Tuesday, December 18, 2001

new, used, or write-off?

Not much going on in lawschool-land, other than getting ready to wait a month and a half for our grades. Since I had to be near school, I stopped by Book Horizons to get next semester's books. Their prices for new books were slightly lower than efollet's online prices, and I like to support local businesses when I can.

"So," they asked, "would you like new or used books?" Last semester I bought mostly used ones and saved a few bucks, but I soon regretted my choice, despite the savings, because I was constantly distracted by the previous owner(s)' multicolored highlightings and (frequently) inane comments on the margins. "New books, this time," I answered.

To my amazement, the owners of the bookstore began to make fun of my decision. "Hey, rich boy wants all new books." "Big spender, isn't he?" When I went to pay, the lady took exquisite pains to carefully stack them, because, as she said, "you are spending so much money on these books that I wouldn't want anything to happen to them." I paid $318.81 of my lender's hard-earned money (this covered crim pro, con law, and contracts) and walked out, but kept thinking, WTF? Wouldn't they prefer to sell the new ones?

I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes, as my friends are happy to point out. Only after I drove away did I realize that not only do they probably make more money on the used books than the new ones, but that they are probably stuck with whatever used books don't sell because they cannot return those to the publisher. And that they probably carry tens of thousands of dollars in old, superseded editions, books that will never ever ever sell, destined for a landfill.

With that last thought Schadenfreude set in, and I decided to buy new books for as long as I remain in school.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

the French object

According to a Washington Post article, justice minister Marylise Lebranchu announced the French government's reaction to the recent indictment of alleged terrorist co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

Lebranchu said Moussaoui, as a French citizen, was entitled to and would receive protection from a French consulate in the United States, adding, "Of course, no person benefiting from French consular protection should be executed."

Peering down from the parapets of her stone castle, she added,

You don't frighten us, English pig-dog! Go and boil your bottoms, son of a silly person. I blow my nose on you.

She addressed her last remarks directly to Attorney General John Ashcroft,

I don't want to talk to you, no more, you empty-headed animal, food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. You mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

Reportedly, the ferocity of the French taunting took Ashcroft by complete surprise. "Even Democrats in the Senate don't speak to me this way," he lamented.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

obituary for Michael T. Weinberg

From Jay Nordlinger's column:

She was standing on the Brooklyn Bridge when the first tower fell. Everyone around her was madly dialing cellphones with no success. Suddenly, her own phone started ringing.

"It was my older brother,” recalled Patricia Gambino, who had just escaped from the 72nd floor of the south tower. “He said: ‘Thank God. You’re all right, and Michael is on vacation.’”

Little did either of them realize that at that precise moment their younger brother, Michael T. Weinberg, 34 — the stunningly handsome baby of the family, a part-time model who had played minor-league baseball for the Detroit Tigers organization and was now a firefighter — had just arrived at the World Trade Center. As the first tower collapsed, he had taken cover under a fire truck. His was among the first bodies found.

An avid golfer, he had planned to spend that morning on the golf course. His tee time was 9:08 a.m. But when news arrived, he threw his clubs into his car and raced toward Manhattan. His car was eventually found by the side of the highway, where he had apparently abandoned it to hitch a ride with an emergency-rescue vehicle. “He loved to help people,” his sister said.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

bloody wanker

Remember the saying that a conservative is a liberal who got mugged? Well, here's proof that it doesn't always work that way. For British reporter Robert Fisk, it's going to take more than a mugging, or even a near-lynching, to get him to stop worrying and love America. His car recently overheated in Afghanistan. A group of 40 to 50 people gathered.

At first they were reasonably friendly but then a little kid threw a stone at me. More stones followed and then I find myself being punched and beaten in the face. My glasses were smashed and my spare glasses were ripped away from me. I was covered in blood and couldn't see anything [he escaped thanks to the intervention of a Muslim cleric].

It doesn't excuse them for beating me up so badly but there was a real reason why they should hate Westerners so much. I don't want this to be seen as a Muslim mob attacking a Westerner for no reason. They had every reason to be angry - I've been an outspoken critic of the US actions myself. If I had been them, I would have attacked me.

What can one add? Godspeed, and knock yourself out. This time, don't let anyone stop you until the job is done. And thank goodness a republican won the election, or else we'd be hearing the equivalent of his "if i had been them, I would have attacked me" not just from the anti-american academia and media, but the administration as well.

Saturday, December 08, 2001

cuba pulls out, or, the rats jump ship

Some Venezuelan media are referring to a recent Stratfor report suggesting that Cuba is pulling out its doctors, sports trainers, and other non-diplomatic personnel from that country [why didn't they report on that independenty?]. The move is supposedly designed to minimize friction between Washington and Havana in case armed conflict erupts in Venezuela.

Chavez is intent on creating a confrontation that would allow him to declare a "state of exception" and make him dictator. But the man is deluded. On the domestic front, not only has he lost much of the lower class support which carried him to power, created untenable tension in the armed forces by reversing forty years of military doctrine [two $30 million MIG 29s will overfly Caracas as part of Air Force day] and by corrupting its top leadership [ten percent commissions on said planes, channeled through an Aruban company, is but one example], but he has managed to unite management and labor in an unprecedented call for a national work stoppage.

In foreign policy he has done just as badly, allying himself with the losers of the world like Iraq and Libya against the west in general and the US in particular. Unlike the Castro brothers, who know the United States intimately, and understand how to manipulate its internal dynamics [as evidenced by the Elian Gonzalez episode last year and by their ultra-low profile since Sept. 11th] to their own benefit, Chavez has done nothing but thumb his nose at the US while gaining nothing in return. The implications of Sept. 11th have completely eluded him. He is not a serious man, merely a mounth that roars.

torts bomb

The two thoughts that crossed my mind as I left yesterday's final torts exam were, i bombed and, on second thought, everything is relative: the only thing that matters is whether i bombed better or worse than my classmates [thank goodness for the curve].

This morning I was talking to a friend, who remarked that, an hour into yesterday's test, someone packed up and left. I was so involved in my little torts universe that strippers and wild horses would not have distracted me, unless a telephone pole fell on them as they rounded a curve on a dark night in a stolen sports car. But when someone freaks out during a final exam, as best I can tell from several discussions, we feel sorry for them, then we hope it doesn't happen to us, and then we think of the curve.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

the "bad" 49 (by popular demand)

Earlier this year, Venezuela's unicameral National Assembly passed an enabling act (Ley Habilitante) granting president Chavez the power to legislate in certain areas. In early November, Chavez unveiled 49 laws pursuant to this grant. They ranged from a restructuring the oil industry to what amounts to the largest confiscation of land and property in the nation's history, the Law of Shores (Ley de Costas).

The Law of Shores decrees that all lands at least 80 meters (in some cases farther inland) from a permanent body of water -- sea, lake, river, canal, creek, rivulet -- are of "public usefulness." In Venezuela, such a designation strips the land from private hands. Also any hotels, houses, farms, stores, restaurants that happen to be on such lands, lose their private character. If the law sticks, what an awesome display of power it would be -- tens of billions of dollars' worth of the most desirable property in the country, transferred at the stroke of a pen. No wonder Chavez recently declared, "I am the law, I am the state." But chances are that the laws won't stick. In fact, it is quite likely Chavez will not remain in power much longer. Despite all the advice and assistance he has received from Cuba, Chavez is no Castro.

Update:

Some national media are beginning to pick up on the Chavez implosion.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

up in the ozone

Our property final was yesterday, and I'm trying hard to forget it so I can study torts. It wasn't fun; many think the test did not conform to what we had been led to believe. Stories going around: one guy answered the first question, stared at the exam for the rest of the test period, and announced he was driving back home and not returning. A girl had to excuse herself to go vomit. But they keep pulling me back. The culprit in this case is the Venezuelan vice-minister of agriculture, who gave a telling interview from which the following excerpts are taken [my translations]:

Efrén Andrade [the vice-minister], said with conviction that for the first time there is an ordered plan regarding food production, and who cares if the current producers don't share its goals. "The government does not want to take the land, what it wants is for people to use it in a beneficial manner to further three principles: no large-scale holdings, sufficiency of food production, and environmental and agro-ecological sustainability; we don't want to keep the land."

[. . .] Farmers' and ranchers' refusal to be told what to grow has no justification, says the vice-minister. "When urban planning was done, zoning was used to keep whorehouses outside the city, to keep schools away from bars, to spread out the pharmacies, and that is called allowable uses. Why is that acceptable in urban but not in rural areas? [. . .] I ask the leaders of the cattle and farmer's associations, if they would like to have whorehouses near their neighborhoods."

Given that up to 30% of the lands north of the Orinoco are so poor that nothing cannot be profitably grown on them, they will instead be included in a program to earn green credits. "This already exists. The developed countries that produce pollution incentivize those with natural resources to raise forests that restore the ozone layer."

I thought central planning had been thoroughly discredited by the experience of the Soviet Union, but perhaps the vice-minister seeks to emulate the wildly successful Cuban and North Korean models instead. Regardless, the point I wanted to make is about his insistence that the government doesn't want to take the land, it just wants to make people use it the way it thinks best; only if the owners refuse will the land be confiscated and reapportioned to persons more compliant.

The Venezuelan program [or, as the UN would say, programme], will lead to confusion, hunger, and strife. And the viceminister's comments exemplify, albeit on a much larger scale, and with greater bluntness, the same attitude towards private property propounded by Joseph Singer in his casebook, which will now be happily forgotten.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Law School Discriminates, part II

According to David Delaney, the author of the article I referred to below,

The wording of that piece is very close (may be identical) to the BCLS statement. The similarity stems from the lead that BC took in opposing Solomon and the guidance that the AALS issued at law schools.

So there appears to be a nationwide plan to force on-campus interviewers to agree to meet ideological litmus tests before allowing them to recruit. I wonder, though, whether bringing about the social changes these deans and professors find desirable requires compromising the neutrality of the institutions they guide. If they want to take a stand on controversial issues, by all means, they should. But taking a stand implies some sort of risk.

What we have here, instead, is the imposition of a controversial ideological policy at the expense of the students whose heavy debt load pays their salaries. That's no stand at all.

Law School Discriminates Against Military

About a week after the terrorist attacks, I received the following email. As far as I can tell from this article students all over the country have been getting them. I've bracketed a few thoughts:

It is the policy of the University of Miami School of Law not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or sexual orientation in its education programs, admissions policies, employment policies and other school administered programs and to refuse access to employers who refuse to sign nondiscrimination statements and/or who otherwise discriminate in violation of the nondiscrimination policy [now this is really interesting: the law school forces its views on private employers. why?].

By statute, the United States Armed Services discriminate by gender by refusing to employ women for certain positions [on submarines, for example. They also refuse to emply people who are crippled to fight in the front lines]. In addition, by statute, the United States Armed Services will not employ for any position those whom it deems to be lesbian, gay or bisexual ["don't ask, don't tell" was president clinton's first triangulation, no?].

Because of the conflict between these policies [a little disingenuous in comparing an act of congress with a policy adopted by a private institution] in the past the University of Miami School of Law has refused access to recruiters from the U.S. Armed Services. Recently [in 1997, i think], the U.S. government has decided [congress passed a bill, signed into law by president clinton] to cut off federal work-study funds and certain loans to educational institutions which deny access to the Armed Services.

Because of the government's threat to this important source of student financial aid [did the students ever vote on this policy? or was this important source of funds threatened by the actions of the faculty and administration?], the University of Miami School of Law has reluctantly decided to allow access to military recruiters.

This step is being taken solely to ensure our students access to federal financial aid and in no way represents approval of the Armed Services policy or a withdrawal from our firm commitment to our non-discrimination policy. Anyone with information that any other employer discriminates should contact the office of the Dean of the Law School [presumably, as long as they are not an important source of student funds, they will be banned].

There's obviously a lot more to be said about this, but I'm studying for finals.

Monday, November 26, 2001

what result?

Had I read this story six months ago, I would have thought about the pernicious effects of junk science, or about the general reluctance of mainstream media to discuss its implications, or the rise of alternative means of communication. But, being in law school, that's not what I thought about at all.

The Trade Tower steel columns were designed to resist fire for at least 4 hours before losing the strength required to support the buildings. Emergency plans called for this four hours to be used to evacuate the buildings. . . . Yet, Tower One collapsed after one hour and forty minutes, while Tower Two collapsed after 56 minutes of fire. Had the towers stood for four hours, an estimated 5,000 people would still be alive and the buildings would probably still be proudly standing - with large gashes in their upper floors. Why did they fall?

The buildings fell because the thermal insulation of their supporting columns did not work properly. The Trade Tower design – the one referred to as able to resist the crash of a Boeing 707 – specified the use of asbestos insulation on the supporting columns. This was used on all columns up to the 64th floors. Then, however, in 1971 when the Trade Center Towers were still under construction, New York City banned this use of asbestos.

Instead, the first thought that came into my mind was, if anyone were sued over this, what result? Assuming that a fire had broken out under different circumstances, would the builder be liable for a defective product? Would the city be liable for banning the use of asbestos, when no equivalent product was available? The designer for not changing the specs? The maker of the alternative insulation that perhaps did not perform as well as asbestos might have?

I am not sure that I like thinking this way. And I'm not sure that lawsuits are the best way to discipline the political process where scientific issues are concerned. Then again, I suppose this is what I signed up for.