Wednesday, May 28, 2008
[The ideal Presidential candidate] would be proposing, argues the energy economist Philip Verleger Jr., is a “price floor” for gasoline: $4 a gallon for regular unleaded, which is still half the going rate in Europe today. Washington would declare that it would never let the price fall below that level. If it does, it would increase the federal gasoline tax on a monthly basis to make up the difference between the pump price and the market price.
To ease the burden on the less well-off, “anyone earning under $80,000 a year would be compensated with a reduction in the payroll taxes,” said Verleger. Or, he suggested, the government could use the gasoline tax to buy back gas guzzlers from the public and “crush them.”
But the message going forward to every car buyer and carmaker would be this: The price of gasoline is never going back down. Therefore, if you buy a big gas guzzler today, you are locking yourself into perpetually high gasoline bills. You are buying a pig that will eat you out of house and home. At the same time, if you, a manufacturer, continue building fleets of nonhybrid gas guzzlers, you are condemning yourself, your employees and shareholders to oblivion.
We also think that for the moment, instead of suspending the gas tax, the government should give vouchers to working class people and families to get a couple of free fill-ups to deal with this current crisis.
Krugman is right that we should eventually move to a fleet of electric cars, but he should emphasize more what Paul Krugman talked about in his "Stranded in Suburbia" column: the needed to ultimately redesign our cities and national infastruture. (Discussed here). Hybrid technology is *the* transition technology while our best engineers work to make electric cars more affordable and our city-planners (or whoever) work on redesigning the country the way that Krugman wants it.
Our Prius has a long wait to buy; moreover, it's too expensive for most working people - especially those who live in rural areas (like upstate NY!) where they need to drive to get places. Let the government subsidize the hell out of these things and spur their production in the short term, while we put the country in the right direction in the long term.
Friday, May 23, 2008
- E. B. White, author of Charlotte's Web, The Elements of Style, etc.
Let's pretend for a second that the American government were interested in funding a dramatic expansion of public transportation, which, as one reader points out, is basically what the Krugman plan would require. (Hint: This is "big government" people). Lets also pretend that abandoning the 'burbs and making us more like the (urban) Germany wouldn't have massive, unwanted consequences for "the housing market supports much of the American economy" and those "many Americans [whose] most significant savings are in home equity."
Might there be some way to save . . . the car . . . as our primary mode of transportation? Consider:
I disagree with Paul Krugman’s analysis, for two reasons.
First, Europe has a much greater population density than the United States, so it’s more cost-effective for European countries to build and maintain public transportation.
Second, the coming alternative-energy-powered cars will change everything, allowing widely used private transport to be cost-effective once again.
James W. Voelz
Des Peres, Mo., May 19, 2008
Also, Krugman is taking the day off today. Come on, Paul. We thought the truth didn't take vacations :(.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Politics . . . In the (Law School) Classroom?!: General Reflections, Personal Experiences from Con-Law
Of course, the question is sort of a misleading one. To begin with, it’s colossally incorrect to suggest that any instructor or scholar can ever be a truly objective in the sense that he is able to keep his politics divorced from instruction altogether. Pedagogy is about making choices of what cover and how to cover it, and even if a Prof. is trying to be even handed, his own inclinations will unconsciously influence his choices. For example, in teaching a course – let’s say Con Law (I’ll choose this because it’s the one where political inclinations are likely to be the most apparent) – the instructor is forced to choose from both a virtually infinite selection of topics and an infinite selection of materials within those topics. Even in discussing something like the political question doctrine, the professor may be unconsciously injecting his own opinions . A conservative, for example, may choose cases with relatively consistent reasoning in dismissing challenges to Vietnam/Iraq following other decisions in foreign policy areas as non-justiciable political questions; a liberal might choose to show students the jurisprudential train wreck that was Bush v. Gore as an indication of how malleable the doctrine is. Sure, you can show both sides – but that ultimately means less time in class spent on something else. And how is one to choose what gets cut?
The better question, then, is how should professors relate their political views – which are likely to be in some sense ultimately indistinguishable from their views about the law – into the teaching of the class? Assuming we don’t want law schools to indoctrinate people, but rather encourage independent and free thinking, we can imagine a couple different approaches on this, but it ultimately divides into two radically different methods.
The first method is to simply say, “Listen, kids, I’ll let you in on a little secret, or not so much of a secret if you have bothered to google me. I am a huge leftie; I think the only bad thing about the federal government is the military and the fact that it’s not as a big as it could be; the only difficult choice I have ever had in an election was whether to vote for Nader or Gore . . . and that definitely affects my analysis of the law. But that said, I will endeavor to present both sides of each argument, and entertain the ideas of people who disagree with me thoughtfully and respectfully.” (Or similar statements that a conservative might make).
The second method is the opposite line: say nothing about your politics and just go about teaching. Of course, even the purist approach to this method doesn’t result in one actually “hiding” anything; any student who cares can easily google or lexis the Prof and figure out in about five minutes on which side of spectrum he or she falls.
We disclaim now that we’re more in favor of the first method, even in courses where politics don’t seem to be as much of an obvious issue (Crim, Ks, CivPro, etc.). But in theory the second method can work too - it’s just a matter of the students taking the initiative if they care enough about bias, and doing a little fact finding on their own. Law students are smart enough to do this.
Nothing we’ve said so far even seems to be that controversial. The real problem comes when a professor doesn’t do either one of those things but organizes the class in such way that more or less obviously reflects his or her inclinations.
And this is where the disagreement comes in. Some people, like us (“Camp 1”), think this is fine. We’re all intelligent law students, we can all think critically. If Prof-Con-Law says that the Rehnquist revolution that revived the limits on Congress’s legislation power under the Commerce Clause is a legal house of cards or at least a sharp break from precedent, we’re smart enough to rehabilitate People v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison by using our own critical reasoning. If anything, the professor injecting his or her own political beliefs in this, albeit somewhat coy, way means that students are challenged to think critically and be on their guard. And that’s a good thing. Moreover, since it’s graduate students we’re talking about here, we don’t think that there’s any danger of anyone being indoctrinated. Quite the contrary, a professor who uses his or her own opinions to teach law will challenge the people who disagree with her to conjure the legal evidence and reasoning to prove their point.
“Camp 2” sharply disagrees with this. The main argument – talking to people who think this – is that when a prof. acts like this it makes a mockery of the whole education process. At times, students are legitimately unable to tell when the prof is injecting her opinion of the jurisprudence or if she’s just trying to convey settled points of law that students need to know. Moreover, an unavoidable result is that Prof’s spend to much time trying to convince students of their point of view, and not enough time focusing on the legal reasoning itself that led to the decision, especially when doing so is necessary for students both to understand the law as it stands and to learn to “think like a lawyer.” Finally, some would argue, opinionated Prof’s can inject their inclinations into the class discussion, sullying the purpose of the Socratic method. The idea is that the Prof would steer discussion toward those who agreed with him/her, and away from those who didn’t, which is bad for obvious reasons.
Similarly, there is the fear of the effect that all this could have on grading exams. Simply put, some think that disagreeing with a professor’s point of view in an exam answer could be detrimental to one’s grade. We have no comment on this except to reiterate our steadfast opposition to a system of exams in which there is absolutely no oversight whatsoever. It is our hunch, however, that no law professor worth his/her salt would do anything but look at the legal reasoning employed in exam answer as objectively and divorced from his/her own politics as possible.
So here are some samples from course evaluations of Prof-Con-Law. (available on LawWeb). Disclaimer: We’re big fans of PCL. Not only was a great class that taught us a lot, but we think the claims of bias, etc, below are significantly overblown. It seems like both camps were represented in the evaluations; and, of course, hearsay is hearsay, so without actually being in the class for four months, it’s tough to draw any meaningful conclusions about PCL specifically; the idea is more to underscore the two different outlooks . . .we’re not using real names to prevent google-bombing, etc, but if you know, you know):
I liked the Rehnquist bashing, but in general, her views were a bit thinly veiled for my liking.
* * *
[PCL] understands a lot of the material well, but definitely has her own biases when introducing it. I would appreciate a little more of a disclaimer, a "this is my opinion" box for her to stand in.
I also felt that she taught this course much more like a political science course and much less like a law course than she could have. . . .
* * *
It's a conlaw class, naturally some people will feel the need to talk at length. I'm not sure how a professor should go about knocking people off their sopaboxes, but [PCL] could stand to give students a little less room to hold forth on matters only tangentially relevant to what we are discussing.
* * *
In regard to liberal bias: I think it's there and I don't think it matters. People who disagree with a professor can learn as much or more by disagreement than they could by being spoon-fed things that they like.
That said, of course [PCL] isn't entirely fair and balanced.
The quality of the class is also largely determined by the quality of the students, since so much of classtime is discussion-driven. Make of that statement what you will.
* * *
One strength and weakness of [PCL] is that she wears her opinions and political leanings on her sleeve. In the end, I appreciated this, even though I often disagree, because she was honest about it and was still open to letting everyone get a voice in. Early on in the semester, however, before we had a feel for the class, I think that some people were less comfortable with it.
* * *
To be honest, I was quite disappointed with [PCL’s} teaching. You come to expect that many law professors will personally have liberal persuasions, but the degree to which [PCL] uses class as a platform for expounding liberal positions and thoroughly disparaging conservative positions goes too far. Again, the problem is not having a liberal viewpoint, but particularly during the first half of the course, [PCL] was downright sophomoric in her tone in discussing opinions by conservative justices and cases she's fixated with, such as Bush v. Gore. I was never made to feel comfortable in her class. To be honest, I just don't feel she'd be a good fit here to represent Virginia Law. She just seems to lack respect for opposing viewpoints and fails to foster a balanced classroom discussion. Though coming in to this class, Con Law was a favorite subject of mine, I just really didn't enjoy this class and the style and tone that [PCL] led it with.
* * *
I appreciated the perspective that her political science background brought to studying the structure of the Constitution and the separation of powers.
* * *
Overall [PCL] as an excellent teacher, she kept the class engaged in the subject. I feel I learned a lot about ConLaw. Some people are probably complaining about the prof's alleged left-wing bias, but those claims are unmerited (she shot down the leftist students arguments just the same as the rightist ones).
* * *
The cases we read were interesting, and the class discussion often was interesting. However, [PCL] did allow a few students to monopolize class discussion. It would not be uncommon for her to call on the same students 7 to 8 times (!!!) in a single class period. Overall, she was very congenial. On some occasions, she would inject her politics into the class, such as when she asked, "If George Bush can arbitrarily detain someone as an enemy combatant, then what is the difference between him and Saddam Hussein?"
It's not that I mind a professor who has strong opinions; the problem is that [PCL] seems to be oblivious to the fact that not everyone shares her opinions. It tended to stifle discussion.
* * *
[PCL] is the worst prof Ive had here. she is extremely smug re her views and research. the course was basically bring up a case, mention the holding on powerpoint and then open up for discussion which was all politicla opinion. there was hardly any close analysis of the cases.
[PCL] is clearly pretty liberal and thinks it is obvious that we should agree with enlightened opinion on the subject at hand.
* * *
On a related note, I think [PCL] could have tried to tone down her own political commentary as well. I do give her credit for being transparent about her personal leanings, and she certainly has been welcoming of all political viewpoints in class, but I think it was at times so overt that it became a little distracting.
Alright, nobody is still reading . . but there you have it. We would love to hear your opinions in the comment section, especially if you took [PCL]'s class.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Basically what happened is Bush made this comment in the Israel Knessett about appeasement and Neville Chamberlain (almost certainly about Obama - though not explicitly - being an "appeaser" like Neville Chamberlain, because Obama favors opening up dialogs with nations like North Korean and Iran). Of course, this is a catachresis: the reason that Neville Chamberlain is despised is not because he talked with the Nazis, but because he ultimately offered no resistence, at the 1938 Munich Conference, to the Nazi Anschluss of Czechoslavakia.
James didn't seem to know this, and gets pounded for five minutes and fails to answer the question: "What did Neville Chamberlain do exactly that made him an appeaser?" The closest that James comes is mentioning "His policies . . . of appeasement . . .energized and legitimized . . . appeasement".
Goto the 2:00 mark for the pwnage. See also, James' wiki entry, which recounts the PWNAGE. The sad thing is, I think a lot of Americans don't much better than James does. One more reason to elect someone with brains as POTUS. Cause, you know, trickle-down effect.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
One thing we'll never understand is why social conservatives are against same-sex marriages, at least for any other reason save being bigoted against homosexuals.
Even more preposterous is the related argument where people say, "Hey, I don't want my kids growing up in a world where gays can get married; it's like saying that society approves of homosexuality and my kid could get the wrong idea." People said the same thing about interracial marriage in the South; turns out, they had the wrong idea, that is, they were bigots/
Finally there's the whole argument that gay marriage would mean gays could adopt, which would be bad. This argument runs two ways: first, social conservatives argue, it makes it more likely that the parents will be abusive or otherwise undesirable. Not surprisingly, nothing backs up this assertion but bigotry; there is no credible evidence that homosexual couples are significantly better or worse at parenting than their heterosexual counterparts.
Second, the reasoning goes, it's more likely that the kids will become gay (which is presumed to be bad for some reason; personally we could care less if our kid was gay, straight, bi, whatever...). Again, total hogwash. Most scientists operate under the informed and researched belief that homosexual attraction is biologically determined, i.e., it's not contagious. Few intelligent people dispute this, and yet, it's a major talking point for those opposed to gay marriage.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The problem is that this just isn't right; the *main* factor in the spike in oil prices is the surging demand in India and China and the fact the governments of those countries, especially the government of China, are more than willing to encourage that demand by subsizidizing oil prices to keep up economic growth. This not to say that the Iraq war, the mafeasance of the Bush administration, greed of the oil companies, etc, don't play into it, but that shouldn't detract from the main culprit, as it were, the huge and still-increasing demand in China and India.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
So 1L year has come and gone, and this blog has hit a major milestone. It started out – obviously – a travel log of the author during his trip to Taipei. Two months of that came and went, and the blog evolved into the travails of our senior year, a large part of which consisted of “figuring out what to do with life” – musings that ultimately convalesced, for better or worse, in a “plan” to go law school.
Then came that magical summer between college and law school, the only drawback of which was that it was far too short. I spent my time reading, drinking, and working out (usually in that order, although the process was cyclical).
Finally, law school. Most of this blog’s 305 posts came during that period, and at one point I was clocking in a post a day. It’s true, in some sense, that the first wave of law school bloggers, said a lot of the things worth saying (see, e.g., Sua Sponte). But, every so often there’s something new or significant to be said, too. And, for us personally, blogging was a good way to vent synthesize the experience and, at times, vent frustrations (PSA: law school will provide many of those). The year saw the stress of exams, frustration with the socratic method, taking down an intruder and ultimately landing him in jail, glory and defeat on the basketball court, romantic excitements and disappointments, fighting the good fight, controversial articles, high elements of culture (Battlestar . . . Gossip Girl), arguing with an associate Supreme Court justice about one of the worst decisions in the history of American jurisprudence, physical triumphs, mental anguishes, and all the time, study, study, study, study, study. (All of those are in there somewhere, and I might get around to linking them, but I not right this second).
Since I know there are a few 0Ls reading this, I would strongly encourage blogging some of your thoughts, feelings, experiences, whatever (or if not blogging, at least writing them down somehow). I’ve tried to keep this blog somewhat entertaining, somewhat interesting, somewhat pertinent, and somewhat un-obnoxious (even with the use of the editorial we). It’s not the preeminent UVA LS blog, and, G-d-willing, it never will be. We’re just hoping whenever you're in that class where the prof. talks the slowest AiT provides a few welcome seconds of diversion couched somewhere in between obsessive Isis refreshing, playing text-twist, checking gmail, and scoping out ATL. For the next two years – that’s the goal.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
The case for banning intelligence doping is even weaker than the case for banning sports doping. One reason is that there is a strong positive externality from increased cognitive functioning, since smart people usually cannot capture the entire social product of their work in the form of a higher income. Like other producers, part of the benefit that their production occurs inures to consumers as consumer surplus. An example is patentable inventions. Because patents are limited in duration, usually to 20 years, any benefits that a patented invention generates after the patent expires enures to persons other than the patentee. Even if there were no positive externality--even if the user of an intelligence-enhancing drug captured the entire incremental income generated by that use--there would be a social benefit, since the user is part of society, and hence no economic argument for banning.
Do you? If it turns out that there is a massive evidence of kids taking adderall or whatever before their exams (say LSAT or law school exams, I don't care), and drug tests could efficiently screen out these people, would you support it? Or, are the effects of adderall (or whatever) really no different than someone taking another drug (say caffeine - which has many of the same effects, albeit much weaker) before the big test. Or, do we agree with Posner's "greater competition for the gifted" outlook:
Of course the naturally gifted will object to any "artificial" enhancements that enable others to compete with them. But it is not obvious why their objections should be given weight from a public policy standpoint. It is not as if allowing such enhancements would be likely to discourage the naturally gifted from developing and using their gifts (it might have the opposite effect, by creating greater competition for them), let alone discouraging bright people from seeking out other people to marry and produce children by.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
And maybe they outdid themselves on the last few episodes. We see everything from class warfare (one of the character's steals a dress to fit-in, also a great line: "Even you should know that jealousy clashes with L.L. Bean pants!"), political jokes (A nice throw away joke about Serena's mom inviting Spitzer to her wedding), homosexuality (Oh noes - a couple tetiary characters are found out to be gay), modern buildingsroman (the characters all have to - ahem - "study" for their SATs), inter-generational conflict, and lines that lay it on so thick that you have to wonder if the characters are really taking themselves serious and if you can *really* willingly suspend your disbelief, when you realize, oh yea - of course we can! E.g., after Jenny's boyfriend is revealed to be Gay - Isabel to Jenny: "To think, I almost asked you to wear a matching dress tonight." GOLD.
If you watched last night's episode, here's a good review[NY Mag]. And I also got the image of Jenny from there. Now time to learn us some evidence.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
* There is absolutely no quiet spot in Alderman to study. Yes, we went to the stacks and to all the out of the way reading rooms. Not quiet.
* Undergrads have amusing perceptions about Law School. Overheard outside Alderman: "If I goto any law school and graduate after three years I am basically guaranteed $100k+/year."
* The iTunes selection varies. But, of the 7 publicly available libraries when I was sitting in Alderman
-Six had at least album of Dave Matthews Band; five had multiple albums
-None had either Boston's "More Than a Feeling" or the Clash's "London Calling" (song OR album). WTF, guys?
-None had clever names. One was named after a spell from Harry Potter, but that's not clever. (We're "Breaking Bones and Breaking Hearts"; i.e, that's our library name and modus operandi, FYI).
* Finally, another overheard - outside Alderman Library:
Frat dude: "Yea me and Brittany and Alexis (or someone) went to study at the nice group study room at the law library and someone came and asked us, 'hey, are you guys law students?' and we were all like, 'yea, we're law students'
Sorority girl: Haha that is sooo funny.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
In other news, the candidates are making their main push for the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. HRC will need to win Indiana to stay alive. BHO will surely win North Carolina, but, it seems like HRC has bit into her lead there. President Clinton went to Lebanon, Indiana to try to push for HRC:
He's got a point - after all, that was the era of peace and prosperity, at least a lot more peaceful and a lot more prosperous than things are now. Which begs two questions:
First, if HRC wants to win, why doesn't she just say (or, better yet, why didn't she say six months ago), "Hey guys - just ask - are you better off now than you were eight years ago? Do you ever look back on the days of $1.25/gallon gas and not fighting a stupid war with envy? Do you remember when our President was a Rhodes scholar and not a recovering alcoholic functional retard, and when lies of the executive only played to a frivolous harassment suit instead costing thousands of lives? You can't have the old regime back, but, you can have the next best thing!"
Second, Bill, if eight years ago was so great, why didn't the majority of people vote to keep the same party in power? Oh yea . . .
Thursday, May 01, 2008
"Male partner brought action against female partner, seeking recovery for serious physical injury he suffered during consensual sexual intercourse with female partner, during which his penis was fractured, requiring emergency surgery. Female partner brought motion for summary judgment. The Superior Court Department, Essex County, Thomas P. Billings, J., granted motion. Male partner appealed."
First, in a matter of first impression, female partner owed male partner no legal duty of reasonable care during their consensual sexual encounter, and,
Second, female partner's conduct during consensual sexual encounter with male partner was not wanton or reckless, as necessary for male partner to establish claim to recover damages for his physical injury against female partner.
Also of interest (WL headnote): Female partner owed male partner no legal duty of reasonable care during their consensual sexual encounter, during which female partner changed her position and landed awkwardly on male partner, resulting in male partner suffering penile fracture, thus precluding male partner's negligence claim against female partner.
Doesn't changing one's position as a result of reliance on another's movement = estoppel? Isn't there a minimum standard of quality inherent in such encounters? OK, we'll stop . . .