Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A history lesson: "law porn," Trotsky, and ... Rapoport?

Hmmm.... Let's see:

1. We know that, during the USNWR rankings season, law schools send out ludicrous amounts of PR material with an eye toward influencing the voting of four (yes, 4) people at each law school on the "academic reputation" survey. That material often goes by the catchall phrase "law porn."

2. We know that Stalin "rubbed out" people that he didn't like, and that the "rubbing out" even included erasing Trotsky (and others) from photographs. (See here.)

3. I just received this in the mail today.

4. I arrived at the Boyd School of Law in the summer of 2007. Y'all do the math.

The good news is that we can count all of my 2004-2007 scholarship under Boyd School of Law's list now, without any regrets. Invisible former faculty members of the world, unite?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Today, we saw a miracle....

Yesterday and today, Jeff & I were the guests of Johnson Space Center for the launch of STS-120, better known as Discovery, which will be taking Node 2 (Harmony) up to the International Space Station. Today, we watched the spectacular launch from the bleachers at Banana River, roughly 3.5 miles from Pad 39A. Yesterday, we toured parts of Kennedy Space Center. Throughout the entire tour, NASA treated us wonderfully, giving us access to a wide range of information and experiences to help us understand where the space program is today and where it will be in the next few decades.

Part of the reason we went to this launch was to join friends of ours. Jeff knows an actual rocket scientist, the steely-eyed missile man Randy Morgan (shades of Sy Liebergot, who was played by Clint Howard in Apollo 13), who's a TOPO (Trajectory Operations Officer) for the International Space Station. We were able to join Randy, his wife Cathleen, and their friend Jo for the launch. Randy was celebrating a well-earned Employee of the Year award (and his birthday) today, and sharing the launch experience with them made an outstanding day even more special to us.
After we came home from the launch, we relaxed a bit and I spent some time walking on the beach. (Yes, I figured out why Cocoa Beach is named Cocoa BEACH.) I stood in the surf, looking out at the water and up at the moon. I thought about how much teamwork it took to get the shuttle into space and how much it takes to keep everyone safe aboard the International Space Station. I thought about how many astronauts have commented about looking down on the earth and seeing the whole planet, without borders dividing the continents into countries. I thought about all of the discoveries that NASA has given us, and I wondered about the new discoveries that NASA will make in the years to come. Then I looked out to sea again, and up at the moon, and I thought about the human need to explore. I can't wait to see what our new explorations will bring us.

If you'd like to get a sense for what today's launch was like, click here. And thank you, NASA, for a two-day experience that Jeff & I will never forget.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Guilty pleasures, ballroom dancing, and academic support

How can I not love this post? See here.

A shout-out to Paul Caron

Two of my guilty pleasures, Paul, are (1) reading blogs (including Tax Prof) and (2) my own obsessive hobby (see here). For other folks' guilty pleasures, see here and here.

What I would have posted on Brian Leiter's blog....

Brian thought that my comment on his post (here's his post) was off-topic. It's Brian's blog, so it's totally his call on what to post. But because I liked my own comment enough to save a copy, here it is:

Brian, I agree w/you about Northwestern and its stellar performance in the social sciences. There are three other aspects of Northwestern's law school that also deserve attention and that contribute to its status as a truly strong law school: (1) its emphasis on joint work with the Kellogg School, which creates a deeper understanding of the cultures of law and business; (2) Dean Van Zandt's insistence that law professors are paid salaries for being good teachers and scholars, and that they need to do more than publish regularly (which is a job requirement, not an add-on) to be rewarded with raises; and (3) requiring the entering class to have had some work experience before law school.

While I'm weighing in, the problem with tenure isn't tenure per se but the laxity of post-tenure review, which tends to protect the lazy and destructive faculty members in the mushy-minded belief that tenure protects people from having to continue as scholars and teachers. But, then, I'm working on a book about THAT dynamic, among others.

BTW, if you haven't seen Northwestern Law's strategic plan, it's worth reading (here). Kudos to Dave Van Zandt at Northwestern and to Pete Wentz at APCO (formerly at Northwestern Law) for their hard work on the plan. Pete also was crucial to University of Houston Law Center's strategic plan (here), which was not the easiest plan to develop for all sorts of reasons (see here, too).

While I'm on the subject of law schools and legal education, I'm assuming that the give-and-take between Paul Caron and Brian Leiter (see here, here, and here) is in the nature of good-humored ribbing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Breathing a sigh of relief....

See here. I owe a debt of gratitude first, to my beloved, who saw me through the exam and gave me more support than anyone ever has a right to expect; then to Bar/BRI and to Strategies & Tactics for the MBE, which got me through the substantive and testing theory parts of the bar.

Now, on to the MPRE!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Does anyone happen to have a contact telephone number for Dell Computer's legal department?

Dell managed to ship my new laptop somewhere into the ether, and I've been trying to get a replacement computer shipped to me in an expedited manner. I have now spent over 90 minutes today trying to get someone with authority to ship my computer to the address that I had specified (our home address), rather than the mythical one to which Dell apparently shipped the first order. I've also tried to speak with three managers (two disconnects, one "I can't do anything," and one "I'll let you know something tomorrow" responses).

So, being well-trained, I tried to pull up Dell's 10-K to find out how to reach the company in Texas. Guess what? The only number listed on Dell's SEC filings is the main number, which doesn't link to corporate Dell at all. Is it then surprising that Dell's customer service lags behind, well, any company that tries to serve customers? Take a look at this article from CNET (here), which spoke about bad customer service in the year 2004. Or this one, from Business Week (here), which spoke of Dell's desire to improve customer service in 2005. Dell has other problems, of course, including its well-known backdating issue: see here. So maybe it's too busy to get back to actual customers.

Therefore, I ask: does anyone out there know how to reach the "real" Dell, the one that has executives (and a legal department)? Thanks!

Oh, and by the way, shouldn't Dell be filing useful telephone numbers with the SEC when it files its reports?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A new market--USNWR reputation votes

Doug Berman posts an intriguing hypothetical over at the Law School Innovation Blog (here). He asks whether he should sell his USNWR vote on IP specialties (not his primary field) to the highest bidder. What makes Doug's post so lovely is how clearly he identifies USNWR's methodological missteps: one of the key players in criminal law & criminal justice gets a ballot to rank the top 15 intellectual property programs in the country.

I used to think that, of all the rankings that USNWR puts out, at least the specialty rankings were somewhat accurate. Not any more.

I'm still waiting for USNWR to verify the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Nessie, all based on its rigorous empirical work.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The older I get, the more I find myself agreeing with Thomas Sowell

I just read Thomas Sowell's column about the apology that Duke's president gave to the Duke lacrosse team (here). That column linked the Duke President's behavior with Lee Bollinger's choice to allow Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia.

What do these two examples have in common? According to the column, and I'm paraphrasing, it's very easy to go along with the flow of faculty members who express the "popular" views on campus--e.g., that the lacrosse players "must have been" guilty, or that certain controversial speakers (but not others) should be allowed to speak on campus.

I'm not equating what the Duke President did, in joining the faculty's rush to judgment, with what Columbia's President did (allowing Ahmadinejad to speak). What does resonate for me, though, is how groups of faculty members--most of whom are protected by tenure--can get away with bullying behavior, because universities aren't set up to link acts with consequences. Here's what Dr. Sowell said:
The real problem on these and other campuses is that no one has to take responsibility. With the power being in the faculty, administrators can evade responsibility, and trustees are not around enough to exercise the ultimate power that is legally theirs.

Moreover, so long as alumni and other donors keep sending money, there is no price to be paid for caving in to the threats of campus ideologues.

It's not just the traditional administrative game of "it's not me; it's the faculty" going on here. It's also the game of "if you don't give in, I'll make your life as an administrator as miserable as I can." Both games have world-class players at most institutions of higher education. For some other posts on bad behavior in higher education, take a look at Jim Chen's and Jeff Harrison's recent posts on MoneyLaw (here and here).

50 years after Sputnik, and our space program's link to Rice University

On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy announced that the USA would land on the moon within a few short years. He made his announcement in the stadium of my alma mater, Rice University. If you'd like to see and hear the full speech, click here.

The speech still gives me chills: President Kennedy's audacious goal was "unthinkable"--and yet we achieved it. And Rice's role in his speech still gives me great pride. Here's an excerpt:
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. . . . [Space] can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

NASA continues to achieve miracles every time it launches someone or something into space. This is a good day to remember the miracles of the space program. To see what NASA's achieving these days, click here.