Saturday, January 22, 2005
1561: Sir Francis Bacon is born at London. As a lawyer he will become Sir Edward Coke's great adversary, and in his spare time he will invent the Scientific Method.
1788: George Gordon, Lord Byron, the first man to make "poet" a romantic occupation, is born at London. He will later be a Cambridge classmate of Sir Edward Hall Alderson, the author of Hadley v. Baxendale.
1831: John Blenkinsop, the inventor of the first practical railway locomotive, dies. Blenkinsop developed his Salamanca engine for the Middleton Colliery in Lancashire.
1889: The Columbia Phonograph Company is founded in Washington, D.C.
1890: Chief Justice Fred Vinson is born in Louisa, Kentucky.
1895: The National Association of Manufacturers is founded in Cincinnati.
1947: The first commercial television station west of the Mississippi, KTLA, Channel 5, goes on the air in Los Angeles.
1983: Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial becomes the top movie money-maker to date. Figures are not adjusted for inflation, however.
1968: Those who have some fondness for the Sixties should consider the fact that Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In debuted this day.
1994: Irving B. Kahn, the man who gave the world Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Tom Brokaw, et al., dies. His contribution? The teleprompter. His TelePrompTer Co. was also an early pioneer of pay television.
1997: Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma, becomes the first person to be hit by a piece of man-made space debris when she is struck in the shoulder by a six-inch piece of a U.S. Delta II rocket.
Apologies to those visiting, but my (Frank's) personal computer problems have caused no end of difficulty. This, for example, has to be written on my wife's laptop in a McDonald's restaurant in College Station, Texas, because two laptops and one desktop have crashed and burned in the last week and a half, and even the home wireless thing is down.
As the New York subway folks used to say, "Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience."
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Samuel Johnson once wrote that no one but a fool writes for any reason except money. The Communitarian Network—a group of academics and others dedicated to pursuing communitarian ideas in law—is taking that lesson to heart with a very market-oriented approach for stimulating thinking on the subject: cash prizes.
The group is offering three prizes of $10,000, $5,000, and $2,500 on "philosophical, sociological, or other elements of communitarian thinking. Deadline is December 31, 2005; selections will be made by a Daniel Bell, Hans Joas, and Amitai Etzioni. Click the link below for the full announcement.
A big-time contract dispute is simmering between two automotive biggies, General Motors and Fiat. The parties are in mediation over a 2000 agreement that, in essence, permits Fiat to compel General Motors to buy the 90 percent of Fiat’s automotive division that GM doesn’t already own. GM claims that the agreement doesn’t require any such thing.
The Detroit carmaker yesterday announced sharply lower profits for the year, due in part to the write-down of the value of its stake in Fiat, a company in such difficulty that "troubled Fiat" is very nearly its trademark these days. The company's lineup of vehicles (left) is one of the few that makes GM's look good exciting by contrast.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is apparently backing off from his threats to cut off trade with neighboring Colombia. Chávez (left) suspended trade agreements with Colombia and recalled his ambassador to Bogotá after a FARC guerilla leader in Venezuela was kidnapped and turned over to Colombian authorities. The Venezuelan peso, which had fallen on the original news, perked back up.
1265: The first modern English Parliament—with commoners as representatives—begins its first session under the aegis of Simon de Montfort at Westminster. Eight months later, de Montfort will be rewarded for his efforts by being killed by Royalists at the Battle of Evesham.
1346: Deposed King Edward Balliol of Scotland sells his rights to the throne to England’s Edward III in exchange for a pension.
1801: Outgoing President John Adams nominates his Secretary of State, John Marshall, to the seat vacated by Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth on the U.S. Supreme Court. A prominent commercial lawyer, Marshall has no prior judicial experience.
1837: U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Josiah Brewer (left) is born in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey, the son of missionary parents. After graduating from Albany Law School, he will practice in Kansas. He is probably best known for his opinion upholding limitations on women’s working hours in Muller v. Oregon (1908)
1885: La Marcus Thompson of Coney Island, New York, receives a patent for the roller-coaster. His original "Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway" costs him $1,600 to build, and he makes his investment back in three weeks.
1891: Lawyer and oilman James Stephen Hogg becomes the first native-born Texan to be elected governor. He really does have a daughter named Ima Hogg, but her sister "Ura Hogg" is apocryphal.
1921: Turkey adopts the Muslim world’s first wholly secular constitution.
1924: Singer Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr.—better known as "Slim" (left)—is born in Tampa, Florida. In 1979, Suffolk Marketing will begin direct telemarketing of music—"Not available in stores!"—with his All My Best album. It sells four million copies.
1929: Fox releases the first full-length talking picture to be filmed outdoors, In Old Arizona, which is shot in California and Utah. Warner Baxter wins an Oscar for his role as the Cisco Kid.
1953: The first U.S. television program is broadcast into Canada, Westinghouse Electric’s Studio One on CBS. It becomes something of a trend.
1958: The Silhouettes release their hit, Get a Job.
1975: Agent Michael Ovitz founds what will become Hollywood’s most successful talent broker, Creative Artists Agency.
1978: The wunderkind of ABC Television, Fred Silverman, quits to become president of rival NBC. His term there turns out nearly as badly as his most cherished project, the projected Super Train (a/k/a Express to Terror) series about a nuclear powered train.
1986: France and the United Kingdom announce plans for a new tunnel under the English channel, to create the first land link between the British Isles and the European continent for—well, a long time.
2002: Nine "mainline" Protestant denominations—including Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Christian groups—reach an "inter-communion" agreement called "Churches Uniting in Christ." They agree, among other things, to recognize each others’ rites as valid.
Law.com reports that a Pennsylvania occupational therapy company, CGB, has won a $30 million punitive damage award against Sunrise Assisted Living, Inc., for tortious interference of contract. A jury found that Sunrise induced two nursing homes to terminate their contracts with CGB, and then hired away five therapists in violation of those agreements.
It was a stunning loss for Sunrise, which had previously convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to reverse an earlier $2 million punitive damages judgment. The first jury had awarded $689,000 in actual damages and $1.3 million in punitives. The Second Circuit—in an opinion by newly nominated Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff—reduced the actual damages to $109,000 and ordered a retrial on punitive damages. The second jury came down with the $30 million penalty.
Jurors later explained that since the evidence was that it took CGB six months to recover from the harm done by Sunrise, Sunrise should have to fork over six months worth of its own profits.
Contract law has been relatively little influenced by the writings of John Rawls, largely because it has been the common wisdom that his two principles of justice do not apply to systems of private ordering. In Rawls and Contract Law, a fascinating new paper forthcoming in the George Washington Law Review, commercial law scholar Kevin Kordana and philospher David Tabachnick take issue with this view, arguing that Rawls’s analysis, properly understood, requires that the same principles of justice must apply to private as well as to public law. Click the link for the abstract.
A college mathematics professor who says he was fired for refusing to inflate grades is suing for breach of contract and wrongful termination.
Marvin C. Papenfuss, 59, was a full professor at Wisconsin Lutheran College, where he had taught for nine years. He says that in 2001, his department chair imposed a new grading system under which it was virtually impossible for students to fail calculus. His own grades for students, he said, were two-thirds "C or better." Nevertheless, his supervisor reportedly described him to students as an "ogre."
The college is not commenting on grounds for his termination. The Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, school has about 700 students and 46 full-time faculty.
Venture Catalyst, Inc. (VCAT) , has filed suit against three employees and five entities for breach of contract, trade secret misappropriation, unfair business practices, violation of copyright, and "other related" things. VCAT is a software development house whose Mariposa software is used in the gaming industry.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of California, claims that the defendants had been hired to work on Mariposa but are now developing a competing product.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
A model and "former sex chat line worker" has sued actor Colin Farrel (left) for, among other things, breach of contract, after he allegedly inundated her with 500 "filthy text messages" since September 2004. "In the beginning it was cute," she said. "As we built our relationship I started to realize there was something deeply and darkly wrong with him."
Farrell, who had the lead in Oliver Stone’s flop Alexander, is scheduled to play Det. Sonny Crockett in the 2006 big-screen version of Miami Vice. No, we are not making this up.
1736: The inventor of the first really practical steam engine, James Watt, is born at Greenock, Scotland. His Boulton & Watt partnership with a Birmingham merchant will sell 500 engines in 15 years; they are four times as powerful as any previously made.
1813: Sir Henry Bessemer, the man who in 1856 will introduce the first method for producing steel cheaply, is born in Charlton, Hertfordshire.
1825: Ezra Daggett and his nephew Thomas Kensett of New York City receive a patent for canned food. The pair had been canning lobster, salmon, and oysters since 1819.
1839: The British East India Company captures the port of Aden, ostensibly to keep pirates from attacking its shipping from India.
1907: Variety magazine, a vaudeville journal, notices this new medium called the "movies" with its first two film reviews: An Exciting Honeymoon and The Life of a Cowboy.
1915: George Claude of Paris receives a patent for a "System of Illuminating by Luminescent Tubes," which will quickly come to be known as the neon sign. Left, neon signs in New York. "What a glorious garden of wonder this would be," G.K. Chesterton would later write, "to anyone who was lucky enough to be unable to read."
1920: The U.S. Senate rejects membership in the the League of Nations. Although Britain and France both state they can accept changes made by Senate Republicans, President Wilson refuses to compromise and the Democrats vote against the amended treaty.
1935: The first men’s briefs (dubbed "jockey" shorts) are sold by Coopers, Inc., in Chicago. Thirty thousand pairs are sold in the first three months.
1946: Singer and theme park entrepreneur Dolly Rebecca Parton is born in Sevierville, Tennessee. As a songwriter, she will in 1976 turn down Elvis Presley’s offer to record her I Will Always Love You when his agent demands a share of the writing royalties—a move that pays off when Whitney Houston’s later cover makes it the biggest-selling song ever by a female vocalist.
1952: To eliminate competition in New York, the National Football League, to eliminate competition in New York, buys out the franchise of the New York Yanks football team for $300,000. After moves to Dallas and then Baltimore, the team will eventually become the Indianapolis Colts.
1976: The Beatles turn down a $50 million offer from promoter Bill Sargent to appear again on the same stage. Must be nice not to need the money.
1977: Snow falls in Miami, Florida. People are surprised.
1993: IBM announces a $5 billion annual loss, the largest ever by an American company to that time.
2000: Hedwig Eva Marie Kiesler—a/k/a Hedy Lamarr (left), the beautiful Austrian actress whose nose was coveted by the plaintiff in Sullivan v. O’Connor—dies in Altamonte Springs, Florida. She once sued the publisher of her autobiography, claiming that many stories recounted by her ghostwriter were false.
Britain’s MG Rover automobile group has announced that it is terminating its direct car supply contract with Virgin Motors for an unspecified breach of contract. Virgin Motors, part of the giant Virgin Atlantic empire, is a big Internet-based car dealer.
Only a week ago Virgin announced a £100 million deal with MG Rover, saying it expected to sell 1,000 cars a week on its automobile web site.
Jury selection is under way in Shreveport on a breach of contract claim by a contractor who says its bankruptcy was due to the city of Shreveport's failure to pay what it is owed. At issue is Whitaker Construction’s claim for $5 million in damages from the city as a result of the $33 million Independence Stadium upgrade project (left). Independence Stadium is home of college football's Independence Bowl.
Whitaker had been Louisiana’s third-biggest contractor until the city’s failure to pay drove it into bankruptcy. Its financial problems caused it to give up a considerable amount of business, including the city’s $71 million convention center project, and the company’s president was even jailed under an odd Louisiana law that provides that contractors who don’t pay subs can be jailed for five years.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Rumors are circulating that Katie Couric is being seriously considered to succeed Dan Rather (and Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow) at CBS’s anchor desk. But the Tiffany Network will have its work cut out for it to get her.
Couric has 16 months left on her $15-million-a-year contract. Given that her Today show is probably NBC’s most profitable franchise—estimated at about $250 million a year in profits—sources say NBC is likely to put up a considerable battle to keep her.
Couric (left) signed a five-year-deal in 2001 that, with various incentives and syndication sales, may be worth as much as $100 million, making her the "richest personality in television news." Rather reportedly made $7 million, but then he was a perennial third-place ratings finisher.
1778: Captain James Cook becomes the first European to identify and record the existence of a chain of islands, which he calls the "Sandwich Islands" in honor of his patron.
1813: Joseph Farwell Glidden is born in New Hampshire. A farmer troubled by wandering livestock, he will come up with a solution that will forever change the face of the American landscape: barbed wire. His Barb Fence Co. will make him one of the nation’s richest men.
1854: Thomas Augustus Watson is born in Salem, Massachusetts. Best known as Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant in the invention of the telephone—"Watson, come here, I need you"—he will later give up his one-third interest in Bell Telephone for shipbuilding, founding the great Quincy shipbuilding yard that is still in use today.
1871: King Wilhelm I of Prussia is named Emperor of Germany in a ceremony at Versailles, occupied by the Prussians following the successful Franco-Prussian War.
1888: British aviation pioneer Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith is born.
1896: The x-ray machine is demonstrated to the public in New York City. For 25¢, you can see inside yourself.
1918: Veronica Holovich is born in Donora, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Carpathian Rus immigrants from Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Happy Birthday, Mom.
1929: The first American broadcast news celebrity, the New York Mirror’s Walter Winchell, takes to the airwaves on CBS’s Saks on Broadway. His recipe for success is still good today: "To get famous, throw a brick at someone who is famous."
1933: Ray Dolby, the engineer who invented the noise reduction system that bears his name, is born.
1938: Curt Flood (left), the man whose ground-breaking suit challenging baseball's reserve system inaugurated the modern free agency era, is born in Houston, Texas. Flood will never benefit from his action, though.
1943: It may be one of the best ideas around, but U.S. bakers nevertheless stop selling sliced bread, because the government says they need the bread-slicer blades for aircraft propellers. The ban is lifted three months later.
1950: The federal tax on oleomargarine, enacted to protect the dairy industry, is repealed.
1991: After 62 years of storied history, Eastern Airlines closes up shop.
In his contract rider he specifies that he gets two cases of bottled water per show—and one case must have the labels removed, presumably so that they can be drunk on stage without plugging a particular product.
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Monday, January 17, 2005
1229: Albert of Buxhoeveden (left), first Prince Bishop of Livonia, dies. In 1201, together with Hanseatic League traders from Gotland and Lubeck, he founded the city of Riga as a trading capital for the region.
1617: Croatian inventor Faust Vrancic dies at Vienna. He developed and demonstrated the first practical parachute, but since no one had invented the airplane yet, it did not catch on.
1648: The British Parliament, angry at Charles I’s refusal to agree to peace terms, passes the "Vote of No Addresses," cutting off further negotiations.
1763: America’s first tycoon, John Jacob Astor, is born at Walldorf, Germany. His American Fur Company, founded in 1808, will dominate the North American fur trade, and he will get even richer from his speculations in New York City real estate.
1781: One of the seminal battles of the American Revolution occurs, as 1,000 men under former farmer/teamster Daniel Morgan defeat a similar British force under Banastre Tarleton at the Cowpens in South Carolina.
1819: The Republic of Colombia is proclaimed by Simón Bolívar.
1871: Andrew Smith Hallidie of San Francisco gets a patent for one of the world’s great tourist attractions, the "cable car."
1893: Sugar planters and the Citizens’ Committee of Public Safety overthrow the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii. President Grover Cleveland, angry at this, offers to return Queen Lili’uokalani to power if she will pardon the conspirators, but she refuses; a year later the Republic of Hawaii is proclaimed.
1917: The United States buys the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million, ostensibly to keep them from being seized by Germany as a submarine base.
1926: Hair impresario Vidal Sassoon in born in London. His development of the "bob" (left) and the "five point cut" in 1963 make him "the the founder of modern hairdressing," and a considerable amount of money.
1950: The Great Brinks Robbery nets $2.7 million in what will soon come to be known as the "crime of the century." It would have yielded more, except that the thieves can't open a box containing the payroll for the General Electric Co.
1995: The Golf Channel debuts. Today it is available in 30 million homes, and at least some of them must watch.
2000: Two big pharmaceutical firms announce that they will join together to get even bigger. SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Wellcome agree to merge, forming the world’s biggest drug maker, with annual sales of $25 billion.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
1730: Lawyer Jean-Baptiste-Gaspard Bochart de Saron is born. He is best remembered for his hobby, which was astronomy; he financed Laplace's work and accumulated one of the finest collections of telescopes and scientific equipment of his day.
1868: William Davis, a Detroit fish dealer, receives a patent for the first refrigerated rail car.
1883: At-will employment ends in the federal government, as the United States Civil Service Commission is formed.
1909: Explore Ernest Shackleford finds the magnetic South Pole. It had been lost for several years.
1936: The father of modern photography, Oskar Barnack, dies at age 56. Working for the Ernst Leitz optical firm in Wetzlar, Germany, he develops the "Leica I," the first small, hand-held 35mm camera.
1936: Speaking of cameras, the first race track camera designed to decide close horse races (the "photo finish") is installed at Hialeah, Florida.
1961: Yankee center fielder Mickey Mantle signs a contract that makes him the highest-paid player in the American League, at $75,000 a season.
1976: Herb Alpert's A&M Records releases Frampton Comes Alive, which will go on to become the biggest-selling album until that time.