March 31, 2006
The cellphone continues to morph into a very smart multi-purpose device. A cellphone can now be a camera, an Internet access device, a GPS device and an electronic wallet. Many of us are excited by the possibilities.
But not everyone. The cellphone's expanded functions have raised the concerns of ultra-Orthodox Jews. One Israeli magazine called "the multitasking new phones 'a candy store for the evil impulse.'"
The solution? "Find a cell phone that's only a phone." Various rabbis, lawyers and Orthodox community leaders have joined forces to offer a stripped-down cellphone just makes phone calls without all the fancy bells and whistles. Further, the phone is restricted by a constantly updated block list containing dial-a-porn providers and other phone content providers inconsistent with Orthodox tenets.
One feature the manufacturers might consider adding: an automatic timer to turn off the phone (and block incoming calls) during Shabbat.
March 27, 2006
Sunstein on Animal Cruelty
Cass Sunstein and Jeffrey Leslie weigh in on animal cruelty and the market for meat in the new article Animal Rights without Controversy. Predictably, they favor a disclosure-based scheme as a regulatory control, but they punt on the optimal types of disclosure.
Though I am normally cynical about mandatory disclosure schemes, this one may have merit. Unquestionably, there is widespread deliberate ignorance about "how the sausage gets made," and greater understanding of the process could significantly influence social attitudes towards meat.
I'll go one step further than Leslie/Sunstein and suggest a specific disclosure approach. Meat manufacturers should be required to display the animal's name, picture and date and method of death on the product packaging. The label could say: "This is Bessie. Here's a picture of her. She was killed by a piston to the head on March 27, 2006." As we saw with the (over)reaction to SaveToby.com, many people freak out when they visualize their meat as an individual animal.
However, instead (or in addition to) a disclosure scheme, I think it would be even more powerful to eliminate the variety of subsidies in the meat manufacturing, distribution and retailing chain. People may or may not care about the size of pig stalls or the debeaking process, but they absolutely care about their pocketbooks and the availability of cheap meat. Put an end to cheap meat, and lots of animal suffering will end as well.
The Leslie/Sunstein abstract:
"Many consumers would be willing to pay something to reduce the suffering of animals used as food. The problem is that existing markets do not disclose the relevant treatment of animals, even though that treatment would trouble many consumers. Steps should be taken to promote disclosure, so as to fortify market processes and to promote democratic discussion of the treatment of animals. In the context of animal welfare, a serious problem is that people’s practices ensure outcomes that defy their existing moral commitments. A disclosure regime could improve animal welfare without making it necessary to resolve the most deeply contested questions in this domain."
March 25, 2006
Marshmallow Madness, April 9 at 4 pm
The 3rd Annual Peep Show
Sunday, April 9th at 4pm
Lulu cafe and bar
2261 S. Howell Ave.
A fun and fluffy exhibition of artworks made from or inspired by marshmallow Peeps.
NO ENTRY FEE, NO JURY
This event is free and open to the public. All are encouraged to participate, artists and artistically challenged alike. Participants are to bring their original works of art to Lulu's on the evening of the event. Artists will be responsible for the removal of their creations by the end of the event. Artists may choose to price their work for sale during the event and no commission will be taken.
Peep photography, Peep paintings, Peep dioramas, Peep jewelry, Peep costumes and Peep treats are all to be expected. Lulu's bar will be serving special Peep-tinis for the event.
"Peeps" are a registered trademark of the Just Born Company.
[Eric's note: I'm hoping to make it this year! See my blog post on last year's show and the cult of Peeps]
March 24, 2006
Scott Moss on Harvard Law Students With No Pants and Red Pants
[Eric's note: today I'm turning over the wheel to my colleague Scott Moss. We discussed the recent news item about a student from Scott's alma mater (Harvard Law School) who got arrested for drunkenly flashing his "pot of gold" in public on St. Patrick's Day. This sparked a response from Scott that he is uniquely positioned to share, so here is his story:]
By Scott Moss
Eric brought to my attention this hilariously disturbing story of a drunken Harvard Law School student who exposed himself in public and then, according to the police officer who happened upon the scene, “made it a point to make it known he was a Harvard Law School student and that he would see us in court...It seems he thought it would make a difference in the outcome of the incident.” I’m guest blogging about this primarily because I have the “in-group privilege" to have some fun with this one; it reminded me of a much tamer (but still ridiculous) story from my own law school days.
When I was a first-semester 1L at Harvard, my assigned seat in Contracts class was in the front row. Seated behind me was another student…let’s call him “Cameron.” Cameron’s attendance was… well, let’s say “spotty”; so I was sitting in front of an empty seat more often than I was sitting in front of Cameron. One day, Cameron came to class -- which, again, was a minor event itself -- and, halfway through the class, I started to hear a faint metallic tapping noise behind me. “Emily” (the student who sat next to me) and I briefly exchanged a puzzled smirk, as if each of us was asking the other, “do you have any idea what he’s doing?” A fter a few minutes, the irritating tapping ended with one louder metallic “pop!” sound. Emily and I both instinctively turned around; we saw a shocked Cameron holding an unopened can of V-8 on its side -- with a ball-point pen puncturing it, V-8 splattered everywhere. Apparently, this genius spent the class -- the first class he had attended in a week or three -- stabbing his can of V-8 with his pen, until he accidentally (but pathetically foreseeably) pierced the can, splattering V-8 all over himself and the desk.
I occasionally get asked, mostly by non-lawyers, “is everyone at Harvard Law really smart?” I quickly respond, “of course not,” and I proceed to tell the V-8 story, or any number of other such stories; granted, several of these stories are about the same doofus (Cameron), but several others are about different folks in my class (including myself, when I said or did some dumb or immature things).
Any allegedly “elite” institution is likely to have some number of superstars, but also some number of total duds -- the irresponsible, the lazy, the immature, and the just plain stupid. So don’t ever be too impressed at a degree from an elite school, or a letterhead from an elite law firm; it just might be Cameron you’re dealing with.
March 22, 2006
Junior Lawyer War Stories
The New York Lawyer (reg. required) has a story recounting various mishaps and war stories involving embarrassing experiences of attorneys. Some of my favorite war stories are from my summer associate experience:
3) While driving to lunch, a summer associate asked the partner how much his car cost
2) The summer associate (same one) asked a female senior associate when she was going to get pregnant
1) The firm held a progressive dinner where appetizers, dinner and dessert were at 3 different partners' houses. Alcohol flowed freely at these events, which makes for a bad combination because the diners drove from house to house. One summer associate had imbibed too much. He had parked his car in the last partner's driveway. Upon departure, he put his car in forward rather than reverse and drove his car through the partner's garage door.
(If you're keeping score, summer associate #2/3 didn't get an offer, but summer associate #1 did.)
March 11, 2006
Social Life of Law Review Articles Editors
I sent out my article to the law reviews a couple of weeks ago. Among other ding emails, I got a ding email from a journal at midnight on Saturday night and a ding email from a different journal at 10 pm on Friday night. Two possible explanations for the timing of these emails:
1) Articles editors are so overworked that they can't catch up with their workflow until very late on weekend nights; or
2) Instead of socializing with friends on weekend nights, law review articles editors derive even more enjoyment from sending ding emails and dashing professors' hopes.
I'm pretty sure that #1 is the better explanation, but I'm beginning to wonder...
UPDATE: Last night I got a ding email at 12:30 am early Saturday morning.
March 09, 2006
Accrediting the Accreditation Bodies
Interesting brawl emerging over the ABA's recent initiative to enhance diversity as part of the law school accreditation requirements. Three groups have petitioned the US Department of Education asking that the ABA lose its power to accredit law schools, arguing that the ABA's actions drive law schools to engage in illegal discrimination. See the Chronicle of Higher Education article (subscription required).
I've always been struck by the ABA's (and AALS's) seemingly unrestricted power to mandate debatable normative goals as part of the accreditation process, so it's interesting to see some pushback/accountability for accreditation standards. With the ABA now facing its own accreditation evaluation, perhaps the ABA will experience first-hand the challenges of being under substantive review!
March 06, 2006
Motion Denied for "Being Incomprehensible"
A pro se debtor files a motion to "discharge response to plaintiff's response to defendant's response opposing objection to discharge." The court dismisses the motion for "being incomprehensible" and quotes some lines from Adam Sandler's movie "Billy Madison" to punctuate the dismissal. Law students, the threat of having a judge quote an Adam Sandler movie against you should give you extra incentive to maximize your experience in your legal writing courses.
March 02, 2006
It appears that the new status symbol for moms is a baby blog. Two examples from our friends Alex and Lara and Erin and Josh. My wife reads them regularly. But she doesn't read my blogs, which (I must confess) is a little tough on the ego. When cornered, her first response: "I don't know where your blogs are located." (Try Googling "eric goldman blog" or looking at the signature line of every email I send). Quickly recognizing the weakness of that retort, she went for the jugular: "I'd read your blogs if you wrote about something interesting." Other people's babies = interesting; husband's own writing = not!
March 01, 2006
"I Need to Get Tenure"
I've never actually seen the social science establishing this, but I've been told that the single biggest determinant of a student's evaluation of a professor is the student's estimate of his/her grade in the class. In practice, this does not affect most doctrinal law professors. Although there are exceptions, most doctrinal law professors don't give grading feedback prior to student evaluations, so we do little to disabuse students of their (possibly deluded) belief that they will get an A in our class. But in most of the rest of academia (including legal writing professors), professors do give grading feedback during the semester and have to cope with the consequences accordingly.
In this article, an assistant professor of English explains how she has deliberately chosen to inflate grades to improve her student evaluations. She says: "I've lowered my standards. I still teach with the same rigor and enthusiasm and I still enjoy the material, but I don't hold students as accountable as I used to. I need to get tenure."
There are two ways to look at this. One way is that she was using too harsh a standard, and the student evaluation mechanism regressed her to the institutional mean. However, the other way to look at it is far less charitable--she has deliberately bent her standards to increase her odds of getting a payoff (tenure).
If the latter is true, her decision would be an indictment of the entire student feedback and grading systems--the unreliability/manipulability of student evaluations, the temptation to overweight flawed evaluation instruments, and the flexibility of professors' norms in the face of significant professional and personal consequences from tenure decisions. Accordingly, this article may give a deep insight into the real dynamic driving grade inflation.