC Berkeley undergraduates come from within California, administrators have said that the number of out-of-state students rose this year and will likely increase next year to reach a higher tuition target. . . . "The trade-off, frankly and harshly, is between poor in-state students and wealthy out-of-state students," [Chancellor] Birgeneau said.
Source here. In fact, according to the NY Times, it's a national problem.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Straight From the Horse's Mouth: Fall 2008

Here is your fall 2008 professor quotes thread. While perhaps not as thorough as last year, I have posted in the comments my collection of this semester's notable moments. If you have contributions, please share them. They tend to make my day.


(Re)calling ASUC Senator John Moghtader

Five Boalties are attempting to initiate a recall of ASUC Senator John Moghtader.

According to the Daily Cal, the recall follows an altercation in Eshleman Hall on Nov. 13 between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli students, after which three people were charged with battery. Though Moghtader was not charged, he has been criticized for his involvement. As one Boaltie put it: "I believe he has created an atmosphere that is detrimental to balanced debate."

Moghtader disagrees: "The bottom line is that the people who are trying to recall me are people who didn't think I should get elected in the first place."

(Correct me if I am mistaken, but isn't that perfectly compatible with the possibility that he has been a bad apple from the get-go? He may not be, but surely he could have come up with a more persuasive counter-argument, no?)

To be honest, I don't know much about the story, though I do remember the Cal articles after the fight. Here is one, and here is another. I'd love to learn more.


Monday, December 01, 2008

San Francisco is Full of Degenerate Homeless Drug Addicts

According to Bill O'Reilly


What's going on in Zeb?

Reports of cops in the law school with their guns drawn?

Anyone know what's going on?


Update: They're gone- even their cars. But what happened?

An Intriguing Take on Prop 8

Just saw this in the Chronicle. It's an open letter, from two of Berkeley's own, asking the state for a non-discriminatory alternative to what they see as now-discriminatory marriage. Basically, they want domestic partnerships to be available to straight couples. (Apparently they are currently only available to straight couples when one partner is older than sixty-two. What's with that?) It's an angle I hadn't heard before, and it poses some interesting legal questions.


[Update (Patrick): I would like to make it crystal clear that the authors of the article Dan linked are Boalt 2L's -- a fact I somehow missed on the first read. Props!]


What the Heck are Emoluments?

Hillary haters have latched on to the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution to argue that Senator Clinton, who Barack Obama just formally announced would be his Secretary of State, is constitutionally barred from taking the post. Here is a summary of the issue. Here is the pertinent constitutional language:
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time . . . . (U.S. Const. Art. I, § 6.)
Emoluments are pay. The problem is that President Bush recently issued an executive order increasing Condoleezza Rice’s salary, which means that "Emoluments . . . have been encreased during" Clinton's tenure as Senator.

This isn't exactly new. President Nixon encountered the same problem when he wanted to appoint Senator William Saxbe to Attorney General. The solution, later called the “Saxbe Fix,” reduced the pay level of Saxbe's position to where it was before the hike. Ta-da! No more Emoluments Clause problem.

Could a Saxbe Fix happen here? My understanding is that the constitutionality of the Saxbe Fix remains an open question because the Nixon administration was not forced to defend it in court. Worse, there is a rather persuasive argument against it -- in this case, emoluments have "been encreased" regardless of whether or not they are later decreased. 

While the issue is real, the whole discussion is also rather absurd given the Constitutional desecration that defines its historical context. Never mind that the current administration has attempted to erase the Fourth Amendment and rewrite the separation of powers rules -- chalk those doctrines up to history and call them "quaint."  When it comes to emoluments, however, it's time for lines in the sand.   Bill O'Riley must be preening.