Saturday, December 24, 2005

Forecasting

The Bar results by school are out and 84% of Hastings first-time test takers passed. I suppose that bodes well for the future.

By they way, our percentage matches HLS's. (h/t to HLSer and Cal Bar passer Amber for the link).

Some schools have passage rates drastically lower. I can't for the life of me figure out how legal education can vary that much - frankly, if your law school isn't that highly ranked, why not scrap most of the traditional legal education crap and just teach to the Bar? Eh, whatever. I'm glad our rate is so high.

By the way - the February rate for Hastings first-timers the last time around was only 67%. Maybe I shouldn't have looked that up. Oh well.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I Neither Look, Nor Smell, Like A Monkey

But it is my birthday all the same.

Toot toot I go on my own horn! No BarBri or PMBR today!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Because You Can't Spell Wassail Without The Body Part On Which It Puts You

Amber's mention of Madrigal, though nog-centered - made my mind immediately spring to that most beloved of CMC traditions - a steaming mug of flat-on-your-back goodness known as Wassail.

And through the magic of my college's website and google, look!, y'all can make your own.

Disclaimer: Phoblographer* disclaims all responsibility for anything that might happen to you after Wassail consumption. Long Islands ain't got nuthin' on this stuff.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Assumptions

Someone left a $15k diamond ring in an unlocked car along with a note saying, "Hopefully this will land in the hands of someone you love, for my love is gone now. Merry Christmas to you."

The CNN article linked above is subheaded "Anonymous man puts jewelry in unlocked car." Aside from the note - which might have some forensic significance to a handwriting expert - there's not much else known.

So why do we assume a man left the ring?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

So That's Done

And we're on vacation. There might be posts, there might not, I really can't say for sure. PMBR starts Sunday morning, so a few days off is probably in order - if not the whole time between now and the New Year. Can't say for sure.

But do check back, you know I won't be gone for long.

Happy Holidays!

Here's A Candy Cane And A Suggestion

Dear Law School . . .

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Entertainment Commentary

Either about or for-your, I suppose.

After watching a movie, I like to check out the trivia, etc over at the Internet Movie Database, like for the film Spanglish, that I watched last week.

As you can see from clicking above, the first trivia item is that the teenage actress playing Adam Sandler's daughter gained 15 pounds for the role. There's a certain irony there, given that the character in the film has an implied weight problem, or at least her mom has a problem with her weight.

What gets me, though, is that they had to find an actress and fatten her up for the part. Like Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones, Minnie Driver in Circle of Friends, and Toni Collette in Muriel's Wedding.

So, riddle me this: a lot of groups in Hollywood have successfully lobbied to have characters played by group members. No more painted white actors as Native Americans, deaf people play deaf characters, etc.

You know there are size 10 actresses out there who can't catch a break (let alone size 12 or over actresses). Why can't one of them get cast? It's okay to like Bridget Jones because she's, wink wink, not really fat at all. How impressive! I'm not saying we should hate on the pretty girls - but I refuse to believe there aren't spectacularly talented actresses in Hollywood who aren't afraid to hit Tito's every once in a while or who just refuse to risk later bone damage by keeping their body fat percentage in the low single digits.

What gives?

And what the hell does it say to the kid who played the Spanglish-character. Did her contract come with a rider for a trainer?

Stop Calling It 'Direct Democracy' And You Might Have Something

The Bee's Dan Weintraub looks at possible changes to the initiative system:

If there was one good thing accomplished by the special election called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this year, it might be that it forced the electorate to ponder the value of direct democracy and the rules California uses to place issues in front of the voters.

A poll taken just after the election by the Public Policy Institute of California suggests that while voters still think they are better decision-makers than the people they elect to office, they are willing to consider tinkering with the initiative process in ways that could improve it.
Leaving aside for a moment how amazingly the first part of that survey finding is . . . .

Actually, I'm a tad pressed for time right now, so rather than comment on the article - here's some parts especially worth reading. Then you comment on it:

Not surprisingly, given the sense that Schwarzenegger was manipulating the election calendar for his own benefit, a majority (53-40) said they would support allowing initiatives only on the November general election ballots rather than on primary ballots and at special elections. And 54 percent said they think the governor should be able to call special elections only with the approval of the Legislature.

A huge majority - 77 percent - said they favor a system of review and revision of proposed initiatives. More specifically, 83 percent said they would support a cooling-off period during which the initiative sponsors and the Legislature could meet in search of compromise before an initiative goes to the ballot. Support for such a system was high across all regions and party lines.

Backing was just as strong (85 percent) for increasing public disclosure of the money behind signature-gathering campaigns and the initiatives themselves, and nearly as many voters (77 percent) said they thought the initiative campaigns should be required to participate in a series of televised debates.

Of all these options, the idea of allowing the possibility for compromise is the most promising. California once had such a system, known as the indirect initiative, but it was scrapped in the 1960s because it had been rarely used. Perhaps the time is right to bring it back.

Direct democracy purists insist that once voters have signed petitions to place a measure on the ballot, it should not be changed. But as we have seen, the rigidity of that system leads to the enactment of measures flawed by drafting errors, misjudgments or unforeseen consequences. When that happens with legislation, it is fairly easy to fix, but not with ballot measures.

A review process would also allow for compromise. One idea is to allow supporters of an initiative to gather signatures to qualify for a series of legislative hearings on their measure. If the Legislature, after the hearings, adopted the measure as proposed, it would not go on the ballot. If lawmakers adopted a modified version, supporters would be free to go forward if they wanted to or drop their measure at that point. You could even allow them to take suggestions that further the purpose of their proposal and then put the modified version on the ballot.
Thoughts?

Holiday Memories Vol. II - A Much Belated Pineapple Story

When I was 16, going on 17, my best friend and I went with a few friends of ours to Naples to look at the uber-expensive, uber-decorated houses that line the canals there. It's a holiday tradition in my family.

Having enjoyed the decorations and picked out our dream homes, we strolled the square just off the waterfront, and sat on a bench by a large, tiled fountain with a pineapple on the top.

When suddenly out of the dark arouse such a clatter, we all turned our heads to see what was the matter.

Up ran about 20 or so men dressed in nothing but speedos and running shoes. One may have had a wetsuit and a snorkel, but I can't say for sure now. They jogged around the fountain, lept in, and yelled, "to the pineapple! to the pineapple!" One of them hoisted himself up the side of the large, lower bowl of the foutain, and nimbly scampered up the next to fondle the paramount pinapple.

Then, just as quickly as they had run in, they all ran out.

The end.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Okay, Seriously, Do We Need To Worry About This Too?

Report: California unprepared for tsunami

Gov Denies Clemency,

In a lose-lose situation, Governor Schwarzenegger's actions were limited - but he has denied clemency for Stanley Williams.

Depending on your views, this is sad. But it is also sad because I can't get past the first few paragraphs of the Governor's statement without the urge to discuss under which rules and in what cases his statements about why he shot a store owner would be admissible in federal court.

But at least that final is over now.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sing, Sing A Song, Make It Educational To Last the Whole Test Long!

In the grand tradition of musical study aids - who get forget the magic of Jay-Z's criminal procedure treatise, "99 Problems?" - reader M-to-the-Mc-D, submits the following must-see musical explanation of FRE 803.

Singing and dancing lego people! Except for the old school res gestate language, it seems pretty accurate. And lord knows we love musical cues.

And remember:

As your body grows bigger
Your mind grows flowered
It's great to learn
Cause knowledge is power!

It's [Law] Schoolhouse Rocky
That chip off the block
Of your favourite [law] schoolhouse
[Law] Schoolhouse Rock!


P.S. I would like to note for the record that this is the 1501st Phoblographer* post. Go me.

I'll Need A Mastercard Alright

All values approximated - but pretty damn close:

Three years of law school: $90,000
First-year bar registration: $90
MPRE: $60
Down payments on PMBR and BarBri: $200
Balance of PMBR course: $500
Balance of BarBri course: $3000
Moral Character Application Fee: $382
Bar exam registration fee: $561
Various Bar membership fees: $800
Value of the life you would have had, traded in for soul-sucking 110 hour work-weeks required to pay-off debt incurred so you could go to school to learn to "help people" or some-such Hallmark bullshit: priceless

As if law school wasn't a sufficient enough barrier to entry - the more I learn about what I'll be bled for in the coming months, the more it becomes clear that prospective law students should be pretty f*cking sure this is what they want to do. Because let me tell you, I'm not sure what makes it all worthwhile.

But pay no attention to the girl in the midst of finals. I'm sure I'll cognitive dissonance myself right out of this funk. I'm only a BMW away from happiness, after all.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Line Of The Week

From an unfortunate incident at Chicago Midway where the plane went a bit past the mark. No one on the plane was reported injured, but one person in a car on the street the plane crossed was:

It wasn't immediately clear if the plane hit the vehicle or the vehicle hit the plane as it crashed through the airport's boundary fence.
So, is that, like, relevant for insurance purposes? Apportioning fault and whatnot . . . .

Update: Much less funny when it turns out that, regardless of what hit what, a little boy died in the accident.

Old Oppo Guys Never Die, They Just Find New Facts

Professor Jack "Call Me Mr. Ctrl+F" Pitney schools Trent Lott on his lack of scholarship.

Not only is the post a fantastic smack-down, but it makes one wonder exactly who got paid to edit the book. It is also an excellent example of good linkage - for those of you bloggers looking for a good example of what makes good blogging good.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bad Math, Reasoning

The California Citizens Compensation Commission approved a legislative pay raise in May that went into effect this week - boosting salaries 12% to $110,880/year.

Predictably, the Chronicle's Matier & Ross wonder why legislators need a raise when they are already among the highest paid in the country. Nevermind that Compensation Comissioner Tom Dominguez (my cousin - no, not really, just kidding. Though, who knows, maybe if you go back far enough he and I are rightful heirs to one helluva piece of property in Los Angeles) explained the reasoning a few paragraphs earlier. Dominguez said - and this Dominguez agrees - that he doesn't think the Legislature "should be exclusive to just the rich and famous." The goal was to encourage "qualified, regular people" to seek public office.

California members make more than their counterparts in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, or Massachusetts. I can't say for certain they all have full-time legislatures, but I know for certain they aren't all as big as California nor is the cost of living in each of those states as high as it is here. And for some of them, there's less state to traverse to get to work.

But nevermind that, why should Matier & Ross get bogged down in, like, rational comparisons. F the greedy bastards who are required to set up two households, kiss off most family time for 6 years or so and risk marriages and large amounts of protected defamation just to represent us in Sacramento.

Who the hell do they think they are.

Oh My Supereme Being Or Guiding Principles

Fundamentalists mad at Bush for wording of holiday card / 'Christmas' appears nowhere on White House greeting

Because one minute the kids are saying "Happy Holidays" and the next they're doing lines of coke off a stripper's bare ass while worshiping satan or, Allah-forbid, spinning a dreidel and drinking microbrewed beer.

What's the world coming to . . . .

And Speaking Of The End Of School

The Supreme Court ruled the government can seize a person's Social Security benefits to pay off student loans.

On the brighter side, they still can't collect if you're dead.

I'm not actually sure what that is the brighter side of, but maybe of something.

Speaking of which - it's dangerous to spend too much time studying at a medical school because there comes a point in the middle of one's 30 hour take-home exam where one seriously considers that accidently stumbling in front of a skateboard or, say, the #43, and being right across the street from a top hospital could create all kinds of ways out of further exams.

I'm kidding, put down the phone and call of the intervention.

We're now officially at T-minus one week and counting until I become a former law student.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Query

Reading this article and thinking about California water policy on the eve of my next exam on the same, I can't help but ask the following question:

Does a State need to grow in order to better itself?

How many people can - and should - the Golden State accomodate?

It's not that I want to close this most iconic corner of our land of opportunity - in every American Dream is a bit of California Dreamin'. But, you know, there are other cities out there that are really doing their best to be attractive, welcoming, and growth-friendly. Many in the South, the Northwest. I would advice against the arid Western States who can't water their current residents, but people seem to flock there as well.

We seem to be driving business out of the state, but not people, nor are we discouraging migration. Pretty bad combination. What if we kept business here but slowed migration?

My vote is for installing a magic sleet machine on Colorado Boulevard on New Year's Day - but that probably won't happen . . . .

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Mile 18

Every runner has a mile. For many, it's mile 20, commonly referred to as "the wall." "The wall," like the elusive "runners' high" may be a myth, but there's definitely a mile during which a runner no longer runs, she merely hates. She doesn't hate something, she hates everything. Sunshine. Cougars. Pumpkins. Raindrops on roses - it's all bad. The concept runs counter to the whole endorphins vibe most runners would have you believe keeps them moving. At mile 10, there's a sense of accomplishment, even hope. Mile 12 begins the lonely mileage. For me, Mile 12 began 6 lonely loops through Golden Gate Park. Mile 18 was the first out of the Park and it was literally all downhill from there. I should've felt great and I wouldn't have thought anything could've felt more hopeless than Mile 12. Or Mile 13. Or Mile 14. Or 15 - 17. But Mile 18 comes and even though you know it's coming because it has to or you won't get to Mile 26.2, nothing can make it easier.

Now is Mile 18. I dogged it today - the sports term for walking when you should be running, etc.

As you can tell from the current tagline, Mile 26.2 is coming. Soon. I don't want to run Miles 18 through 26.2, however. But there are no options.

For those law student readers out there, you get the really obvious metaphor here. You get why these are the shortest, longest, bleakest weeks of our lives. I feel your pain. Though not for much longer. Thank God in heaven. There's nothing quite as soul-sucking as law finals, no matter how much I'd like everyone to continue to believe they neither phase me nor matter to me. I can beat down my inner good student, but she dies hard. Of course, the high-achieving student, she's pretty much dead, but no mind. We hope the gainfully employed J.D. will emerge alive and kicking.

For those of you civilian readers who wish I'd leave the naval gazing for my diary, I apologize, and ask your patience as I wrap up some loose ends here. Read this article on the Governor losing a ruling on 'news release' videos, it's interesting and can hopefully provide the basis for some further discussion (hint: that means, if you want to comment on this post, why not make it substantive - the "you go girls" or "buck ups" are appreciated but of limited utility at this point).

I may or may not be up with the blog in the next 10 days. But like Frosty, I'll be back again one day (likely the 15th).

In the meantime, I'm hoping you have some guestposts to peruse. I'd hate to leave you with nothing to do.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Guest Post: To Be or Not to Be – The Big Questions Behind Tookie

Ed. Note: The following is a guest post by Alex Reese, a blogger over at Keep California Blue, an the Communications Director of the California Young Democrats, though the views here are expressly his own. We've discussed the death penalty a bit last week and Alex continues the discussion here . . . .

As the execution date of convicted murderer and alleged Crips co-founder Stanley “Tookie” Williams draws nearer, I’m taking the opportunity to take a broader look at the death penalty in America. In case you need to catch up, Williams was convicted for murdering a convenience store clerk and, later, three people at a motel. Stopping his execution has become a cause celebre, with famous personalities from Snoop Dogg to Jesse Jackson advocating on Williams’ behalf. From the beginning, Williams has maintained his innocence, and Governor Schwarzenegger has agreed to a private clemency hearing to consider the case.

The debate over the Williams case has reopened the question of America’s stance on the death penalty, and the debate has gone from California all the way to the White House: “White House press secretary Scott McClellan said it was important that the death penalty ‘be administered fairly and swiftly and surely, and that helps it serve as a deterrent.’” (Washington Post, December 2, 2005)

The “death penalty as deterrent” argument is a common one. Governor George Pataki used it when was fighting to reinstate the death penalty in New York in 1995. In a statement one year later, he claimed that New York’s falling crime rate was partially due to, “the strong signal that the death penalty sent to violent criminals and murderers: we won't excuse criminals, we will punish them.” (August 30, 1996) Besides simple common sense, the argument that the death penalty deters criminals has long relied on Isaac Ehrlich’s classic 1975 study showing that each execution prevented eight murders.

However, there is reason to doubt those numbers and even the argument that the death penalty deters criminals. Last January, Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia Professor and architect of a study on the death penalty, attempted to debunk Ehrlich’s numbers. In testimony to the New York State Legislature, Ehrlich said, “Over the next two decades, economists and other social scientists attempted (mostly without success) to replicate Ehrlich's results using different data, alternative statistical methods, and other twists that tried to address glaring errors in Ehrlich’s techniques and data.” (Fagan Testimony, January, 2005) Fagan continued to say that almost all studies purporting a link between the death penalty and decreased crime rates are faulty. Perhaps his most damning criticism is that, “The studies avoid any direct tests of deterrence. They fail to show that murderers are aware of executions in their own state, much less in far-away states, and that they rationally decide to forego homicide and use less lethal forms of violence.”

Still other studies show that the death penalty executes innocent people. One study, headed by Columbia Professor James Liebman, found, “serious errors in 68%" of all capital convictions. Of course, that study, too, has been disputed – critics claimed that the study defined a “serious error” as any legal misstep, even if it was bureaucratic.

If the studies don’t convince, perhaps peer pressure will. I myself was surprised to find that a vast majority of American support the death penalty, despite the fact that even greater numbers believe that it recently has caused the death of an innocent person. A May 2005 Gallup Poll showed that 56% of American support the death penalty, with 39% preferring life in prison (and 5% with no opinion, for you bean counters out there). The same poll showed the 59% believed that an innocent person had been executed within the last five years. If you’re not sure where to land on the death penalty, don’t worry – the Supreme Court can’t decide either. In a landmark death penalty case, Furman v. Georgia 1972, two U.S. Supreme Court Justices said they thought that the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment in all cases (being on Phoblographer, I had to quote a court case) .

Personally, I’m not convinced yet one way or the other. On one hand, I’m not convinced that the state should be killing its own citizens. On the other hand, I do believe (and feel) that there are some crimes so heinous that the perpetrator doesn’t deserve to live. And to be honest, that’s the way I felt when I read Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley’s synopsis of the Stanley Williams case (see, it all comes full circle). The grisly details and overwhelming physical evidence are certainly convincing, but for me the clincher came when after the jury hands down the guilty verdict. Cooley quotes court documents when he writes that, apparently, Williams turned to the jury and mouthed the words, “I’m going to get each and every one of you mother f*ckers.” Of course, his supporters would point out that he’s a changed man and has worked for gang violence prevention for the last ten years. At any rate, while the Williams situation is certainly important in its own right, I hope that this post has successfully brought up some of the much bigger questions going on here.

Open Letter To Would-Be Hastings Students

Dear Prospective Law Student,

Generally, I try to keep the name of my current school off the site, lest google lead people to a supposed Hastings Law blawg. This site isn't a blawg, though sometimes it has blawg-worthy posts.

December is upon us here in law school land, which means yet another finals exam period and a depressing lack of holiday cheer. But what makes this semester different from my 6 others - oh yes, the 6 prior semesters and 5 prior finals periods (regular readers get the time line) - is that we have only half a school. Yes, kids, half a school. No library. I hated studying there anyway, but those library studiers had to go somewhere. No law cafe. No general study space. And 1400 students competing for study space adequate for about 400 of them. Now, not all students study on campus. But all students appreciate having the option.

So where does one go?

Well, not to Hastings if you have the option. At least not until the renovation is done in 2007. Take a few more years to work - it's the right choice, trust me. I'll save the usual "don't go" speech, this time, in favor of a "don't go now" speech.

Today I spent most of the day studying at the UCSF library. And what to my wondering eye should appear? Floors and floors of law students studying. Nary a medical student in sight.

I'd also like to take this chance to apologize to the UCSF students who we're crowding out.

So now, with that library closing at 8pm on Saturdays, and no Hastings facility worth treking to at this hour in that neighborhood, I am stuck at the local Starbucks, sitting by two chattering idiot medical students who aren't studying, and the 'bucks is out of nog, so no eggy treat either.

So, please, if you're going to make the mistake of attending law school, don't come to Hastings for a few years. Try USF, McGeorge, or even Golden Gate. They have really good professors. And campuses.

Yours truly,
Phoblog

Pitney: 2, Right-Wing: 0

Professor in the classroom, professor in life - Jack Pitney calls out two of his own for 'Ungodly Mistakes'. Seems Pat Boone is trying to revive bad Tocqueville and Bill O'Reilly needs to go back to Sunday school.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I Like The Day Three Singer, And Day Two, And . . .

Nothing takes the edge off studying like John Denver, Fozzy Bear, Gonzo, Robin, Ms. Piggy, Scooter, Dr. Teeth, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, Statler & Waldorf, Kermit, and the seventh day muppet I just couldn't voice ID quickly enough, singing The 12 Days of Christmas.

Burl Ives helps too.

Rounding Up The Let Down

Just read the Roundup this morning and you'll be completely not at all shocked at the amount of Republican hand-wrining over the Kennedy appointment. And can you blame them?

I suppose the reason why the blue blogs and big Dems aren't reacting is because, well, they don't have to.

The best quote of the morning is from California Political News and Views's Steve Frank who dismisses the idea that Republicans will need to field a challenger because . . . well, clearly Schwarzenegger isn't planning on running again. It's the "we fixed the glitch" school of personnel management.

The first name to pop up: duh - Tom "Last Living Republican" McClintock.

Seems we'll finally get proof of the commonly held theory that had Schwarzenegger facecd a primary race, he'd be shopping T4 right now.

Actually, I have to give the best quote - er, paraphrase - award to former Governor Gray Davis for congratulating Schwarzenegger for choosing Kennedy. Man, that's rich. That's gotta feel good.