Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Space Deathmatch: Flat Screen TVs v. Financial Restraint

The fifth in my series examining winners and losers of the Boalt Hall space reconfiguration.

Winners: Flat Screen TVs
Has anyone noticed that Boalt is now filled with flat screen TVs? They’re everywhere. Even the seminar room that nobody ever uses has a gigantic one. Our old locker space has two flat screen TVs—and four ceiling projectors. There’s so much video technology in there that the projector screens overlap one another.

I’m not exactly sure what all this technology is for. Is there a massive demand for teleconferencing I don’t know about? Mary Robinson (former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human RIghts) is teaching a shared course with Columbia Law School, but that's taking place in Room 116. I’m trying to guess some reason why anyone would need to fire up six TVs in a classroom. Are future law lectures going to be in 3-D?

(The two flat screens in the old locker room are in the back of the class. Maybe Boalt has decided to give professors the same opportunity as students to surf the web during boring lectures.)

Loser: Financial Restraint
Let's face it: just a few years ago, Boalt was a dump. But look at it now! High tech classrooms. Recessed lighting. Power window shades. And shiny glass walls everywhere—even when it’s just in front of sheetrock. (Seriously, what’s the deal with that?) This new “no expense spared” renovation is great—until you realize who’s footing the bill.

I like the old 1950 photo of Boalt that’s been taped around the new basement space. Maybe it’s just the stylish, mid-century aesthetic: everyone looks great with their cigarettes and tailored grey suits. The basement space looks basically the same, although less lavishly furnished. Still, I’d be happy to take the sheetrock and manual window shades in exchange for a $29,000 reduction on my tuition bill.

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Why a semester away should be required

Perhaps I'm biased - I'm two weeks into an internship in the Netherlands and enjoying (almost) every minute of it. Even before I decided to take this particular internship, I wanted to spend a semester away from Boalt. Still, I think that the benefits of spending a semester outside the classroom far outweigh any of the possible downsides. Furthermore, despite the fact that spending a semester in a field placement isn't the "traditional" law school experience, a mandatory away requirement would make Boalt a much better school.

I'm sure that there are lots of Boalties who have done extensive traveling. I'm not one of them. This is only my second time out of the country (Canada doesn't count), and my first time being completely on my own in a foreign place. Even figuring out where the grocery store is - let alone what it is that you're buying - is a challenge. I'm not suggesting that everyone should have to intern in a foreign country. But the process of figuring out how to settle into a new place and a new job for a relatively short period of time is something that everyone should be exposed to.

I also think that we would all benefit from getting away from the law school atmosphere. Even Boalt, which is a pretty non-competitive school as far as such things go, suffers from that petty level of bickering that one only finds in elite educational institutions. See, e.g., the recent New Space Deathmatch posts. What better way to get away from it all than to replace law school gossip with watercooler gossip?

Finally (since any good argument is always supported by three points), the fact of the matter is that law school gives you no practical experience whatsoever. None. Nil. Zero. Summer jobs are supposedly a chance to fix that - but do you really get a handle on what a lawyer does by "working" at a firm and spending all your time at fancy lunches and inter-office softball matches? Let's face it - summer jobs are often a recruitment tool more than anything else. As an intern, however, you are expected to work. Full time. Think of it as a good chance to figure out if you really do want to be a lawyer, before you get any further into debt.

If the first year of law school is a deliberate regression back to the first grade, then the second and third years should focus on bringing us back into the real world. The Socratic method of teaching only goes so far. Clinics are an attempt to change this - but even if you throw yourself completely into your clinic project, you're still in law school, attending classes. The point of a legal education is to prepare us to be lawyers. I can't think of a better way to prepare than spending a semester being a lawyer, all day, every day.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Best Timekilling Websites for Class (Updated!)

Everyone needs to zone out once in a while during class, usually when that annoying jerk in the back keeps asking the least relevant questions humanly possible. Since I've mastered the art of zoning out, I figured I'd share a few weapons from my arsenal.

1. Nintendo 8: You can play virtually every NES game ever made ever, within the confines of your browser. Nothing to install, you just click on the game index, pick a game, and go. In addition, Commodore 64, Sega Master System, Gameboy, and DOS games are available for in-brow play (for those of us that like to rock the old school a little harder). Just try to beat bubble bobble. I dare you.

2. Hapland 1, Hapland 2, Hapland 3: Seldom can a task be so addictive and infuriating simultaneously. These are the most basic of games, requiring only a few point and clicks over a simplistic though semi-artistic 2D backdrop. Beat all three without cheating to win Hersh's heart.

3. JustinTV: If you don't know about this site, then slap yourself. Go ahead; we'll wait. ... Recovered yet? Good. JustinTV provides streaming for any televised event ever. I personally use the site to watch locally non-televised college basketball, and the more obscure sports, such as Moroccan dominoes. It's especially good if you would have skipped class otherwise to watch the game.

4. Google Reader: RSS feeds (or "aggregators" for those of you in the know) can be intimidating, but Google Reader has changed this. It's a great tool for reducing the amount of time you spend checking all your news/gossip/politics websites; it does this by keeping track of every article that these sites publish, and compiling them all into a single interface, organized by source. It's easy to use - you just enter the URL of the sites you want to keep track of, and BAM, you're done. It may seem strange not going to manually, but once you get used to it, you'll marvel at how you ever survived without it. An added bonus is that you'll never miss an article, instantly making you the world's most knowledgeable current events guru.

5. (From Dan) Ninja Ropes: Good game.

6. (From Anon) Hot chicks with douchebags: Hilarious.

7. (From Aaron) Gears of Doom.: Great maze game.

8. CentSports: Free ad-supported sports betting site with no risk to you. They start you off with $.10, and you can bet on nearly any sport. If you lose your $.10, they give you another $.10. Certain Boalties (not me) are up to $40. You can cash out for actual money at anything above $20. Also great for talking trash to classmates.

9. The Superficial, Stuff White People Like, I Don't Like You in That Way: I thought everyone knew about these blogs, but I've gotten over 5 emails saying "OMG U don't Kno about StuffWhitepeepslike? Lolz n00b." So here you go. Leave me alone, jerks.

10. Penny Arcade, XKCD, Truck Bearing Kibble: The interwebs has spawned a new age of comic strips, and these are some of the very best. PA is video-game focused, XKCD appeals to closet nerds, and TBK is from Hersh, so I make no reservations as to the contents (it probably involves weird animal love).

New Space Deathmatch: Clubs v. Journals

The fourth in my series examining winners and losers of the Boalt Hall space reconfiguration. Today, we're back in the trenches--er, basement, with a comparison between club and journal office space.

Winners: Clubs
Ha! You all thought that journals would win in a landslide. After all, club offices are half the size. And they're shared. By the time you account for the lockers, there's not much space left.

Here's the thing. The "heavy lifting" of club participation takes place in classrooms, not offices. Journal offices are stuffed with computers and printers. They also need to store source collections, article submissions, author correspondences, and the other detritus of academic publishing. Clubs, on the other hand, store the nachos left over from karaoke night. Granted, there are large clubs--but who hangs out in their offices, apart from the five most active members?

The result is a cozy, nicely furnished room for the enjoyment of a few select people. No dusty, non-functioning Dell computers. No piles of photocopies. No obsolete 12 year-old torts casebook. Just a stylish sofa and a few comfortable seats. Maybe even a window. I’m going to hang out there all the time.

Losers: Um...can’t we all just get along?
Jeez, you can’t write a few paragraphs about office space without being called the worst person in the world. I will only say that some responses rely on a massive "straw man" argument--and don't distinguish a tease from a tirade. But I can’t fight such righteous indignation. I give up! Nobody loses. Everyone’s a winner at UC Berk-e-ley!

Anyway, if any Boalt group wants to bulk up their membership, they should do it the BTLJ way: free vodka and a superbly stocked snack cupboard.

Note to all Boalties: we're not alone.

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President Obama (don't those words make a lovely couple?) has ordered the DOJ and OLC to side with the defense in Jose Padilla v. John Yoo (pdf). Next week they'll be filing a motion to dismiss the suit.

I think this is the right move but I also think it's awkward, for two reasons. First, Obama’s pick to head the OLC, Dawn Johnsen, wrote an article in Slate last year calling one of Yoo’s memos “plainly flawed” and his defense of it “irresponsibly and dangerously false.” Now she's been instructed to defend him. I don't know about you, but I hate it when that kind of thing happens to me.

Second, it's apt to piss off the hefty contingent of left-leaning voters who confuse our President with a Messiah by forgetting that he is constrained practical realities. Right or wrong, it's hardly indisputable that it's a good idea to encourage litigation against government agents acting within their discretion and official capacity, on behalf of what they perceive to be the national interest. Nor is it a wise investment in the future vitality of the current administration to allow civil suits to proceed against the former one. In other words, it's entirely possible for Bush and Obama, both being Presidents, will be common creatures in the face of common problems. Principled or not, this is reality.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Space Deathmatch: Kato v. Zeb

The third in my series examining winners and losers of the Boalt Hall space reconfiguration. Lest anyone think that I'm just going to trash journals every day, here are two non-basement entities.

Winner: Nancy Kato
Blessed, blessed isolation! Well, the Registrar Office's soon-to-be new location in the MoFo Room isn't that far off the beaten path. But unlike its old space, MoFo isn't stifling. And MoFo's rectangular layout, with an entrance solely at the narrow end, is perfect for channeling/limiting law student interaction. As in a giant hive, Queen Ant M. K-J can be housed deep in the interior, preserved from interruption by an army of drones.

Also, it's location near the building exit ensures that our union-supporting comrades can slip out at exactly 4:30 p.m., regardless of student crisis. One thing's for sure: the MoFo Room has finally reached its zenith for irony potential.

Loser: Cafe Zeb
Hey, is this table taken? Probably not anymore, now that all the cool kids are hanging out on the new basement sofas. Between the 2007 office and courtyard closures, Cafe Zeb was once the only place to relax at Boalt. Not only are there now more places, but those places are about as far away from Zeb as possible. It's easier to walk to Cafe Strada than Zeb now from a club/journal office. (Granted, Strada and Zeb are owned by the same company.)

And let's not forget the other thing: a brand new kitchen in the basement. Refrigerators, a full sink, presumably a microwave--combined with food storage in your journal or club office. Who's really going to go all the way up to Zeb for green tea and a yogurt?

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Zerg Rush 101

My prayers have been answered (and I imagine Dan's, and Hersh's).

UC Berkeley offers Starcraft course.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Space Deathmatch: AALJ v. BTLJ

Please note: this thread is not intended as an attack on AALJ, identity journals, Asian American jurisprudence, or anyone else. Nor does it mean to question any students’ work or dedication. As it points out, fewer citations are a consequence of focusing on an under-served topic. AALJ was chosen solely because it has fewer members than BTLJ and because it publishes annually—which arguably requires less working space (though not necessarily less work) for source collecting and article editing.

The second in my series examining winners and losers of the Boalt Hall space reconfiguration.

Winner: Asian American Law Journal
The new basement has an egalitarian design, with each journal allocated a nearly identical space. (Four journal offices are slightly larger.) Having all journals together promotes collaboration and fosters an esprit de corps among journals. It also allows efficient common areas, such as the kitchen and conference room. For smaller journals like AALJ, the new offices place them centrally within the heart of student organizations; proximity to larger journals also lets them borrow or share resources--whether in terms of editing tips or paper clips.

Loser: Berkeley Technology Law Journal
Intellectual property may be Berkeley's specialty, but BTLJ--like Rodney Dangerfield--don't get no respect. A quick look at the numbers shows why.

Asian American Law JournalBerkeley Technology Law Journal
Issues Per Year14
Pages Per Year2821696

Asst./Assoc. Editors218
Total Students3793

Citations: Academic**3262145
Citations: Case245
Rank: Specialized 137th1st
Rank: All289th26th

* Including 5 "semester members"
** Citations and rankings for student-edited journals here. "Specialized" includes all disciplines.

Now, one can argue that the last section (academic impact) should be disregarded. After all, IP is an established area of law, and journals like AALJ were founded to promote scholarship in an under-served discipline. (Actually, so was BTLJ, originally.) And a parent should love all her children equally--not just the ones who get top grades.

But still. Roughly speaking, BTLJ has four times the output of AALJ, and three times the membership. (Actual student participation may be higher, since BTLJ has strict rules regarding the hours required for masthead credit.) Academic reputation aside, it deserves at least twice the amount of office. Or to put it another way: if AALJ is 1/4th the size of BTLJ, why does it get 80% of BTLJ's space?

This is the demerit of the basement's egalitarian design: large successful journals are punished, and small, struggling journals are rewarded. Taken together, BTLJ, ELQ, and BJIL probably account for the majority of journal work at Boalt (in terms of membership and output), but receive very little space. Instead, most journal space is allocated to small, infrequently publishing groups. Ultimately, the basement space's egalitarian design has deeply disproportionate effects.

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Don't Say This

I was listening to Hannity on the ride in this morning (hey, I gotta get my laughs somewhere), and he and his guest, Minnesota people-hater Representative Michele Bachmann (of "we should investigate all Congressional Democrats for anti-American activity" fame) were discussing the practices of waterboarding and denying prisoners Constitutional rights, and the implications of them. Specifically that because of them, we haven't been attacked by terrorists since Sept., 2001.

There are two purely logical mistakes with this statement (which may or may not be the same depending on your brand of argumentation theory). I've heard friends that are quite bright repeat this argument, so I don't know if they aren't thinking through it or what, so today I begin my one-man campaign to bring the world to its senses.

The first error is causal. While it is possible that treating the prisoners at Gitmo the way we have may have played a role in preventing a future attack, it is equally (or perhaps more) possible that a future attack just wasn't planned in the first place. So the cause of the lack of attack could have been the torture, but in the event that there wasn't ever going to be a future attack, the torture didn't cause anything (except torture). I suspect that if interrogating prisoners at gitmo did prevent an attack, we would have heard about it (edit: in the form of a concrete, specific example), since the amount of political street cred that would have resulted would be the equivalent of winning a dance-off against Robert Muraine. The fancy Latin term for this sort of fallacy is cum hoc ergo propter hoc: just because A and B happen doesn't mean that A caused B.

The second error is effectual. While denying Habeus Corpus may help in preventing attacks, it's logically incorrect to say (without proof) that the lack of an attack was an effect of the ins, outs, and what-have-yous of Gitmo. It's convenient to say that it was an effect of torture, but that doesn't make it correct. It could have been the effect of any number of things, substantial or not. We haven't had an attack since Obama was elected president... could this be an effect of his devilishly handsome good looks? Could it be the result of the literally pope-worthy Reuben I made last night? The Romans called this post hoc ergo propter hoc: just because A happens and then B happens doesn't mean that B was an effect of A.

Anyway, if you hear someone say that Bush may have shredded the Constitution, but at least he kept us safe, just recount the tale of the glorious pastrami-stacked, sauerkraut-stacked goodness I consumed last evening, and how it may or may not be the cause of my impending heart attack.


Berkeley Is Nuclear Free [and Ridiculous]

The City of Berkeley's "Peace and Justice Commission" is currently at odds with the city's library over a maintenance contract with 3M.

Evidently (and likely for good reason), 3M has not signed Berkeley's nuclear-free disclosure form. To the crazies on the commission, that means the library's self-checkout machines should remain unserviced (and thus a huge waste of taxpayer dollars and time).

Suddenly, those stupid signs all around this town aren't quite as funny.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Loan Forgiveness for Public Service? Depends on the Service

It looks like Stanford's famous lady of the night, who has graced our hallowed pages here, here, and here, will be shutting down her operations for a little while. (HT: The Shark, which *cough* could be you.)

Tax evasion. They'll nail you for anything, but tax evasion . . . ? A good law student knows to keep those things confined to New York, but that's not the punch-line. The punch-line is her sentence: house arrest.


New Space Deathmatch: CLR v. Board of Advocates

There are a lot of changes for Boalt student groups recently, with the exodus from Simon Hall, the new affinity group oasis/ghetto on the third floor, and the new basement space. I'm creating a series of posts to identify the big winners of this change--as well as those getting the shaft. The first battle royale: CLR versus Board of Advocates.

Winner: California Law Review
Law review has fallen upon some hard times. I'm not talking about academic integrity. I'm talking about respect. CLR used to be the preeminent student activity at Boalt; membership was mandatory for top students. Not so much these days. Not only is there little correlation between grades and membership, but law review is lost among the thicket of "other" journals--of which Berkeley publishes an obscene amount. (On the website's alphabetical list of journals, CLR is eleventh). More so than at any other law school, specialized journals compete with law review for student talent. Why be a primary-editing grunt when you can be EIC of BJ*L instead?

The point of all this is that CLR's new space is important. It's not that CLR needs a separate suite (with its own entrance!). It's a sign that Berkeley really sees CLR as its flagship publication, and is willing to treat it accordingly.

Loser: Board of Advocates
Who? Just kidding. These days, moot court is just as respected by judges, lawyers, and academics as law review--and maybe more so. In terms of prestigious student activities, Board of Advocates is right up there with CLR. And I don't see anyone else bringing SCOTUS justices to Berkeley any time soon. Congrats, Board overseers!

Which makes it a little regrettable that Board of Advocates drew such a losing hand from the space deck. Where are they, exactly? I think they're still in some crummy office on the 3rd floor maze, but I'm not really sure. They're isolated from other student groups both spacially and symbolically. Certainly they deserve more. It's true that they're getting a new moot courtroom in Room 140. But this is less a reward than a consolation prize for the insult of having to use Booth Auditorium in the past. And besides, Room 140 is really just a glorified classroom.

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Glory and Honor

Cynthia from The Recorder in SF passes on the following announcement. I encourage co-bloggers and other Berkeley Lawties to follow up:
The Shark, a Cal Law blog by and for California law school students, is currently accepting applications for a paid freelance writing position.  An ideal candidate is a student at an accredited California law school with an interest in writing about law school news and their own law school experience.  To apply, please send an email stating your name, your school, your year, and any previous writing experience you may have to:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Case Files

At the Washington Monthly, Hilzoy has two posts (here and here) regarding the lack of case files on Gitmo detainees (making the President's ordered review of their status an almost impossible task). In particular, the declaration (PDF) of LTC Vendeveld is worth a read in its entirety.

I'm adding LTC Vendeveld to the list of officers who have stood on their legal and martial principles to expose the sham that is the military commission system. So far, I have:

LTC Stephen Abraham (esp. para. 8 describing lack of files)
CAPT Keith Allred
COL Peter Brownback
COL Morris Davis (and this one)
LCDR William Kuebler
MAJ Michael Mori (note the rarity that Aussies adore a USMC major!!!)
LCDR Charlie Swift
LTC Darrel Vendeveld


Friday, January 23, 2009

An iPhone is Like Having ___ in Your Pocket*

After a protracted internal debate, which I managed to externalize to almost everyone I know, I recently chose a BlackBerry over an iPhone.

[cue hateful comments]

The response from my friends was impressive both for its volume and its venom. I was amazed; I'm aware that nobody does passive-aggressive spite like Democrats and Mac users (I know because I dabble in both) but this time I was floored. "It's not too late," implores one friend. "Dead letter," declares another. "You WHAT?!?" demands a third.

But it is too late. I've already developed quite a fondness for the little fella', and the truth is I'm probably not trendy enough for an iPhone anyway. Yes, I said it.

And I can live without having ____ in my pocket, thank you.

*Fill in the blank as you see fit.


Beats that are "Jaw-Droppin', Ear-Poppin' Fresh"

Stanfurd's Lessig had a thing or two to say about updating copyright law when he appeared on the Colbert Report last week.

Over the course of the interview, Colbert warned his viewers that he would be "very angry and possibly litigious" if someone remixed the footage of the interview with a "great dance beat" and allowed it to be played in dance clubs across America.

Of course, that brought about this hilarious bit.

Funny for techies and non-techies alike.

We Have to Stimulate Something

First, from the department of childish humor:
“How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives?” Boehner asked. “How does that stimulate the economy?” Boehner said congressional Republicans are also concerned about the size of the package.

I feel like Beavis and Butthead. Moving on.

Second, props to Obama for the "I won" comment.

Thrid, the Gov is flirting with the idea of raising taxes on wines. This got me thinking. California is currently about half a notch above "Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God" crazy when it comes to the sale of booze. Two in the morning the law says, making last call somewhere around 1:30 to 1:45 if you're lucky. This leads to far too many people leaving fine establishments serving libations either sober, alone, or both. Here's my idea. Increase the time to sell alcohol til 4 AM, but only if the alcohol will be consumed on the premises (read: keep bars open late, but not liquor stores). The sales tax will satisfy state and local coffers. The increased size of the booze tax revenue will do the same. Surely this will stimulate the economy (among other things). AND the populace will drink its misery away. It'll be 1933 all over again.

Who could possibly oppose this? Well yeah them. But I think we can bone up this bill with stiffer DUI penalties (more $$$ for the state incidentally). At the very least, this is a better idea than the plan proposed by the Legislature. Their leadership has been far too flaccid.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Student Center: Reactions and Thoughts

The new student center is [finally] open! Please use this thread to post your comments...

[For non-current students: it's the student journal office area that now resides in the west basement.]

Access to the student center is limited to law students only - controlled by our student ID cards. Students can enter the student center only by "the double doors across from 12 & 14 (wheelchair accessible) by holding your card up to the card reader near the entry."

Anyone else think the administration should start expanding use of this technology to other areas of the school? How about the north addition library reading areas? Other thoughts?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Bar Czar

A question regarding livescan fingerprinting for the moral character app from a current 3L reminded me that co-blogger Max Power has put considerable effort to collect relevant information regarding the CalBar applcation process. His posts are here and here.


April Showers Bring May Outlines

. . . and right now it's only January. In other words, it's the wrong end of the semester to talk that kind of shop. But here goes: the editors of this page are engaged in a project similar to, and have emailed N&B soliciting contributions from Boalties.  If you're into that kind of thing, you might find it useful. 

[Update 01/23/09 (Patrick): See also Advanced Advocates, who also recently sent us an email. The site is currently in Beta and is "not open to the public" but I'm sure if you email kevil AT, he'd get right back to you with a password.]


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

EXTRA! EXTRA! Condi First African American and Female President

Ok, this madness about the oath of office is getting ridiculous now. But I just had to bring this little bit of hilarity to your attention.

Professor Ken Katkin has a theory that Condoleeza Rice, and not Barack Obama, was the first acting African American President. I guess that would also make her the first female president too. Sorry Senator Clinton.

But as I said, this is a bit ridiculous at this point. At the end of the day, despite any and all technicalities, Barack Hussein Obama is our President. And I am stoked about that.

"Obama" Street, San Francisco

Sorry to post two in a row, but this is just too good.

Update: more photos here.

The Death of DRM

I debated whether this is topical enough to post, but I figure most of us use iTunes, and we have a lot of IP lawyers-in-training, so here you go. It appears iTunes will be DRM-free as of this Spring. I'm not a fan of DRM, but I don't plan on making a living in IP. Those of you who do, is this a good thing?

Some Things, You Just Can't Make Up

VP-for-a-few-more-hours-Dick Cheney, who broadened the scope of Vice Presidential power in fantastic and unprecedented ways, and who repeatedly asserted that the Vice President is not part of the Executive branch, will leave a legacy that is either formidable or feeble.  Time will tell, but while we wait I can't resist pointing out that he will be confined to a wheelchair at today's ceremony.

Apparently he injured his back while moving boxes yesterday

Monday, January 19, 2009

Do You Remember Where You Were When Obama Was Inaugurated?

So tomorrow history will be made. Just like election night last November, I'm pretty sure tomorrow morning will be another one of those moments for our generation in which we will always remember where we were. We haven't had many of such moments, and I'm glad that this one will be mixed with "happy" unlike some of the other memorable moments we've had. See, e.g., 9/11, Bush's 2000 win, Bush's 2004 win, Crystal Pepsi.

Anyway, it seems to me that somewhere around half of my friends are going to be in D.C. for the inauguration tomorrow. Of course, given the scarcity of tickets, I sincerely doubt any of them will see any of the proceedings from a good vantage point. But they will forever be able to say that they were there the day the first African American President was sworn in. Lucky b*stards.

Unfortunately, I, like many of you I assume, are not so lucky and will be watching either at home, or perhaps at one of the campus locations. At least we'll be a part of history in another way: TV ratings of the inauguration are expected set new TV ratings records. Some are predicting up to 5 billion will watch the event on TV. That's just crazy.

If you didn't see the emails, there are two locations to view the inauguration with fellow Berkeleyians tomorrow: in Sproul Plaza starting at 7:30 AM or with your fellow law students in Booth.

I thought I'd post this entry for all those with interesting stories of the inauguration in D.C. (or possibly more interesting stories of the parties occurring last weekend in D.C.). Anybody see Nancy Pelosi doing victory keg stands or Bush throwing away all the "O" keys from the Whitehouse computers?* Lay your stories of D.C. debauchery upon those of us not lucky enough to witness the madness firsthand.


*Ok, I totally bogarted that last joke from Jon Stewart.

Who Could Have Predicted This?

An e-mail went out today informing us that the new student center will not open on Tuesday, as planned. Shocking, I know. Although we're assured that the mysterious problems causing the delay should be resolved "very quickly," the school has given no indication when this might be. In the meantime, journals like mine are left without an office at one of our busiest times.

I understand that delays happen and are often difficult to predict, but I don't understand why student groups were forced to move out of the annex before the new student center was complete. Doesn't it make more sense to keep us there until the new place is definitely done, leaving no room for crises like this one?

The e-mail after the jump.

"So There it Is. We’ve Done the Lawyerly Thing"

If (when?) I write a legal disclaimer for my law firm's website, I hope it reads like Valorem Law Group's. (HT: Legal Antics.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Harvard Law School Is a Good Start

Why does everyone try to paint Barack Obama with their personal brush? Hawaiian? Urban? Community organizer? Smoker? Ivy league education? Single mom? He's your man. That strikes me as a setup for disappointment; the discovery that he may not share your values (e.g., on puppies or atheism) might lead to the conclusion that he may not be your President after all. Or maybe I'm off on a pessimistic deep read.

I bring it up in light of an editorial in Saturday's NYT, which draws inferences about Obama from the author's own Harvard law education. My experience has been that people from Harvard love to say "Harvard" (with notable exceptions -- you know who you are) but if you delete the H-word from the piece, so that instead it says 'Law School,' the remainder fairly describes part of what every law school is about, and why it's a good place for a President to have been:
Far from being a place for feeling exceptional, my Harvard Law [school] was a place for feeling strangely ordinary. Inside the Ivy League, an Ivy League pedigree makes one precisely as distinctive as being Chinese in Shanghai. The means of distinguishing oneself become progressively scarce and difficult.

. . . .

If the domineering, humiliating Kingsfields of movies like “The Paper Chase” ever existed, they were no longer much in evidence by the time I got to Cambridge, Mass., in 1983. The faculty had largely adopted a no-hassle policy. Didn’t do the reading? Just say so; no hard feelings. Yet their almost exaggerated gentleness didn’t make things easier. Rather, our professors taught us to take sole responsibility for our own failings. Called on to state a case in class, but don’t feel you can do it? Go ahead, pass; but the word “pass” will burn in your throat.

Our future president probably also discovered, as I did, that wonderful community known as the law school study group, where overworked students divide responsibility for portions of a syllabus and then pool their notes and interpretations. Foxhole alliances rapidly form. Out of necessity, you learn to trust. Out of honor, you make your work trustworthy. One may stand or fall on one’s own merits, but the wise do not try to stand alone.
If all excerpt above is an expanded version of the proposition that law school likely gave Obama an education and a certain kind of social experience, I agree. I think every law school offers opportunities for both, not just the Boalts and Harvards. But it isn't all peaches and cream.  Consider for a moment whether the author could pull off a similar analogy on Biden's behalf.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

This morning in front of the law school I helped an elderly woman with a walker, who was thwarted by the construction, step off the curb and cross to the south side of Bancroft. If the sidewalk is is going to be closed for the next two years, we need crosswalks. Badly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sucks To Be Us

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported today that job losses have been disproportionately suffered by Generation Y.
"For workers under 29, the unemployment rate jumped to more than 11 percent in December, compared with under 9 percent a year ago, according to Labor Department figures. That is far worse than the overall rate of 7.2 percent, up from 4.9 percent a year ago. The rate for teenage workers, from 16-19, is far worse -- approaching 20 percent. For workers in their 30s and older, the rate is still under 7 percent, and generally declines as workers get older."
I'm not surprised. Experience pays dividends when an employer is forced to think short-term and remain short-handed.

Aside: Can someone PLEASE come up with a better term than "Generation Y"?!?!

We're Moral Idiots

[Update 01/18/09 (Patrick): A friend sent me this, which is mildly on point and much too funny not to pass on.]


This is several days old, but it keeps nagging at me. See, it turns out that even senior officials at the Pentagon admit we tortured at least one Guantánamo detainee:
"The senior Pentagon official in the Bush administration’s system for prosecuting detainees said in a published interview that she had concluded that interrogators had tortured a Guantánamo detainee . . . . In May she decided that the case could not be referred for trial but provided no explanation at the time.

“. . . . 'His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case' for prosecution, Ms. Crawford [the official] was quoted as saying in an article published in The Post on Wednesday."
So, now what? Let's assume the individual was in fact tortured, and that he was in fact a bad, bad man. Should we let him go? No. He's now a bad, bad man with bitter memories and cause to retaliate. Should we continue to detain him even though we know a legal conviction is impossible? No. That's impermissible for reasons obvious to all but the most die-hard Unitary Executive theorists, and perhaps the Chinese.

Thanks to our country's "short sighted and immoral policies of coercive interrogation," the problem is now intractable. We can release the prisoner and expose the country to a very real threat of attack, or we can continue to detain him and degrade the legal principles we stand for in an unmistakable international gesture of two-faced hypocrisy.

Flash forward to your grandchildren: this will be among inexplicable historic American embarrassments like Japanese internment, Watergate, rollerblades, and recumbent bicycles. In the meantime, what the hell are we going to do?

Sources, and discussion from bigger brains than mine, updated 01/16/09 afternoon:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nerds, Rejoice!

For the Watchmen case is settled!

Never Been Happier to be Wrong

A while back, I agreed in the comments with Toney about the instructions for a water landing being unnecessary because planes rarely end up in tact after colliding with water. I am happy to admit my error as it looks like all passengers of US Airways 1549 survived.

Who Sets Our Priorities?

I've been wondering how Boalt decides what courses to offer, and whether students' interests and demands play any significant role. Here are some interesting stats from Tele-BEARS website:

Evidence Section 1:
Enrolled: 153
Waitlisted: 21
Enroll Limit: 161

Evidence Section 2:
Enrolled: 82
Waitlisted: 25
Enroll Limit: 91

Topics in Evidence
Enrolled: 23
Waitlisted: 2
Enroll Limit: 26

The Evidence Advocacy classes all have similar waitlists; that's right, every single evidence class at Boalt currently has a waitlist. Other core classes in substantive law are similar. Compare those numbers to:

Foundation Seminar in the Sociology of Law
Enrolled: 10
Waitlisted: 0
Enroll Limit: 23

Law and the Emotions in Action
Enrolled: 3
Waitlisted: 0
Enroll Limit: 10

Designing Strategies for Neglected Disease Research
Enrolled: 12
Waitlisted: 0
Enroll Limit: 43

What's the take-home message here? I think it is that the allocation of course offerings at Boalt doesn't meet the demand. I think the extent to which there are empty seats in Foundation Seminar in the Sociology of Law, and standing room only in Evidence, is also the extent to which something is going awry.

The answer isn't to abolish Foundation Seminar in the Sociology of Law. The answer is to offer more Evidence classes. So, where is the holdup? It's obviously not students. Who does that leave? The faculty.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Global Economic Meltdown Hits Home

BHSA sent an e-mail to student organizations explaining how Berkeley is requiring additional information from BHSA before funds already requested by student groups will be distributed. Apparently they imposed these new requirements post-hoc, which has caused delays in the usual funding schedule. I don't know about the rest of you, but my journal bears the bulk of its costs early in the semester, not to mention the backlog of personal receipts that need to be reimbursed. The delay is problematic. Also, this seems a little shady to me, and is not a good indicator for the future. I guess it might be time for our student orgs to tighten their belts.

The BHSA e-mail after the jump.

BART Shooting Update

I suppose everyone has already heard that the former BART Officer was arrested in Douglas County, Nevada. As a well-placed source said, "well when they say they arrested someone in a given county, you get the idea that it's rural." Apparently, this is around the area of South Lake Tahoe. At first, I was puzzled why the officer would go to Nevada, but I guess the location sort of explains it.

More importantly, I couldn't help but notice the murder charge. I'm pretty sure no judge with a pulse will throw out the charge sua sponte. That only leaves the jury.

Visiting Professors

Part of the law school culture is to allow visiting professors, law firm partners and associates, and professors from other departments to teach. This has some obvious advantages: it promotes collaboration among law schools, professors and students; it exposes students to different perspectives and teaching styles; and it gives students a chance to take courses not otherwise taught at BLaw. It also has some obvious disadvantages: you have little warning if the visiting professor is a DB. In our continually shrinking world, we're able to mitigate this somewhat.

I've gotten pretty lucky so far... In particular, M@ssey seems great. In fact, he informed Patrick not 5 seconds ago that the exam format wasn't bargain-able. :)

How have ya'll fared? Any upsides/downsides I've missed?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Real-Life Rory B. Bellows*?

You be the judge.

* AKA Krusty the Klown, AKA Herschel Shmoikel Pinkus Yerucham Krustofski.

Colorado Dreamin'

Let me say straight away that I love California. I have never been happier anywhere else, and I am just plain not leaving. The trend for Boalt grads seems to be to stick around as well, which people back east can never seem to understand. I can't tell you how many times I heard, "Well, you shouldn't go to Berkeley, because they don't put people anywhere besides California," when I was deciding whether to come out here. Berkeley always claimed that was simply because most of its grads liked it here. How gratifying it was to find out that was true.

It made me all the more sad, then, to read this article proclaiming the death of the California Dream. It seems people are leaving the state at a more rapid pace than people are entering it, thanks largely to failing schools, dilapidated urban centers, and high housing prices. (The article also cites high rates of immigration as a reason to leave, with which I strongly take issue.) I think the whole piece is a little overblown. Nonetheless, when we stand to lose a congressional seat over this, it definitely seems worth talking about. What do you guys think? Are you planning to leave? Why?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil

A professor explained this morning that business students are more engaging than law students. To combat our apathy, he announced a plan to base twenty-five percent of the course grade on "class participation." *

Yes, you heard right: not "contribution," but "participation." Contribution, which is inversely proportionate to participation, appears to be irrelevant.

Tell me, if I share war stories or choke out a tearful memory of my childhood dog, am I participating? What if I raise my hand and enthusiastically agree with every single thing the professor says? What if I fart loudly?

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to enjoy the class, I'm not going to drop it, and I am not going to complain or point out in class how misguided participation-based grading is. But it is misguided. "Particpation" is a soft factor that rewards memorable or charming individuals who also happen to be loud. Those political qualities are useful and important, but they are also absolutely separate from analysis or mastery of the material, and in a class on substantive law and procedure they should never be allowed to trump. Here, however, they will trump. Boalt's grading system means twenty-five percent of a course grade swallows the curve -- the difference between a P and an HH for almost (if not every) single student will reduce to "class participation."

For my part, I'll participate. I'll try not to say anything too stupid, but apologies in advance to the Monday/Tuesday morning crowd in Room 12 -- I'll be the guy who raises his hand once a day, every day, whether or not he has anything to contribute. You'll be able to distinguish me from everyone else in the room because I'll be wearing a top hat and chewing a long-stemmed cigarette holder. It's memorable.


*He also gave McWho a hundred bucks and told him to "spread it around," a series of events which only further shows how screwy things are in there.


Greatest Hits

Thirteen journalists with the Center for Public Integrity took what had to be a sobering look at hundreds of inspector general reports, Government Accountability Office assessments, congressional oversight investigations, and news stories to compile this list of 128 of the greatest failures in federal government under the Bush Administration. It's worth taking a look, if only to provide some specific examples of what you mean when you say you want "change."

Back 2 Skool

The official welcome back thread. Welcome back!

[Update (Patrick): I would like to piggyback onto Dan's thread (permission, Dan?) part of BB's latest email:
The long-awaited mail slots are now in place. You will find them just outside the Computer Labs in the Law Library. There should be a folder for each student. This will allow folks to leave and receive messages in paper form. (Paper messaging is reportedly the latest innovation from Apple. Have you used iPaper?) Check it out.*
Such a simple solution to a simple problem! They're not exactly secure, but I'm not bothered. If you want to steal my LEXIS paper spam, go right ahead.
*iPaper, to my knowledge, has nothing to do with Apple. That's the power of branding.

More Good News for Bay Area Law Firms

Oh wait, I meant that other adjective, "bad."

Headline: "Bay Area Firms See Profits Drop Up to 21%, Revenues Flat"

The lede: "A tanking economy and frozen credit markets struck a double blow to Bay Area-based Am Law 100 firms in 2008, causing slower revenue growth and a drop in profits, according to The Recorder, a sibling publication of The Am Law Daily."

Unfortunately, the original article requires a subscription to The Reporter. But there are interesting tidbits to glean out here. The main takeaway is that gross revenue generally increased in 2008, but not at the double-digit pace anticipated by most firms (at the beginning of the year, anyway). Increased spending to accommodate the non-materializing growth has led to a significant drop in profits per equity partner (PPP). As we know from Heller and Thelen, a collapse in partner profits can lead to a downward spiral, as rainmakers lateral to more profitable firms.

For 3Ls and 2008 grads, this probably means that there is work at bay-area firms--but not necessarily enough for the giant class of 2007 summer associate hires.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

While You Were Away . . .

. . . your Cal Bears basketball team has been blowing up. Patrick Christopher took one of five Player-of-the-Week honors this last week and Cal took Team-of-the-Week honors.

If you missed the epic finish to the Cal-Washington game last night, here's a quick overview: Cal led the game in regulation only once at 1 - 0 in the beginning of the game. However, they managed to fight back, forcing not one, not two, but three overtimes. As if that weren't exciting enough, with 30 some-odd seconds to go in the second overtime, Cal was down 5 points and still managed to force a third overtime and eventually defeat Washington in the third OT. It was a great day to be a Cal Bear.

Anyway, I know we've all got class starting tomorrow, but I highly recommend you show your Bears some support this season. The next home games are January 22nd and 24th against Oregon State and Oregon respectively. So, if you're a 1L or 2L, get your reading done early and get out there. If you're a 3L, you weren't going to read anyway, so you have no real excuse.

Which is More Offensive?

Skateboards, or recumbent bicycles?

Taxonomy and social irritation are my home territory, so when Carbolic posed that question to me last September I went to work immediately. I still don't have a confident answer, however. Here is the issue: A brush with a skateboarder involves loud, rackety invasion of personal space. It's offensive, hands down. Recumbent cyclists tend to maintain a polite berth, but the recumbent riding position requires a total degradation of self-dignity that is offensive in its own way.

Frankly, I'm stuck. Which is it?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Proof that Law Reviews Serve a Useful Purpose

For all of you wondering whether CLR is actually for you, I give you this. As the coming generation of CLRers, I only hope that you can be the change you want to see in the world, and fill CLR with articles that people actually want to read.


Bringing Down the BCS

Obama has said he wants to do it. Most football fans in America agree. But, so far, no one has taken any concrete steps to challenge the BCS's dominion over determining the NCAA football champion. Until now, that is. Utah's attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, is investigating the Bowl Championship Series for possible violations of federal antitrust laws. He argues schools like Utah have no opportunity, under the current system, to play for a national championship, which would bring them money and notoriety. Thus, BSC conferences have a monopoly on national titles. Given that Utah has now gone undefeated twice in four years without ever playing in a championship, Shurtleff may have a point. What would it take for a non-BCS team to get to the championship? Is it even possible?

The investigation is still in the early stages, and no lawsuit has been filed. Shurtleff would have to prove a conspiracy that creates a monopoly in order to prevail. Seems like a steep road, but sports writer Rick Reilly used the C-word (well, a c-word) in his column this week. Maybe a court would see it the same way. Here's hoping!

Must be a Day that Ends in Y

Anonymous asked for a thread on the BART shooting and subsequent Oakland riots. Video of the shooting here. Article on the riots here. I think the cop's reaction is pretty strong evidence that at the very least he didn't intend to pull the trigger. Is that enough to beat a manslaughter or possibly a murder 2 charge? I don't know. Does it justify rioting and looting? No of course not.

I just hope BART/Oakland and whatever authorities are investigating this have a higher integrity than the LAPD. Now there's a corrupt organization.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

CA Bar Stats Released

In a thread below, Anonymous said:
Some bar stats are out. 89%.
As a little baby 2L, I always feel uncomfortable about posting bar stuff. It seems about as wanker a move as the junior varsity benchwarmer who comments on the varsity players' stats. The results deserve their own thread, though, so here it is.


Why the Senate Should Seat Burris

If you are confused about the Burris debate (that's Burris, not Burress) yesterday's NYT has an excellent Op Ed, which nicely describes the issue and argues the Senate should seat him. The article makes the same points I would make except, you know, way better.

[Update: Oh, goody. Today Senate Democrats have agreed to a compromise, whereby Burris will be seated as long as he meets "certain conditions." The article doesn't specify what those conditions are, but the Washington Post and the Chicago Sun-Times suggested yesterday that they could include a promise from Burris to not run in 2010 -- for the record, think that's bullshit; I don't think the U.S. Senate can make that demand any more than they can refuse to seat a properly appointed Senator. But then again, last semester I was publicly branded as a pre-14th Amendment anti-reconstructionist, so take my assessment for the curmudgeonry that it is worth.

Anyway, it looks like the Senate majority has come to its senses. Elie at ATL captured part of the issue when he said: "[Despite Democrats' Legislative majority and control of the Executive] Looks like the Invertebrate party hasn't lost it's talent for folding like a cheap accordion under the slightest bit of pressure." The only thing Elie failed to mention was the reactionary, groundless, knee-jerk-grandstanding that started this ball rolling.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Making America Skinny One Slap at a Time (Infomercials Round 2)

Vince is the new Billy Mays. When this came on tv this morning, it was so funny I assumed it was fake. Some of the things he says are just completely unrelated to the product. Exciting life? Check. Bikini? Check. Sparkling mangos? Check.

Enjoy! Just a few more days of freedom left.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Caption Contest: Still Life with Ra-kowski

Looks like Tax grades might take a while; it's hard to read exams while you are posing with a glass of wine.

[Update: this post should be a caption contest.]