Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Doing Good Work

I realize there are a number of items I haven't really announced that are worth announcing, so here they are...

1) I am officially employed, full time, by the fine people at Evans Data Corporation, a small survey company here in Santa Cruz. (I would provide a link, but their site is awful... hence my employment.) While the job isn't even remotely related to my law degree, it is an excellent opportunity to gain some real experience in the "corporate" world as well as get to know some regular folks beyond Sarah's graduate friends.

2) Just as exciting, if not more exciting, is that today Planned Parenthood launched its Wall of Protest site, which is web response to the recent Supreme Court decision about the partial birth abortion ban. (Note to constitutional scholars: what is scare about this decision is not that Congress can limit choice in this particular way, but that Congress can regulate in this area at all because it paves the way for a complete Federal ban should Roe v. Wade ever fall. What ever happened to enumerated powers?!) Anyway, working on the site has been great as have the people who coordinated the whole thing. Another company did the flash stuff, but I put together all the submission mechanisms and administrative tools. If you are a supporter of choice in this country, go visit the site and post something... if you aren't a supporter, prepare to be bested by my various security mechanisms :)

3) Sarah, my GF, started a blog of her own about stuff. Check it out. That photo of her, by the way, is from a moving San Fransisco cable car taken on our two day trip during Spring Break.

That's all for now... in the future I hope to be buying a car, so there may be photos a comin'.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The California Lawyers Say It's So...

Today, in the mail, I received two very important letters.

The first informed me that a settlement has been reached in the case of Rodriguez, et al. v. West Publishing Corp., d/b/a BAR/BRI, and Kaplan, Inc. For those following along at home, I'm "et al." Turns out BAR/BRI has been engaged in a little anti-trust no no resulting in a class action. And since no class is sufficiently classy without me, I was asked to tag along. There is $47 million in an escrow account which the lawyers get first crack at (to all you class action nay-sayers... those lawyers are welcome to their share in my opinion. I didn't have to lift a finger, will be getting some money back, and BAR/BRI is going to stop the antitrust behavior. Not a bad outcome for such an "inefficient" system). Then us plaintiffs get our share of the remainder, pro rated, based on the fee we paid. The pool includes all BAR/BRI customers in all states from 1997 - 2006, but since California's bar is one of the most expensive and the fee increased each year, my pro rata should be exceptionally pro, if you know what I mean. The award can be as much as 30% of my fee... which would be nearly $1000.

The other letter, this one from a different group of lawyers, wrote to tell me I am a moral person. It's strange to get a letter from lawyers saying, "yes good sir, you are moral enough to be one of us," but there it is. I posted it on my refrigerator with my new shiny UW Alumni Magnet (it says I'm an Alumni by the power vested in the UW Alumni Board of Trustees... what power do you suppose that could be? The power to ask for money on a bimonthly basis?)

So, that completes the final hurdle to becoming a licensed lawyer in the State of California: Ethics Bar, check; Bar Exam, check; moral character evaluation, check; ridiculous application fee, check. The only thing left is for the Supreme Court to complete the paperwork and send me a form asking for dues. That's right, my very first act as a licensed lawyer will be to pay yet more dues.

Now if only I had one of those fancy law jobs so I could afford to pay 'em. I suppose I do have that settlement money coming...

Learn the Truth

Quickly, watch this video before NBC files a DMCA takedown notice against YouTube on behalf of Cadbury.

The world must know!

Friday, April 06, 2007

On Dancing and War

There is an opinion columnist who writes for the Post that I lovingly referr to as the "scowley faced man" (this is in contrast to "big foreheaded man"). Add Mr. Novak, and these the individuals represent the triumvirate conservative bloc of the Post. Reading their articles usually makes me pretty upset because of the highly selective tunnel vision when it comes to evaluating facts.

Today is no different.

Mr. Krauthammer argues, with great force but little precision, that the multinational institutions of the UN and the EU failed to protect the 15 British sailors who were captured last week by Iran. The EU refused to impose requested tarriffs and the UN refused to condemn the Iranian action. This, according to Mr. Krauthammer, shows the irrelevance of multinational institutions. In the end, it was the Americans who solved the problem.

There's an old saying, "dance with the one who brought you" that is awfully applicable in this situation. Britian chose to become involved with the Iraq war over the objections of other member EU nations and without the support of the UN. The Prime Minister bought what President Bush was selling and have been at our side from the beginning, all the while thumbing his nose at the multinational institutions. In the international order that's their choice; no country is obligated to participate in transnational organizations.

But there are consequences for ones actions. Why, if the EU does not support the military action in Iraq, would anyone expect the EU to support economic sanctions on behalf of a country who has defined that collective will? If Michigan suddenly declared war on Canada, invaded, and had a group of their soldiers captured, would the United States be obligated to impose sanctions against our largest trading partner?

What, a silly analogy you say? Of course it's a silly analogy, the United States would never allow Michigan to attack Canada, the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from engaging in foreign relations. It's one the cohering factors of the Union. Michigan need not fear the U.S. turning a blind eye, and the U.S. need not fear Michigan going on some fool's errand. Such is not the case with the EU, because if it were, the EU would never have permitted the UK to join the American's Iraqi adventure, the sailors would never have been in/near/adjacent to Iranian waters, and there wouldn't even be a question of whether sanctions were needed.

Does the fact that the resolution to this crises came out of American action mean the EU, or the UN, is incompetent or unnecessary? No, it just shows you're best bet is to dance with the one who brought you.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Source of Facts

Much ado has been made regarding the U.S. decision to tinker with the daylight savings time. Regardless of the intentions behind the Congressional experiment (reducing power consumption) I prefer the change. So there's my bias.

Now, let's talk about the other bias. Ars Technica is running a little piece which can only be described as gloating about the failure of the switch to actually save power. Not sure why it's worth gloating about, but okay. Their source is an even shorter article by Reuters, which doesn't seem very interested in gloating (at least there still some objective journalism in the world) about the apparent failure to conserve. But now you should be wondering, who is the Reuters' source?

Here's the direct quote from the article
"There might have been a small increase in morning lighting, and a slightly larger decline in evening lighting usage," said a spokeswoman at New Jersey utility Public Service Enterprise Group Inc, but that modest decline will have no impact on its overall sales or earnings.
Which means there source is the venerable Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. That's not a link to their homepage, by the way, that's a link to their stock price. Yes, that's correct, PSEG is a privately held, for profit company.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with for profit utilities (although, the argument could be made...) what I'm saying is that no for profit company is going to come out and announce, for no good reason, "the government's regulation has cut national power consumption and as a result, earnings are down." It's just not gonna happen. There is every incentive for them to say, "silly government, you cannot stop us, for we are the power company... everyone needs our electricity!" Check out that link again, check out their stock price for the past few days following the article (April 2nd). Up almost 3 dollars! Interesting, no?

Now, I'm not saying that power company is lying. I don't have the facts to say that--but I think that a serious news agency like Reuters, and less serious news, um, reporting... er... opinion site like Ars, should look beyond to the source of their facts before they declare something to be a failure.