Thursday, July 31, 2008


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Media

A few months ago, I became aware of charges that the media was covering Obama more closely than McCain. I started keeping track of the way that the New York Times was reporting the race, and over time some trends became apparent. First, there seemed to be about an equal number of articles about both candidates. Second, the articles about Obama were sometimes placed more prominently (especially during his European tour). Third, the articles about Obama were just more interesting-- they seemed to depict a more vibrant and intriguing person (which may just be true, but the point can be debated).

So, it would seem that some news sources are not entirely even in how they cover candidates. My question is-- should they be? Is there a duty for journalists to ensure that two candidates receive nearly identical coverage in all respects?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Roller Derby Update!

As some of you may remember, my sister (Kathy Osler) competes in the Chicago Roller Derby as "Miss K.O." This evening, she informed me that her team had three new members, and... well, these are just great roller derby names:

Hermione Danger
Kelly The Ripa
Nancy Pagan

Hmmm... what would your roller derby name be? I may select an all-star team.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


i/o oddity

I'm often baffled when I look at a computer's on/off switch. Since "on" and "off" both start with "o," I can't remember which one, inexplicably, is represented by "i." So I just flip the switch-- it usually doesn't matter.

But why have that shorthand anyways? Is "on" and "off" just too onerous to write out?

I suspect it has something to do with the development of computers into a professional pursuit-- it needed its own language and symbols (beyond the symbols of computer code) to express that it requires specialized skill.

Or else, "on" and "off" are just too long to write out.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Hey, buddy!

A few days ago at a coffee shop in Detroit, I ran into a guy who supervised some of the federal agents I used to work with. He lamented the fact that several high-profile cases have been lost at trial in Detroit's federal court of late, and said, "Yeah, they could use you back."

First of all, it's not true. They don't need me back if what they need are sure-fire trial winners, because I lost my share of cases at trial. Still, it was tempting. I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the courtroom, because I do. There is something about trying a case for the United States that is a wonderful experience-- in part because you can do so much good, and because it matters so much, and because there is nothing else like it. A good friend of mine (and, perhaps, yours) has been offered a position as an Assistant US Attorney, and I am trying not to push too hard for him to take it.

Of course, I'm sure that if I went back, I would miss teaching terribly...


Best Game Ever Made Up In a Backyard

Staying here at my parents' house, I noticed some dents in the wall on the back of the house. I know exactly what they are from, too-- they were caused by a game my brother and I made up about 35 years ago.

The game was called, for reasons I can't remember, "Botchy Ball." The sport had no similarity whatsoever with the actual game of Bocci Ball. At least, unlike our other made-up game, Taco Bueno, there were no trademark issues involved. Here is how you play:

1) First, each player needs a baseball mitt and wooden hockey stick, sharpened to a point on the blade (I'm not sure why this pointy-end thing was necessary, but it made the game much more dangerous and thus interesting).

2) Perpendicular to a tall wall, draw a chalk line back about twenty feet.

3) Using a tennis ball, try to shoot the ball off the wall, into the other court and past the opponent.

Oddly, this game got fairly popular in the neighborhood- we had championships and everything. Go figure.

Of course, this wasn't the only goofy game kids ever made up...

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Sunday Reflection: I'm a spoiled rotten parishioner

Today I went to a church here in Michigan and heard a really terrible sermon. It was well-memorized, and delivered without notes, but it also was meandering, emotionless, shallow, and uninteresting. It seemed to be about fishing-- for bass, and pike, and trout, and salmon, etc. etc. Most of it was taken up with a discussion of bait. I got the analogy-- really, I did, in the first few minutes-- but there was not much else there.

It made me appreciate the terrific preachers in Texas. It is a well-stocked lake that way.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I'm confused by the Olympic Mascots...

What are they?
Why are there six of them?
Why are they so similar?
And, importantly, why does one of them have a huge gun?


The outdoors life

It's kind of odd to be back in Michigan, where summer is lived outdoors as much as possible. I have gotten used to the Texas idea of hiding out for much of July and August in someplace with air conditioning or, if you are outside, making sure you are in the woods or standing in a pool of water (preferable not composed of your own sweat).

When I am back here, people ask what I do, and I always tell them I am a teacher. There is something deeply satisfying in being able to say that.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Haiku Friday and the end of July

It's been a a day of tumult, much of which I don't know much about. Baylor President John Lilley was fired, meaning that as of August 1, the school not only won't have a president or provost, but apparently will not even have an interim president or interim provost. I'm in Detroit without much information, so I can't really guess what is going on.

But still, art always thrives in times of tumult, so it is a good time to haiku. Here are some topics:

1) Obama in Europe
2) Obama in Iraq
3) McCain in... uh, wherever he went this week.
4) Port wine
5) Chardonnay
6) Driving trips
7) I-35
8) A driving trip on I-35 with Chardonnay and McCain
9) Hasselhoff!
10) Krusty the Klown

Here is mine:

A bone dry chablis
(Not the horrid stuff in jugs)
Like a sharp steel blade.

Now, it is your turn...

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Political Mayhem Thursday: When should America go to war?

Most of us would agree that something as important as war should be principled—that is, it should be engaged in only according to principles which can be articulated outside of any specific situation. One good thing to come out of the Iraq war has been an active debate over what these guiding principles should be.

As I see it, there are plenty of principles to choose from. For example, one might be willing to accept the costs of war in the following situations (listed from most to least restrictive):

1) never

2) only if the US mainland is invaded

3) only if the US mainland or an overseas territory (ie Guam) is invaded

4) only if United States forces are attacked here or abroad

5) only if the US or a key ally is attacked

6) only if the US or a key ally is attacked, plus to protect crucial economic interests

7) only if the US or a key ally is attacked, to protect crucial economic interests, or to change foreign regimes we find repugnant

Given the very high cost of war, which is the right principle? And have we engaged in unprincipled wars?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The Road North

Over the next few days, I will be driving up to Detroit. It's a drive I have made several times before, and by now it has become somewhat of a routine. To pass the time in the car, I usually do the following:

20% listening to the radio
40% listening to cd's
39.9% thinking about stuff
00.1% talking on the phone

This time, though, I plan to listen to several podcasts that I have downloaded, including some from the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, The Onion, Prairie Home Companion, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, KCRW's Le Show, and This American Life (which can make me laugh out loud).

Any additional podcast recommendations or driving tips?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


A brief moment of indulgent navel-gazing

The fact that there is a fair amount of political discussion recently on the razor has probably resulted in some people concluding that I am either liberal or conservative. In a way, both would be right-- I don't fit comfortably into either camp. Plus, part of it is contextual: At my conservative college (William and Mary), I came off as a liberal, but at a liberal law school (Yale) I was perceived as conservative. Part of this is because many of my core beliefs are formed by my Christian faith, and explicit discussion of faith sometimes causes people to categorize me as conservative, even when the result is a liberal position (ie, against war).

Here are some of my core beliefs:

1) I am for a much smaller, less intrusive government.
2) I am against government regulation AND bailouts of businesses, except for environmental regulations.

3) I am for states rights, which would include Oregon's right to die law and California's marijuana laws being respected, as well as some states' limitations on abortion.

4) I am against the wars that have been fought in my lifetime.

5) I am for religious freedom and the separation of church and state (as a political and not necessarily a Constitutional principle).

6) I am against farm and oil company subsidies and tax breaks.

7) I am for strong enforcement of immigration laws against those who employ illegal immigrants (that is, I prefer a market approach to reducing illegal immigration)

8) I am for Batman, and against the Joker.


Michael Savage Gets Tough with Autistic Kids!

Right wing radio talk guy Michael Savage (real name, Michael Weiner, and not to be confused with the sex columnist Dan Savage, whose real name actually is Dan Savage) is stepping up to the plate to take on another threat to America: Autistic kids. According to Yahoo News, he said: "What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, `Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, you idiot.'"

Michael Savage seems a little mixed up.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Yes. No. Yes. Maybe.

Yes, "The Dark Knight" set the box office record for a weekend.
No, I haven't seen it yet.
Yes, I am going to! Get off my back already, sheesh.

Maybe I want to hear some more reviews of it from you first...

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Sunday Reflection: They Like Jesus, But Not the Church

On the way back from Del Rio, one of my many stops was in Austin to poke around in my favorite bookstore, Bookpeople. If you haven't been there, you should stop in-- independent bookstores are too rare these days.

I happened across a great book, much of which I read standing there in the aisle (I then bought it-- that's only fair). It was They Like Jesus but not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations, by Dan Kimball. The book is based on discussions with those who know something about and are attracted to the teachings of Jesus, but are turned off by church.

If I could identify one thing from the book that resonated with my own discussions with such people, it was the idea that they did not want to go to church because of the (too often accurate) belief that once there they would be told how to think. Often, this directive teaching conflicted with what they knew of Christ.

I have felt the same way (though not at my current church). Christ taught love more than anything, but it is hard to see that in some (though certainly not all) churches amidst the judgment and anger. When Christ did show anger (and he did), it was directed towards the church authorities, businessmen, and the self-righteous. He wasn't angry at those who were sinners, including those who committed sexual sins, crimes, and even those who were members of hated groups. Yet our churches too often view the world in exactly the opposite way-- with anger at sinners, and love for the church authorities.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Today I am hoping to see The Best Movie In The History Of The Universe!

[Click on the photo to enlarge it]

I'm happily lodging down on the banks of the Rio Grande, where I am giving a CLE tomorrow with Henry Bemporad and his crew here in Del Rio.

On the way back, I'm thinking of going to see the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight, at the Raye Theater in Hondo, Texas (pictured above). In part because it looks like a really great, old-school theater, and partly because this movie is gettting some pretty incredible reviews.

Has anyone seen it yet? Is it worth it?

Friday, July 18, 2008


Haiku Friday, Friday, Friday (Monster Funny Cars!)

Friday arrives, even during finals. This week is themeless. However, I hope it isn't haikuless. Perhaps you will want to haiku about something in you apartment or car, or maybe on the topic of "abject despair."

Here is mine:

"There was a time," said
The Sage, "When the best radio
Was from Mexico."

Ha! Beat that!

and should I have a prize?

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Political Mayhem Thursday: Political money and free speech

As I have said publicly before, I think our system of government serves neither liberal or conservative goals and principles, but instead serves the needs of the wealthy.

One advantage the wealthy have is a unique ability to affect the political process through large campaign donations. Is this a legitimate form of "free speech," as the Supreme Court has held? If so, is there a public interest sufficient to curb that right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Interesting stuff from Judge Sullivan...

I was flipping through the NY Times yesterday, and saw that my college and law school buddy, Rich Sullivan (now "The Hon. Richard J. Sullivan") ruled in a groundbreaking trademark case. Essentially, the the jeweller Tiffany's was trying to get eBay to enforce trademark law on its behalf, and Judge Sullivan held that eBay does not have that responsibility. What do you make of that, IPLawGuy?

Being the judge ruling in a landmark case is a better way to make a front page of the Times than the way another of my classmates and friends ended up there recently. As for Mike, I like and respect him, and believe him when he says it was just sloppiness that resulted in this problem.

It's very odd seeing such familiar people crop up in the news with such regularity-- for Baylor people, it would be like reading about the latest ruling from Judge Chicago, or seeing Swanburg analyzed in detail in the national press. Which, actually, will probably happen someday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Hey! It's IPLawGuy and IPLawWife and IPLawToddler and IPLawBaby in a Washington Post Video Thingee!


Morgan Freeman says Bob Darden must die!

As many of you know, Razor friend (and commenter) Bob Darden is not only a prolific writer, but a great teacher. Some of his students have gone on to become Hollywood screenwriters, and often honor him by having him killed off in their scripts. Most recently, in "Wanted," you will notice that Morgan Freeman actually writes out "Robert Darden" as a person to be killed (and he is).

In the same film, the villain is named "Sloan," probably because of that whole Ferris Bueller thing.

Bob is not only an expert in writing and music, but Youtube videos. He recommended this, for example:

Monday, July 14, 2008


The Bush library and lobbying

You can see the interesting Times of London report (and the actual video of the conversation) here.

Interesting-- but, isn't that how we all thought it worked?


Texas Tippin' Question

Texas is an interesting place for themed restaurants. Here is Waco we have local restaurants, for example, which use the themes of locusts ("Crickets") and buzzards ("Buzzard Billy's"). Which, if you think about it, is pretty strange.

Texas is also full of a Sonic Drive-Ins, which are themed around Sonic the Hedgehog. Now, if you already have insect and buzzard-themed restaurants, it isn't that big a deal, really. The procedure at Sonic is that you order from your car into a speaker, and then someone on roller skates brings the stuff to the car (and some of them aren't that good at skating). Because I never played Sonic the Hedgehog, I'm not sure how this ties in.

Anyways, my question is this-- do you need to tip the "Hedgehog" who skates over to your car with the food? As someones who has worked many restaurant jobs, I was tempted to do so, but wasn't sure because of the fast-food aspect of the whole thing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Sunday Reflection: Jesus among us

[You can click the image to make it larger]

I've been lucky this quarter to have the help of Nicole Tingelstad in pulling together some art to serve as the basis for a lecture on my book. One of the images she found that I really like is this painting by Joey Velasco. It's the Last Supper, but in place of the apostles, Velasco has Jesus breaking bread for Filipino street children.

It's kind of shocking at first, if we are used to the more traditional versions of this scene. But it gets me asking the right questions, too-- who would Jesus go to now? What would he be doing? If I am to do the work of Jesus, should I be there doing what he would want?

Sometimes, that is what art does best-- knock us off center a little, so that we can see something in a fresh and challenging way.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


New Jersey, Texas, and Utah!

Houston Baptist University announced that they are joining the Great West League. Judging by the membership, the goal of this conference is to use as much gas as possible while playing mediocre games in front of small crowds. Here are the current members:

Houston Baptist University
New Jersey Institute of Technology
University of North Dakota
University of South Dakota
University of Texas-Pan American
Utah Valley University

"Affiliate" members include the University of California-Davis, Southern Utah, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Sure, in the past I have suggested some weird sports conferences myself, but I'm not sure I could have dreamed this one up.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Hot Hot Hot Haiku Friday

Summer in Texas is... hot. I'm still not used to it, the same way I never quite got used to snow in April (though I was born into that particular disaster). There is a lot I really love about Texas, though. I think this is a good week for Texas haiku. You can either borrow from one of the themes below or just include the phrase "There is a snake in my boot!"

1) Dallas
2) BBQ
3) Football
4) Austin
5) Fajitas
6) Trey Wingo
7) Texas A & M Aggies
8) Chewing tobacco
9) Houston
10) Angry florists with guns

Here is mine:

Walk to La Fiesta
Margarita, fajita
Waddle on back home.

Now, it is your turn...

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Who should the next President nominate to the Supreme Court?

As the presidential election nears, one topic we will hear more about is the short list each candidate may have of potential Supreme Court justices. This is a crucial issue, and it could be that the next appointee may tip the 5-4 balance that currently exists in a number of crucial areas, including the death penalty.

Because of his age and her health, it is likely that Justices Stevens and Ginsburg will be the next t resign. Assuming that they both resign, who should be appointed? Some factors to keep in mind are that unless a woman is appointed, the Court would revert to being all-male, and the fact that it is common, but not necessary, that a Justice be drawn from those already serving on the federal bench.

Feel free to identify your picks with one of the candidates, and to support your choice with argument.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I have picked a name

Thanks for all of your advice yesterday on what name I should use. I have now chosen, and the name will be "Dwight Osler Gooden." Thanks.


Randall O'Brien leaving Baylor to become President of Carson-Newman College

Yesterday, it was announced that Provost Randall O'Brien is leaving Baylor to become the President of Carson-Newman College in Tennessee.

Since 2001, Randall has taught Oral Advocacy with Hulitt Gloer and I. He's one of the best teachers I've ever shared a room with, and a good friend. I have very mixed emotions about his leaving. I know that he has a true sense of calling to this job, but I also am sad to a friend leave. I felt the same way when Bill Underwood left to become the President of Mercer University-- at this point, it feels like if I befriend you, you then are fated to become the president of Baptist college.

Which is going to make things interesting for Larry Bates, I guess.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Help me pick my name!

It's getting to the point where they are designing the cover of my book. One thing I am thinking about is how I should have my name appear on the cover. My full name is Mark William Osler, and that's how it appears on SSRN, for example. However, I usually think that sounds too pretentious, and just write under the name "Mark Osler," skipping the whole middle name altogether.

In this situation, the full name might have some advantages. I'm middle-named after a famous medical researcher, Sir William Osler. If I use the full name, it might seem vaguely familiar to some people. Still, I identify three names with two kinds of people-- criminal defendants and pretentious blowhards. I hope to be neither.

On the other hand, that Sir William Osler had a wicked sense of humor.

So, which way should I jump?


Northwestern Law Introduces 2-year JD

The staid old law school curriculum has seen a few alternatives crop up lately. I have reported previously about the new program at Washington & Lee, which seems to be borrowing a few of the things that Baylor has been doing for 80 years. Now Northwestern Law is introducing a new 2-year J.D. program that allows for graduation in five semesters (including a summer semester).

The Northwestern plan requires that incoming students have a few years of real-world work experience after college, and seems focused on business law and practice-- for example, there is a required course in finance and accounting.

What's not yet clear is whether the 2-year program will cost less that the full 3-year course of study...

Monday, July 07, 2008


Look what I found!

It's an intriguing blog by someone in Austin who is headed this way...


Waco Restaurant News!

One of my favorite places, the Olive Branch, is apparently moving to Waco's new development at 4th and Austin downtown, as is Rosati's pizza. Plus, there will be a bar there someplace, too, contingent on Swanburg returning to the area in time.


I just want him to stop hugging me...

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency


What I found in Michigan

While I was up in Michigan, I got to catch up on what my Dad has been up to lately. Mostly, he has been painting. In the summer, he often works outside:

Here's some of what he has been working on (you can make the images larger by clicking on them):

His blog needs a little work, though...

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Sunday Reflection: God and Earth in Summer

Here's the deal: My carbon footprint is like a Sasquatch walking through snow. It's huge. I drive a lot, I fly a lot, I am alone right now in this 2,600 square foot house with three separate air conditioner units on, I like boats and pools, and I'm not even very good at recycling. I know this is a personal failing, in that I use up way more energy than I should, but is it a moral and spiritual failing?

A talk Mary Darden gave at church this morning has me thinking that it is. I understand in a general way that we are custodians of the Earth, and I get that. This morning, though, a perhaps deeper meaning became apparent to me through a comment Bob Darden (Mary's husband) made. He reminded me of something that I already knew-- that it is poor people who very often pay the price for our environmental excesses. They live where we put pollution, they suffer from bad water, and they are most affected when prices go up. Just because I can afford to consume a lot of power doesn't mean I should, and the fact that I do probably in some way degrades the lives of the least of those among us.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Waco Nirvana

I'm back in Waco, and at the airport someone said they saw me in the paper today. I checked, and in fact the Waco Tribune-Herald had run a version of last Thursdays political screed from the Razor in today's newspaper. You can see the Trib's version here.

Meanwhile, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" still totally rocks. When I first heard that song, I was on a double date in Chicago. I was with a cute Harvard Law student I knew from work, and my buddy (Jeff Levine) was with a somewhat formal girl in a Fair Isle sweater. For some reason, we had taken them to kind of a grungy dance bar in Wicker Park. We were drinking beer and eating Pop-Tarts (the bar sold Pop-Tarts), and the first few notes of this song came on. My buddy and I looked at each other in amazement and went out to dance. It wasn't until the song was over that we realized our stuffy dates hadn't come with us. Which kind of made it even better.


Crikeys! What is this, New Jersey?

Detroit is suddenly full of zesty and troubling corruption scandals. The Mayor is about to be charged with perjury, the FBI is investigating the city council for bribery, and meanwhile they are debating whether or not to sell the tunnel to Canada.

None of which, sadly, helps much in addressing the city's problems, which are only exacerbated by the economy.

Now it is time to go down to the Eastern Market...

Friday, July 04, 2008


Haiku Friday-- Independence Day

It's the 4th of July-- the date upon which we celebrate our nation's independence from England, which was declared on July 2, 1776. Which, let's face it, is goofy.

Still, let's haiku about our nation. I know that I am critical of our nation's leadership at times (like yesterday), but I am truly committed to a country that I love. A guy like me really does need freedom of speech, and I recognize and appreciate that our Constitution and culture are what makes that possible. I could never stand to be out of this country for very long, and would make a lousy expatriate. This is my home, in every sense.

Here are the themes:

1) Fireworks
2) Kenny Rogers
3) Baseball
4) Barbecue
5) Free speech
6) Jerry Jeff Walker
7) The Revolutionary War
8) Reasons to still be at least a little miffed at the British
9) American beer
10) General Motors

Here is my haiku:

Brits not in Euro
Also, never wrote up a
simple Constitution!

Now, you go:

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Political Mayhem Thursday: No One Is Happy (Except the Very Very Rich)

The year is 1991. Nirvana's Nevermind just came out, we're all wearing flannel shirts, and it is a presidential election year. I want you to consider two voters at that point in time:

1) Donald is a conservative. He believes in a small government, a strong military, and is against both abortion and gay rights. He also believes in isolating and defeating communist regimes, because they oppress freedom.

2) Susan is a liberal. She believes in environmental protection, civil rights, a more even distribution of income, decent welfare benefits, and hopes for a system of universal (or at least more affordable) health care.

Now, fast forward 16 years, to 2009. We have now lived through 16 years of the Clinton and Bush administrations. Each got at least some time to run the government while Congress was in the hands of their parties. When running for election, Bush articulated the same principles Donald holds, while Clinton advocated for the same causes Susan was for.

Now here's the rub: On each of the issues both Donald and Susan care about, things have not only gotten better, but gotten worse:

1) Small government is the ideal that perhaps suffered the worst. Government is much larger than ever, criminal law has been federalized, and huge new federal agencies have been created. The federal deficit is at an all-time high.

2) The military may be large, but it doesn't seem particularly strong. Recruitment standards are much lower, corruption scandals are commonplace, and in Iraq the road has been much harder than we were led to expect. Donald Rumsfeld created discord within the military that will take years to heal.

3) Abortion is still legal, and gays are getting married. In eight years, President Bush and his allies never even tried to introduce a constitutional amendment against abortion.

4) America is in some respects, such as manufacturing, being eclipsed by a communist regime, China. Though China is no longer strictly communist in its economy, it is thoroughly communist in its governmental structure and oppression of freedom, which is what Donald cared about.

5) While some areas of the environment have improved (clean air), environmentalists are very discouraged by where things stand, due to failings under both Clinton and Bush.

6) Civil rights have been sacrificed generally as the response to terrorism has developed. While this may be seen as a necessary sacrifice, there is no doubt that it has not been a golden era for civil rights.

7) As for income distribution, welfare benefits, and universal healthcare... well, no lengthy discussion is necessary.

Somehow, both the conservative and liberal agendas have not only failed, but lost ground at the same time. How could this have happened? Whose agenda is winning, then?

I welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


General Motors back in the news-- stock drops as Osler reported heading to Detroit

GM stock is now under $10 a share, less than it was worth in 1954. GM stock has dropped 74% over the past year.

According to the people from who commented on my previous post, this incredible loss of value which reflects a near-total rejection by the markets has nothing, no nothing, to do with GM's management. Rather, as I understand their comments, it is due to the following:

1) Sharply higher oil prices, which no one ever could have predicted! It's a total shock! Why would anyone ever have thought that could ever happen?!?!

2) Greedy, greedy workers, who greedily accepted the pensions and health care offered by GM management after negotiations, and now are greedily contracting expensive old-people diseases.

3) The failure of Americans to embrace GM's offerings. Why, why, were we too stupid to see the genius of the Pontiac Aztek (about which Time Magazine said "This car couldn't have been more instantly hated if it had a swastika tattoo on its forehead"), the Chevette, the Cadillac Cimmaron, the GM minivans, the Hummer H3, the Corvair, and the Chevy Vega?

4) Congress, which forced GM to lobby for years against increased mileage requirement, money which GM could have used for acquiring other companies.

5) Everybody else, pretty much, except the GM executives who made the strategic decision that got the company to the brink of bankruptcy. As they will repeatedly tell you.

Maybe I'm naive, but I'm thinking that perhaps a part of the GM culture that got the company to this dismal position is an inability to admit mistakes and then improve. A culture without accountability is the kind of culture that produces the Pontiac Aztek and then keeps it on the market for years, and a culture that perhaps needs to wake up. Fast.


Sid Earnheart and the BCS Law School Rankings

Details here.

Meanwhile, I am off to Detroit. I'll be back Saturday, unless some violent goons from GM catch up with me. Whooo!


Deterrence and the Death Penalty

On the blogs and in the news, a debate goes on about the value of the death penalty in deterring crime. Like many others, I am unsure what to make of the statistics on the issue. It does seem striking that states with the death penalty have a 40% higher murder rate than the states that don't, but that may be cultural-- states with a more violent culture (and more murder) also have a cultural predisposition towards the death penalty.

My own intuition is that the death penalty does not have a deterrent affect. I don't doubt that harsh punishment does deter crime for two types of criminal: First, in those areas of crime where a very small group of people with high rates of recidivism commit the crimes, and second, where the target group of potential criminals actually performs a cost-benefit analysis.

Unfortunately, murder fits neither of these two groups. As to the first (recidivists), murder has the lowest rate of recidivism of all major felonies-- serial killers are the exception, not the rule. Most murders are one-time events that are situational. In this way they are unlike, say, pedophiles, who constitute a small group with one of the highest rates of recidivism. (Ironically, the Kennedy decisions held that capital punishment is allowable for murder, but not pedophile's crimes).

Nor are murderers likely to perform a cost-benefit analysis. Most murders are relatively unplanned, and often in reaction to unforseen events. This is in contrast to, say, white collar criminals. When Rudy Giuliani, as SDNY U.S. Attorney, dragged inside traders out of their offices in cuffs, that deterred others because the target group, traders, was skilled at cost-benefit analysis.

My own opposition to the death penalty is religious, not policy-based, so whether or not the death penalty deters crime will not affect my own view, but I do see how it would alter the opinions of many others. If it does not deter, the death penalty is probably not worth the cost, even for punishing murder.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Sometimes, Life on the Razor Moves too Fast...

Once in a while, I notice that a fascinating thread has developed in the comments section of a post which has been pushed down the pile a ways. That was true this week (aside from the ridiculous claim that the Razor caused a sell-off in GM stock), as a fascinating dialogue arose between Tydwbleach and Craig in the comments to my most recent Sunday Reflection. Actually, the comments were far more interesting than my post.

In their discussion, Tyd, with admirable honesty, described her struggle to have faith at a difficult time:

I went to Unitarian Church, and Sunday school and everything, but they never encouraged a belief in any one God or the Holy trinity. We did some "God stuff" you know.. went to a lot of other churches, made Scripture cake etc a lot of focus on morality and how to treat other people but not "god."

Thus, I went through every single horrible event in my life with no God to turn to for comfort or solace. My mother's illness and death, my father's death, all this other crazy stuff where everyone told me that "God was there" for me or something and honestly - just nothing...

When my mom got sick i tried to believe in God. I realllly did . but I was faking it. Seriously I went first to my own church for some answers, but there were none, then I tried other stuff I read the bible, I talked to people... I knew they believed it, but I never ever could.

Have other people gone through the same experience?


Stress at the Law School!

For the PC students, Big Trials are going on right now. I saw some people waiting to witness, including poor Pop, who was waiting for her role in the infamous PLIC case.

It also sounds like my suppression exercises are freaking people out a bit. Today actually went pretty well over in court-- it was a good learning day, and that's what it is all about.

Meanwhile, I'll be preparing the cert. petition in the Spears case over the next few weeks. Given that we are working on a 6-5 divided en banc decision which creates a circuit split and seems to defy a Supreme Court decision, we have a shot at getting before the Court again. So if my door is closed and I'm in there typing and singing, that is what is going on.

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