The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Unequivocal proof that Roberts will be a great Chief Justice

Exhibit A - His detractors:

NAYs ---22

Akaka (D-HI) Inouye (D-HI)
Bayh (D-IN) Kennedy (D-MA)
Biden (D-DE) Kerry (D-MA)
Boxer (D-CA) Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Cantwell (D-WA)Mikulski (D-MD)
Clinton (D-NY) Obama (D-IL)
Corzine (D-NJ) Reed (D-RI)
Dayton (D-MN) Reid (D-NV)
Durbin (D-IL) Sarbanes (D-MD)
Feinstein (D-CA)Schumer (D-NY)
Harkin (D-IA) Stabenow (D-MI)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A convergence of Friedmans

Man, I didn't realize until I checked out the formatting on the last post that we had back-to-back Friedmans on the Deadman...

For any Milton Friedman fans out there -

Here's a great online debate in Reason featuring ol' Uncle Milt, Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey, and Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers discussing the concept of corporate social responsibility. You have to scroll down to the middle for Friedman's comments, which are (of course) the best part. The basic question is whether a corporation has any 'social duty' other than to maximize value for its shareholders. Friedman and Rodgers say no, while Mackey takes the other view by reiterating the shaky idea that a corporation's 'stakeholders' include the community at large. Rodgers correctly labels this as collectivist theory, but that charge is a little too harsh - in the case of Whole Foods I think it's really just heartfelt schtick.

Friedman hints at this, but he's too polite to flat-out say that it's disingenuous for Whole Foods to lecture other businesses about the concept of social responsibility since it's really not a choice for them: it's their business model. Whole Foods is able to maintain higher profit margins than industry-standard precisely because of their positioning as the conscience of the grocery biz, which allows them to charge a higher price - call it the 'perceived virtue premium'. You're not just shopping for food there - you're making a statement. Of course, the difference between the virtue premium and what they actually pass on to charity goes right to the bottom line. Granted, that in and of itself doesn't detract from their charitable contributions, but not every business's customers are susceptible to this marketing angle, especially in business-to-business purchasing.

Aside from that, consider this - who is really serving a higher social purpose here? Have a look at the consumers shopping at your nearest Whole Foods, then take a trip to Wal-Mart. Whole Foods can justifiably point to its largesse, but I bet they don't see many of the recipients in their aisles.

Friday, September 23, 2005

"They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore..."

For this week's Friday fun, check out Kinky Friedman's first animated campaign commercial here. I am absolutely certain he'll get enough signatures to be on the ballot for Governor in 2006. We can only hope that they'll let him debate Perry and Strayhorn.

Best line from the commercial: "I loooove Texas... in espanol."

I had expected a little more from the giant flaming menorah and sexy cheerleaders, but the dogs playing poker was dead-center. I also think "How hard could it be?" is the best damn campaign slogan ever.

Here is a direct link to the story Jason pointed to in the Comments section. What is amazing about this is that it's proof someone's actually reading the Deadman.

"May the God of your choice bless you..." KF

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dangerous concentrations

I've been meaning to post about this article for a couple of weeks, but kind of got side-tracked. The author, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, makes an argument that failed states, such as Somalia, Haiti, and 58 others listed by Foriegn Policy and the Fund for Peace as threats to world security, arise not from a lack of government power, but from too much power centralized in too few hands. It is curious that this article was published by Mother Jones magazine since Llosa is particularly critical of Venezuela, while MJ are fairly reliable apologists for Chavez. He also lists governmental monopolies on critical economic resources as a danger signal, an attitude you don't normally see from MJ contributors.

One of the most striking observations made here is the clustering of economic activity around political concentrations. Llosa points to Peru, where Lima swamps the rest of the country. The second largest city, Arequipa, produces only 6% of GDP. I have seen this phenomenon first-hand in Russia and Kazakhstan, where traveling outside of the capitols is like traveling further and further back in time. It raises an interesting question - is the geographic distribution of wealth here in the US tied to the broad distribution of governmental authority we have? Russia and the Central Asian republics have nothing resembling our states, only 'oblasts', which are somewhat analagous to counties. Even down at that level, in Kazakhstan at least, the akim functions like a minor despot, thereby replicating the problem on a smaller scale.

It may be a bit unseemly to mention, with Rita advancing on Galveston as I write this, but perhaps we should consider this in the rush to seat a whole new set of emergency powers at the federal level. I'm not quite comfortable with letting our governors trade away their responsibility and authority - they have both of them for a reason.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Weather report from Hell - unseasonably cold weather heading this way...

The folks down in the blazing infernal regions must be breaking out the ice skates and snow shovels right about now - Donna Brazile has a column in the Dallas Morning News today praising President Bush on his response to Hurricane Katrina. What's next - Molly Ivins stumping for the flat tax?? Brazile is a political survivor nonpareil, so I tend to doubt she's moved wholly by some misty sentimentality for W. over here.

I think the Dems have realized they shot way out to the left and need to reel it back toward the middle. The usual suspects vented their spleens early and often in the wake of the hurricane, but now they need to be seen as being on the team for the re-building effort or risk losing out on the credit when it's finished. I'm also taking this as the first brick laid in the Road to Reasonableness by 2008 - and Camp Casey have stirred up the last of the faithful to a fever pitch, but as campaign season inches closer, they become more of a liability than an asset. The Dems have got to start purging the moonbats and find a way back to the center in time to field a viable candidate. Will the left flank march quietly into that good night? Stay tuned, buzzards...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Life imitates parody...

I had been thinking I'd been too hard on activist mom Cindy Sheehan in last week's alternate reality post. Then I saw her dispatch from New Orleans posted today on both Arianna Huffington's and Michael Moore's blogs:

One thing that truly troubled me about my visit to Louisiana was the level of the military presence there. I imagined before that if the military had to be used in a CONUS (Continental US) operations that they would be there to help the citizens: Clothe them, feed them, shelter them, and protect them. But what I saw was a city that is occupied. I saw soldiers walking around in patrols of 7 with their weapons slung on their backs. I wanted to ask one of them what it would take for one of them to shoot me. Sand bags were removed from private property to make machine gun nests. (My emphasis - D.)

Here is the link to the HuffBlog if you want to read the whole thing. She later calls for troop withdrawal from both "occupied New Orleans and Iraq" just to reinforce the point.

Interesting lessons from Katrina:

Some of them fairly intuitive, others less so. You don't save what you don't own, BUT You can collect flood insurance that you didn't pay for.

Friday, September 09, 2005

News from Earth-B about Katrina (some Friday fun)

"Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?"

Senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, in Sept. 9 New York Times about the decision not to invoke the Insurrection Act in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Curious about this, the Deadman contacted its alternate-reality correspondent, who, through an eerie, unnatural warping of the fabric of space-time, emailed us this dispatch from the front page of yesterday's New York Tribune (the newspaper of record on Earth-B):

Leading Senate and House Democrats are calling for a full investigation of what Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) called "an astonishing, unprecedented abuse of power on behalf of the Bush administration." By invoking the Insurrection Act and federalizing the evacuation efforts in New Orleans last week, President Bush "disenfranchised the people of New Orleans and Louisiana by usurping the power of their elected state and local officials", in Kennedy's words.

The new president-elect of NOW, former NY Trib columnist Maureen Dowd, issued a press release stating "W., ever the glory-hound and desperate to deflect attention from the quagmire in Iraq, just couldn't stand to let a woman governor and black mayor take the lead." She has announced solidarity rallies for Louisiana governor Blanco, who maintains that the estimated 1,000 to 1,500 casualties of the flooding could have been avoided had President Bush not "thrown the whole effort into chaos" by inserting active-duty troops into New Orleans. Current NY Tribune columnist Paul Krugman goes further, writing today that Bush's activation of the Insurrection Act is no less than "a Crawford Kristallnacht, signalling the rise of a true American Reich. Bush has cynically used the pretext of a national disaster to make the reach of his power complete."

Talking to reporters in Crawford, activist mom Cindy Sheehan was unsurprised at the administration's move. "It's the only solution Bush understands: pre-emption. He invaded New Orleans just like he invaded Baghdad. When will the militarization of our culture ever end?"

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin will speak later today in New York at a press conference organized by Al Sharpton. Nagin has already announced his intention to file suit in federal court on behalf of the city administration from what he terms its "exile" in Baton Rouge.

In an unrelated item, rapper Kanye West has canceled his appearance at Saturday's Chicago fund-raiser for victims of Katrina, citing an acute case of hemorroids.

Happy Friday everyone!!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

What part of 'sub-human' don't you understand?

Here's a link to a post on Andrew Sullivan's blog. Sully is usually pretty level-headed, but this is just crazy:

THE HELL III: The details are almost indescribable:
"Arkansas National Guardsman Mikel Brooks stepped through the food service entrance of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Monday, flipped on the light at the end of his machine gun, and started pointing out bodies. "Don't step in that blood - it's contaminated," he said. "That one with his arm sticking up in the air, he's an old man."
Then he shined the light on the smaller human figure under the white sheet next to the elderly man.
"That's a kid," he said. "There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut."
He moved on, walking quickly through the darkness, pulling his camouflage shirt to his face to screen out the overwhelming odor.
"There's an old woman," he said, pointing to a wheelchair covered by a sheet. "I escorted her in myself. And that old man got bludgeoned to death," he said of the body lying on the floor next to the wheelchair.
Note that these people were not killed by the force of a hurricane, but by the lack of response to it. (Emphasis is mine - Dustin)

No, Sully - they weren't killed by lack of response. They were killed by animals, people whose humanity is so weakly nailed to their spines that some wind and water blew it right off. There's an issue that isn't coming out in all this - committing crimes in times of national crises is even more heinous than in normal times, not less. Foraging for food and water is one thing, but rape and pillage?

What it's like -

The Legal Diva has a link to a 1L describing her first few weeks of law school at Catholic University (although the by-line says she eventually graduated from George Mason). I thought the post was amusing since she listed the exact schedule of classes that I have too, but there were several other things she references that don't track with my experience at all.

Maybe I've been exceptionally fortunate - there hasn't been any 'singling out' or being asked to 'stand and deliver'. Some of the "Socratic" sessions have been tough, but always respectful. Maybe it gets harder as we go along, or maybe it really is just a matter of relativity. I've been literally cursed at more than once in my working life, and unfortunately had to answer for mistakes and errors in judgement that cost real money, as I'm sure most of my colleagues in class have. Hell, last night I met a guy who is an M.D. - so he's been through residency and had to cut on dead bodies. I haven't seen too many thin skins.

I think it also reflects well on the faculty that the material hasn't been overwhelming. Beard (the author of the linked article) complains of having a hard time getting perspective on what was being covered. Luckily, all of our 'Big 3' classes seem to have taken the same tack: start at the beginning. For example:

Civil Procedure - we've started out with the complaint, the very first document filed to put a civil suit in motion (after a brief overview of the whole system).

Contracts - Offer and Acceptance. You can't get more basic than that. The prof told us that he used to start with remedies and work backward, but I think this approach is probably better. No need to make a Tarantino film out of the deal by starting at the end, moving to the middle, and ending at the beginning. I will admit that I probably have an advantage in hearing most of this for the second time - Business Law was one whole section of the CPA exam.

Torts - Battery. This seemed kind of strange until I read the background material that indicates this is the oldest tort action, the original base that the system developed from. Once that clicked, the concept seemed pretty cool. Who am I kidding? All this stuff seems pretty cool.

We'll see how the rest of the semester turns out. Right now I don't even mind the dreaded BlueBook, but maybe all that will change. In the words of Michael Medved, "Upward and onward..."

PS: Words for the week:
Sua Sponte
Non Obstante Veredicto

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Finally New Orleans appears to be evacuated -

The news lines seems to agree that New Orleans is empty now except for die-hards who don't want to leave for whatever reason. If no other message comes out of this whole mess, it's that it's better to be prepared than not prepared - and that goes for individuals as well as governments. All of the rationalizations for the looting that occurred assumed people were after food and water (although there is growing evidence that was not the case). Either way, I'm taking this as an object lesson in the need to keep a week's worth of food and water along with other emergency supplies on hand at all times, which is hopefully an idea that will catch on.

We're going to hear alot about how various levels of government (depending on your political stripe - lefties are ignoring the fact that the New Orleans and Louisiana authorities, both unrivaled Democratic machines, folded up like cheap tents, while right-wingers are fixated on it) let us down. I think everyone can agree, though, that reducing your reliance on government is a good idea. If everyone who can take care of themselves does take care of themselves, it frees up more resources for those who don't have a choice.

Along those lines, the softest target in the punditry biz today, Paul Krugman, makes an interesting chicken-and-egg argument in his latest column: he claims that government (notably Federal, given Kruggy's leanings) performed so dismally because we've been told by the right for 25 years that they are the problem, not the solution. "Killed by Contempt" is his term for it. I can see his 'self-fulfilling prophecy' point, and casting it in the best light, I can agree that we always need to demand better government. I think it's a stretch, though, to say that accepting the truth that bureaucracies are slow, unresponsive, and reactive causes it. Disaster relief is one of the narrow areas where government is tailored to perform, and we're obviously not satisfied with the results - call me a nasty old conservative, but I think that tells us alot more about its inherent limitations than our attitudes.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Countdown to Roberts confirmation hearings -

The drums are beating for the upcoming hearings on John Roberts, but I'm still not really sure what to expect. Here's a Fox News article that anticipates a long confirmation process, and an LA Times editorial from a Duke law professor trying to whip up some opposition, but I really haven't gotten the sense that we're going to see any real fireworks. NOW and NARAL have managed to marginalize themselves ever further by going right to the extreme rhetoric well, but other than that, opposition seems kind of muted.

Chemerinsky, the author of the LA Times piece, is concerned that Roberts would "change the law dramatically in key areas" and points to evidence that Roberts, like the infamous Bork!, doesn't believe there is a consitutional right to privacy. That raises a question for me. A good amount of time has passed since the Bork hearings - if privacy is really that much of a burning issue, why haven't we seen any legislative action on it? If we want a right to privacy to be there, why don't we write it in there, instead of relying on a nine-person panel with ever-changing membership to tell us it's there and what its contours are? If there's one thing I've learned in two weeks of law school, it's that if you don't like the common law result, pass a damn statute.