The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Book Recommendation and Twitter Endorsement

Posted by demkid on March 23, 2011

A month ago, Rick Sanchez offered to give five of his Twitter followers a copy of his book “Conventional Idiocy: Why the New America is Sick of Old Politics.”  To win, one had to be the first to reply to Rick’s NewsFeed handle (@RickTVnet) with the correct answer to a current events trivia question.  Rick’s questions ranged from, “How many of the 50 U.S. states are actually designated as ‘commonwealths'” to “What is Muammar Gaddafi’s military rank and what year did he assume control of Libya?”  Of course, to be first, the keys were to see the question almost immediately after it was posted, and to reply with the correct answer quickly (no time to Google!).  Fortunately, yours truly knows his current events AND has quick fingers, and was the first to correctly answer Rick’s question of, “Who came in 2nd place in CPAC’s 2011 straw poll?”  (No, I didn’t answer “that Mormon guy.”)

True to his word, Rick graciously sent my winnings, and was even kind enough to provide an endorsement for The Bright Coast’s fabulous Twitter feed (see below)!  If you recall, I recently commented on the events surrounding Rick’s firing from CNN and discussed my opposition to some of the language used on the Friends of Rick Sanchez site.  Friends made Rick seem like the victim in the matter and deflected others’ legitimate criticism of his colorful comments.  Fortunately, Rick himself didn’t act like a victim, but instead reached out to those he may have offended by his remarks about Jewish people.  He took full responsibility and has spent the last several months reflecting and learning from his mistakes.  In a recent piece by Mediaite discussing the recent “redemption” from his his harshest critic, Rick states:

I tell my children that when they make a mistake, they should take responsibility, atone and work to repair whatever they have done. For the past several months, I have followed that same advice and tried to be an example for them. I cannot take back what I said. I cannot undo the offense or controversy I caused; all I can do is to try and learn from this experience and strive to become a better person.

It seems to me that Rick Sanchez has done all the right things since the day he said the wrong things.  I hope he’ll continue to connect with his followers via social media and that we’ll see him on the air again, soon.  Perhaps he’ll write another book in the near future, but in the meantime, I recommend reading his first, with or without a personalized autograph!

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Posted in News Media, Twitter | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Less “Froth” in Law School Applicant Pool?

Posted by demkid on March 19, 2011

Certain law school deans seem to think so.

The number of law-school applicants this year is down 11.5% from a year ago to 66,876, according to the Law School Admission Council Inc. The figure, which is a tally of applications for the fall 2011 class, is the lowest since 2001 at this stage of the process.

This drop in applications is being attributed to an increasing awareness of the poor job market and a trepidation of facing this market with massive law school loan debt.  The article quotes advisers and deans who give prospective students a lot of credit, by saying that they’re now more “clear eyed” about the huge challenges they could very well face upon graduation.  Those in the know claim that there aren’t very many students currently applying to law school who are doing so just to avoid the workforce or because they don’t know what else to do.

At Fordham University School of Law in New York, applications this year are down 15%, and those applying “appear to have analyzed the investment in law school closely and are serious about pursuing a career in law,” said Carrie Johnson, a school spokeswoman.

I call BS.  If you want to claim that applicants are, on average, slightly more serious about taking on a legal education in this struggling economy, that’s fine.  But to state that the “froth” of kids who apply to law school because they can’t think of anything better to do is “pretty well gone,” then that’s just not being knowledgeable about your own applicant pool.  66,876 and counting are applying to an ever-growing number of law schools around the country this year.  Sure, this total applicant number might be slightly lower than in years past, but you can bet that thousands of these applicants are still applying for reasons that might make a dean or career adviser cringe.  Avoiding the workforce now might not actually be the worst idea in the world, as most would bet on an improved economic picture when these thousands of students graduate in 2014.  Instead of pretending that they know what’s going on with applicants, perhaps law school deans should do something productive that would actually lessen the burden on young people once they get out of school and into the real world.  Why worry about the amount of “froth” in an applicant pool, when you can tackle the froth that is found in every bill for law school tuition?

Posted in Education, The Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

USD Law Slips Back to 67th in 2012 US News Law School Rankings

Posted by demkid on March 16, 2011

Despite recent gains that saw USD Law rise 26 spots in the past two editions of the US News Law School Rankings, the 2012 numbers weren’t as kind, as the school dropped to #67, from it’s all-time high of #56.  USD’s part-time program fell slightly from 10th to 12th, and it’s tax law specialty ranking fell out of the top-10.  Perhaps it’s all my fault, as I wasn’t paying attention to this year’s release date, so I couldn’t participate in helping leak the rankings as I did the previous two years.  Seems like a reasonable explanation!  I didn’t expect that the 2012 rankings would be released a full month earlier this time around.  At this pace, the 2013 rankings will be released in December, 2011!  Well, at least I don’t feel obligated to post screen shots or go through a thorough analysis this year, but I will list the biggest risers and fallers from the 2011 rankings.

Biggest gainers are: Indiana-Bloomington (23rd from 27th), UC Davis (23rd from 28th), Washington (30th from 34th), Washington & Lee (30th from 34th), Maryland (42nd from 48th), Florida State (50th from 54th – Tier Change), Baylor (56th from 64th), Penn State (6oth from 72nd), Illinois Institute of Technology (61st from 80th), Seton Hall (61st from 72nd), Temple (61st from 72nd), Richmond (67th from 86th), Northeastern (71st from 86th), Catholic (79th from 98th), DePaul (84th from 98th), Santa Clara (84th from 93rd), Buffalo-SUNY (84th from Tier 3), Nebraska (84th from 93rd), Marquette (95th from Tier 3), Michigan State (95th from Tier 3), and Louisville (100th from Tier 3).

Biggest fallers are: Emory (30th from 22nd), Georgia (35th from 28th), Wisconsin (35th from 28th), Colorado (47th from 38th), USD, Miami (77th from 60th), Kansas (79th from 67th), New Mexico (79th from 67th), Villanova (84th from 67th), St. John’s (95th from 72nd), Hawaii (95th from 72nd), Syracuse (100th from 86th), Chapman (Tier 3 from 93rd), Missouri-Columbia (Tier 3 from 93rd), and William Mitchell (Tier 3 from 98th).

So, USD Law’s 11-rank fall isn’t the worst of the bunch, but it’s still notable, and 67th is noticeably behind both Pepperdine and Loyola (both at 54).  I don’t have the full rankings, so I can’t compare numbers and try to guess what caused USD’s drop, but recent lackluster Bar performances surely don’t help.  The US News rankings are pretty arbitrary once you get into Tier 2 territory, as many schools are tied, and a 1-2 point drop in a school’s raw score can send it falling by double-digits in the rankings.  This arbitrariness is clearly demonstrated by USD’s recent rankings, as the school has been in the 80’s, 50’s, and points in between.

As far as other California schools are concerned, Davis sure looks impressive at 23rd.  I remember when Davis and Hastings were comparable rankings-wise, but Davis now has a 19-rank advantage on it’s UC counterpart.  Also, poor Chapman just couldn’t hang onto it’s surprising Tier-2 rank from a year ago, falling to 104th.  Hopefully we’ll see them up there again in coming years.  (It’s interesting to note that US News is now ranking Tier 3 schools individually, so now a school like the University of New Hampshire can say, “We’re the 143rd-best law school in the country!”  Perhaps they won’t say that.)  Alas, fellow San Diego schools Cal Western and Thomas Jefferson are still Tier 4 schools, with no published ranks.

That’s about all I have for now.  If I find out anymore interesting details about the rankings, I’ll update this post.  I still highly recommend a legal education at USD, no matter where the rankings roulette ball may fall each spring! (I mean, late winter.)

Update: I feel a little better now about my lack of attentiveness to the rankings this year.  Dan Filler at the Faculty Lounge states: “The most surprising thing about this year’s U.S. News law school rankings is that the magazine (if you can properly call it that) managed to embargo the list right up until its release on the web.  They did so by deferring sale of the hard copy version of the rankings until April 5 – thus denying thieves, snoops and other crafty characters a chance to score a photocopy of the new rankings prior to the moment of formal release.”  For the record, I consider myself to the third type of person in that group!

Posted in Education, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Virtue and Chastity > Victory and Championships

Posted by demkid on March 3, 2011

At least, that’s how it works at Brigham Young University.  On Tuesday, starting center and leading rebounder Brandon Davies was dismissed from the BYU basketball team after he admitted to having sex with his girlfriend.  The most recent rumor is that his girlfriend is pregnant.  Of course, premarital sex is a big no-no for Mormons, and BYU’s honor code also requires students to be honest; abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse; and attend church regularly.  I really wonder if there’s more to this story.  It’s hard to believe that Davies just decided to come out with this fact at this point in the season, and on the same day that the Cougars (27-2 overall) rose to #3 in the national polls.  They were poised to perhaps be a 1-seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but that’s all gone now, as they lost yesterday at home to New Mexico by 18 points.  Was Davies actually upholding one principle of the honor code by admitting his violation of another?  How ironic!

I’ve heard lots of people applaud BYU in the last day for standing by its honor code and for putting standards above victories.  Pat Forde on ESPN compared this stance with recent happenings at other schools:

What makes this such a powerful testament is the fact that so many schools have cravenly abandoned their standards at such a time as this, embracing athletic expediency over institutional principle. It happens so often that we don’t even raise an eyebrow at it anymore.

Player arrests or other antisocial behaviors are minimized as youthful mistakes, with strenuous institutional effort put into counterspinning any negative publicity. Academic underachievement is dismissed as merely the price of being competitive in big-time athletics. “Indefinite” suspensions often last only as long as they’re convenient — timed to coincide with exhibition games or low-stress games against overmatched opponents.

That certainly didn’t happen in this instance at BYU.

That’s all well and good, and it’s true that Davies knew what he was getting himself into, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still find this all a bit uncomfortable.  People are going out of their way to applaud a school that banned a player because he had sex?  They’re applauding a school that assesses penalties for going to Starbucks and for forgetting to shave in the morning?  I’ve never understood Mormons, and I’m sure I never will, but if we’re going to commend a school for enforcing its rules, can’t we also criticize those ultra-religious rules for being ultra-crazy?  Can’t we also bring up the fact that Brigham Young himself had 55 wives, one of whom was 15 when she married a 42-year-old Young?  (She had 5 of his 57 children.)

Can’t wait for the Romney campaign to get underway

Brandon Could Have Used A Shirt

Jimmy Kimmel gets up on his high horse and explains my thoughts, exactly:

Posted in Education, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SCOTUS upholds funeral protests

Posted by brightcoast on March 2, 2011

Roberts wrote the majority opinion stating that the First Amendment protects the rights of such “outspoken” groups as Westboro Baptist, who protest at funerals of deceased homosexual soldiers.

What ever happened to Time, Place, and Manner restrictions? The Court noted that the protestors followed police instructions, and maintained a 1000 feet distance from the church, but regardless of the political message, what ever happened to the sanctity of a funeral, and respecting the rights of the mourners. Since when does freedom of speech mean that any fundamentalist group can set up shop and stir up some media attention merely to feed their self-centered and hateful group.

I find this sort of speech distinguishable from the court’s jurisprudence  on events such as parades because, while the content of the speech may be just as (if not more) vile, people can generally choose not to attend or otherwise avoid being subject to the distasteful speech, whereas here the mourners have no choice but to be subjected to the incredibly insensitive demonstrations. It seems as though the 1st Amendment protection in this case actually serves as a governmental endorsement of this sort of speech.

In the name of maintaining content neutral standards, I suggest Congress pass a statute prohibiting the protest of funerals of military members (or otherwise private citizens–as the argument to protect all governmental figures may be prohibited under the notion that they are public figures, and thus not privy to the same speech protections) within a more reasonable distance, say a mile. This simultaneously maintains the integrity of the mourning and funeral process, but also allows a forum for the passionate protestors to find alternative sites to express their hatred. I’m sure it would still garner the media attention these AWs are looking for, but would make for a more respectful and still constitutional process.

It is worth noting that the actual cause of action seems to be the intentional infliction of emotional distress or IIED.

Posted in SCOTUS | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Right’s War on Peas and Carrots

Posted by demkid on February 23, 2011

On the most recent Real Time with Bill Maher, Bill and his panel spent a significant amount of time discussing the current fight over the budget for FY 2011 (or what’s left of it).  As we saw last week, the House Republicans (with zero Democratic votes) passed a budget resolution filled with drastic cuts to numerous government agencies and programs, and thereby fulfilled their arbitrary campaign promise to cut $100 billion from the President’s proposed spending levels.  Bill, as a way to crudely illustrate the Republican strategy, pulled out a dinner platter which represented U.S. spending as a whole: heaping piles of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese represented social security, medicare/medicaid, and defense spending.  Instead of attempting to tackle these huge chunks of our budget, however, Congressional Republicans decided that they would instead go after the tiny corner of mixed vegetables which represents non-security discretionary spending.  In the House Resolution, peas and carrots like home heating assistance for low-income families, medical research at the National Institutes of Health, Pell Grants, assistance for homeless veterans, and Planned Parenthood funding, were all cut in a frenzy.  At the same time, Republicans easily avoided cost-effective cuts like reductions in the billions of dollars in annual subsidies to oil companies.  It was truly a triumph for partisan ideology.  While these types of domestic programs may represent the peas and carrots of our budget when it comes to a percentage of the overall “meal”, when one considers the fact that they save lives and provide essential services to the American public, their importance seems more analogous to the meat and potatoes of Bill’s not-so-well-balanced dinner.

Perhaps the clearest example of the all-out ideological attack on a tiny part of the budget which provides a huge return on its investment is the attempt to slash the Environmental Protection Agency:

H.R. 1 cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by almost a third and hamstrings the EPA’s ability to protect the environment and Americans’ health. For example, the measure prevents the EPA from protecting communities from mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from cement plants, leaving thousands of children exposed and at risk of asthma, slowed brain development and other neurological disorders. The EPA safeguard that the measure blocks would have reduced mercury pollution by more than 90 percent and saved 2,500 lives each year.

Some of the other numerous provisions in the House Resolution targeting the environment and public safety would: interfere with the EPA’s ability to limit toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants, exempt oil companies from Clean Air Act review for drilling in the Arctic, prohibit the EPA from setting new health standards limiting coarse particulate matter in the air we breathe, stop the EPA from implementing certain portions of the Clean Water Act, thereby threatening drinking water and potentially leaving wetlands unprotected from pollution, and Eliminate EPA funding that would enable the agency to use the Clean Air Act to curb greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons.

The EPA’s budget represents about 0.1% of total spending, yet House Republicans have been eager to attack policies and programs at every turn, and are quick to claim that EPA regulations threaten jobs.  The GOP needs to realize that their radical attacks on environmental protection just aren’t in line with either the American public or the facts:

The many people who were frustrated with government in the 2010 elections and voted for Tea Party members probably did not realize they were voting to “gut” environmental protections that Americans have enjoyed for the past several decades. A recent poll about proposals to weaken Clean Air Act rules indicates that members of Congress pushing to weaken environmental protection are distancing themselves from the electorate. Meanwhile the proposed budget cuts bear a striking resemblance to the Santa wish-list of K Street coal, chemical, oil and gas lobbyists. These lobbyists came late to the Tea Party, but made up for their tardiness with dollars.

The environmental and economic benefits provided by EPA’s work are visible in communities across America, ranging from reduced smog to cleaner waters and the all but end of indiscriminate hazardous waste dumping. These improvements have led to billions of dollars in health benefits that even the George W. Bush Administration catalogued. The dollars these safeguards have saved come primarily from reducing the number of Americans who become ill because of pollution.

The cost of the programs responsible for these improvements is a relatively small portion of the federal budget, and thus a very small percentage of the average American family’s tax expenditures. Yet, the benefits derived from these programs are extraordinary: clean air for our children to breathe, clean water for our families to drink, healthy public lands for people to recreate on, and clean oceans to support healthy fisheries and the livelihoods tied to this precious resource.

I highly recommend this article, which discusses the benefits of EPA regulation for workers:

A study just released by Ceres and the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts examines the jobs effects of some of the new regulations, specifically ones that have been harshly attacked by EPA critics. This well-documented study finds that far from being “job killers,” the new regulations will create nearly 300,000 new jobs, especially skilled, high-pay jobs for engineers, project managers, electricians, boilermakers, pipe-fitters, millwrights, and iron workers.

The new study joins a large number of previous studies showing that EPA regulation, in addition to protecting the environment and the public’s health, also serves as a job-growing economic stimulus and development program for the American economy. These studies directly contradict the endlessly repeated mantra that environmental regulations are “job killers.”

The cost of compliance with EPA regulation is generally less than two percent of total business costs. The idea that companies will shut down or go abroad to avoid such costs is ludicrous. However, companies often try to blame shutdowns and runaways on environmental compliance costs as a way to displace responsibility from other causes, such as new technologies, increased productivity, fluctuating energy prices — and their own corporate strategic decisions.

It will be an interesting next couple of weeks on the Hill.  Fortunately, the House Resolution with its partisan cuts is dead on arrival in the Senate.  The current Continuing Resolution (CR) runs out on March 4th, and as Congress is off this week, that leaves just a few working days to pass something before then to avoid a government shutdown.  As it stands now, it looks like Democrats in the Senate want to pass a “clean CR” which would keep spending levels the same for another month, and allow proper time for debate and compromise with Republicans.  The GOP, on the other hand, seems only willing to accept a temporary extension if it includes some level of cuts.  Something’s got to give.  One thing’s for certain, however.  While Americans generally favor spending cuts to reduce the deficit, when it comes to specific programs, we’re actually closeted big government spenders.  In a recent Pew Survey, while fewer Americans want spending to grow in specific areas, most cuts to programs are unpopular.  Double-digit percentages of the public actually favor increased spending levels over cuts in education, veterans’ benefits, health care, medicare, combating crime, energy, scientific research, and yes, environmental protection.  In another recent survey, most Americans oppose restrictions on the EPA.

While Republicans think they have a mandate to slash the peas and carrots of our budget, perhaps they should think again and recognize that while Americans generally support spending cuts, there’s little support for ultra-partisan political posturing.  Maybe it’s about time to take a hard look at reducing that huge, gooey heap of macaroni and cheese.

Posted in Environment, Federal Deficit, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

It’s Time for Wacky Super Bowl XLV Propositions!

Posted by demkid on February 5, 2011

The 45th edition of the NFL’s championship game is tomorrow (what percentage of the American public knows what XLV means?), and the Green Bay Packers are about a field goal favorite over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Of course, the Super Bowl is the most-bet-on sporting event in the United States, and most people will probably be making straightforward bets on the winner, spread, total points scored, etc.  However, every year, sportsbooks and gambling companies provide a wide variety of wagering opportunities that go far beyond what would be offered in any other football game.  These propositions (or props for short) range from the basic (what side will the coin land on?) to the completely outrageous (what will Fergie first be wearing for the halftime show?)  There are also cross-sport bets, where the final result can remain unknown for months (will Green Bay win the Super Bowl AND the Milwaukee Brewers win on Opening Day?)  If odds can be created for an event that relates to tomorrow’s game in any way, it’s likely there’s an opportunity out there to put money on that event’s outcome.  Here are some of the prop bets currently available for wagering on Bodog, an online gambling company.  I also thought it would be fun to take a stab at the result, even though I’m not going to Vegas or sending my money to an offshore entity.

Coin Toss/Team to Win Coin Toss: Despite the simplicity of this bet, it’s actually one of the more interesting ones, given recent Super Bowl history.  The NFC team has won 13 straight coin tosses, and the odds of that happening are apparently 1 in 16,384.  However, in the 44 previous games, heads leads tails only barely, 23-21.  Can the NFC streak stay alive?  The Steelers are the visitors this time, so it’s up to them to call the toss accurately and break the streak.  I like streaks, so I’ll say that the Packers win and the coin will land on tailsHere’s more on the coin toss from last year’s Super Bowl.

Length of Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem and “Brave”: The National Anthem length is a standard Super Bowl prop, and this time the over/under is 1 minute, 54 seconds.  New this year (I believe) is how long Christina will hold the last word, and the over/under is 6 seconds.  Jimmy Kimmel was talking about this the other night, and said he did research into her other performances and was taking the “under.”  I feel that Christina will be caught up with the magnitude of the event and will drag out both the song itself and the last word.  Over on both counts.

Fergie’s Attire When She First Appears On Stage: This one cracks me up.  The options are skirt/dress, pants, shorts, and thong/g-string/bikini bottom.  Just the fact that g-string is included is hilarious.  I don’t see any wardrobe malfunction-type incidents happening anytime soon.  The thong bet pays +1000 (meaning you win $1000 on a $100 bet), and the skirt/dress option is the easy choice at +110.  I’ll take pants on this one.

Number of Times FOX Mentions “Brett Favre” During the Game: These types of “mention” bets usually surprise me because they’re lower than expected.  The over/under on this one is 2.5, which seems really low.  I have to believe the announcers will utter Brett Favre’s name at least 3 times during the game.  I’m going with the over, even though it only pays -200 (you’d have to wager $200 to get $100).

Gatorade Color Dumped on Winning Head Coach: This one’s always fun.  The options from most to least likely are yellow, orange, clear/water, red, lime green, and blue.  Of course, if there’s no Gatorade bath, there’s no action on the bet.  This shows how much of a sports junkie I am, but it’s really difficult for me to imagine anything other than yellow or orange Gatorade being used.  I’ll go with orange, which pays out at 7/4.

Who Will MVP Thank First: This one is interesting, as you have to take into account who you think the MVP might be.  Since I think the Packers will win, the likeliest candidate is quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  The options are coach, family, God, teammates, or no one.  God is the betting favorite.  “It’s tough to make God the underdog on any wager, in my opinion, but the odds are also supported by research that shows He often gets the first ‘thanks’ from athletes,” said Bodog sportsbook manager Richard Gardner.  Not to say that Aaron won’t thank God at some point, but I’m going with the second choice, his teammates, which pays at +175.

Super Bowl TV Rating: I really don’t know anything about the Nielsen Rating system, but the over/under is 46.5.  The odds say it’s slightly more likely that it’ll be under this mark, but I think this could actually be a really popular game, and I’ll take the over.

Steelers Mimic of Aaron Rodgers’ Championship Belt Celebration During Game: In case you aren’t aware of Aaron’s trademark celebration, you can see a clip here.  I think it’s pretty awesome.  Some players on opposing teams have imitated this celebration on occasion (for instance, when Rodgers is sacked), which leads to this prop bet.  I don’t think there will be much reason for anyone on the Steelers to be doing this tomorrow, which is why I’m taking the big no on this one.  This concludes my proposition analysis and leads me to my actual pick for the game:

Packers 31, Steelers 20

Update: Well, I didn’t do horribly with my prop picks, going 5-4-1.  My big wins were for Gatorade color and coin toss winner.  Even though the coin was heads again, the NFC’s incredible win-streak extends to 14, as the Steelers picked incorrectly.  The odds of that are now 1 in 32,768, if I’m any good at math.  While Christina Aguilera clearly went over 6 seconds on “brave”, there’s actually some controversy over the total length of the song itself.  If she hadn’t flubbed the lyrics, the total length would have clearly been over 1:54.  However, the actual length was really close to that mark, with one sportsbook saying she went under, and another saying she was over.  I tried timing it a couple times myself, and got 1:53.7, and 1:54.1.  Seems like the fair thing would be to call it a push (it all rounds to 1:54 anyway) and give everyone their money back.  Finally, in perhaps the most interesting prop bet result, the Fox announcers went through the entire game without one mention of Brett Favre.  Good for them.  More on that, here.  Oh, and I almost forgot my final score pick!  I’m fairly impressed with myself.

Posted in Americana, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pachyderms Extinct in the Golden State?

Posted by demkid on January 30, 2011

A few days ago, Public Policy Polling (one of the most reputable polling companies in the country) tweeted that they were considering polling California for the upcoming 2012 US Senate race between Dianne Feinstein and a Republican challenger.  They asked followers for suggestions on who should be tested against Senator Feinstein, besides recent 13-point governor loser Meg Whitman.  I thought about it for a second, and replied, “Arnold, Tom Campbell, maybe Abel Maldonado? The Republican Party is beyond dead in California.”  Others popular responses were: Steve Poizner, Darrell Issa, Kevin McCarthy, and Steve Cooley.  Frankly, if these men collectively make up the cream of California’s GOP crop, my “beyond dead” comment surely isn’t far from reality.  There’s absolutely zero chance that a conservative Republican like Darrell Issa can beat any kind of Democrat in this state in the near (and perhaps distant) future.  California is a solidly blue state where Democrats hold a substantial registration edge.  This was played out in dramatic fashion in the most recent election, where despite a significant nationwide Republican swing, GOP candidates for Governor and Senate lost by double digits, and not one Republican won a statewide office.

So, do more moderate Republicans have a chance statewide in California?  In the past, moderates in the GOP haven’t had much luck getting through primaries against more conservative opponents.  In the 2010 election for instance, Tom Campbell lost the Senate primary to Carly Fiorina by a whopping 35 points!  Would he have had a better chance against Barbara Boxer in the general election?  It’s difficult to say whether his more moderate, business-friendly message would have resonated with California voters.  (He did lose the 2000 general to Senator Feinstein by 19 points, so his track record isn’t the best.)  My other choice (besides Arnold, who said he’s done running and who couldn’t be less popular), Abel Maldonado, also lost his race for Lieutenant Governor by double digits.  He seems like a candidate who could do well in this state.  He’s young, moderate, and has a good story, as the son of immigrant farm workers who went on to grow his family’s business and become Lieutenant Governor himself.  Unfortunately for him, as long as he has an “R” after his name, those main selling points will be counteracted.  There could be some hope ahead for moderate Republicans, as California’s new open-primary law will soon take effect.  The top two finishers in the primary, regardless of party, will move onto the general election.  Supported by voters last November, this could turn out to be one of Arnold’s most significant and longest-lasting victories for fellow moderates.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

For now, though, the party of the pachyderms is on the brink of extinction in California.  Sure, as recently as 2006, some pundits thought the GOP was gone nationwide, but this was proven wrong in four short years.  If we’re just talking about one solidly blue state, however, predictions of a long-term GOP ice age could be much more accurate.  The registration edge is more dramatic, and the lack of strong candidates and a cohesive message is astounding.  A week ago, a bipartisan group of political observers, lawmakers, and strategists gathered at a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies symposium and discussed the issue:

Many of the 200 attendees at the two-day conference appeared surprisingly unified on one issue: that, barring dramatic upheaval, the GOP’s prospects may be doomed in the voter-rich Golden State.

“Republicans, as a brand, are dead,” Duf Sundheim, the former state GOP chair, told the gathering Saturday.

“We’ve become an island, a political island unto ourselves,” Thad Kousser, a political analyst from UC San Diego, said of California’s overwhelmingly blue streak in the November election.

Republicans will remain dead in California until the party “decides it won’t be hostile to people who aren’t old and white,” said Darry Sragow, interim director of the USC/Los Angeles Times Poll and a longtime Democratic strategist.

Rick Claussen, a leading GOP strategist, said that unless the grass roots and the state party change tactics – and step back from their current emphasis on conservative social issues – “we’re not going to see a Republican statewide winner in the next decade.”

Tough words for a party struggling to stay relevant in Blue California.

California Republicans: On the Slow Side

Update: The Public Policy Polling results for the CA-Sen race are out.  The title of the report is “No hope for Whitman, Fiorina, Arnold, anyone vs. Feinstein.”  Not surprising.  Senator Feinstein leads the 6 Republicans tested by between 14-34 points.  The 14-point lead is actually against Tom Campbell (my first suggestion!) and the 34-point lead is against Arnold.  All 6 Republicans had sub-30 favorability numbers.  Yikes!

Posted in California, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thank you for suing us = awesome.

Posted by brightcoast on January 28, 2011

Courtesy: Taco Bell

Article here. According to the article, the suit was filed in federal court in California. Can you say diversity jurisdiction? Or perhaps there is a federal question since it’s the FDA’s meat requirements. Civ pro aside, I heard about this ad campaign on the radio, but didn’t catch who it was about. In dispute is the actual % of beef in Taco Bell’s meat. Relatedly, I caught an episode of the BBC show “Kill it, Cook it, Eat it,” which dealt with beef in different consumer products, such as kebabs, and the woman stated that in order to qualify as “meat,” it can’t have more than 25% fat and 25% connective tissue, such as ligaments, etc. I’m guessing, based on the article, that there’s an additional 10% wiggle room for preservatives, binders, and seasonings.

Anyway, all the more reason not to eat fast food, I suppose.

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Generation “Next”

Posted by brightcoast on January 25, 2011

What I like about “our” generation, and I use that term loosely, since I’m not sure where it ends compared with the teenagers who have cell phone ring tones at such a high pitch that my “damaged” ears can’t even hear them, is the use of social media for good, or for any real purpose at all. (Aside from a waste of time or to hurt others, etc.)

Here’s an example. Pepsi is giving away various grants to different organizations for various causes and public service projects. A project very near and dear to me is the “Cause the Cure” to childhood Leukemia. You can vote for this organization here They are in the running for a $250,000 grant, which we all know is small peanuts in the medical research arena, but you have to start somewhere. On the board is a father of an 18 month old girl aggressively fighting to recover from her bout with cancer, and now the complications. You can vote both via link and by texting 105654 to 73774. Voting ends Jan 31, and I believe only the top two in the category will be funded.

Aside from my personal interest in helping this organization and family, I applaud Pepsi for giving people a sense of empowerment in causing things they care about to happen.

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San Diego: America’s Finest City (But Not For Antique Shopping!)

Posted by demkid on January 21, 2011

Between July 1st and September 15th of last year, visitors to Travel and Leisure Magazine’s website rated their choice of 35 American cities in a selection of subject categories.  The recently-released results can be seen in America’s Favorite Cities 2010.  It’s really entertaining to browse all of the cities and categories, and the site even gives visitors the option of putting two cities head-to-head against each other, to see which one is superior in more individual categories.  For instance, San Diego loses to San Francisco 6 categories to 4, but beats Seattle by the same margin and trounces Los Angeles 8-2 (not very surprising!).  The rankings are also separated according to how visitors view a particular city versus how residents of that city view their home.

Looking more closely at the numbers, it’s easy to see why San Diego’s “Finest City” declaration is well-justified.  According to both visitors and residents, San Diego is the 2nd-best city to visit year round (behind Honolulu and San Juan, respectively).  The city also gets high marks for its people.  Visitors and residents put San Diegans in the top 3 for both athleticism/activity and attractiveness.  Quality of life and visitor experience rankings are also high.  Visitors give San Diego top-10 rankings for weather (#1), public parks and outdoor access (#5), cleanliness (#7), people-watching (#8), and skyline/views (#8).  It’s interesting that residents give lower scores for all five categories, but this is pretty much the case for any of the categories: residents appreciate their own city less than visitors to that city.

San Diego isn’t perfect.  It gets its lowest marks for culture (a category that includes classical music, historical sites, museums, and theaters), and its food and dining scores are mediocre.  The overall lowest-ranked subcategory in the survey falls under shopping: visitors rank the city 27th for antique stores.  So, if you’re looking for a nice 19th-century mahogany desk, you might want to search elsewhere.  Can I recommend Charleston?  One thing that visitors seemed to completely miss in the survey was their specific ranking for microbrew beer in San Diego.  They ranked it 18th(!), while residents ranked it 7th, the largest divergence of any category in the entire survey, and the only category where residents ranked something higher than visitors.  I guess enjoying craft beer isn’t on the top of the to-do list for the average San Diego visitor.

I do have to say that Charleston has moved to the top of my list of places to visit.  In addition to having the best antique stores, the city ranks first for attractive people, friendly people, and noteworthy neighborhoods, and it’s near the top of the list for barbecue.  Sounds like my kind of place!  (Minus the antique shopping, of course.)

Posted in Americana, San Diego | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Attorney Jokes

Posted by brightcoast on January 19, 2011

Following the election this past November, there has been a sort of uproar in this otherwise sleepy community regarding an attorney who was elected to the local board equivalent of city council (from what I can tell). I wrote a letter to the editor expressing my outrage at these seemingly ridiculous allegations. Unfortunately, due to a lack of space in the teeny tiny (albeit free) paper that our community delivers to residents, I was told I had to edit it down. Never have I been more thankful for free web publishing.

Nonetheless, because I liked the full version better anyway and I believe this is a recurring issue we as attorneys have to deal with, I am reposting my letter for your reading (and perhaps PR refreshing) pleasure. I have omitted the party names in case they do not wish for their names to be blasted over the interwebz. Enjoy.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to come to the defense of fellow attorney (name) in regards to what I believe are unfair and unfounded allegations discussed in your December 2010/January 2011 edition. As attorneys, we are bound to strict professional rules of conduct, which can be found in the California Business & Professions Code, among other sources. In fact, in order to become an attorney, we must pass not only the California Bar Examination, but also an additional professional responsibility exam, and we must further pass an investigation by the State Bar certifying that we are of good moral character.

Chief among these rules is the most famous duty of confidentiality. If (attorney)did in fact represent (current board member), which is not clear from the information presented, she is not at liberty to disclose this representation freely. Confidentiality is central to forming an informed and trustworthy attorney-client relationship.

Even assuming confidentiality is not an issue, it is not immediately clear to me, in terms of non-legal concerns why writing a letter inviting the DA to investigate potential illegal conduct would raise any potential conflict of interest issues or relationships. It seems to me that the reason why others are pointing fingers in regards to this letter is simply that they disagree with (attorney’s) politics, which, by the way, is not unethical, but rather at the heart of democratic process. Aside from necessarily meaning that she represented (current board member), (attorney) signing her name , Esq. could indicate that the alleged violations of the relevant code sections were worth investigating, as vouched for by an attorney. In other words, she had investigated this matter in a legal capacity, and was making the recommendation in that regard.

In terms of a potential conflict of interest, which is presumably what the “concerned” are up in arms about, I don’t see what the conflict is. If it is that (attorney) represented (current board member) in some capacity, then that is in effect saying that attorneys, as a professional class, are barred from serving on any boards where they represented any present members in any capacity, which is quite a slippery, and in my opinion unfair, slope.

If the issue is that (attorney) is aligned politically or personally with (current board member), then I challenge those “concerned” to articulate a reasonable, neutrally applicable standard by which elections may be held, whereby anyone who has any sort of affinity or personal relationship with another person presently serving on the board, may also not run for office. It is simply absurd.

It seems abundantly clear that this is simply a matter of politics and not ethics. I write to you because it is extremely disconcerting to me when a person is accused of an ethical violation when there is literally no support for such an accusation which can potentially cause such damage.

I sincerely hope that the citizens of (community) will be able to move past any bad feelings for not having their candidate elected, and learn that in politics you win some and you lose some.

Sincerely,

Fellow (Community) Attorney

Posted in California, Professional Responsibility | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Seriously, USD Law?

Posted by demkid on January 14, 2011

I just was alerted to the fact that the full passage rate statistics for the July 2010 California Bar Exam are now online.  As much as I enjoy bragging about my school, the Class of 2010 left much to be desired.  Out of 259 first-time takers of the exam from USD Law, only 169 passed.  That’s an overall pass rate of 65%, and this ranks 15th out of the 20 California ABA-approved law schools, behind world-class institutions like Cal Western and Chapman University.  It also marks a 13% drop from the Class of 2009’s performance on the exam a year earlier.

So, USD Law, what happened?  I can remember arriving at the school when the Bar passage rate was a major selling point.  Now it’s something that’s embarrassing to talk about.  Was this year just an anomaly (I’d like to give the Class of 2010 more credit), or does this speak to a larger problem with how the School of Law is preparing its students for the Bar Exam?  Perhaps USD Law has just put too much effort into the development of its Career Services Department, to the detriment of Bar prep in the classroom.  Sorry, I crack myself up sometimes…if only that was the case!

Posted in CA Bar Exam, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

How to Lower Law School Tuition:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Cut career services.

Now I know this is going to sound drastic, it is a major challenge to the typical law school bureacratic structure, but in my honest opinion, it would be a good savings of resources.

There’s nothing worse than receiving the confirmation letter from the State Bar of California, stating “Congratulations! You’ve passed the most difficult bar exam in the country. But you still don’t have a job that pays practicing law.” Ok, so it doesn’t state all of that…

Take USD Law in particular. There are at least 4 career service “counselors” 1 or 2 deans or assistant deans, and several front desk employees/work studies, not to mention a newly remodeled office to house all these people. This has got to be at least a $500k/year venture.

In its defense, from my experiences, career services does the following things: meets with students individually to give advice, organizes networking and speaker events, contacts local agencies or employers upon students’ expressions of interest, services as a gathering place for employers seeking to employ students, organizes and coordinates the on campus interviews, collects applications for non on-campus interviews in certain situations, orchestrates judicial clerkship applications, and has a library of information for students. (I’m sure there are other things they can legitimately claim to do, I am just not familiar with them.)

But herein lies my personal issue with USD Law career services, the amount of jobs they get for students does not justify the enormous cost of having so many people employed, and their services could easily be reappropriated to other departments. This is especially true considering: 1) USD Law tuition is incredibly high; 2) job prospects are low; and 3) bar passage rates have been steadily declining (July 2010 results here). The following, therefore, are my suggestions as to how USD can improve employment prospects of graduates while simultaneously strenghtening the USD Law student-alumni relations, and increasing bar passage rate.

1) Re bar passage rates: beef up academic support, pure and simple.

a. Course guidance: There are no course counselors available for students to discuss the various course and program options.

b. Outline banks– many clubs have them. It’s no secret that after first year you figure out that you don’t have to do it yourself, and in fact, if your professor has so thoroughly confused you that you can’t understand the difference between an intentional and unintentional tort (cough cough), looking at someone’s straightforward version of the black letter law would be a better use of your time.

c. Upperclassmen Mentors-There should be mandatory matching of upper and lower classmen, at least for the first year. It could ease much unnecessary confusion. It could also help students learn about what courses to take, etc. Alumni mentors would be even better, especially for the foregoing networking point.

d. Tutoring program- Make sure students understand at least the basic bar subjects, so they aren’t setting themselves up for failure. It’s no secret that one could earn a passing grade under the bell curve system, and yet be thoroughly unclear about the basic structure of the subejct matter. There is no legitimate reason why there aren’t teaching assistants beyond first year. There are more than enough work studies to fill the roles, and aside from thereby decreasing the debt of those students, it would increase student comprehension of the subject matter.

2. Alumni participation:

Career services itself admits to only providing about 25% of graduate jobs through On Campus Interviews (OCIs), which in most cases involve firms contacting the school. Thus, you don’t need an entire office to coordinate employers wanting to post, simply allow them access to the website, and allow candidates to select time slot preferences on the computer, as they already do. The rest is simply administrative.

Speaking of the career website listings, they are attrocious. There is something like one or two new jobs every MONTH. This is pale in comparison with several other schools USD Law grads have gotten access to (and in most cases had to pay) through symplicity. Being the “best law school in [San Diego],” USD Law must do better.

The jobs which are listed, or career services has information about are nowhere near the need of students graduating in this economy. And over the past 2 years, the prospects have not gotten better for law grads, yet nothing has changed in career services. It is a travesty.

Everyone knows that the best way to get a job is through networking. As an individual you have to pound the pavement, attend bar events, etc. meet potential employers. Aside from organizing events, which students can and already do organize anyway, career services is absolutely no help with the personal action required to do this.

Lastly, alumni are in the legal market now. They have graduated, passed the bar, and are now practicing law. Instead of simply passing out a packet compiled with alumni who are willing to talk to students, why not match them up at some point, facilitate the relationship. This will help students get a realistic view of what they are in for.

If career services is allowed to continue, they should be required to make a commitment of substance. Obviously 100% employment isn’t practical, but something better than including any sort of employment in graduate employment stats (see NY Times article), is absolutely necessary to maintain the integrity of the program and fairness to students. $15-$20 per hour (if a position is even paid at all!!) should have to be disclosed in these employment surveys, so that students seeking to enter law school know that they will be faced with $250,000 in debt and a job that only pays double minimum wage- what they might be making after receiving a simple bachelor’s degree.

Career services is supposed to help foster careers, and they should be held to the task. Law grads have had enough of the justifications and excuses. This is just one way highly inflated tuition can be addressed.

Posted in CA Bar, CA Bar Exam, California, The Law, Uncategorized, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Passing the CA Bar, as I see it:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Obviously everyone’s studying and test taking experiences are different, but given the amount of tremendous stress we are all put under, which is exacerbated by our individual situations or contingencies, I thought I would give my input to lawschool students and recent grads who may be looking for a place to start. Thus, here are my top 10 pieces of advice to pass the California Bar on the first attempt.

1. Take BarBri, seriously. I don’t have experience with any of the other programs out there, but I know that people I know who took BarBri and followed the pace program passed. I took BarBri mobile, which I would personally recommend if you are capable of independent study. Well, the only part that is actually independent is that you force yourself to watch the lectures at your own convenience. What I particularly liked, aside from the fact that I didn’t have to battle the 2 hour round trip commute and fighting through traffic at the local city-wide BarBri location, was that the mobile program starts earlier, and is thus less hours of studying per day. Sure, I had to start studying at the same time I was studying for my last law school final, but we all know which of the two is more important, and chances are, if you are taking a bar class that last semester, the studying can overlap.  Additionally, starting with the July 2010 Bar, in order to compete with Kaplan’s guarantee, BarBri allows you to repeat the course for free. That’s not a deal to strive for, but a guarantee of continued support, nonetheless.

2. Follow the pace program. Just do it. Yeah it’s pretty damn terrible, but every moment you spend following it, you know that you are continuing to prepare for the Bar, rather than wasting your time. Towards the end you will find more of a balance that works for you, but all the practice MBEs, essays and PTs are assigned for a reason. I cannot stress how important the practice is. In fact, I think the last PT assigned before the Bar was almost identical in facts and nature to the actual PT on day 3 of the Bar. There are only so many hypotheticals anyone can think of. Think about it.

3. Music. I, like many others I suspect, am easily distracted by technology when I am forced to do something intensely boring like, say, listen to 12 hours of property lectures. What helped me was listening to music, of which I highly recommend fast paced dance music. Read: Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, whatever other popular music that is high energy. I ran out of itunes funds quickly, so I switched to the iheartradio app, which I highly recommend. You can shuffle to find a different radio station somewhere in the country by genre.

4. Caffeine, Starbucks in particular. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be alert and focused while you study. I must have drank in excess of 40 oz of coffee everyday at one point. When you are tired you don’t retain as much, if anything. Your tolerance for coffee may become so high that you don’t even care whether it’s black or not. It is expensive, but consider it one of your bar loan expenses, and invest wisely.

5. Sleep when you can. Everyone knows it’s important. Trying to study intensely without adequate rest is not only unwise, it’s stupid. It is a waste of your time. Take a nap, then start studying when you wake up. Make sure you are eating well too. Many of my friends recommend exercising, I literally didn’t have the time, but I can definitely see the value. Just don’t over do it.

6. Don’t get in your own way. Just accept this fact, you are not going to have a fun summer, or beginning of the year, you just aren’t. If you don’t expect to have a social life, or any life at all while you are studying, then you won’t be let down at the endless hours of studying. Don’t be completely anti-social, some interactions help you feel like a human, but If you know you have a PT to do at night, or early in the morning, don’t spend the whole day doing some rigorous exercise, or the night before pulling an all night drinking binge. Again, waste of your time. I personally found that it helps to keep your box of books in the car. I had issues with remembering all of the different ones I would need for my study sessions. This way, you literally always have something to do, and you can switch around if you get bored with one thing.

7. Start in law school. Figure out your best study style, then apply it to studying for the Bar. E.g. some people love flashcards, others detest them. Know yourself. There are no magic tricks, you just have to put in the hours.

8. Relatedly, take bar courses. I remember as a 1L hearing, “I figure whatever I need to know for the Bar, they will teach me in BarBri.” While this is true, think about the consequences of avoiding Bar courses. Do you remember how convoluted Property seemed, well imagine trying to learn it after just 3 lectures and only a few days to review and practice. It sounds like a nightmare to me. I cannot imagine trying to completely learn a new area of the law in just 12 weeks, which are dedicated to some 15 different subject and 3 different modalities. Be smart. Obviously people pass without taking all the bar courses, but it is my personal belief that this adds unnecessary stress to an already insane situation.

9. Legal experience is invaluable. You need to know how to take law school exams for the essays, but you really need to know what it means to have a client and write legal documents for the PTs. If this sort of thing is already second nature to you, you have an advantage. You still have to be able to follow directions and do exactly what you are being told (be a sheep!), but knowing how to marshall the facts, and apply the law to your client’s situation are things lawyers do, not law students. If you come from a solid lawschool program, you may have regular/non-clinical classes where the profs do a good job preparing you.

10. Know when to call it quits. There are bound to be certain days where you just have a mental block or a nervous breakdown, but make sure these are the exception rather than the rule. You can take days off, but make sure you are pushing yourself the rest of the days. You will undoubtedly surpass any limits you thought you had for how long you can sit in one spot, read one subject, take practice essays, etc. It literally scars your brain and changes you into an even more cynical depressing person, but in a good lawyerly way. It’s like our own private Vietnam.

Lastly, be sure to pay attention especially to Honigsberg. He’s the best. Other profs do an excellent job of teaching you the different subjects (shoutout Schechter, Epstein, Franzese, and Corporations guy with weird intonations), but he nails the psychoemotional and motivational aspects. (Stay in a hotel, buy your lunch in advance, etc. are some of the things Honigsberg will tel you). Lastly, remember, 75% of first time takers from ABA schools pass.

Posted in California, The Law, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »