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November 30, 2003

A Cynical View of Law Firm Hiring Practice

This is, admittedly, a non-scientific, non-academic approach, but I want to pull together the various stories, impressions, and tall tales of the law firm hiring process, and see if I can make a few tentative predictions. I've been inspired by lectures from career services, my upcoming exams, and a brief glance at my current debt level, so this might be a little less optimistic than normal.

1900-1950: Although legal education remained the norm, some firms would still hire and train under an apprenticeship system. Indeed, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson (for whom the current Chief Justice clerked) was trained in that fashion. A student's performance in law school, however, remains determinative of his career prospects.

1995: For some time, rebellious theorists have questioned whether a third year of law school is necessary. 1L grades are determinative of students career prospects. Some students spend their summer after 1L year pursuing non-law interests. Whatever the theorists think, 3L year is still mandatory as either a restraint of trade or ritual formality.

2003: At least one admitted untrained theorist [1] wonders if the second year of law school is unnecessary. First semester 1L grades are determinative of job prospects for post-1L summers. 1L grades and 1L summer placements sort out 2L summer placements, and law firms choose from among 2L summer placements. 3L year remains necessary.

Which leads to my predictions:

2010: Enterprising law firms realize that a pedagogical system which does the vast majority of its ranking function in the first 16.5% of a three year course is probably testing extraneous factors--who's learned how the test system works in the first semester, instead of correcting exam-strategies after a dry run, for instance. Firms therefore begin asking for LSAT results and application essays. LSAC IPOs to great fanfare; BarBri exam courses end. 3L year remains as a restraint of trade or ritual formality.

The further future is indeterminate, but I predict one of two possible courses:

2040: Genetic testing has advanced, allowing law firms to test newborn babies for legal aptitude. After SATs, LSATs, IQ tests, or 1L exams, firms finally have a competitive measure in which 'test prep' is not a factor in success. (BarBri, however, begins offering hopeful parents Guides to Successful Legal Conception: What Are the Firm Test 'Positions'?) 1L year now a relaxed post-college sabattical. 3L year remains as a ritual formality.

or...:

2040: Rising numbers of applicants, broader grade curves, and more compressed time schedules lead law firms to conclude that using 3rd grade aptitude tests have the same problems as SATs, LSATs, or 1L exams when Kaplan enters the test prep market in a marketing alliance with Barney. Realizing that they're doing most of the black-letter law education themselves, law firms complete their circle by hiring legal apprentices based upon a holistic interview process. Very faint peals of laughter are heard over the grave of Justice Robert Jackson...

[1] Yours truly.

November 29, 2003

Two More Bits of Procrastination

Spent fifteen minutes wandering Lexis in between chapters of contracts outline. The two gems I found?

Entertainment for Hours
A Compendium of Clever and Amusing Law Review Writings: An Idiosyncratic Bibliography of Miscellany with in Kind Annotations Intended as a Humorous Diversion for the Gentle Reader, Baker, 51 Drake L. Rev. 105.

The title says it all. Any six of the articles here should waste away hours of study time.

Enough to Make the Most Diehard Marxist Love Richard Posner
No, really. I'm serious. Whatever you think you thought of Posner, read Goodbye to the Bluebook, 53 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1343. OK, he's nakedly partisan for his hometown Chicago manual over that interloper from Harvard, but after your 1L memos, this should be music to your ears:

The time that law students and lawyers spend mastering and applying the manifold rules of the Bluebook is time taken away from other lawyerly activities, mainly from thinking about what they are writing. It is so hard to get the citation forms right that the writer or editor who has done so is apt to feel that he has acquitted himself of a difficult task and should be allowed to rest his brain. Less attention can be given writing and rewriting because so much is devoted to forms most of which don't matter worth a straw to the reader. Instead of learning the Uniform Commercial Code the student learns the Uniform Citation Code, which is almost as long, and far more arbitrary.

Amen, brother.

Update: Using the first article and links therefrom, Will Baude has proven that Judge Easterbrook is a videogame fan. You can probably score some points with the esteemed judge by introducing him or his law clerks to the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME).

November 28, 2003

Buy Nothing Day

Ambivalent Imbroglio points out that today is Buy Nothing Day. If you happen to think Naomi Klein is the most overrated author since Douglas Copeland managed to name a generation after a second-rate novel, today's the perfect excuse to buy that thing you've been lusting after for ages but couldn't justify to yourself. After all, the chance to thumb your nose at pointless sanctimony might be exactly what you need to tip the utility equation for a sheerly pointless purchase from 'unreasonable extravagance' to 'political statement.' Go ahead, buy those DK pillows, the Anne Coulter talking doll, or just go get a McDonalds cheeseburger.

Places to Study

For some reason, I just can't study at the law school. Besides that fact that the atmosphere there is becoming ever more tense (and being behind some of my more gung-ho classmates in my studying, that means every moment there is a combination of guilt and insecurity), it's just so horribly modern. Everything is plasterboard, steel, glass, and uncomfortable modern furniture. (And the library seems to be kept for the benefit of its books. The place is nose-bleedingly dry, which undoubtedly good for old pages but gives me perpetual colds.)

Thankfully, a few days before exams, I've now settled in the Butler Library, mostly used by the undergraduates. To someone used to studying in the archaic comforts of Oxford, there's something comforting about a place full of oak paneling, impractical marble floors, and actual old-style wooden bookcases. The study carrels afford you enough space to spread your notes, two outlines, a hornbook, and the other paraphenalia you need to construct your study materials. The coffee bar is cheaper than the law school's as well.

And of course, the atmosphere's less tense. Can't complain there.

Distraction and Deviance

Ah, Lexis. Source of many hours of legal procrastination. On the menu tonight? Suing the Devil: A Guide for Practitioners, by Charles Lablon, 86 Va. L. Rev. 103. (I'm trying to find a copy you can get to without Lexis, but for those of you in law or law school, it's there.) A taste?

"THESE are precarious times for plaintiffs' lawyers. With most of the asbestos manufacturers safely bankrupt, the tobacco companies looking for a settlement, and even the most gullible investors unable to lose money on Wall Street, there is a serious risk of a defendant shortage. To be sure, people continue to be cheated, harassed, and abused by corporate America in reassuring numbers, but recovering the costs of standard corporate malfeasance is just a job, not an adventure. It provides none of the opportunities for financial windfalls, moral indignation, and national television exposure that come from suing a really despicable defendant. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that one notorious perpetrator of injury, misery, and wrongful conduct has remained curiously immune from the current onslaught of civil litigation. I am speaking, of course, about the Devil incarnate, Satan, Prince of Darkness.

I know that the concept of a lawsuit, preferably a class action, against the Devil strikes many lawyers as bizarre, perhaps even absurd. I completely understand such concerns. Obviously Satan is a formidable legal opponent. He is well financed, highly intelligent, very aggressive, and completely unscrupulous. I believe he has had formal legal training. Yet the point of this Essay is to show that in a world in which Philip Morris, Microsoft, and Rupert Murdoch are all targets of litigation, the Devil isn't really so tough. Moreover, while Satanic litigation does pose some unique jurisdictional and procedural difficulties, none of them, as I will subsequently demonstrate, poses an insurmountable obstacle to a successful lawsuit."


and
"Since that time, there have been virtually no reported instances of Satanic litigation. This may strike some of you as odd, since the Devil is obviously still heavily involved in commercial activity, and we all know how indispensable the threat of a lawsuit is to maintaining amicable business relations. If he has stopped resorting to the courts, how does Satan keep his business associates in line? After much consideration and research, I believe I have discovered the answer. I can state it in three words: alternative dispute resolution. It appears that the standard-form demonic contract, like the standard securities brokerage contract, now contains an arbitration clause. This explains not only why the Devil no longer resorts to litigation, but also why so many people and institutions these days seem summarily to be going to Hell.

Incidentally, the article cites the following case, great if you're reviewing Civil Procedure: United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan & His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D. Penn 1971), in which plaintiff "alleges that Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall." The case is dismissed because: (a) the plaintiff can't gain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district [1]; (b) "plaintiff has failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshal for directions as to service of process"; and (c) failure to reveal a cause of action over which relief can be provided by the court [2]. The court also questions if the case is maintainable as a class action, since while it met the requirements for Rule 23 [3], the court did not want to guess whether the claimant would fairly protect the interest of the class.

[1] I think the federal judge thinks well of his district here. Personal jurisdiction can be maintained under a theory of general jurisdiction if the defendant has 'substantial and continuous' contacts with the forum state. I guess His Honor thinks that limits general jurisdiction for the Prince of Darkness to California, New York, and other such dens of iniquity?

[2] Obviously, the defendant didn't file a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, but I can't find the rule that allows a court to dismiss a claim without a motion from the defendant. Anyone help me out here?

[3] The class is too numerous that joinder of all parties is impractical (and I would have thought this countered the personal jurisdiction problem); there are questions of law and fact common to the class; and claims of the representative party are common to claims of the class.

November 27, 2003

Behave, my rebellious brain

Why is it that every time I get a good head of steam going with my revision, the more creative side of my brain starts distracting me with good ideas for the application of knowledge that I've not learned yet? Today has been all about contracts. I don't think I know half of what I need to know for the course yet, but it's coming together. And now I can't focus because this idea for a novel keeps cropping up. Just what I don't have time for.

The basic idea is a series of modern fairy tale vignettes involving various outrageous contracts, with a few recurring characters to tie the scenes together. I think about twelve or thirteen stories would be enough to get me through the majority of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts.

I know, it's sounds a bit strange, but it's not unprecidented. I'm thinking, of course, of Russell Roberts The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance, which so far as I know is the only romance novel published by MIT Press. If he can use a semi-plausible love story to illustrate free-market economics, certainly I could treat promissory estoppel through fairy tales, devil's bargains, and magical realism.

Giving of thanks

I've been working all day, and I'll likely be working most of the evening: I'm behind, and this is my chance to catch up. But as learning and the process of learning has been on my mind today, I'd like to take this moment to thank the people who have taught me so much over my lifetime.

My Family: Most people get their greatest teachings from their family, and I'm no exception. I need to thank them for teaching me about loyalty, priorities, and perseverance. I'd especially like to thank my brother, who periodically reminds me that when up against the challenges of the world, your three best weapons are a cheerful smile, boundless confidence, and a roll of duct tape.

Old Web Hands: I'd like to give a quick word of thanks to those anonymous but not nameless web hands who introduced me to this strange and wonderful 'internet' thing back in the late eighties. Whenever I help some friend or classmate with the fecklessness of Microsoft Windows or the frustrations of technical support, I'm doing some small bit to pay back the debt I owe the men who taught me. I'd particularly like to thank the men who taught me the basic rule of netiquette: that the quickest way to make certain someone can't hear you is to yell at them.

My High School Teachers: These are the people who encouraged even my strangest dreams, only stopping briefly to ask if what I was doing was practical. After all these years of higher education, I'm still amazed how often I find myself falling back on what I learned in high school. And so as not to slight the teachers I had prior to Alabama--it helped that these guys had bedrock to build upon.

My Oxford Friends: Thank you for being the craziest people I've known, the most creative and at the same time the most tolerant and accepting. These were my masters of lateral thinking. Thanks for teaching me that when faced with an insurmountable obstacle, it's often best merely to remake the problem a bit.

My Friends Now: What can I say? We're still learning from each other, and barring that, at least we know we're not suffering alone.

These, of course, aren't the only people to thank, but I think they're people to whom thanks are most overdue. Given how behind I am in my studies, I'm likely to remain behind in my praise for quite some while.

Oh, and thank you, my readers, for making this blog what it is. I hope to be thanking you on at least two further Thanksgivings. But time will tell.

Quite funny, unless you're in Utah

Matt Evans, of The Buck Stops Here, issues an unanswered challenge to Andrew Sullivan and his ilk, in far better satire, and far more words, than I can manage right now.

Hat tip to the Curmudgeon.

Wait a second--it's OK as an S&M term, but not appropriate for Comp Sci?

From Professor Volokh I learn that while I've been studying my arse off, Los Angeles County has been spending government money taping over the words 'master' and 'slave' on government computer equipment.

If I didn't quote it, you wouldn't believe me:

Under orders from the affirmative action office, county departments have surveyed about 1,000 pieces of equipment and taped over "master/slave" and put "primary/secondary" on the equipment, officials said.

Joe Sandoval, division manager of purchasing and contract services in the Internal Services Department, started the flap with a memo to electronic equipment vendors saying the county wants master and slave labeling removed from computer equipment it buys.


You've got to be kidding me. It gets better.
"This has got some people's hair up on the back of their neck. They believe it's a question of being politically correct. It's not that at all. It's an issue of valuing diversity, respect and dignity for the individual who comes to work here every day. The issue that resonates in different people's minds is a very negative connotation." . . .

I've blogged before about how the metaphors used in computers don't match up to real life. Is there any chance we can petition Los Angeles County, currently spending its taxpayer money so wisely, to weed out other 'offensive' terms?

For instance: calling all Christians! Doesn't it offend you that your email is routed by a 'mailer daemon'? Certainly you don't want an implication of peril to your immortal soul. (Switch to Microsoft Server 2003--no daemons, just Agents and Services.)

California has a budget crisis? Gov. S., here's a target if you're looking for one. I mean, really, they're putting pieces of tape on parts that are almost always on the inside of a computer.

(Oh, God... my CMOS screens use the terms master/slave... you don't suppose they're going to request upgrades to all those... no... no, they couldn't...)

November 26, 2003

All Old Generals Fight the Last War

Dear Wormwood,

Since I've worn myself out today studying for this year's exams, I want to give exam advice. Unfortunately, I know nothing about how to take a 1L exam, since I've not really taken one yet. (Yes, there's Legal Methods, but I'm not sure it's typical.) So, dear Wormwood, I figured I'd write a little about what I found useful preparation for the LSATs, and what makes good pre-law reading.

All of this, of course, is just my opinion, and your mileage may vary.

LSATs
I only took the LSAT once, because I started applying late in the game: one of my best friends challenged me to apply to law school with her in September, and I didn't start prep-work until late that month. (She then backed out on me, and is spending the next year with her boyfriend in South America. You can keep comments on who had better judgment to herself.) I can only recommend the following:

The Obvious
Get sleep the night before, eat well, and don't stress about it any more than you have to in order to do well. This is probably more valuable advice than anything below--but it's also something anyone could tell you.

Study Aids
Everyone will have their preferred study aids, but I only used two. The first was a used copy of Barron's How to Prepare for the LSAT from my aforementioned study partner. It was pretty good, but pretty simplistic. After reading a few of the pointers, I found that I was only really interested in the stuff I kept getting wrong.

For this reason, probably 80% of my studying was done with Kaplan's LSAT 180. Basically, it's a compilation of real brainteasers. When I started feeling OK with these questions, the standard practice tests held much less fear. Of course, you may not need either prep-book: some people say you don't. I think they probably helped me, but again, your mileage may vary.

Logical Reasoning
I didn't do all my LSAT prep in the books above, though. One of them recommended an exercise that I think really helped me with the logical reasoning: read the newspaper. Specifically, read the opinion pages of at least one newspaper a day, and pick apart the articles.

Logical reasoning questions on the LSAT tend to deal with logical inconsistencies, assumptions, and fallacies. Op-eds, from authors on both sides of the aisle, are peppered with these by their very nature: deadlines, word-limits, and partisan appeal keep Maureen Dowd or George F. Will from fully fleshing out their arguments. I found that reading an op-ed page every day and underlining anything that was an assumption, leap of logic, or outright contradiction made the habits I was 'learning' for the LSAT a little more second-nature. Especially if I agreed with the article, it was a worthwhile exercise: I'd spot my own assumptions, and those pop up more than I would have expected on an LSAT.

Applications
For me to give you advice on law school applications would be insulting: I only applied to three places, and got rejected outright by one and waitlisted by the other. I also committed possibly the most chronic mistake: I waited until the last minute to apply. Let me tell you, near as I can tell, the earlier the better.

Likewise, find a bulletin board that lots of JD2B applicants are on, and chat to them. The one at the University of Chicago is pretty good. You may not learn anything you need to know, but it's good to have co-sufferers as you're waiting for applications to come back.

Anyway, that's all I can think of for now. Hope all of you studying up for that test I was so nervous about last year get everything you wish. A few months from now, I'll post my recommended reading list for your summer. God knows that after I spent so much time wondering about what to read last summer, I owe that to you, dear Wormwood.

November 24, 2003

Findlawless.com and Economic Illiteracy

Joanne Mariner brushes off her obviously unused calculator today to bring us a tale of AIDS, America, and numbers:

Here are some numbers to consider: 14 million, 35.9 billion, and one.

The first figure is an estimate of the number of people who will die of AIDS and other treatable diseases over the course of the coming year, most of them in the poor countries of the developing world.

The second figure represents the combined 2002 profits, in dollars, of the ten biggest pharmaceutical companies, according to Fortune magazine's annual analysis of America's largest businesses.

The third figure corresponds to the number of countries that, last Wednesday, November 19, voted against a U.N. resolution on access to drugs in global epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The resolution emphasized that the failure to deliver lifesaving drugs to millions of people who are living with HIV/AIDS constitutes a global health emergency. 167 countries voted in favor of the resolution. The single vote against it was cast by the United States.


Here's a number for Ms. Mariner: zero.

That figure represents the number of her statistics that are remotely relevant to her ensuing argument that the U.S. should weaken its stance on TRIPS and allow generic copies of its drugs to be sold outside America.

Forget what your opinion on the matter is: I withhold mine since I honestly admit I don't have the information to make a decision. Ms. Mariner doesn't give that to you either. Some relevant figures she might look for, though:

  • Unknown: The number of AIDS/HIV deaths that would have occurred throughout the developing world without effective HIV treatments coming to market. This is important because her other figures don't tell you...
  • Unresearched: The number of the top ten drugs companies listed by Ms. Mariner who manufacture the anti-HIV drugs in question--after all, why lump in companies not in that line of business?
    (And, incidentally, her bottom-line profit number is meaningless anyway without knowing the investment that generates that return, a figure that she might have gotten without much trouble. If that number is a low-to-middling profit margin, well, investors might start moving their money into frozen yogurt franchises. Note that she seems to know this, since the title of her piece mentions profit margins, but nowhere else does.)
  • Unresearched: The average return on investment made by the top ten (well, I'm using her cutoff, assuming she has a reason) companies pursuing anti-HIV drugs projects to date, including all projects (or investments in third-party companies) that have failed to produce effective results.
  • 166: The number of countries who, because free-market U.S. health care purchases provide a greater percentage of the necessary profit margin to recoup for drug development, benefit from the free-rider problem that thus results, and yet voted for the UN resolution mentioned by Ms. Mariner
  • Uncountable: The number of people who die in the next epidemic if, at present, the rate of return on the HIV drugs is low or negative and thus discourages drug companies from investing.

I know, I know. You're saying, "Tony, this is just one of your screeds on free-market capitalism, and yes, we know her numbers are irrelevant but you wouldn't support her anyway." Wrong. I'm actually quite open to the idea that perhaps intellectual property protections have to be refit to match the needs of a global marketplace. After all, the same argument I make against the RIAA on file-sharing holds just as well against drug companies. If they're making unjust profits because of government-granted monopolies on intellectual property, then by all means, we should change the rules and spur innovation rather than protect the overfattened pockets of existing corporate structures.

But Ms. Mariner, you can't get there from here on a set of statistics that would be a failed answer to a third-rate LSAT problem. You write for FindLaw, a site which is read by lawyers, law students, and those who would like to be law students. You owe it to them to be better in your use of statistics and logic. At least, that's what they keep telling us it means to 'think like a lawyer' here in law school.

November 23, 2003

Paris Hilton Sex Video (Shameless Google Plug)

OK, I'm going to admit that I'm so far behind the times that when I saw a headline titled "Paris Hilton Sex Romp" I thought... well, yeah, someone had sex at the Hilton in Paris. So what?

I've been corrected. It appears that Paris Hilton is a person who has been videotaped in flagrante. I clarify just in case I'm not the last person on earth to have heard of this. And you can, I'm assured, download the video from the internet.

It struck me that, despite my years of internet knowledge, my professional qualifications, etc., I have no idea how to download the Paris Hilton sex videotape. Frank Rich of the New York Times can do it, and he's a mere reporter. So how can I not manage it?

Google is no help, though a quick google search does suggest that the porn industry is keeping up to date, and that Ms. Hilton ought to sue for royalties from Network Solutions. After all, I doubt she owns http://paris-hilton-sex-tape.com, http://download-paris-hilton-tape.com, http://whatyouhaventdownloadedthetapeyet.com, or any of the other silly things that pop up.

I'm betting if I had Kazaa or something like that, I'd have no problem finding copies of the video, but I don't like the flagrant security holes Kazaa opens up in your machine. And I'm certain I could probably ask around and find someone to burn it to CD for me, but that's horribly low-tech.

Somehow, this makes me feel very old. I'll be the first to admit that as a child of the late 80's, one of the reasons young boys got into the internet was that... well, look, if you knew where to find it, free porn. Of course, there were other reasons to master the intricacies of TELNET, to figure the obscure syntax of FTP, and (here I'm really showing my age) surf between the shoals of WWIV boards. But it was probably the promise of the forbidden and, yes, illegal imagery that inspired the vast majority of pre-web teen explorers to brave low-bandwidth, slow modems, and unreliable information out on the not-yet-so-superhighway.

Now, of course, it's much easier: Google and the Web have made FINGER irrelevant and sent GOPHER back into its hole. I'm sure I could find porn on the internet without much trouble, especially now that I'm old enough to have a credit card. But I don't know how to stop the thousand of pop-up ads from invading my screen. I'm too timid to brave the World Wide Bordello for fear of picking up some spyware or ad-server. For that matter, I'd be worried that the Columbia systems administrators would send me a nasty note asking just exactly what I was doing with their precious bandwidth. In short, I'm too old to find the Paris Hilton sex video, and that, more than any disappointment at not seeing the esteemed heiress unadorned by jewelry, cuts me deeply.

November 22, 2003

Courage, Cowardice, and a Good Cigar

A friend of mine at CLS who shall remain nameless, lest he be embarassed by association, passed on this very funny article on how smoke-free bars mask cowardice. A completely unfiltered taste:

Smoking is one alternative lifestyle toward which Notre Dame is proud to trumpet its opposition. If the University's figures are to be believed, the amount of students who smoke regularly is approximately a quarter of the average for Americans of college age. The rumors of plans to make the University smoke-free in the near future have been denied, but it is noteworthy that the rumors were even plausible.
Of course smoking is unhealthy. Everyone knows that. Indeed, over the last 20 years the educational establishment has largely abandoned the idea of teaching students mathematics or literature, and now sees the primary objective of education as making sure that nobody smokes and everybody uses condoms.

May I at this point mention that for completely selfish reasons, as well as the pragmatic, I oppose the trade ban with Cuba?

I can't miss this...

Tomorrow on This Week, Andrew Sullivan is going to be debating gay marriage. I'd buy tickets to a Sullivan/Will matchup, but I have no TV and I'm going to miss this one. If any of my Columbia readers have a tape, it's on WABC at 9 AM...

The Red Cross, AIDS, and LSAT Practice

I've been having a bit of an argument about statistics with guest blogger Beth Plocharczyk over at Crescat Sententia. The argument reminds me of one of those fancy reasoning questions on the LSAT, so I'll go into it here.

She's arguing that because it's easy to test for HIV-infected blood six-months post-infection, only the number of new HIV infections matters. She then states:

"According to the CDC, a full 33% of new HIV infections are in men and women engaging in heterosexual intercourse. (42% are from men sleeping with men, 10% from IV drug users). 54% of new HIV infections in the U.S. are in African-Americans. I don't see them stricken from the bone marrow donation eligibility list."

As you can see, her argument is that it is irrational for the Red Cross to pre-screen applicants by asking if they have had male homosexual contact, and to allow heterosexuals to donate blood or bone marrow while rejecting male homosexuals. (Or indeed, while allowing African Americans to donate.)

This may be so on other grounds--it's a policy debate I don't want to touch, frankly--but you cannot reach that conclusion based upon the statistics above. Indeed, doing so would be fundamentally 'irrational.'

I'll explain why tomorrow in the unlikely event that no one gets it, but in the meantime any of you studying for the LSAT are welcome to take a crack at it in the comments section.

November 21, 2003

Pro-Life Hacking?

So, here's something embarassing that happened to me in Contracts. For reasons of my own I was googling for 'topiary garden,' and found a site that seemed to be a list of links to famous gardens. The top two links worked. Then I clicked on the third.

The URL seemed to go to a topiary site. Indeed, the site's TITLE tag involved gardening. What appeared on screen, however, were very, very graphic photographs of partial-birth abortion, complete with very boldfaced text regarding the evils of the procedure.

(Did I mention that I sit in the front row of my Contracts class? If any of my readers sit behind me and happened to have seen this, please consider this an apology.)

I took a look at the site when I got home, and for all the world it looked like a hack, as opposed to a site put up by an anti-abortionist to fool web-spiders. Also, I've noticed that, every so often, when I'm doing a Google or Altavista image search, similar images will turn up for inappropriate keywords.

Does anyone else know anything about this? I've tried searching the web for articles on who might be responsible, or what they're doing. I can say that, whatever one's position on abortion, this is one of the lousiest tactics I've ever seen. I'd welcome more information, since this is the kind of thing that gets my hackles up.

The Homosexual Agenda

I've argued before that 'agenda' isn't a dirty word, and that the homosexual agenda is a harmless expression. Little did I know.

Now, Betty Bowers has revealed the homosexual agenda in its full terror, including such entries as:

4:10 p.m. Time permitting, bring about the general decline of Western Civilization and look like you are having way too much fun doing it.

(Before the Legion of Hatemail starts writing to me, check out the rest of the site--it's a parody. This disclaimer included for the benefit of the Humor Impaired.)

Betty Bowers will probably go on the favorites list of people who found Landover Baptist (home of the infamous 'What Would Jesus Do?' thongs) quite funny.

I'm not dead yet!

The memo is over. It's in. It's probably passable. I had to take out the passage that cited William Gibson's Neuromancer, unfortunately.

Which leaves me with an hour's free time to enjoy myself. I've been spending it looking at a serious analysis of the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow. Some of you get it, the rest of you can just trust me, it's funny.

Hat tip to Professor Volokh.

November 19, 2003

Fraternity of the Damned

Dear Wormwood:

After the innumerable bake sales, drinking events, speaker meetings, dinner events, and even Law Revue [1], it will not be until this part of the year that you can join the most important social grouping: the Fraternity of the Damned. [2]

You join about twenty-four hours before your second legal memo is due. There's not really an initiation ceremony as such: you'll just be able to tell your fellow members from how they look. Bruised eyelids over bloodshot eyes, an unbalanced air of distraction, they'll be murmuring about causes of action and counting the hours until it's over.

I'm a member of the Fraternity, dear Wormwood, and while I will pass on the required warning against membership, there are some advantages. For one thing, you will never spend too much time on a task that you leave to the last minute. Required as our memo is, it's a pass-fail task, and thus allocating time elsewhere is not unwise. Similarly, while the stress in the last two days is awful, it is only stress for two days. This is particularly useful if you're a not-so-young man who wants to keep his hair.

Anyway, here's the important thing about Fraternity membership: in the end, you know you're not alone. In the weeks leading up to this hazing ritual, you'll hear a lot from the non-members. They'll ask you to justify your position on how you should Bluebook quotations from Egyptian law review articles on conversion of intellectual property relating to bovines, leaving you to sheepishly admit that you've not started your research yet. Undeterred, they'll question you as to whether the dissenting opinion in a state court ruling that was overturned might be used to justify a novel reading of an otherwise unquestioned area of law in a federal case brought on diversity jurisdiction. You'll look blank. And they'll keep going, even though you have nothing to say on the matter, because... well, who knows? This will make you feel very alone.

Here is where the Fraternity of the Damned steps in. These are the people you'll want to buy drinks with after you've been up all night crying over string citations. They're the people who, when you say, "Yeah, I've only begun researching summary judgment," reply, "Oh, yeah, I need to write that section too, don't I?." Every member knows that tonight is going to be a very long night, and that they'll be enjoying copious amounts of Colombia's finest (legal) export well after most of humanity is in bed. In short, they're the people who don't make you feel ashamed that despite your fine time management skills, you're about to pull the equivalent of an undergrad allnighter.

We don't have t-shirts yet. But I'm working on it.

[1] A song-and-dance number put on by members of Columbia Law School once a term. Congratulations to everyone who played a part in it last week, it was top notch.

[2] I use the term 'fraternity' loosely, because in no sense is the Fraternity closed to women. It's an equal opportunity group, open to members of all races, creeds, genders, sexual orientations, and political affiliations, nor does it discriminate on the basis of age.

The Imp of the Perverse Gets Married

God, I hate how this memo deadline means I don't have a chance to blog properly, and end up doing 'me too' posts.

Look here for Professor Volokh on the downside risk to the gay marriage movement of using the courts to determine what 'marriage' has to mean.

I've had a number of bets running with people over when gay marriage will become legal in the US in all 50 states. (For reasons I'll go into after the memo's done, I'm pretty certain it's inevitable.) I'd say within three years, have put money on six years, and the best bet I have outstanding is 12 years. But my reckoning counted on one thing: the Federal Marriage Amendment going to the states before the Supreme Court instituted gay marriage.

I think that, absent a judicial ruling to oppose it, the FMA would fail: the constitutional hurdles are too high, and passing an amendment is too much work. But if those pushing for the FMA can do so under a feeling of crisis--pass this amendment now, or the choice is taken away from you forever by nine guys in black robes--it's got a pretty decent shot. Once passed, it forecloses the judicial option.

On the other hand, if the court cases came after the FMA failed, and the Supremes waited a year before institutionalizing what, by that point, was inevitable... well, that was why I personally believed 2006 was a good target date.

I could be wrong, but I don't think so. At the very least, I'd no longer bet on 2006 for institutionalization of gay marriage nationwide, but 2009... I'd guess it at even money right now.

OK, I'll put that more coherently once this memo is finished.

November 18, 2003

Speak of the Devil

No sooner do I say that my favorite left-wing blogger has changed than Martin Lloyd is back with a new blog.

If you're looking for a fire-spitting, Bush-hating Marxist with an MBA [1] who wishes he could vote for Howard Dean, you could do worse.

As soon as Blogspot's doing RSS, he'll be blogrolled.

[1] Yes, that's pretty well tongue-in-cheeks. We're old workmates, and he's said worse about me. ;)

And so it begins...

CNN Reports that Massachusetts just struck down a same sex marriage ban.

I'll be reading the case as soon as I find a copy. (Which means when I'm out of civil procedure.) Frequent readers know my position on the issue (turn all marriages into civil unions and remove marriage as a legal status), so at this point, it's just a matter of watching the battle rage.

Update: The slip opinion of the decision, which I found on the Massachusetts Supreme Court website.

Rhythm of the Blues

Dear Wormwood:

As the semester grinds to a close (or rather, closes with the cacophony of screeching steel, burning coal, and cries of the dying and injured suitable to a train going full-tilt off its tracks [1]), I can give you but one piece of advice. Schedule your day, and triage.

My brilliant plan for the week was to do what reading I hadn't done Sunday on Monday night, reserving Tuesday and Wednesday night to write up the memo due Thursday. Unfortunately, I worked almost all of last evening up to 1 AM. At that point, my brain just refused to sleep: having been concentrating so long and so hard, there was just no way it was going to rest. My eyes finally shut around 4 AM.

Did I mention I have 8:30 Torts classes?

Consequently, I'm prepared for today, but I'm stumbling around in a blind fog. I'll get most things done to schedule, but the idea of writing the memo tonight is now contingent on me finding an hour or two in which I can catnap: I'll never keep my concentration together. An Thursday is a 'hard' deadline not to be missed, so there's no choice but to suck it up.

Wormwood, keep this in mind as the semester draws close: there are things that are important, and things that you just get done because you have to, not because they matter. There are also things that you should just put aside, because they don't matter. Triage. It's the only way. (Sleep, incidentally, does not fall into the third category.)

I've disturbingly misjudged the week. If you don't see much from me on the blog, this is why. I can't write anything entertaining when my mind is this tired. Indeed, I don't think I'm writing anything lucid.


[1] What torts?

November 17, 2003

Justices in Shoulder Pads

And it's Ginsberg, Ginsberg, she's running past the 30... the 20... slam!... no, she's down and the 15, O'Connor with the tackle...

Hmm. OK, it's not fantasy football, but Ambivalent Imbroglio points out this Supreme Court Fantasy League contest. Not sure if I'll try it, but the concept is entertaining.

(Ambivalent is quickly becoming my favorite blawgrolled liberal, especially now that MBA Experience has closed down.)

November 16, 2003

David Lee Roth Has Gained a Few Pounds

If you remember that Donkey Kong preceded Super Mario Brothers, click here.

November 14, 2003

Lies, Damned Lies, and Judicial Statistics

When next you hear the 'well, the Republicans blocked more judges under Clinton than the Democrats have to G.W.' line, please remember this factoid from The Economist:

There is some truth in the Democrats' claim that they are being selective in whom they target. The Department of Justice lists just 41 vacancies out of an 877-strong federal bench—a 4.7% vacancy rate (the lowest since 1990). But the Republicans stress that, if you narrow it down to the US appeals courts, which decide on tricky judicial issues and provide a pool of candidates for the Supreme Court, the picture changes: only 29 of Mr Bush's 46 nominations to the appeals courts have been confirmed, a lower confirmation rate than Mr Clinton faced in his first three years in office.

New T-Shirt Idea

Latest idea for a t-shirt. For 1L women, obviously.

Front: I'm a Rules Girl!*

Back: *FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE

Vital Vidal?

Gore Vidal, once upon a time, must have done something to make him famous and relevant, sort of like Noam Chomsky. Obviously it was before my time, because for the life of me I can't figure out why anyone would listen to them. For example, his recent interview in the stunning lack of perspective department

Once you have a business community that is so corrupt in a society whose business is business, then what you have is, indeed, despotism. It is the sort of authoritarian rule that the Bush people have given us. The USA PATRIOT Act is as despotic as anything Hitler came up with — even using much of the same language.

Note to Mr. Vidal: that language was German.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the boxcars are over there, please form an orderly line. My more sensible friends in Oxford used to say, "You know the conversation's reached an impasse when someone mentions Hitler."

(link from Tim at Bloggerheads.com, who uses the quotation approvingly)

November 13, 2003

Forget the 'Downward Spiral of Politicization," Let's Just Excoriate the Bad Taste

Professor Solum, over at this Legal Theory Blog, makes credible points on how useless this whole Senatorial filibuster is. Still, however pointless it may be, it's keeping at least 50 men employed and off the streets, so who really cares? I mean, you have to keep those senators busy, else they might get up to all sorts of mischief: drinking, smoking, and raising everyone's capital gains taxes.

Prof. Solum's post links to a number of people more qualified than I am to point out how dumb this is, some of them discussing it in terms of game theory and 'chicken.'. But they all missed the worst part of the story, namely this:

Sen. Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, held a sign he displayed for television cameras and passing Republican senators as they entered the chamber: "I'll be home watching The Bachelor.' "

In other words, one of the leading lights of the Democratic Party, given what is in essence a free night off while the Republicans hold a glorified slumber party, feels that the best use of his time is to watch a truly lousy sequel of a reality TV show? And he brags about it?

As soon as this filibuster is over, let's vote for Senators to get mandatory free cable TV. Normally I'm not for government intervention in the markets, but it's depressing that a lack of cultural opportunities means that one of the lords of our particular realm is announcing to the world that our leaders are just as crass as they're reputed to be.

Update: Suggestion for an alternate sign: "I'll be home watching The Reagans." OK, it probably wouldn't be true (though he's a powerful enough man to score an advance tape, I think), but it would have some degree of wit.

Evil Plan Step 1: Acquire Topiary Garden

The Scene: a study area at the law school, where two of my female classmates, A. and B., are studying with me. Well, 'studying' in that way which means 'chatting a bit whenever the reading gets too boring.'

A: I think some of those signs tend to objectify women.

Me: You know, I've always wanted to objectify a woman. I'm just not sure on the concrete steps of how to do so. (pause) My best bet so far is to get some pretty young woman to pose nude for me, pull a gorgon's head out of my pocket, and then put her in my topiary garden.

B: Tony, you don't have enough class to have a topiary garden.

So, now it's time to start growing my topiary garden on the roof of the Malebolge.

Can anyone tell that finals pressure is getting to me?

November 12, 2003

They don't get to live with me until they start paying rent

This morning, rushing to my Torts class, I saw the first cockroach in the House of Fire and Motions to Dismiss. [1]

I don't know if he's part of an organized party, or just on an exploratory mission. But tonight it's time to sweep the floor up, lock and load the roach spray, set the roach traps, and drive the little bastards out. "Take off and nuke them from orbit... it's the only way to be sure."

My room's not very organized at the moment, but it's at least pretty tidy. I guess I'm lucky to have kept them out this long without much work.

[1] For those who've forgotten, the House of Fire and Motions to Dismiss is my dorm room.

November 11, 2003

Poppies?

After reading this op-ed from the Telegraph (thanks to Prof. Volokh), I remembered that this is the first 11 November in a long while that I've not bought a little paper poppy for a veteran's organisation. I never wore them (I was never sure of the propriety of wearing a poppy, since the veterans in this case weren't mine, and I couldn't find a reference) but I generally bought one anyway.

Oddly, I've not seen anyplace around here that sells them, and I can't remember if it's an American tradition or not. (Heck, I've not been to the grocery store in ages, so this may be my fault.) It's odd what one seems to miss when one moves.

Have a good veteran's day, everyone.

What passes for 'nonpartisan'?

The Columbia Political Union today sent out an email linking to Filibuster, its weblog.

Simple pro-school patriotism demands that I linke to its website (if I can find/create an RSS feed), but what I find amusing is the disclaimer:

The Filibuster is the Columbia Political Review's weblog. The Political Review is the magazine of the Columbia Political Union, a non-partisan student organization seeking to enhance involvement in the political process and to foster political discourse. The CPU does not endorse the ideas contained herein; their worth is for our readers to determine. The Filibuster welcomes arguments, rebuttals, and denunciations...

Which is, I suppose, true as far as it goes. But given that a cursory study reveals a 'personal essay' with the tagline "Al Prescott-Couch exposes ignorance in a right-wing Christian Group," there's not an article in the current issue that gets close to being pro-Bush, and the weblog reads like the yin to The Corner's yang, it's a pretty tepid belief in 'non-partisanship,' and it would be a braver conservative than I that would try to storm its bastions.

But heck, it's a group blog at Columbia Law School, I think I'm honor-bound to love it, even though it shares Crestcat's disdain of comments.

Update: I've received an email calling me a 'hypocrit' for talking about a left-leaning weblog when I'm so right wing. Let me make it clear: I have no problem with a left-leaning weblog. Indeed, I love Ambivalent Imbroglio, and no one would consider him remotely right-wing. But I don't call myself non-partisan, and that's what I find pretty difficult to maintain.

Let me make this clear: this weblog is partisan. I'm partisan. I have some definite political beliefs, and I write about them. If you're of the left, you can think of me as the all-singing, all-dancing right-wing corporate whore. I club baby seals for breakfast, think Emily's List should have groceries on it, oppress ladies by holding open doors for them. I'm the man your momma warned you about, if your momma was Hilary Rodham Clinton. This site is partisan, and you have been warned

Then again, I allow comments, and you're always welcome to disagree.

November 08, 2003

If Google IPOs, can it use the money to buy Lexis and Westlaw?

If you're a frequent Google user, check out the new Google Deskbar, an app which sits on your taskbar and lets you search without opening a browser window. Good for general research, and the hotkeys for definitions (Ctrl-D) and thesaurus (Ctrl-T) will eliminate any need for your dictionary. (Link from Inter Alia.

For a long time, I've admired Google's ability to thrive by continually getting the basics right. Their service is an excellent search engine, a model of usability, and yet manages to convey an identity through subtle branding. If these guys do IPO, I can only hope the money is used to buy out a service like Westlaw or Lexis, who could learn a lot from these guys.

For instance, instead of pointless rewards programs and endless bribes of free coffee mugs, how about putting $10,000 into development of a taskbar-based application that would let me search for citations quickly and easily without going through an endless and non-helpful succession of web-based forms? I mean, far be it from me to suggest that either corporation ought to have as their core-competency being an effective and efficient information service, as opposed to a distributor of marketing goods, but it's a modest proposal.

Googlespider, feel free to take this message back to your masters: I'll be looking for summer legal work, and if you're considering making life as good for legal researchers as you have for web searchers, I'd be happy to aid your cause.

November 07, 2003

Is Howard Dean Karl Rove's Secret Weapon?

FROM: KR, Svengali-in-Charge, The White House
TO: H.D., 'Our Man in Montpelier"
SUBJECT: Making Sure The South Never Votes Democratic Again

Dear OMIM:

Well done on the 'confederate flags in the back of their trucks' comment. We here at Svengali-Central thought talking about 'gun racks in the back of their trucks' would be patronizing enough, but you managed to somehow get race, historical pride, and patriotism into the mix just by changing a few words. The New York Times loved it, but no one reads the NYT seriously south of D.C. Meanwhile, southern news sources took it for the kind of cultural slight it was. And the ensuing bloodbath between Democratic presidential hopefuls, in which each vies to paint any white man living beneath the Mason-Dixon line as congenitally racist, is just music to our ears. After all, since Richard Nixon, the only successful presidential candidates 'your party' has ever fielded have been southerners who could talk to southerners. Al Gore's tin ear cost him his 'home state' and the presidency.

We're slightly concerned, however, about your latest remarks in Tallahassee, Florida, in which you stated that elections in the South must stop being based upon 'race, guns, God, and gays.' True, you managed to come off like a typical patronizing Northeastern toff, thus further cementing a view of your 'party' by Southerners as hopelessly foreign and completely devoid of care for the issues that concern them. (And the "We'd win if you guys weren't all such evangelistic racists" subtext--let's just say there were folks here wanting to kiss you when we read it.) After all, if people in the South care about those issues, you'd kind of expect them to vote about them, but now you've positioned yourself to run for Nanny-in-Chief.

But we think you took the brief (I admit I overstated the case in my memo) to "make them want to retake Fort Sumter" a bit too far. First of all, there's a credible chance that 'your party' might someday get its act together an elect a President. (True, our best forecasts, due in no small part to you, show disaster in 2004 followed by a Hilary run in 2008--but 2012 is less than a decade away, and we should plan for the medium-term.) At the rate you are succeeding in your orders, it's possible that 2012 might see history repeat itself--and some of the arsenals down South have warheads these days. We fully admit we underestimated your rhetorical creativity.

Secondly, while we have no small respect for your talents, such overreach might start to prove counterproductive. So far, we've been able to prevent hostile interception of communications between Svengali Central and your esteemed self. (We hope you find our latest switch to high-fiber paper both tasty and healthful.) But should one of these messages ever come to light, it would help if your actions didn't lend them quite so much credibility.

Still, keep up the good work! Just next time, realize that some of our orders are not meant to be interpreted literally.

Best,

KR

[--ed: The full quote by Mr. Dean, as quoted here is:

"We have got to stop having our elections in the South based on race, guns, God and gays and start having them on jobs and health insurance and a foreign policy that's consistent with American values."

I wonder which electoral strategist thought it was a good idea to tell an electorate that it was too dumb to know the issues that matter.

Indeed, I'm waiting for the inevitable reaction from some outspoken southern Democrat: "What do you mean 'our elections,' you patronizing windbag? Last we knew, you were governor of Vermont."]

First Exam Passed, It Seems

Just received the message that I passed the first of my law school exams: Legal Methods.

My enthusiasm for this is tempered only by the fact that it was a pass/fail exam. It seems that a few people may not have passed, but I was rooting for them anyway: by my (admittedly limited) understanding of the mathematics involved, a 100% pass rate would have meant we all scored at the top of our class. (It would also mean we all scored at the bottom, but why be negative.)

Anyone wondering why my 'logic' is not up to its usual level today should realize that I'm struggling with the onset of a head cold, and the only three brain cells that aren't screaming, 'Why now?' in an obsessive mantra are busy concentrating on Civ Pro.

OK, This Will Never Happen At Columbia Law School

When three of my favorite authors have 'gotten their knickers in an unnecessary twist,' I'm interested. When they come out on different sides of the debate, I'm intrigued. And when they manage to get sex, law, and economics into the conversation, I feel compelled to give them a link.

The short version: at Oberlin College, apparently they have a 'Safer Sex Night' which turns somewhat bacchanalian. [1] There is even a 'Tent of Consent' where people... well, consent. From this basic fact the discussion has led:

  • To a Frontpage.com article about Oberlin's 'activist' stance and how horrible it is. It's written from the right: be prepared for breathless details of sexual activity coupled with condemnation of everything from the outrageous to the perfectly sane. Best quote: "The rest of her presentation was too obscene to recount." (Nothing is as titillating as false prudishness wrapped in neo-Victorianism.)

  • To a post by Steve at Begging to Differ, a rather wry commentary on the entire affair. Best quote: "While the Tent Of Consent appears to have attained institutional status at Oberlin, it was banned at Penn State. 'Instead, [students] were encouraged to write on a poster the best places on campus to participate in consensual activity.'" (I'm guessing 'In my bedroom with the door closed,' wasn't listed very often.) To Steve goes the award for starting the whole ball of wax going, by questioning, "Is this legal?"

  • And from this to the promiscuous (at least in terms of sheer numbers of blog posts) Will Baude of Crescat Sententia, who puts the 'libertine' into 'libertarian.' [2] He gives his best shot at answering, managing to work in the Ohio Criminal Code, Barnes v. Glen Theater, and the ever-present Lawrence v. Texas. Best quote: "But this kind of stuff happens at the University of Chicago as well." Who knew?

  • And from here we get to the economics argument, from long-time member of my blogroll, The Curmudgeonly Clerk. The clerk manages to bring things full-circle, from the faux-Victoriana of the original piece to an almost Chestertonian dismissal: "I doubt very much that anyone requires institutional assistance with his or her sex life...College students will, no doubt, find their way sexually even if they cannot explore fetishes in the chaplain's office." The main thrust of his argument seems to be that the money for the Safer Sex Night might better be spent funding a chair in human physiology.
  • Normally, I find myself agreeing with the Clerk, but here I think he's being uncharitable. Perhaps people at the University of Chicago, or Columbia Law School, or federal law clerks in Texas don't need 'institutional assistance with their sex lives.' But my friends, isn't it nice to know that for those who do, Oberlin College is there? [3]

    [1] Keen readers of the articles involved will note that the event is not at all bacchanalian, as any even honoring Bacchus pretty much has to have wine. Oberlin, deciding that wine gets in the way of consent, if not intercourse, recently banned alcohol at the event. I played around with other words, like satyrian, then figured that was sexist but satyrfaunian was too long, and then decided Oberlin probably didn't deserve me making up a term out of whole cloth. The classicists among my readership may be amused, offended, or both.
    [2] Yes, you can't really get 'libertine' into 'libertarian.' Work with me here.
    [3] Best quote from the linked article? It has to be "'I view Safer Sex Night as the penultimate expression of Oberlin's suppressed sexuality and frustrated libido,' added sophomore counselor Chad Stratton, offering a more blunt assessment of the evening." Someone tell me this is an undergraduate mistaking the meaning of the word 'penultimate,' because otherwise I shudder to think of the ultimate expression of Oberlin's frustrated libido. Would it be like a scene from Akira?

November 05, 2003

OK, I'm dead tired

My second memo outline is due tomorrow, and so I've dutifully been reading law review articles on cyberspace and realspace, watching as various professors revel in quoting William Gibson. I've been reading Intel v. Hamidi and AOL v. National Health Care and wondering if the judges involved had ever had to fix their computers.

But basically, I'm just going nuts from lack of sleep. I want to go to bed and close my tired eyes. I want to snuggle up under the comforter and dream of a tag-team of Justices Breyer and Ginsburg vs. Justices Scalia and Rehnquist. Interpreting the words of St. Augustine quoted as persuasive precedent in the Malleus Maleficarum regarding 'Whether children can be generated by Incubi and Succubi'. Color commentary by Posner and Kozinski. In a steel cage death match, please.

Update: My propensity to dream strange things will no doubt be aided by the Curmudgeonly Clerk's nifty use of the word rhadamanthine. For those of you who didn't bother to look it up, it means 'stern and incorruptible in judgment,' from the name of a Greek judge of the underworld.

November 04, 2003

CleverCactus is really quite clever

So, Microsoft has released Office 2003, and I was feeling software envy, until I looked at the feature list. The most useful features Redmond has spat out this year mostly have to do with integration with Microsoft Sharepoint Services. If you're a home user, this is pretty pathetic, since it requires Windows 2003 server (yeah, I'll have one of those running in my kitchen, please) and Windows Sharepoint Services.

I actually do have a Windows Server 2003 box set up in the Malebolge, and spent part of this weekend trying to set up Sharepoint. In the course of installing the new .NET framework, resintalling WSS, messing about with the settings to try to get it to work, getting three dozen error messages, and then knocking my webserver offline for two hours, I lost some of the few threads of sanity I had left. Whereas in about an hour I managed to reinstall IIS, strip off .NET, install PHP, and get PHProjekt running for my study group. (If your study group wants a groupware site, get in touch with me, because it's a 5 minute setup.)

Which leads me to Clever Cactus. I'd been following the development of this project back when it was Dynamic Objects Spaces, and now that it's in its second beta release, I'm beginning to think it's a credible challenger to Outlook. Clevercactus has all the basics: it reads your email, handles your calendar, presents a task list, and everything else. Data types can also be organized in "spaces" allowing you to organize information in a more flexible manner than Outlook.

Even cooler is the implementation of RSS and XMLRPC for weblogs. This entry is being written in CleverCactus, and if all goes well will be uploaded to Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil at the click of a button. Similarly, you can use it as a news feed aggregator. (For the moment, I'm likely to keep Outlook as a mail client, but use CC for a blogging tool.) Supposedly, Microsoft's Longhorn is going to integrate RSS with Windows, but I'm not holding my breath--this should have been a feature of Outlook 2003.

OK, the interface isn't up to even 1992 standard. It could use some GUI work, the menus should have hotkeys, and the fonts selected automatically are abysmal. This is probably the result of it being a Java implementation, but I can't say that for sure. One of the features that seemed to be supported in Dynamic Objects, and which doesn't seem to have carried over, is flexible data types: I can't drag a task into the calendar and have it become an appointment. But it's still a beta, and I'm hoping that between now and the official launch, Clever Cactus is going to get some usability upgrades. If so, Mr. Gates might finally have lost a loyal customer.

Update: Having had to just redo the formatting of the blog post, I won't be doing any further updating of Moveabletype through Clever Cactus. It managed to completely screw up most of the formatting, putting hard returns into the paragraphs at odd points. Still, this behaviour should be simple to correct by the time they launch the real product.

November 03, 2003

Old, Tired, and the Youth is Draining From My Eyes

Everyone else has commented that with the passing of October, things begin to get serious for 1Ls, so I might as well add my agreement to the obvious. This is true, and the sneaking suspicion that I'm behind in my studies, unprepared for exams, and in general paddleless up the proverbial creek preys constantly in my mind. For some reason I feel incredibly old, like I should have been doing this five years ago. I can almost feel the reading etching lines under my eyelids, dry tributaries leading into the Delta of Torts.

Adding to my feeling of old age is the knowledge that one of the first computer games I ever purchased, and played with one of my best friends back in high school, is now available in a snazzier flash version online. Just think how much bluer and clearer my eyes were back then, watching the little Prince die in various gruesome ways (I never was good at the game) on an Epson 386 with an EGA monitor and that whole 2MB of memory.

Hell, my cell phone is more impressive than that these days. Normally I'm in love with progress, but today it just reminds me that I'm little more than a good gestation period away from 30.

November 02, 2003

The Devil and Adam Smith

This week is economic analysis class in Torts, so I will link to this Crooked Timber question regarding utility and rational choice (via Will Baude at Crescat Sententia).

You are in hell and facing an eternity of torment, but the Devil offers you a way out, which you can take once and only once at any time from now on. Today, if you ask him to, the Devil will toss a fair coin once and if it comes up heads you are free (but if tails then you face eternal torment with no possibility of reprieve). You don’t have to play today, though, because tomorrow the Devil will make the deal slightly more favourable to you (and you know this): he’ll toss the coin twice but just one head will free you. The day after, the offer will improve further: 3 tosses with just one head needed. And so on (4 tosses, 5 tosses, ….1000 tosses …) for the rest of time if needed. So, given that the Devil will give you better odds on every day after this one, but that you want to escape from hell some time, when should accept his offer?

There's two answers to this, both of which I'll list in the extended entry, so as not to spoil it. (At least, I have two answers, though they might be wrong.)

(1) Essentially, this is a way of 'slighting' utility and economics through thought problem. If you imagine suffering in hell as having a near infinite disutility (an understatement if there is one), then the benefit you gain due to the reduction of risk by waiting one more day is infinite, no matter how small the reduction in risk. Paying the suffering of one day in order to gain an even marginally greater possibility of escape will always be worth more than failing to wait until the next day. In other words, if you behave as a purely rational economic actor, you will remain in hell forever.

Fortunately for those of us who like economics, this is rarely applicable to real life. It merely highlights why Law and Economics is a more appropriate field of study than, say, Economics and Papal Doctrine.

(2) The real answer, of course, is that the Devil does not give up his own, and the coin has two (rather pointy) tails.

Would some one shut up National Review before I die of embarassment?

Way back in the day, National Review used to be a thoughtful collection of conservatives taking careful aim at a mostly liberal political surrounding. Success has not been kind to this bastion of the conservative movement. Their standard of 'argument' has sunk so low that not only is my subscription lapsing, but I'm wondering if they're working for the other side. Take Andrew Stuttaford, who spends Halloween making fun of Wiccan beliefs because of such books as How to Turn Your Ex-Boyfriend Into A Toad.

And, make no mistake; broomstick surfers take themselves very, very seriously these days. The age of lovely Samantha Stephens, sparkling and funny, more martini glass than cauldron, has faded away, replaced in our duller, more earnest era by the likes of Buffy's dour Willow, self-involved, self-important and, although this might be expected in sorceresses who like to chant, drum, and howl at the moon, utterly lacking any sense of the ridiculous.

Shock! Horror! A movement into which some serious people put their hearts and minds is exploited by popular culture to make it seem trivial, petty, and spiteful? 'Lacking any sense of the ridiculous?'

This is pretty rich from an author on a website whose 'conservative' bookstore doesn't list Hayek's The Road to Serfdom but waits feverishly to sell you the Ann Coulter Action Figure.

Yes, it's the "America's Real Action Heroes" doll who at the touch of a button spills forth such ludicrous bile as, "Swing voters are more appropriately known as the 'idiot voters' because they have no set of philosophical principles. By the age of fourteen, you're either a Conservative or a Liberal if you have an IQ above a toaster." 'Don't forget to order replacement batteries' indeed!

This is simply embarassing.

'Exposing oneself' to liability

A fellow blogger at another law school (who shall remain nameless) related to me a very sad story today. Apparently, the wife of one young law student has complained that her husband's workload is reducing her to a state of involuntary chastity.

It strikes me, however, that given the amount of sex there is in the law, this shouldn't be a problem. The young woman should consider threatening suit against her husband's law school. After all, she might get damages for loss of consortium. Or maybe she could tell the gentleman in question that he needs to study the interpretation of acts of Congress. (No points for suggesting 'strict interpretation.') She might even ask him if his current conduct meets the standards required for excusable neglect. After all, nothing says his studying shouldn't be enjoyable.

OK, I've opened up the door, my readers are welcome to make further suggestions. Keep it clean, though.

November 01, 2003

The completely inexplicable

I took a look through my referrer reports this evening, to see from whence new visitors are coming. The top few read like a list of the usual suspects: The Volokh Conspiracy, The Philosophical Scriviner, Professor Yin, Stay of Execution, and of course, my lefty friend and infinitely harder worker, the Serious Law Student.

But coming in number 10 (tied with The Curmudgeonly Clerk) with over 110 referrals in the last month, is Beachfreaks.nl. I have no explanation for this phenomenon, nor can I find a link to me from the site. If anyone knows why I've suddenly become of interest to the volleyballing population of the Netherlands, please tell me. Most of the sites in my referrer logs don't have pictures of bikini-clad women in their photo galleries. (A pity, I know.)

(Thank you, incidentally, to all those who have linked to me. A more complete list will be forthcoming when I can convince Analog that it wants to give me more than the top 20 referrers.)

How can anyone vote for this man?

Frequent readers will know that I have a special loathing for a man who is now my senator, Charles Schumer. Believe it or not, it's not his political views (he's not as far to the left as some), but just him. I've never understood how anyone could work for, much less vote for, this travesty of a dung-hurling chimp masquerading as a senator of the United States. Case in point from his questioning of Janice Brown:

Schumer: Do you stand by your views in Santa Monica Beach v. Superior Court about the demise of the Lochner era and the revolution of 1937?
Brown: (long pause) (sigh) Well, the cases . . . say what they say, and I hope that I always try to do an analysis that is very accessible, that anybody who reads it can understand what I've sad.
Schumer: So you do stand by them.
Brown: (shaking her head) I have tried to write--
Schumer: (interrupting) You can answer that yes or no.
Brown: Well, the cases are there. I guess that's--
Schumer: (interrupting) So the answer is yes?
Brown: Well, the concern I have, Senator, is that you started off making a lot of statements...
Schumer: (interrupting) But--
Hatch: (interrupting) Let her answer the question
Brown: ...about what that was and what my views were and what that meant. So all I'm saying is what's in the cases is in the cases, and it should be clear.
Schumer: I'm gonna take that as, you stand by those views, 'cause you haven't refuted them here, and you said what's in there is in there. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

(transcription via Crescat Sententia)

Who cares about his political views? Any man who speaks this way to a lady is an asshole. Any man who speaks this way to a lady in public is not only an asshole but nothing approaching a gentleman. And any man who would do so in front of a camera not only lacks in manners, but in an appreciation of how dispicable he looks.

Well, at least I'm not serious

Professor Bainbridge (who, if you're into corp law, is a must read) shocked me today by showing a prejudice against the wealthy, yet tacky:

I've decided in favor of keeping the estate tax
Why? This and this. In fact, in these cases I think I'm in favor of bills of attainder.

The links go to two new reality shows about pretty (and, at least by implication of the show descriptions, superficial) women used to spending vast amounts of money. Even worse, Prof. Yin decided to chime in with his two cents:
After all, we could just look to Ted Kennedy, Osama bin Laden, Andrew "Max Factor heir" Luster, the Menendez brothers, among others, to see that super-large inheritances are a bad idea.

But certainly, this is merely an argument against wealth per se (which neither of them seem inclined to make), rather than against inheritances as such. Vast amounts of wealth can be applied to the service of evil whether inherited or not. And I would have thought that their recoil at the aesthetics of the shows would have been more well-tempered: it's as easy to be tacky and classless on the cheap as with vast amounts of cash.

Indeed, I'm almost of the opinion that this libel of the wealthy should be of the nature of a crime. Both the profs should be forced to go out drinking on a Saturday night, surrounded by a number of undergraduate boys going binge drinking and girls in far too skimpy skirts, in order to see that when it comes to the tacky, we live in a truly classless society. (Prof. Yin, however, should get a suspended sentence, due to his mitigating circumstances.)

And since I have the opportunity to say it here directly: congratulations to Prof. Yin and his wife!

That's why it's three years of hell...

It appears that only half a semester hasn't made this site evil enough...

This site is certified 23% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Giving The Devil His Due

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