Gosh, Those Law Students Say the Darndest Things!

Grading this semester has been multiplied because of Hofstra’s large class size (118 students in my contracts section) and an extra class I was teaching at Touro Law Center. To console those of you who are also still grading, I offer the top funniest paper / exam lines during the time I’ve been teaching:

“Decisions are like snakes, they slip and slide next to morality and justice, changing with time.”

“The common law is like a baby. It grows and grows until someone comes along and stops it.”

“The most impotent doctrine in contracts is lack of consideration.”

And, finally, from a seminar paper that discussed women’s rights in law & literature:

“The feminist movement began climaxing in the mid-1800s, and continued building, with varying levels of excitement, until the 1960s.”

To quote humorist Dave Barry, “I am not making this up!” I realize that I may be encroaching on Reader’s Digest territory, but anyone else find some humorous exam lines?


Extended Stay

My guest stint has been extended for a couple more weeks (thanks everyone!). You’ll see more from me on employment law, contracts, information markets, some law and literature, and other sundry and assorted topics. Don’t worry, there will be plenty more bad puns too.


Starbucks, Meet Jennifer Aniston (Nude)

Dan S. has previously pondered the searches that land visitors to our fair blog. As he noted, Googlers in search of “Jennifer Aniston Nude” seem to arrive frequently to the cite. (What does a steamed up web traveler think, exactly when he – or she – beams on to Concurring Opinions? Where are the babes?)

It turns out that the search that sends the most Googlers to visit one of my entries is “Starbucks Secret Menu” – exactly the words in my post on the subject. The question is: why are they searching for this? Who are these conspiracy theorists, exactly, the ones who log on with the goal of learning more about what surely must exist: a secret menu at Starbucks? Are there other secrets in the menu? If you play the newest Starbucks “Joni Mitchell Chooses Her Favorite Bo Diddley Songs” CD backwards, will you hear her coo “turn me on, dead man?”

And how many of you will have to Google that last phrase just to decode my dated cultural reference?


The NSA Phone Call Database: The European Perspective

Had a European government, instead of the Bush administration, created the NSA’s call database, would that government be in violation of European privacy law? I think so, for the reasons I explore below.

Why should anyone care that the outcome would have been so different under European privacy law? One reason for the comparison with Europe is that it enables us to understand better current developments in American law. It is striking how similar American and European data privacy law was in the early 1970s, how different it is today. The first European database privacy statutes of the 1970s drew on the U.S. Privacy Act of 1974. Alan Westin’s Privacy and Freedom, published in 1967, was read widely by both American and European policymakers. There are many reasons for the divergent paths of the two systems. This latest example of difference highlights one set of reasons: the President’s new constitutional powers in fighting terrorism, post-September 11. Congress, the courts, and the public might very well accept that the NSA program is legal, based on the President’s inherent authority as commander-in-chief. In Europe, that would not be possible.

A more pragmatic reason for caring about the different result under European privacy law is that it could undermine transatlantic cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Some European laws forbid the transfer of public security and law enforcement data to countries without adequate privacy protection. This latest revelation just reinforces the European view that U.S. privacy laws are inadequate—and therefore could make European governments reluctant to turn over information on European citizens to the American government in the fight against terrorism.

Read More


Introducing Guest Blogger Francesca Bignami

francesca-bignami.jpgJoining us for a very brief guest stint is Professor Francesca Bignami of Duke Law School. Francesca writes about international and comparative law issues, and her work focuses on rights and democracy in the European Union.

Francesca receceived has an A.B. from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges; an M.Sc. from Oxford; and a JD from Yale, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She clerked for Judge Stephen F. Williams, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit; and served as a stagiare for Advocate General Philippe Léger of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. She also was a Fulbright Scholar at the European University Institute.

Francesca is Chair of the Rulemaking Advisory Group of the ABA Project on EU Administrative Law and is on the academic advisory board of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Francesca will be visiting us very briefly to post about the NSA surveillance program from an international law perspective. This is a dimension of the NSA surveillance issue that I have not yet seen addressed, and I’m really looking forward to Francesca’s insights.


The Election Lottery

Voter turnout in the United States is among the lowest of all democracies. While pointy-headed professors have offered various proposals for increasing turnout at the polls–mandatory voting (as in countries like Australia), internet voting, easier registration, and a national holiday so voters don’t have to take time off work–an opthamologist in Arizona has come up with a proposal that could have have mass appeal.

Dr. Mark Osterloh is leading a ballot initiative that would make available a $1 million prize in each election in the state. The prize funds would come from unclaimed state lottery winnings. Upon casting a vote, the voter would have a chance at the loot.

My guess, having seen hordes of people line up for hours for powerball tickets, is that a chance at prize money would bring some people to the polls who would otherwise stay away–but that $1 million is probably too low to have much overall effect.


An IPOD Top-10 List, and Other Diversions

Steve Bainbridge recommends that celebrities, politicians, and ordinary mortals create iPOD top-10 lists by accessing their 25-most played category. It is a troublesome metric for me. I wish I, like Nick Horby, spent time thinking about what music I like. But I don’t, so my iPOD tells me that I like eclectic, sometimes objectively weak, songs. But in the spirit of the news hole this holiday weekend, my top-10 list follows after the jump. Oh, and I’ll throw in a few lively sites that I read in the daily surf to divert you…

Read More


Best Of Birmingham. Food, That Is.


It’s the long weekend, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to co-opt the Co-Op and do what so many of us have always wanted to do: announce our own Best Of list. Since I’ll be leaving Alabama in the next couple of months, I thought I’d share some of my own opinions about the good life in Birmingham and beyond. Admittedly, relatively few of our regular readers will be touring the Magic City in the next few weeks. But some will. And a surpsingly number of our visitors arrive via a search engine, rather than their morning web surf routine. So for anyone willing to listen, here are my opinions about food and cheer in Bama.

Best CafeLa Reunion. I’ve previously blogged about the virtues of Starbucks in a town like Birmingham. But I gotta tell you: charging a zillion dollars for wireless really steams me. La Reunion is funky, they inexplicably serve H&H bagels (prepared in NYC, cooked by Marcus Specialties in Birmingham, and offered, as far as I can tell, nowhere else in town), and the wireless is gratis. Also, it’s across the street from V. Richard’s, a gourmet market that offers the city’s best weekend breakfast.

Best Cafe Feature Big City Folk Didn’t Know Existed – The Starbucks Drive-Thru. Imagine this: a prof on spring break, a sleeping baby in the back seat, a Starbucks drive-thru, and the New York Times. Turn your uber-uncool Sienna van into a mobile cafe. Bukowski never had it so good.

Best Feature of Alabama Mealtime – Unlimited refills on all cold beverages. Virtually everywhere. And all restaurants – even chains – give in to the basic demand of all Alabama diners. Sweet tea. I mean SWEET tea. And yes, Virginia. You can order your tea half sweet, half unsweet. I do it all the time.

Best Sushi – Many people will recoil from the very notion of sushi in Alabama. And I did that too until I accepted that a) I was gonna be here awhile and b) its all flown in from far away anyway. Still, one of the more vexing restaurant phenomena in Birmingham is the standard attachment of sushi bar to Thai restaurant. And while Surin West, arguably the best Thai in Alabama (which is not saying that much), has decent sushi, I’ll give the nod to Sekisui. (You’ve got to visit the website just to hear the painful theme song.) Get this: Sekisui is a MEMPHIS (??!?) sushi chain that’s opened up shop in Birmingham. I wonder if Elvis might have been a tad more svelte if he’d dined on a bit of raw albacore once in a while. But no. Always peanut butter and banana.

Best LoxSam’s Club. Let’s face it. I could rename this entry “best reason to move to the northeast.” For those lox lovers who find themselves permanently in Birmingham, there’s always Noshville. Three hours away, that is.

Read More


Spam. A lot.


We all know that comment spam is a problem for blogs. But just how much of a problem is it?

One data source is the spam-blocking website Akismet. Akismet checks all of the comments at its participating blogs. It uses algorithms to check for spam, and is aided by the collective spam designations of all of its participating websites. As a result, its database may give a good sense of how many comments are spam in the blogosphere in general.

What’s the percentage of blog comments that are spam, according to Akismet? Take a guess, if you’d like, and then click to go below the fold for the answer.

Read More


Blogging Policies at Work

Speaking of the employment at will rule, (see post directly below), here’s an excerpt from the New York Times about blogging policies at work.

The vast majority of organizations don’t have policies in place,” said Jennifer Schramm, a workplace trends and forecasting manager at the Society for Human Resource Management in Washington.

The group found last year that only 8 percent of the 404 human resource professionals it polled had blogging policies, while 85 percent did not. (The other 7 percent did not know.)

Ms. Schramm said that is just as bad for the employee as for the employer. “Right now it is tough for individuals to know what is happening because so few organizations have a clear policy about employee blogging,” she said.

Of course, as long as there have been managers and underlings, there have been disgruntled workers gabbing around the water cooler or over drinks at happy hour. E-mail and instant messages are merely a quicker way to say, “You wouldn’t believe what a jerk my boss is.”

Blogging takes the grumbling to another level, but one that makes sense when considering how much of it is going on out there. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, about 11 million people have created blogs at one time or another.

A blog and a job don’t necessarily have to clash, some bloggers say.

The article goes on to describe how some have bloggers have decided to tone down their blogs, write about subjects other than work, or blogged anonymously. The article also describes how some employees simply don’t care about blogging policies – even if fired, they’ve gone on to make much more money because of the notoriety derived from blogging.

[Hat-Tip: Josh Rosenberg]