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September 30, 2003

Clark: Rumsfeld's a Swell Guy

Oh dear. I've revelled in the silliness surrounding Dean, but now Clark's in the race I don't have the heart anymore. Matt Drudge gets in his right hook with reports that--I know, you'd never expect it of a Democratic candidate--Clark once said some nice things about Bush and Reagan. A compliment to Rumsfeld is probably enough to kill his candidacy.

I can't lay into this guy, I really can't, and not just because an earnestly sincere and horribly good-willed classmate of mine was manning (womaning?) a CLARK 2004 stall this morning and asked me, more politely than I had any right to expect, if I might be interested in more information. To which I could only stammer in an embarassed fashion that, as a registered Republican, I probably wasn't much use for this.

It's always such a pity when really nice people get involved in politics.

(link from We Don't Need No Stinking Opinions.)

A Tortuous Peace

Today's reading in Torts was all about medical malpractice. I spent a lot more time than I normally do reading the cases, and feel like I have a better idea of how this whole negligence thing fits together now. At the very least, I understand that there's multiple tests and standards, and I can apply each of them. Now I just have to figure out which ones you apply where, and why.

But at least the feeling of blind hopeless panic from last week is gone. This weekend is all about review and consolidation, and Torts is first on the list.

Almost Famous

The Volokh Conspiracy has given me a link! That's a bit unexpected, but very welcome. And he's answered the question of if anyone reads the Sins of the Week column in the affirmative, so I guess I'll have to work harder on keeping that up.

Women's Soccer: Strangely, My Heart Won't Bleed

OK, full disclosure: I really don't like soccer, or 'football' as I'm in the habit of calling it. I find it an incredibly tedious game with (at least in England) magnificently uncivil supporters. It is a sport which is spreading like an epidemic: I remember the J-League starting in Japan, and for a while, it seemed to be making headway over here.

So it's not surprising that I started out unsympathetic when I read Lissa Muscatine's Sports Heroes, Corporate Orphans (washingtonpost.com), an op-ed piece today slating Nike and other corporations for having allowed the Women's United Soccer Association to die an (at least by me) unlamented death. But Muscatine is a White House speechwriter, so I figured I'd give her a shot. [1]

Bring back Peggy Noonan. At least she knew words had some meaning. For instance:

As a group, the women soccer players were hardworking, civic-minded and so devoted to their league that they took a pay cut to help it survive. In short, they were great role models. But they weren't the sports heroes in whom most corporations were willing to invest.

Every Saturday my daughter and her teammates will don their Nike uniforms ($70) and carry their Nike bags ($35) to their weekly soccer game. And I'll watch from the sidelines, wondering why so many hugely profitable companies haven't done more to help millions of girls hold on to their dreams of playing soccer in the pros.


Noonan never made the mistake of answering the question in paragraph two in her own paragraph one. Why not do more? Check that word: invest.

The WUSA didn't make money. Neither did the (also late and unlamented) XFL. Nike's 'investment' in was likely never to be recouped, and so it didn't make one. [2] Nike's $90 million deal with LeBron James, also mentioned in the article, will strengthen the sports-shoe company brand by much more than the asking price, while it could have sponsored the whole WUSA for the next decade and barely been noticed.

Nike didn't become the behemoth it is by acting as a charitable sponsor for sports. When it gives money, it invests. Of course, 'investment' as a term used by Hillary Clinton or her speechwriters always did have an odd tinge, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

Nor should Muscatine have been surprised at the death of the WUSA, if this is the best she can muster in its defense:

More than 200,000 kids play soccer in the Washington region, and millions of girls play nationwide. Parents who watch their kids' games increasingly embrace soccer's elegance and fluidity, not to mention its lack of violence. Soccer moms are even part of our national political lexicon.

Ignore the fact that the USA and Japan are perhaps the only two countries in the world where soccer is known for a 'lack of violence,' albeit not on the field. Note that in wondering whether Nike would be better off putting its money in a single male basketball player or in an entire women's league, she gives solid numbers as to what would be required in money, but makes no attempt to quantify the returns: there are 'millions' of girls who play soccer nationwide, but how many, and how many in comparison to players (or spectators) of basketball?

And yes, 'soccer moms' have entered our political lexicon: as the kind of wishy-washy swing voters who are unattached to ideology and worried mostly with outcomes. These are hardly the kind of people to whom one ascribes the passionate, irrational commitments familiar to Cheeseheads, Wolverines, or other intense (and, in brand-building terms, valuable) sports fans. "Soccer mom" is at best a neutral moniker, and in some cases a pejorative term.

Ms. Muscatine should learn to live like the rest of us fringe-sport fans. I like sumo wrestling, and I'd love to see it get more attention in the United States. I'd love to be able to watch it (with the proper Japanese commentary) without having to pay the exorbitant cable charges it would take to get the right package. But unlike Ms. Muscatine, I'm resigned to the fact that Nike will probably never fulfill my dream, because it is a practical company with a concern for its brand. Even assuming I gathered together 'millions' of passionate fans, a sumo wrestler's outfit provides few places for Nike to add a sponsorship logo.


[1] At this point, I'd not realized she was a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton. [2] Actually, it did: it outfitted a few of the teams. But it didn't provide funds on the level Ms. Muscatine found desirable.

September 29, 2003

Joyous Shock of Recognition

Ah, there's a reason I love my contracts class. Not only is Prof. Contracts funny, but he's got a habit of making very archaic references. For instance, a few weeks ago I learned who Heddy Lamarr was. (He thinks she has a nice nose, it seems).

Today I was quite pleased to pick up on another one of his quotes. While asking us if, in one of his past cases, he'd behaved ethically, he then mentioned that, "Oh, well, that was in another country, and all that." This comes from Marlowe's The Jew of Malta:

FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed--

BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country;
And besides, the wench is dead.


For some reason, that gave me almost as much joy as actually understanding the case he was talking about. Class isn't just contracts, it's a 'spot the reference' test.

Maybe it's just me.

Return of the King Trailer Now UP

OK, I may be the last person who's noticed this, but the Return of the King trailer is now available online.

Upside: Minas Tirith looks beautiful, and my worries about them not being able to top Helm's Deep as a battle seem unfounded.

Downside: Too much text in the trailer. Not enough Shelob in the trailer. Might ruin one element of the book which might have been a surprise for people who haven't read it.

A pleasant weekend... I must be doing something wrong

It's been a remarkably pleasant weekend, so much so that I almost wonder if I'm doing something wrong. I think I'm pretty caught up with everything... but law school always gives you that feeling that if you're having fun, everyone else must be oceans in front of you.

I'm prepared for tomorrow. (OK, I've not done the contracts reading, but I never do that until the afternoon anyway.) But I'm prepared for the week, too, because I'm feeling rested. Every day I've done a bit of work, but besides that over the last three days, I've:

  • Gone to see Lost in Translation. Wonderful, poignant, and set in Japan. Go see it. Really.
  • Been invited to see Once Upon A Time in Mexico. Don't see it. Really. It's a "Taco Bell Western," to quote a friend. Desperado was great, this is tripe.
  • Been to dinner, either out or cooked in, with friends every night for four nights straight.
  • Built the first card of a potential long-term project, a Columbia-based tarot deck.
  • Cooked with my mates in the Malebolge; or rather, this week set the table and let them cook. The evening could not have ended better.
  • Finished dinner with good coffee and a glass of chilled amontillado before study group.
  • And now I'm enjoying a good pipe while I work on my contracts reading and head to bed.

If any of my Columbia friends feel like having an evening of pipe-smoking and whiskey, drop me a line. It'd be a good thing to do over the next week.

Indeed, it's been such a weekend of pleasant hedonism that I'm going to list two of my favorite collections on the topic. The first is particularly good: I mean, where else do you get Dorothy Parker and Art Buckwald, H. L. Mencken and Erica Jong, or Charles Bukowski and Eve Babitz, all in the same volume?



September 28, 2003

Computer-filled productivity

Having checked with Prof. Civ Pro that doing so didn't violate any rules of conduct (there's some funny stuff in that code of conduct about collaboration) my study group now has the first phase of the Civil Procedure flowchart underway.

It's been a long time since I used Visio, and I'm enjoying the experience. If there's one thing I'd advise to anyone who does this after me: find a way to make the things you learned before law school work for you. Not only does it give the process a more familiar feel, but it means that everything you do isn't directly connected to the majesty of the law.

September 27, 2003

Weekend Thoughts: Fearless Spectator, the Original Curmudgeon

I won't tell you about the catch-up work on Civil Procedure that I'm doing today. It's a weekend, and you don't want to hear about that.

My entertainment reading from Amazon has arrived or is arriving. I'm finding that if I read a little for enjoyment, it makes the 'legal' reading all the easier. I'm sticking to things that are episodic in nature, like collections of short stories, poetry, plays, and collections of articles until my willpower is good enough not to waste whole days reading a novel.

For that reason, I've ordered a book I read when I was fifteen, and finally managed to find online at a used bookseller, Charles McCabe's Tall Girls are Grateful. I've tried to explain the attraction of the book twice this weekend, and failed miserably, so I suppose I should try again.

First of all, he wasn't a man you'd be likely to like. As the author of a series of columns for the San Francisco Examiner back when I was younger, he certainly wouldn't pass politically-correct muster today. The Fearless Spectator was a curmudgeon of the highest order, and an old-guard defender of gentlemen's clubs back when the phrase meant 'rooms having no women' rather than 'woman having no clothes.' The females of the species were to be respected but were different: the ladies were to leave the room when the men handed out the port and cigars. His argument against the ERA I can still remember, and it was foolish, hypocritical, bollocks, and hysterically funny.

And there's the rub: I probably have more sympathy for his arguments than any of my readers, and yet I don't find them very compelling. But he wrote with such candor and beauty, a kind of whistful engagement with life, and an infectious wry humor, that the arguments could be forgiven. At least in my memory, he'd walk you from the drawing room to the dining room to the balcony, through the convivial stages of a dinner party, in such a way that you knew that even if the ideals he based his world on had flaws, the aesthetics were not to be faulted.

And I can sympathize with him in this much: someday I'll probably be like him. I fully expect that in 2050 I'll be sucking on my pipe, possibly loaded with a now-legal whiskey-soaked marijuana, and lecturing my grand-nephews about how there are only really five basic sexualities that should be permissable, that these full-immersion medulodramas are merely sensory pornography that will never hold a candle to such classics as South Park: The Movie, and explaining exactly why I don't think cyborg-Americans should be allowed into the military. Such is the way of these things that I'll probably quote Hillary Clinton with respect and reverence. [1] One day I'll be a 1990's liberal--I just want to be forty years late.

In any event, McCabe was at his best when he wasn't talking politics at all. One of the essays that's stayed with me all these years was about how we never really love as much as we love the first time. He speculated that we only really had so much heart, and that after every love a little bit of ones heart belonged to that person ever after--that the next time one loved it was wiser, or kinder, or even stronger, but never again that full. While reading it, I could sense the regrets between each of the paragraphs, the strange sense of evaluation of his life that he'd scribbled down for a newspaper.

But it's been ten years since I've read any of his books, and finding them out of print has been a challenge. What I remember is a book by a man who was kind, honest and somewhat elegant and very, very different. I honestly can't tell you if I'll like them when the page is in front of me and they're not filtered through memory, but I'm looking forward to finding out again.

[1] And not just to say, "My husband is the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy."

Where did my shut down button go?

It seems like everyone I know has a hard drive crashing, a problem getting onto the network, or some kind of fault with Windows XP. Normally I can work around these things, but it is horribly annoying. Now I feel I've found the ultimate 'kick me' Windows error.

My Shut Down button has disappeared. My computer does not want to sleep, it seems.

September 26, 2003

More Political Incivility

The The Curmudgeonly Clerk, Eugene Volokh, and just about everyone else has been commenting on the Young Conservatives of Texas at Southern Methodist University holding a bake sale as 'an act of free speech.' Basically, they charged different prices for the same goods depending on the buyer's race or gender (though they also admitted that, if pressed, they'd just have given away the sweets for free, since they were trying to make a point, not sell cookies).

The Curmudgeon does a good job skewering the SMU officials for shutting down the bake sale, and highlighting some of the hypocrisy that goes on in campus debate. But for the record, someone ought to point out that whatever the First Amendment, the actions of these students were rude, vulgar, and a cheap, sophmoric stunt. Like most 'non-verbal speech,' the differential pricing could have multiple interpretations and was almost certain to offend. It shouldn't have been shut down--but someone should have told their parents, because their parents should have taught them better.

September 25, 2003

Vital Statistics

I've just sent in my first legal memo. Don't get excited: it's not enthralling reading, and I took out the one thing that was even close to a joke. In the spirit of Harper's Weekly, I offer the following:

Hours of sleep I've had since 9AM Monday morning: 16
Number of cups of coffee I've had since 9AM Monday Morning: 22

Insanely useful Microsoft Outlook trick

For those of you who use Microsoft Outlook XP to schedule, I just found an insanely useful trick:

You can drag a task or email onto your calendar, and it will open up a meeting dialogue box, with the text on the email or task in the notes. This works between (as far as I can tell) any set of information. Most useful is to drag a contact you'd like to have a meeting with onto the Calendar, and it will set up a Meeting Request: an email that will be sent to your counterpart which automatically sets up a meeting on your Calendar.

Cool.

The Joke that Dare Not Speak Its Name

We're doing the 'reasonable man' or 'reasonable woman' standard in Torts today.

I'm waiting for someone to make the obvious joke: "Well, we know why there is no 'reasonable woman' standard." (Or, if the joker is a woman, "I've not yet found a reasonable man. He's certainly not standard.") Unfortunately, I'm not sure the joke won't be made simply because it's an old joke.

The first legal memo is due in our section today. You would not believe how slowly most of the class dragged ourselves in today.

September 24, 2003

You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake

It appears there's another blogger in my class. Please welcome The Serious Law Student. God knows we need one serious Columbia blogger on the 'net. If you're tired of my irreverance, take a hop over and check out a more diary-style site.

The Serious Law Student's RSS feed is now syndicated in the sidebar...

Legal Depression

Probably because it's the beginning of my first year, and I'm not really 'assimilated' into the culture of law yet, I'm being struck by a few observations. The foremost of these is that, at least by all appearances, lawyers may be a generally wealthy group, and may, on average, be smarter than their peers, but they do not seem to be a happy lot.

With the single exception of The Civ Pro Blogger, I don't know of a single practicing young lawyer (not in pro bono work or with some burning issue driving them) who would consider themselves mostly happy with their work, surely not enough to wax lyrical about it. It's a matter of legend (though I could probably provide blog references if I weren't up to my eyeballs) that people working at Big New York Law Firms are depressed and overstressed corporate drones. One young female lawyer who serves as a role model for me has, I've found out, decided to take a retreat to a Buddhist monastery this summer to get away from it all. (So that's why there weren't many emails.) On a slightly more academic level, one of the better pieces in Looking Back on Law's Century discusses in great detail the low level of job satisfaction endemic in the profession.

This doesn't bother me too greatly on a personal level: I have my own reasons for going to law school and becoming a lawyer, and whatever the problems, it serves my needs. But it does make me wonder why a lot of very intelligent people have managed to develop a system that makes them, at the same time, almost unjustifiably wealthy and yet certainly not proportionately happy.

While I'm learning about Civ Pro, Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law, I also want to spend some time wondering about why we've set up the profession this way, and what can be done to change it. So far as I can tell, for all the pro bono craziness that goes on in this place, it might not be a new Kuntsler or Cardozo who's needed. Perhaps, and it's just a thought, the greatest public good might be done by a new Hammurabi or Solon, particularly with a bent towards making the practice of law more humane not just for society as a whole, but for the profession itself.

If anyone has any suggestions for places to look for more information on this topic, it would be appreciated.

Update: One of my fellow 1Ls was discussing the 'morale' at the law school with me the other day. I was reminded of a P. J. O'Rourke saying that I can't quote directly, but it's from Give War a Chance. Roughly, he said, "Asking about morale is talking about how well things are going when they're not really going well at all. No one asks about the morale of a good drunken orgy or a summer picnic."

Thanks go out to anyone who can provide me with the proper quote.

Update II: I should probably point out before I get any further responses that the depression referred to in the title of this post is not mine, but a general depression I'm sensing in the profession.

Update III: I have been advised to read On Being A Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhealthy, Unhappy, and Unethical Profession by Patrick J. Schiltz, which seems to be quite a comprehensive law review piece. So far as I can see, it's good advice.

Grumble grumble... Quicksilver

Neil Stephenson, author of the magnificent nanotech-future dystopia The Diamond Age, has just published Quicksilver, a prequel to Cryptonomicon.

I've not read Cryptonomicon, which is unfortunate, since it seems to involve cryptography, game theory, and the Wandering Jew, three topics in which I have a passing interest. But it's huge, and I'm never going to have time to read it.

Now Stephenson's come up with a historical novel featuring characters I might want to read about in historical locations which fascinate me. The bastard. I'm taking it as a personal affront, and deciding that he wants to ruin my law career.

If he weren't already quite friendly to me, I'd blame The Yin Blog for having pointed this out to me. Twice.

Maybe I'll have time to read it over Christmas.

September 22, 2003

Yes, I'm 29

I'm getting really tired of people telling me, 'You know, you don't look like you're 29.' It's not as useful a trait as you might expect.

And besides, guys, the painting is in the top shelf of my closet, and trust me, it looks like hell these days.

Highly Humiliating

This is just ridiculous. I'm applying for a moot court program, for which I must submit only two things: a resume, and a sample of good, tightly-written argument.

Sadly, I can't find a single example that I've done in my professional life. I have statements of due diligence, website proposals, recommendations on enhancing the productivity of offices... but no good arguments.

That's what you get for being more interested in writing like P. J. O'Rourke, isn't it? Damn.

September 21, 2003

Free legal lesson of the day: Coase Theorum

Since my Torts class is going to get to this shortly, I thought I'd post a link to Professor Solum's quick explanation of The Coase Theorum.

Dean Is Driving the Democrats Mad

Yes, it's Girls Gone Wild For Dean, who claim that "the only thing we'll ever flash is our voter registration cards."

I'd comment, but... really, what can you say?

Link found at The Tech Law Advisor

First Study Group Session

So we held our first study group session. One thing they tell you here is that 'study groups will form organically,' and that's certainly the truth: ours seems to have formed via the rules of propinquity. This has some huge advantages.

First off, the study session is always preceeded by a Sunday dinner, cooked communally in our (newly cleaned) kitchen. I seem to be blessed to live with three stellar cooks, which will make up for my more journeyman efforts. Tonight, for instance, was salmon, broccoli, and new potatoes, with a garlic theme. OK, none of our breath would have passed muster, and my room (our impromptu dining room) smells like a pizzeria, but the food was worth it.

This meeting we basically went through some questions and established a pattern for the study group. (Yes, this is a Letter to Wormwood--you JD2B's can follow to see how well this works.) Before every meeting I'm to compile a list of questions we've had over our weekly classes, organize them into discussion sessions, and make an agenda.

Similarly, we've got a Civ Pro project lined up: we're going to make a flowchart of a lawsuit linking all the rules of federal procedure and relevant cases. For those of you linking from Martin's MBA Experience, yes, it will be a modified IDEF chart. People in the Business School can just think we've gone mad.

Waning days of summer

I'm not quite prepared to admit that summer is gone, and that the shortening days and the cooler afternoons mean that autumn is upon us. I'm taking advantage of the sunny afternoon and Columbia's wireless network to study, blog, and relax on the lawns. Civil procedure and Bluebook citations are so much less daunting when there's daylight on your face.

It is ending, though. The oppressive heat of the summer is over, but the earth I'm sitting on is cold and damp, and when the shade of the Butler library passes over me the air becomes almost chill. Within a month the leaves will start to turn, and I'll be stuck within my apartment more and more.

Enjoy it while it lasts, eh? Autumn has its own romances, I suppose, but for some reason this summer has been more pleasant than I have come to expect from the season.

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just a Little Unwell

I seem to have set up a study group based in the Malebolge. It's a sign of my old project manager attitude that I think we need a weekly agenda and a groupware site.

I'm reminded of the old Dilbert strip, in which the pointy-haired boss says, "I have a new project for you." Dilbert immediately responds, "Great. We'll need to put money for a database in the budget." When the boss complains that he hasn't even said what the project is yet, Wally explains, "Yes, but we know how to build databases."

I tried to find a link to that, to no avail.

September 20, 2003

Chocolate Tort

If you like dessert, you've got to take a look at The 5 Spot's new dessert, "The Bulge."

Not only does it have its own deep-fried, sugar coated banana, ice cream, caramel, whipped cream, macadamia nuts, and tons of chocolate, but it comes with its own waiver of liability, in which you must promise never to sue the restaurant if you get fat.

I'm not kidding. They've posted a copy for other restaurants to use here.

Lifted from the 50 Minute Hour.

Writing I Hate

And predictably, it's at the New York Times, a Nicholas D. Kristof article, Killing Them Softly.

Nick's got his knickers in a wad about an admittedly silly policy of the Republican Party, the idea that we should cut off aid to various charities that provide services to women internationally if those charities offer or promote abortions. He's gone down to tour shantytowns, because apparently no one in the Bush administration knows about conditions in Africa. (We should all thank St. Nick here for taking his African Slum Tour and, presumably, filing a brief with the CIA, the State Department, and the White House to address their 'ignorance.') After a long sob-story, he sighs, "Mr. Bush probably sees his policy in terms of abortion or sex, or as a matter of placating his political base. But here in the shantytowns of Africa, the policy calculation seems simpler: women and girls will die."

Which, of course, is an argument about just about any policy you'd care to choose, especially when dealing with Africa. The same calculation could be laid at the feet of the EU for their agricultural subsidies, which help keep Africa poor, and thus those women from having their own thriving economies to support them. Or at a policy decision to focus on the fight against terrorism, or to cut taxes, or a prescription drug benefit, thus depriving the U.S. government of resources it could otherwise use to help those women. Or on the umbrella groups to which the money actually goes, who choose not to select charities that don't practice abortion. Or (and yes, I admit this is a radical concept) at the feet of the charities involved in deciding that their mission had to include abortion at the expense of all their other activities in the face of a Bush administration policy.

I'm no more enthusiastic about the policy than St. Nick is here, and there's a good argument (however much I might disagree with it) to be made for his position, but his article contains not a hint of reason at any point. Nowhere does it describe why the moral imperative is on the Bush administration to fund these, rather than on the charitable organizations to either have policies that, like it or not, the elected government has decided are determinative, or seek other sources of funding. True, he doesn't go so far as to say, "And because of this, there's blood on Bush's hands," but the implication is certainly there.

If you're going to level that kind of accusation, especially in a national newspaper that (purportedly) has ethical standards, you should at the very least feel obliged to make a reasoned argument, instead of turning out sob-story emotional pornography.

Never Again (Until the Next Time)

A short summary of the last fifteen or so hours would be: a cocktail party with elegant and refined lighting, tastefully-chosen food, and more alcohol than I would have thought possible, much less necessary. After too many martini's (remind me to thank the bartender for that one), I ended up leaving early feeling fairly ill. I've spent the rest of the time since paying for my sins. Having left without saying goodbye to either host, my hangover was coupled with a wracking sense of guilt.

As normal, I woke up at seven, and since doing any work this morning would have been an exercise in futility, I've been rereading Ivan Morris' The World of the Shining Prince. Quite possibly the most engaging history I've ever read, it captures the spirit of a Japan of poetry, romance, rivalry, economic disjunction, superstition, and manners.

The Heian period, roughly speaking 782-1167 A.D., is the world of The Tale of Genji, not Ran or Shogun. Unlike the bushido-beating samurai eras better known to Western readers, Heian Japan was focused almost completely around the politics of courtiers more skilled in matching fabrics and perfumes than marching and swordsmanship. Courtiers derived their power from rank, and social grace and artistic accomplishment were valued more highly than horse-riding or marksmanship. Because men wrote mostly in Chinese, the finest literature to come out of this period was written almost exclusively by women such as Izumi Shikibu, Sei Shonagon, and most famously Murasaki Shikibu.

As much as I enjoyed studying Tokugawa era Japan, there's something much more lovely about the Heian period, and appreciation I gained largely through Morris' book. Study of Heian Japan has few battles, no bushido, but instead a triumph of style in letters over the substance of arms. There are historians who state that the 'immoral' and 'effiminate' nature of the age lead to its downfall, that the tensions among a people who did not recognize raw power as an asset were eventually too much to bear. Intellectually I sympathize with the view, but my heart so wishes it weren't so. In the words of the Scotch historian James Murdoch (quoted by Morris), the Heian aristocracy were:

"An ever-pullulating brood of greedy, needy, frivolous dilettanti--as often as not foully licentious, utterly effeminate, incapable of any worth achievement, but withal the polished exponents of high breeding and correct 'form'....Now and then a better man did emerge; but one just man is impotent to avert the doom of an intellectual Sodom....A pretty showing, indeed, these pampered minions and bepowdered poetasters might be expected to make."

As I said, my kind of people.

Update: You know, I never realized it before this, but Ivan Morris did the bulk of his teaching work at Columbia University. Another one of those heroes of mine I sort of stumble across. I wish I'd managed to meet him before he died. I'm posting my two favorite volumes of his work below this entry, and I recommend either of them very highly.

September 19, 2003

J. E. Dionne

Do you think that people like E. J. Dionne, folks for whom a Democrat never put a foot wrong, could stop talking about how the 9th Circuit's decision mirrors Bush v. Gore?

It doesn't. There's a difference between casting a ballot, and tabulating it, and the 9th Court's decision isn't 'hoisting conservative judges by their own petards.' It's just another example of the kind of 'interpretation' that judicial activists are famous for: turning a rule (and one that's declared 'non-precedential') into a standard, without any particular recognition of the difference.

September 16, 2003

NEWS FLASH: NEW YORK TIMES HAS NO SHAME

There's only one question worth asking about the New York Times: has America's newspaper of record any shame?

Apparently not. After consistently flacking for Gray Davis with a zeal that borders on the missionary, they have decided to bow approvingly at the altar of Bush v. Gore. After calling the Court's equal protection decision everything but heresy when it hurt their man, they embrace it because it's invoked to save Davis.

Personally, I've always been dismissive of the equal protection argument, especially the 'punchcard ballots discriminate against minorites' argument. No, it discriminates against people who are careless, cannot read instructions and don't pay enough attention to make sure they know what they're doing, and there are a lot of non-minorities that fit this category. For some reason, I can't get my blood boiling over this kind of discrimination.

Books off topic

I'm going to start recommending fiction books that are slightly off-topic for classes, but raise some of the issues that are brought up in my courses.

Today's suggestion is Iain M. Banks The Player of Games. Prof. CivPro's discussion today of how society has decided to put together a group of rules in order to allocate social burdens, and her discussion over the last week of the roles of the state, reminded me of Bank's view a world in which power is allocated on the basis of skill at a certain game of strategy. Indeed, the clash of two very different views of allocation of power, and the strategies of one view in dealing with the other, reminds me a lot of Civ Pro so far.

In other news...

So here's a question: do I need to buy a new bed, or just a new mattress? I woke up with the most outrageous backache today, which I'm choosing to blame on the rather shot mattress on the dorm bed. The way I see it, I've got two choices:
a) buy a new bed, and have the old one taken away.
b) buy a new mattress, and put it on top of the old one.

Problem is, if I were to buy a new bed I'd get a double; the dorm bed is a single. So I don't want to buy a new mattress and find out it's useless if I leave the Malebolge and end up buying a new bed. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to go to the expense of getting a bed delivered to the Malebolge if I am just going to move it soon. In the meantime, my shoulders are crying out to do something.

This is coupled with one of the more difficult problems I'm finding with finances. My budget for the year doesn't look bad, owing to the fact that my daily outgoing expenses seem manageable (though the beginning of term while I couldn't cook has put a hole in that), but for the term is pretty grim. This is because all the major expenses, like a computer, furniture, moving, etc. occur in the first term, but money is only disbursed in halves.

So in other words, all of my graphs say I'm fine in June, but I go broke in December. Credit cards, here we come....

So long, and thanks for all the Finesse

My good friend, sometimes mentor, and one time boss Martin Lloyd of mba-experience.com has finished his projects, completed his degree, gone through Said Business School's "it's not a graduation ceremony, honest" ceremony, and is heading off to the Netherlands, his better three-quarters dragging him along.

I couldn't wish him more luck as he goes off into the professional world, as well as expressing a great deal of envy that for him the task is over. Still, while the thoughts foremost in my mind are joy in knowing that he's done what he set out to accomplish, my days will be slightly darker now for not having his engaging (and often frustratingly left-wing) commentary.

Start a new blog, mate, this time with RSS. It won't be the same without you.

September 15, 2003

Oh to be a kid again...

I've got to find an excuse to buy these for someone's birthday.

September 14, 2003

Legal Templates

Of particular use for those in my section, but the rest of you might find it relevant: there's a wonderful page full of legal templates that work with Microsoft Word on Microsoft's site. For those of you in my Civ Pro class with the legal pleading due on Tuesday, it's pretty helpful.

Curmudgeonly Clerk has moved...

And joined the ranks of Moveable Type.

And here's the clerk

Ouch. There's no other word for it

Just look at this particular mistake. Whatever you've done today, it can't top this.

Doesn't that make you feel better about your day? :)

Artistic Excursion

Hmm... I've not written a single brief for any of my classes this weekend (though I've done all the reading), I've got a legal writing assignment and a civil procedure complaint due in the next four days, and every one of my outlines need revising. So what did I spend midnight last night doing? That's right, shutterbugging.

I'm not entirely happy with how everything turned out: my ambitions would probably require a digital SLR, whereas my budget extends to an HP Photosmart 812. Because of the misty rain last night, flash was a non-starter, so many of the images are underexposed or blurry. Still, out of about three dozen shots, I got a few not burdened with shame. I'll give you one taste before the cut, and then you can click on the link below if you'd like to see more.

(Click on any image to see a larger version in a new window.)

Probably the best shot of the evening, the outside of the law school. This hasn't been retouched or photoshopped at all, although it looks like it would fit in well in a collage.


As I said, I couldn't use flash, so the things which came out best were things that were brightly lit or backlit. Anything else relied upon me keeping my hands steady for up to a minute while the camera struggled with low light conditions. The spiral staircase in the Lerner came out well, though I'd like to try this shot on a non-rainy night.

The statue of Bellepheron taming the Pegasus outside the law school.

The best shot I got of the main library. I'm not sure if I can call this 'artistically blurry' or not. I wanted to capture the feeling of the mist that was drifting across campus, but it didn't come out quite like I'd expected. However, you'd be surprised how well a few filters and some slight touchup work makes this look like a watercolor.

And now for the more outrageous pictures. First, there's the ones that are clearly a mistake. In the shot below I was struggling to get the effect of the lights from traffic backlighting students walking across the quad from the lawschool. I wish I'd had my SLR with me, because the shadows were wonderful and dramatic. Unfortunately, the lack of light meter on my Photosmart meant this image took two minutes to finish, during which time my arm gave out. You can see the rather amateurish effect.

And lastly, a photo I call 'The Unblinking Eye.' There's this wonderfully silly modern art statue in the quad outside the law school, which looks like an eye on a stalk. However, if you look through the 'eye' at night, and you're at just the right height, you can see the lights of Amsterdam Avenue through it. I'd hoped to capture it in some form of realism, but again the lack of light-meter was killing me. (Passer-by must have thought me a fool, sitting there trying not to fall off a ledge and holding a camera at a just right angle.)

Most of the pictures came out a mess. By the time the camera had finished taking the picture, the stoplights had normally cycled green-to-red, completely confusing my poor Photosmart. I finally figured out that if I started the picture just as the light turned red, it would get done just before the lights turned green again. Anyway, this one came out strange but not entirely unattractive. It's not been photoshopped at all, believe it or not. Check out the larger image: you can actually see the stoplights.

I'll have to try this again on a clear night. The beauty of the campus at midnight doesn't rival Oxford in the mist, but it holds its own addictions for sophmoric photographers.

September 13, 2003

Microsoft Margaritaville

Nothing really to report today, since it's a day of work. I'll just give you two tastes of the day.

First of all, after discussion with a classmate we've agreed that Margaritaville isn't so much the presence of margaritas as a (rather unattractive) state of mind. And I'm missing my Jimmy Buffett's Greatest Hits CD, which is tragedy indeed.

Secondly, I'm not the biggest tech geek in our class. There's a guy who has made an access database to brief his cases, which spits out reports in various levels of detail for each class. It's magnificent, and if I had a technical achievement of the week award for law students, he'd get it. I'm now trying to decide whether it's worth cutting and pasting a few weeks worth of notes into his design.

Sigh... back to work.

September 12, 2003

This is so wrong

From a site I'd never read before, the very strange WrestleCr**.com.

Apparently this was a bootleg children's toy. Anyone wondering why copyright law should sometimes be enforced need look no further.

Bring Back Bork

Yesterday, Justice Ginsburg was kind enough to do a question and answer session at Columbia Law School, an experience far more enjoyable than I expected. A particularly funny speaker, I'm now a bit upset that I'm going to miss the two panels marking her tenth anniversary on the Supreme Court.

One of the more interesting questions put to her was what she thinks about the current situation with federal court nominations in the Senate. The best line in a response seeming quite disapproving was that eventually a whistle would be blown and things would be restored to sanity. Like most on her side of the aisle, she pointed to Clinton's consultation of Senator Hatch during her own nomination. I find this a bit unsatisfying, in that most of Clinton's 'consultations' were consultations with a majority party, not merely consulting a petulant opposition.

In any event, I was thinking of the strike and counterstrike that led to this particular impasse, cogitating on Justice Ginsburgs words and Professor Solum's analysis of events, and thinking of what that 'blowing of the whistle' that would lead the process back to sanity would be. Overturn Roe v. Wade but pass legislation making abortion legal, thus taking the most polarizing decision off the tables? Try to shame the most partisan of the senators into comity? Raise Pat Moynihan from the grave so he can rebuke his current New York successors for lacking in good grace? But all of these responses weren't 'first move' options that Bush could make without significant external help. (I'm pretty certain Bush doesn't have the right contacts in the witch doctoring world to do the latter anyway.)

Then it hit me. When the next Supreme Court nomination comes open, bring back Bork.

When you trace the spiraling descent of cross-party relations on judicial nominees, Bork is inevitably mentioned as the first shot invoked in the battle. From Bork to Thomas, Thomas to Clinton's appointees, from there to the present process... Bork is inevitably the cassus belli.

The idea's got a couple of attractions. First of all, it all rests in President Bush's hands: it's a unilateral act, and this is a president who's shown a liking for those. He can couch it to the Senate in terms of a grand deal: if the Democrats agree to revise their stance on Bork, the Republicans will agree to a truce on future nominees from a Democratic president. Things will have come full circle.

Sure, there's going to be initial resistance, but Bush would also have made it difficult for the Republicans in the Senate to chicken out on him. How many senators have raised Bork as their standard when fighting for Gonzales or Thomas? How much honor is there for them to lose? Whereas some of the Democrats, realising how far this situation has gone and how much there is to lose, would be likely to capitulate, even if Charles Schumer becomes the irredentist faction.

I don't think it's a sure shot. Certainly when it comes to matters requiring strategic competence, there's no such thing as a sure thing for any Republican organization. But even if Bork were to lose again, it's likely to bring an end to the Confirmation Wars, if only from sheer attrition. Imagine how spectacularly ugly Bork II might be, how much face could be lost on both sides! One way to end a war is simply to make it unprofitable to go on any further.

And in the best of all possible worlds, the Senate comes to its senses and confirms him like a Ginsburg or a Breyer. Just think how good it would be for 'to be Borked' to lose its perjorative sense.

That's it, Bush, blow that whistle of sanity. The whistle called Bork.

September 11, 2003

Why Law School Is Not Like High School

Last night was the welcome dinner for the class of 2006. A formal event held in the main library (which some of you might recognize as the 'laboratory' in which Peter Parker is bitten in the latest movie), it's the first evening we've all been to in which people were expected to be dressed up. 'Business elegant,' as the invitations said, and I was impressed that most people were done up in black but not fuscous. All in all, we're a class with good taste in clothes.

The most common thing I've heard so far is, "This is like being back in high school." While I can understand how some might think that, I can only imagine how most of my fellows' high school experiences must differ from mine. In that spirit, I offer Ten Ways In Which Law School Is Different From High School.

1. High school was dumber. This probably goes without saying, but you don't run into anyone here that seems... well, dumb. But then, the folks I've met here didn't go to high school in Alabama, so I'm willing to concede that maybe they all finished their senior year with a bundle of geniuses.

2. There are no Mitsubishi Eclipses. The bright red Mitsubishi Eclipse, driven generally by a 'clique' girl with matching nail polish and a bit too much makeup, was a staple of my high school years. I haven't seen that yet, and no one here would even think about matching their nail polish to the color of the New York metro.

3. There terms of battle are better. Back in my high school days, the big conflict was between the Jocks and the 'Heads. For some reason never quite clear to me, if you liked football you loathed heavy metal, and vice versa. This conflict generally took place in scribblings on the walls of the men's bathroom, with the 'Heads having the upper hand, if only because they were generally more literate. "Heads suck donkys [sic]" was about as good as the first side ever got. The Jocks had advantages of size, brutality, and a more practical dress sense, demonstrated when one Jock yanked off the chain connecting a 'Head's nose ring to his nipple piercing.

I've not found a lot of this at law school, at least not yet. (Certainly not the violence: who'd want their big fight appearing as a question on the Torts exam?) I can only imagine what such doctrinal disputes would entail, anyway? "Dear Textualists: please note that for the purposes of the signs saying 'do not dispose of towels in the toilets,' toilet paper is not considered to be towels," I suppose, or maybe something witty like, "Your mamma's so ugly she could get sued for assault just for walking down the street without makeup." Come to think of it, most of us are so wordy that the witty insults might not fit on the bathroom doors.

4. No smoking in the bathroom. Really, how can it be like high school if no one's slipping into the bathroom for a quick Camel?

5. The drinking's better. Last night six people stood around discussing whether Laphroaig had 'a distinctive peaty flavor that's an acquired taste' or 'was like sucking on my brother's Zippo.' I remember similar conversations in high school, but it was about Mad Dog 20/20.

6. Less homeroom, more spam. How can it be like high school if there's not that wasted twenty minutes each day where you're completely arbitrarily stuck in a room and fed administrative pablum? Whereas the law school gets around this by sending us twenty or so spams a day for events we're not actually allowed to attend. (So far today there's Latino Society, St. Thomas More dinner, a play date for students with families...)

7. Windows. My high school was one of the casualties in Jimmy Carter's 'moral equivalent of war on environmental damage,' and in order to save on heating costs had no windows in any of its rooms. Couple that with paint in shades of institutional brown, orange, and yellow, and it's remarkable I'm not more psychologically damaged than I am. On the other hand, Columbia Law School seems to have been designed to let as much light as possible into the study areas, perhaps on the idea that we'll be even more inspired to work if we can see just how gorgeous the day is outside.

8. No Slayer T-Shirts. If you went to high school in the early 90's, you understand. If you're one of the law students here who make me feel like a decrepit old man, just trust us on this, OK?

9. Manners. Who ever held a door for a lady in high school? "Please" and "thank you," at least back in my day, might as well have been declared obsolete or foreign words. Table manners in the cafeteria hadn't advanced much since the table of Ghengis Khan. Whereas last night not only was everyone dressed elegantly, but just about everyone knew the order of the forks, the order in which one uses spoons, and not to eat until everyone had been served.

10. Less sex. I distinctly remember there being more sex going on in high school, and more people talking about it. Though one classmate has commented on this observation by pointing out that the sex wasn't half as good. (See the comment on booze above.)

Anyway, it's not completely dissimilar to high school. We're all a 'class' again, in a way that you don't feel as an undergraduate with thousands of peers. We have class ranks, report cards, and the detrius of a structured academic lifestyle. We have deans (just like principals) talking to us about mission and duty and service. No one really feels like they know what they're doing. But I'm not going to feel my high school years are back until the guys here are handing around the Mad Dog.

September 10, 2003

Torts Question: Volto and the Kissing Cousins

As I've said, I really don't get torts so far. There's some intuitive understanding of contracts that sticks with me, and Civ Pro isn't holding any fears, but I'm having a hard time outlining the boundaries in torts. And for someone with my boundary issues, that's annoying. Here's the kind of question that springs to my mind, and to which I can find no answer.

Battery. Apparently, knowledge of the battery isn't necessary. My textbook quotes Restatement of Torts, Section 18, Comment d, illus. 2: "A kisses B while asleep but does not waken or harm her. A is subject to liability to B."

Now, consider Restatement 18, comment c: battery covers not only direct contact with the person but "anything so closely attached...that it is customarily regarded as a part thereof and which is offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity."

So, imagine a situation where A is making a plaster cast of B's face for purposes of making a mask. B is waiting for the mask to dry, and A kisses the mould lightly enough that B doesn't know A has done so. Is A subject to liability to B? (The situation comes from a rather lousy poem I once wrote.) What is the 'customary' idea a to whether the mould (made, after all, by A) is a part of B? And given that B is lying on the floor with a face covered in plaster, what exactly is the 'reasonable dignity' involved in the situation?

Ah well. I assume our exam (the only closed book, 3-hour exam presently on Exam Watch) will be tougher than the above. My readers are welcome to take a crack at a solution.

Question resolved

I love AIR. They've now conclusively proven which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Bloody Techno Illiterates

And for the latest case to set my blood boiling, there's the Supreme Court of California's ruling in Intel v. Hamidi. Don't get me wrong, the court seems to have gotten it right, but the sheer amount of technological ignorance within it suggests that this was more by luck than judgement.

Briefly, Intel sued Hamidi for sending all of their employees emails about how scuzzy an employer Intel can be. He seems to have followed good-spam practice, in that he'd take you off his mailing list if you asked. But Intel sues on a theory of trespass to chattels, basically saying that he's using their servers to distribute his mail, and imposing 'costs' upon them.

Ignore the actual outcome of the case for a moment. A brief glance at the decision shows a copious disregard for any slight idea of how the internet, TCP/IP, mail hosts, servers, or the web works. The majority, thinking it's clever, states:

Epstein's argument derives, in part, from the familiar metaphor of the Internet as a physical space, reflected in much of the language that has been used to describe it: "cyberspace," "the information superhighway," email "addresses," and the like. Of course, the Internet is also frequently called simply the "Net," a term, Hamidi points out, "evoking a fisherman's chattel." A major component of the Internet is the World Wide "Web," a descriptive term suggesting neither personal nor real property, and "cyberspace" itself has come to be known by the oxymoronic phrase "virtual reality," which would suggest that any real property "located" in "cyberspace" must be "virtually real" property. Metaphor is a two-edged sword.

Where to start with the nonsense. Of course, that virtual reality isn't cyberspace, and cyberspace isn't virtual reality, and while there's an overlap between them (VRML, for starters), it would be like saying that the Internet is a mailbox because a lot of mail goes through it. It's not called 'the Net' because it evokes a fishing net, but merely because it's the kind of evolved parlance that springs up in internet culture.

And besides, the majority didn't even have to start picking holes in the metaphor, especially if it were going to pick them badly. It could have just run with the standard metaphors in a mail system. Mail servers generally have a 'postmaster' or 'mailer daemon,' a servant that puts mail in its proper place when it arrives. Now certainly, if you're considering your server 'virtual land,' then if you have a 'virtual servant' standing at something like a 'gateway' who invites onto your land anything that comes to your door, tells it where to go to, and how much memory to take up... well, how silly is it to sue for trespass something you've invited in?

However bad it is, though, the dissent is worse:

Although Haidi claims he sent only six e-mails, he sent them to between 8,000 and 35,000 employees, thus sending from 48,000 to 210,000 messages. Since it is the effect on Intel that is determinative, it is the number of messages received, not sent, that matters. In any event, Hamidi sent between 48,000 and 210,000 messages; the "six" refers only to the number of distinct texts Hamidi sent.

Now, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but this isn't necessarily the case, is it? For instance, say that Hamidi, instead of sending every letter individually, sends it to an internal mailing list of Intel's, something like businessgrouping@intel.com. That's one mail that might go to 100 people, but until Intel receives it, it's one mail. Furthermore, if they're using a system like Microsoft Exchange, it might remain one mail, just one that has quite a few pointers going to it. If the dissent is going to start worrying about costs employed by mail, is it going to choose the number of messages that go out of Hamidi's server, the number received by Intel, the number stored by Intel, or the number received by its employees? The dissent would seem (but only because it shows no sign of distinguishing the difference) to indicate the latter, but then that makes less sense. Surely Hamidi can't be held responsible for what Intel does with one letter once it hits their server? What if Intel programs their mail server to take any letter marked 'Hamidi' and send it to every employee, even if he's only addressed it to one?

In general, it's just painful to read a decision like this, where you just want to say, "No, no, it's not like that!" Especially when the arguments which are least like the reality of a working internet come from Intel's attorneys. I mean, did they not have access to any of Intel's techs?

September 09, 2003

Sex, Lies, and Contracts

Now who says contracts have to be boring? I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's discussion of Fiege v. Boehm.

To put the case in a nutshell: Ms. Boehm found herself in a delicate position and, having stepped out with young Mr. Fiege, secured a promise from him to pay for her medical and miscellaneous expenses, loss of salary, and $10 per week until the child was 21, in exchange for her not charging him with bastardy. [1] However, Mr. Fiege then found out that his blood type was O, Ms. Boehm's was B, and the child being a straight-A kiddie... well, you do the math. He stopped paying.

The court's finding (and this is a 1956 case, remember) is interesting for its consequences. Judge Delaplaine finds that, whilst forbearance of making a claim is not sufficient consideration to support a promise if that claim is invalid, it is good consideration so long as at the time her claim was doubtful but of such nature that both sides thought there was a bona fide question between them. End result? She gets her cash.

Which proves that Ms. Boehm was not as clever as clever may be. Let us assume that she'd been taking long auto rides in the country with three separate men during the interval in question. If she made the same deal with each man separately, there'd be a question between each of them: after all, they know no better than she who the father is, and while she is the only one who knows of the existence of all four parties, that's not directly relevant as misrepresentation. (At least, so it seems.) She could have been one well-off single mother.

A more literary, but less scholarly, interpretation of the same concept might be found in a work by the good Mr. Ennis. Those of you who know what I'm talking about here should not click this link. It'll make you cry.


[1] This seems to be a now outdated criminal statute with a number of special considerations, such that agreeing not to charge the man in question was valid consideration for a contract, under normal conditions.

Torts is Torts

Well, the first 8:30 A.M. Torts class is out of the way. Actually, it's not so bad. It means I have to be awake, functioning, and prepared in the early morning, which means I'm getting a lot accomplished. I'll confess that torts doesn't seem to be my subject. So far, the casebook isn't helping me to synthesize what's going on in the same way that I can understand Contracts or Civ Pro.

Prof. Torts managed to call on me within the first 25 minutes of class, referring to me as 'Mr. Rickey,' just like she uses last names with everyone. Her explanation for this was a saying of her old professor, that, 'You see, I'm Professor Law, and so if I call you Firstname, then you'll call me Charlie, and then the heavens fall.' But no one's really called me that since Japan, where I was 'Rickey-san.'

A complete reversal from my first Japanese teacher, then, who used to say, 'Every time you call me Ms. Nihongo, I turn around to see if my mom's there.'

September 08, 2003

How not to make money

An Atlanta-based friend of mine of questionable moral character sent me this want-ad from the New York edition of Craig's List, with the suggestion that I might need to make some money while at law school. I think (or at least hope) she was joking.

Not that entering the oldest profession is a bad idea for those wanting to enter the second-oldest, but really, I think signing onto such a program would reflect badly when we have to get past the bar. Besides, my present resume doesn't really respond to any of the questions asked in the job listing.

Don't Stress About Exams?

Prof. Civ Pro (I'm using Katherine's system for identifying real people here) is the latest in a line of professors who have said not to stress about the exams until at least halfway through the term. Is this good advice? At the moment, I don't trust it.

When I have an answer to this question, it'll be posted under Letters to Wormwood. (This reference added for the benefit of future JD2B's here.)

September 07, 2003

Good Country Covers. Bad Country Covers

A very good cover by a country singer of a very good song:
Mary Chapin Carpenter covers Bruce Springstein's Dancing in the Dark
Best line in the song (cover): "I check my look in the mirror: I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face. I ain't gettin' nowhere, just livin' in a dump like this."

A very bad cover by a country group of a very good song:
Lonestar covers Marc Cohn's Walking in Memphis
Best line in the song (original): "She said, 'Tell me, are you a Christian, child?' and I said, 'Ma'am, I am tonight.'"

I hear covers like this last one, and I think, "What in god's name did Lonestar think it was going to improve?"

Hell's Kitchen Update

I'd like to give a thank you to the lovely Ms. K and my newly-met neighbor Mr. S. These two sterling towers of courage and intestinal fortitude helped me throw out everything in our kitchen that wasn't nailed down or otherwise labeled. If the dorm authorities here at the Malebolge are true to their word, all those surfaces will be cleaned tomorrow.

Of course, there's now about two years of spoiled food rotting in the hallway, but we really couldn't figure out where else to put it, there being more waste than would fit in the garbage cans. Highlights of the evening? Throwing out milk that expired in March (again, many thanks to the courageous Ms. K.); no less than three pans that had seen better days; the rusty knives finally gone. All of us stink like a garbage midden. If there were justice in the world, we'd send a bill to the housing authorities. Then again, if there were justice in the world, we probably wouldn't be on our way to lawyerdom. But at least it's over.

We hope.

So, Malebolge status?
Kitchen: On its way to habitable.
Call box: Still broken (well, missing presumed replaced), but I don't miss it.
Hallway: I hope the garbage men are coming tomorrow....

September 06, 2003

The Last Shred of Dignity

Prediction: this movie is going to suck like a top of the range Hoover. Why Hollywood felt the need to fictionalise the battle of Kagoshima Bay is beyond me, but putting Tom Cruise there is more daft than the original Shogun. At least Richard Chamberlain played a fictionalised analog of an actual historical figure.

Someone once joked to me that Kurosawa did his Shakespearian adaptations (Ran, Throne of Blood, etc.) in revenge for Americans having stolen The Seven Samurai to make The Magnificent Seven. Something similar should be done here. Maybe Juzo Itami could make a movie about a Japanese follower of Mishima's coming over to America to train black activists in 'the essential Buddhist character of passive resistance' during the 1960's Civil Rights movement? Or a Japanese scientist contributing to the genesis of the Trinity Project?

In case you're wondering why I'm getting so perturbed, I find the idea of this movie ridiculous and bordering on the offensive. (Of course, I'll still go see it just to see if I'm right.) The main counterpart to Cruise's character seems to be based on Saigo Takemori, a man who could legitimately claim the title of 'The Last Samurai.' Stubborn, firmly convinced of his own cause, and willing to lead a hopeless revolution in the face of insurmountable odds, he's always been one of my historical role models. I'm going to hate what Hollywood's done to him.

September 05, 2003

Exam Schedules

As you can see from the Exam Watch feature at the right, we got our exam schedules...

Happy Birthday to Me...

Well, it seems like (a) I've survived to the end of Legal Methods, and (b) I've survived to the ripe old age of twenty-nine.

I got an email last night from my mother telling me that one of my good friends from middle school may have gone into labour last night. If she did, it'll be (a) another boy with (b) my birthday. That would be cool.

September 04, 2003

Putridity has become policy

A little note to those of you thinking of becoming 1Ls here, with regards to the dorms:

Policy, as I now have in an official letter, is that the cleaners will not throw out anything in the kitchens. This sounds all well and good, until you realize that no one checks to make sure that anyone takes their things out of the kitchen before they leave. This means new tenants, like I and my hallmates, are now being told that if the kitchen is to be cleaned, we'd better throw out the rusty knives, ancient bottles of soy sauce, and crusty jars in the fridge before Monday. [1]

The kicker? This line from the relevant bureaucratic office:

At this time I would like to remind you that we cannot take responsibility for removing any item in the kitchens. I strongly suggest that in the future you all be considerate with your neighbors and discard what is no longer needed.

Since (a) 'remind' implies this is a policy posted somewhere (as opposed to the 'All items left in these areas will be discarded' sign actually on the wall), (b) we seem to need 'reminding' not to leave belongings in a place we've never put them, and (c) the big problem is things left behind by people who will never get that email, I'm not sure I'm amused.

Anyway, if you find yourself in a situation similar to mine next year, just throw out everything that's disgusting when you move in. What you might end up paying your fellow hallmates to replace their stuff will be less than the excess of eating out for a month while it gets resolved.

[1] Torts question: one of us cuts ourselves with a rusty knife whilst doing this and gets tetanus. What torts?

MEChA: It's not just for anime geeks anymore

The Curmudgeonly Clerk has one of the best summaries of the ongoing Cruz Bustamante/MECha controversy. I'm going to have to take issue, though, with the fact that he's taking it seriously.

In a nutshell, the story centers on the Man Who Would Take on The Terminator having at one point belonged to an organization that, in crusty founding documents from the late, unlamented revolutionary '60's, talked about the 'liberation of the people of Aztlan' (basically, Aztec separatism), and had the amazingly racist 'slogan' Por La Raza rodo. Fuera de La Raza nada.' (Though there's some disagreement here, roughly translated "For the Race: everything. Outside the Race: nothing.")

Queue cries by the right that Bustamante belonged to a racist organization, that he should disavow MEChA's non-inclusive beliefs, and in general that this is all a big error of judgement. And queue various interpretations from the left on how the language doesn't mean what it means, it's not important, and it's not racist at all anyway.

Please.

In the interests of consistency, I'm going to have to back Bustamante on this one. Back when the entire Trent Lott debacle was going on, I made a point that his statements, taken in context, were no big deal: what a man says at a birthday party for an old friend who once ran for president is hardly dispositive of his political views. Arguing that it was racist 'in code' implied this kind of racist Machievillianism among Republicans that gives us far too much credit. Most of us can't string a sentence together coherently, much less 'encode' it with hidden racial hate speech so we can grinningly backslap each other in clear view of reporters.

Basically, if you thought Lott was a racist before the birthday, then damn, it was a racist statement. But if you didn't bring the baggage into the comment, it didn't have anything to do with race, but had a lot to do with party.

Similarly, the entire MEChA 'scandal' excites the hypersensitive right who expects the left to live up to the (thoroughly unrealistic) standards that the left demands of its victims. Finally, we've got a 'gotcha.' I mean, it's all in a document, it's all on websites, it's all thoroughly provable.

Except... c'mon. These are the founding documents of an organization that, if it's doing anything racist, is doing so in such a low-grade manner that it hadn't hit the radar screen prior to becoming a good excuse for Limbaughesque bile. Even casual inspection of the sites seems to indicate it mostly does 'good deeds' (at least as considered in left-wing campuses), 'consciousness raising,' and the other silly ephemera of campus politics. [1] If this is the KKK in latino wrapping, it's certainly a laid back and relaxed hate group. Can you commit a 'casual dislike crime' these days?

I'm certainly not an expert, but this tempest in a teacup looks to me like what was once a possibly radical '60's group has become... well, a nifty social club. I doubt if a tenth of its members could tell you what its founding documents are, much less quote them. Sure, maybe that whole 'Raza' thing should have been repealed (or maybe not), but is it really worth the effort?

Last night I went to the De Vinimus wine tasting here at Columbia, and I'd love to join the society. Now, with any luck, no one is going to point out at my eventual Supreme Court nomination that De Vinimus has historically discriminated against Antarctic vinters or advocated for growing Norwegian wines via slave labor. [2] I doubt they do these things, but I couldn't categorically swear that I've read their founding charters to make sure. (After eight glasses of wine at a good tasting, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell you if they did.) Given that, without further evidence that Bustamante is fronting for the succession of California, New Mexico, and Arizona, or trying to mandate Austrian-American indentured servitude, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt as an honorable politician.

What was done to Trent Lott was demeaning to sensible politics (although his responses were pretty talentless, as well), but it's no better when otherwise sensible conservatives decide we're going to indulge in foolish muckraking. We might not like Bustamante, but if this is the best evidence that he's biased racially, I'd shake his hand.


[1] Casual inspection of the Yale MEChA site also reveals it's bloated with gigantic images, slow to load, and in need of a redesign... but that's my old web hand talking.

[2] And if that's the worst my political opponents can site after three years of blogging, I've not had enough fun at law school.

Estrada Withdraws, Schumer Waxes, Cynicism Wins

It appears that Estrada has given up the fight for nomination. After the Lewinsky battles, I didn't think comity in the Senate could sink any lower. How I can underestimate Senator Schumer.

Professor Solum has given an analysis of what Estrada means for future confirmation battles. I'm afraid that to me he seems to come to a conclusion as grim as it is certain: that the federal courts are now fated to be the third political branch of government, and at that the most dangerous.

September 03, 2003

Web-based Chaos

I just looked at the coursewebs for my classes. Jacob Neilson would be aghast. Besides the fact that these websites, from which we're supposed to download assignments and information, aren't particularly user-friendly and don't seem to have any user notification system (it would be nice to get emailed whenever a new assignment is posted), Professor Torts has her own embedded copy of Quickplace (IBM's own groupware-lite program). It sometimes appears as a popup from the first courseweb program, and sometimes unhappily embeds itself within it.

Me, I like Microsoft's Sharepoint, but all of these programs are pretty confusing. It would be nice if the law school could choose one feature rich piece of software and stick with it. Neither of them have a 'push-based' notification system, which I think is the most important need.

Best line of the day

In a discussion of United Steel Workers of America v. Weber:

I never thought I'd say this, but I agree with Rehnquist.

I'm really worried we're going to get to Gratz v. Bollinger and I'll have to say, "I never thought I'd say this, but I agree with Ginsberg." But at least it won't be in this course.

This was probably the first fraught, or even fairly heated, discussion in class. A taste of things to come? I couldn't say.

September 01, 2003

Methodological Distraction

Instead of briefing my cases this evening, I spent the time looking at past papers some recommended articles on studying for law school. (Findlaw's student section is remarkably good for this.)

I'm coming to the conclusion, looking at past papers, that an outline which is based solely on a set of case briefs is a bit of a mistake. (If this is obvious to you 2Ls, be kind to the blinding flash of the obvious, OK?) The first question on the exam always seems to be on how to apply a set of laws, which may or may not relate to these cases; the second question is an evaluation of statutory interpretation issues. In other words, I might have been better off taking more detailed notes on the discursive sections than spending all this time on case briefs.

Ah well: yes, it's a waste of time for this class, but mistakes are the best way to avoid screwing up next time. At least, that's what I'll tell myself.

Determined Optimism

What's the only good thing about spending an entire morning arguing with the fact that the cockroach-ridden nightmare of a kitchen at the Malebolge seems to have been declared the "tenant's collective responsibility?"

After that, the idea of doing 100 pages of reading on the Civil Rights Act, about six case briefs, and an outline update is positively a stress-free joy.

Giving The Devil His Due

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Estrada Withdraws, Schumer Waxes, Cynicism Wins (0)
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