Tuesday, May 13, 2014
A decision today from the New York Court of Appeals
University of Chicago Professor Norman Golb is a scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This [criminal] case involves an internet campaign by Golb's son, Raphael Golb, to attack the integrity and harm the reputation of other Dead Sea Scrolls academics and scholars, while promoting the views of his father.
To accomplish his goal of discrediting and harming these individuals, defendant, using pseudonyms and impersonating real academics and scholars, sent emails to museum administrators, academics and reporters. He published anonymous blogs. He concocted an elaborate scheme in which he used a pseudonym to engage one professor in an email exchange, and then impersonated a different scholar to criticize that professor's emails. Defendant impersonated a New York University (NYU) professor and sent emails to NYU students and NYU deans indicating that the professor had plagiarized the work of Professor Golb.
The court's disposition of the criminal charges
...we affirm the convictions for nine counts of criminal impersonation in the second degree and all of the convictions for forgery. We vacate the conviction for identity theft in the second degree; five of the convictions for criminal impersonation in the second degree; all of the convictions for aggravated harassment in the second degree, and the conviction for unauthorized use of a computer.
Justice Lippman would dismiss the charges in their entirety.
It would be difficult to find the conduct by defendant detailed in the majority opinion admirable. But our very different task is to decide whether that conduct was properly treated as criminal. While I see no constitutional impediment to prosecuting conduct similar to defendant's targeting Professor Schiffman as second degree identity theft -- which requires for its proof evidence of intent to cause highly specific injury of a non-reputational sort -- the particular counts of identity theft with which defendant was charged in the indictment's top two counts were not sufficiently proved...
The use of the criminal impersonation and forgery statutes now approved amounts to an atavism at odds with the First Amendment and the free and uninhibited exchange of ideas it is meant to foster.
Extensive information concerning the case can be found at The Raphael Golb Trial web page. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
This month the Sitemeter ticked past 1,000,000. Happy New Year to all, and thanks for checking in. Thanks most of all to Mike Frisch for his dedicated research to find all these stories and dispositions, and for his reporting on them here so prodigiously and clearly. His attention to results and process has really taught me a lot over the past seven years. Thanks also to Jeff Lipshaw for his insightful posts over the years and for creating this blog. Mike and I could not tell an HTML from a hot meal on Sept. 18, 2006! [Alan Childress]
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Once I joined Etsy, just because it was the place I wanted to buy one item, I found my inbox full with all sorts of communications. So this could be a cure for the holiday blues of Really Lonely People. You won't be ignored anymore. This statement is not an endorsement of Etsy. It is a suggestion that if you do need to join it to buy an item, do so by starting a whole new gmail account dedidated to it. Or preferably a compuserve one.
Etsy will sell you, if you want, a taxidermied mouse chess set. Imagine that the creator had to get 32 mice to make one set, and mice of varying sizes and apparent authority and movement. If it were cheaper than the (understandable) 450 buck price tag, I know a lot of people I'd have gotten this for.
The item I did get, which seems like a good idea and is very affordable, is a personalized set of Russian nesting dolls (3, 4, 5, even 6!). After you buy it and wade through other Etsy email, you'll get a request from the artist for family pics and iconic descriptions of family members--like my mom in her checkerboard shirt she would have to wear due to the corporate loyalty my dad (like his generation) had for working for Ralston Purina for all his life (a loyalty not repaid after Nestle bought it out). Then in a week or so you'll get nesting dolls that represent your family. Better than stiff mice! Too bad she is inundated so you'll have to wait till Epiphany or Armenian Christmas.
The nesting doll idea reminds me that this time last year I got a great gift from a Torts student who is a Russian national. It was a large nesting matryoshka but inside, instead of a smaller ditto, was a bottle of Gray Goose Vodka. Nice. I asked him why the French vodka, thinking I could tease him about his disloyalty. But he explained, "Russian vodka too big to fit in matryoshka." [Alan Childress]
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed and reversed in part the disposition of summary judgment motions in a case where a judge engaged in a campaign to retain her seat sued a blogger who supported a candidate for a State Senate seat. The judge supported a different candidate.
The blogger posted a Facebook entry that accused the judge of misconduct for supporting a State Senate candidate. The entry was also posted on Carolina Talk Network. The same day, the judge's attorney informed the blogger that, as a candidate herself, the judge was allowed to endorse other office seekers.
The blogger posted a second comment apologizing for the first comment. He went on to state that he had read the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct "top to bottom" and asserted his belief that "for any Republican office holder to campaign openly for any candidate in a primary is wrong." He appended portions of the Code but omitted the portion that specially permits a judicial candidate to endorse another candidate for office.
The court held that the first post contaimed a false statement but there was no evidence of actual malice. Summary judgment was affirmed on behalf of the defendant blogger.
The court found that the second post was not a constitutionally protected opinion. The post stated that the defendant had consulted an attorney friend and that "[w]e both agreed that there is probable cause for such [disciplinary] action [against the judge]. Read the appendix and make up your own mind."
The defendant was found to have attempted to mislead readers by failing to attach the portion of the Code that allowed the conduct at issue.
The court here held that the second post was subject to one interpretation and was defamatory: "It was, therefore, defamation per se as a matter of law."
The court also held that there was sufficient evidence that the second post was motivated by actual malice to present the issue to a jury. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Friday, December 23, 2011
Thank you to Bruce Carton's Legal Blog Watch for selecting us as one of the 10 "most watched" law blogs of 2011.
- Abnormal Use
- Above the Law
- Jonathan Turley
- Legal Profession Blog
- Legal Juice
- Lowering the Bar
- Simple Justice
- Work Matters
We appreciate the recognition and hope to continue to be worthy of our readership.
Since we focus on lawyers who mess up, I'm told that some people read us for the same reason that it's hard not to look at a car accident. (Mike Frisch)
Saturday, November 12, 2011
The Quid Pro Books project (here), which includes new ebooks in addition to paperbacks, has worked with the editors of the Yale Law Journal to bring out in leading digital formats its 8 print issues per year. That is, particularly, downloads at Amazon for Kindle, B&N for Nook, and direct on iPad/iPhone at Apple iBooks. The student editors decided to price each issue at 99 cents (the minimum such sites allow to indy presses) to make it as accessible as possible--I applaud that--and to help people read each issue as a whole, like a book for the commute or for kicking back. The ebooks are fully formatted, with links for contents, notes, and even cross-references.
More for the philosophy and torts types than legal ethics teachers, perhaps, the first issue of academic year 2011-12, out today, has a summary by Jules Coleman of how jurisprudence is analyzed and structured--a clear synthesis that may turn out to be required introductory reading in the field--as well as a dialog on torts between Ariel Porat and Mark Geistfeld. Plus students have contributed notes on felon disenfranchisement and counter-terrorism. Issue two should follow in a week or two and can be found at the links above too.
All 56 books or journals in the project produced since May 2010 can be found online (including guttenburgy print for the books), for example in this comprehensive Kindle list. Most recent, besides YLJ, is Lawrence Friedman's Contract Law in America, reviewed by NYU's Dan Ernst at Legal History Blog. Friedman's latest book is The Human Rights Culture, on the sociology of the movement.
Please consider letting FB friends or Twitter followers know this new way to access YLJ. [Alan Childress]
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Reissue with new introduction of Michael Meltsner's Cruel and Unusual on lawyering against the death penalty
Posted by Alan Childress
After the renewed attention lately on the death penalty from the execution of Troy Davis, including this moving faith-based Huffington Post column on that matter by Stephen Dear, I wanted to mention, as has the StandDown Texas blog, the reissue of Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment. It's Michael Meltsner's inside account of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyers who set out to abolish the death penalty. Their decade-sought victory, if impermanent, was a methodical and fascinating tale of strategy, perseverence, and people--ending with the Supreme Court's 1972 ruling in Furman v. Georgia. (BTW, Justice Stevens says he regrets his later vote to reinstate capital punishment.)
The 2011 edition has a new Foreword by CUNY's Evan Mandery and a new, reflective preface by the author (a law prof at Northeastern and its former dean). As StandDown notes, I worked with Michael to bring this back to print. It's now out in a variety of formats: Amazon as a paperback or for Kindle; at Barnes & Noble for Nook and in paperback; PDF at Smashwords; also on Apple iBooks and at Sony. The ebooks should be convenient for people worldwide who have not had access to this classic book as a hardback edition.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Posted by Alan Childress
The one on-topic features NYU's Stephen Gillers' new article on the professional responsibility of lawyers who hold or come across real evidence in a case, such as guns, presidential tapes, and drugs. It is part of the current issue of Stanford Law Review, which also has studies of forensic use of DNA in criminal cases to establish familial ties, fixing unfair contracts, and amicus briefs in the Supreme Court where a party below has abandoned the case. I helped the SLR editors bring it to ebook formats in the Quid Pro project I have written on before; here are links to its Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook formats (and at iTunes and Smashwords). Steve's abstract:
A criminal defense lawyer may need to read a document, test a weapon, or analyze a substance in order to advise a client. Or there may be no such need but a client may show up at a law office with an illegal weapon, contraband, or stolen property. In either event, what should a lawyer do with the item following any evaluation? What should she do if her client reveals where a weapon, contraband, or stolen property is hidden? Some cases say that a lawyer who receives or retrieves an item of real evidence must give it to the authorities after examining it. But because the item may implicate the client in a crime, the client may instead withhold it or the lawyer may refuse to accept it, even if the lawyer needs to evaluate it. Or a lawyer may choose not to retrieve a hidden item if she must then deliver it to the authorities. Other cases say that after evaluation, a lawyer may return an item to the source if possible. But is that the right rule when the item is stolen property, a dangerous weapon, or drugs? And what if return is not possible? This Article argues that the holdings of these cases, and secondary authorities that agree with them, are wrong. They impede the need for informed legal advice. They frustrate return of stolen property. And where the item is a weapon or drugs, they endanger public safety. This Article proposes solutions that avoid these results while protecting the legal rights of clients and the interests of law enforcement and the public.
In addition, new releases this week in ebooks include an all-new book, Brothers at War (on which I will write more when the paperback is widely available in June): historian Jerold Auerbach explores the Altalena incident of 1948, where Israeli commandos destroyed an Israeli ship bringing arms to Israel, pursuant to a ceasefire agreement. The surreal event and deaths of Altalena's sailors could have led to civil war in the new country. The cover photo, the actual shelling and evacuations, is by the famed war photographer Robert Capa. Here are Kindle or Nook links.
Also, sociologist Philip Selznick's foundational study Leadership in Administration is re-released in ebook formats (Nook; Kindle). It jumpstarted executive-leadership courses and programs, and is widely used in classes today in business, public policy, and military leadership. The digital edition adds a substantive, explanatory new Foreword by Robert Rosen of the University of Miami. Proceeds benefit Dr. Selznick's scholarship at the JSP Program at Berkeley law.
Finally, my own introduced edition of O.W. Holmes' The Path of the Law, in paperback and many ebook versions. Stay tuned Thursday for pretty big news on this venture.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Posted by Alan Childress
Brief update to book project: Jerome Skolnick's Justice Without Trial is now out in a 4th edition, with his new preface and new foreword by Candace McCoy. New cover but with those iconic handcuffs. As ebook at Kindle, Nook, and Sony, but not yet in paperback (expected late April). Happy 80th birthday, Jerry! It is in the same classics series with Scheingold's Politics of Law and Order, released last month in all formats (linked here).
A sometimes-bizarre but fascinating diary/memoirs of battlefield nursing in World War I, with new foreword by my colleague Elizabeth Townsend Gard, who wrote her thesis on the genre of women writers in wartime for a history PhD at UCLA. The aptly named I Saw Them Die (1936), out in Nook, Kindle, and Smashwords (ePub, Sony, PDF), and on Monday here in paperback; and sold on Amazon in paperback. More info on this fascinating memoirs here.
The canonical sociology study TVA and the Grass Roots by Philip Selznick, out in paperback here (paperback is also found on Amazon and other stores). Everyone has heard of it; time to have on the shelf (and next month in ebook). New foreword examining its impact and insights, and prescience, by Berkeley's Jonathan Simon. This is an authorized edition, unlike the OCRd one on Amazon sold so far that attributes to Selznick the sentence: "The jocation of administrative control in the area of operations, with the Authority as a weole, in relation 10 tha fmdfl IJOVCrflffietit, taken as an example." Like reading Hal's version of Beowulf! For our edition: Proceeds benefit the author's scholarship fund at JSP-Berkeley Law. Look for the one with a pretty cover, using actual Norris Dam plans.
UPDATE Mar 27: The Kindle book for TVA and the Grass Roots is out now here, as are Nook at B&N and other formats all linked here. It, and the other books above, are now active at the iTunes bookstore.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Posted by Alan Childress
Updating the announcement last week of bringing SLR to Kindle, Nook, iPad, Sony, etc. And thanks to Jeff Lipshaw for noting it at Prawfs--and I think he wants them to publish his new piece on models in contract theory. Which would be full circle since I'd wind up coding its HTML. Should I add <small><small> before any self-cite? Link his embedded URL cites to YouTubes of his riding horses? Or worse? Note to Stanford editors: Larry Solum yesterday called Jeff's piece "very interesting and recommended."
Anyway, the current issue #2 is now out, at Amazon, Amason UK, B&N for Nook, and Smashwords, so that covers all formats including ePub and Sony. It is also on the iPad at iTunes (or with apps) and will be at Sony ebookstore in a few weeks. For purposes of this blog, one article of interest to our readers is Judge Richard Posner's survey and analysis, with Albert Yoon (law, Toronto), of judges' perceptions of the quality of legal representation ("Studying the legal profession poses several challenges..." -- abstract beneath the fold). Also interesting for the blog topic is Norman Spaulding (law, Stanford) on changes and problems at the Department of Justice, and a student Note on economic espionage, plus of course other articles. SLR will issue a press release this week on how they partnered up with Quid Pro to go ebook. Looks like other journals will follow suit this year.
Related, but certainly off-topic, I'll mention that Quid Pro also released this week a republication in Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords of a classic of law and society (political science; the Court), Martin Shapiro's Freedom of Speech: The Supreme Court and Judicial Review. Its new cover is right. See also David Crump's modern translation, rhyme, and abridgment of Virgil's Aeneid. It was Hades to get poetry to work on Kindle but I mastered the Styx. It has a paperback too, and soon a hardback. Its innovation in digital is using jumps from underlined words, to link to annotations (as a blog does), rather than footnotes. Keeps the poem moving. The paperback put the notes in margin, shaped to mirror the poem, rather than at a distracting footer. I think people will like the format and, of course, David's heartfelt take on the epic.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Posted by Alan Childress
As promised in a comment, here is more information on a new addition to the publishing project, and quite germane to the blog topic (!): Rob Rosen's (law, Miami) book, Lawyers in Corporate Decision-Making. Today out in hardcover and last month in paperback (allows 'Look Inside'), Kindle, Nook, Sony, and on the iPad via iTunes and K/N apps. This was originally his dissertation in sociology at Berkeley, and had been cited a lot and passed around in manuscript before. It is updated with his new Preface and new Foreword by Sung Hui Kim (law, UCLA) noted below, and a revised chapter two and other additions. Mainly it is the classic study people know and quote. He triangulated interviews with corporate counsel, outside law firms, and the corporate client, on many different legal representations, and got the whole picture of the disparate roles played in corporate advising. Lawyers often perceived it differently from clients. One chapter autopsies four representational failures. Interesting. Rosen also relates all this to theory and practice about "who is the client" and what should be the role of lawyer here: passive, proactive, advising beyond the legal consequences? It is cited a lot, too, for its taxonomy of corporate advising roles. So it is now generally out and not just in Xerox. Rob worked hard to get its substance and presentation just right, and even in library-quality hardback; we hope you'll like it.
"Rosen’s study of in house counsel is a deft, subtle dissection of a complex world where nothing is as it quite seems. In interviewing in house counsel, outside counsel, and clients, Rosen captures, in a Rashomon-like way, the moral character of lawyers’ work–their choices, their pitches, their claims by which they justify what they do. We see inside the professional black box.”
– John Flood, Professor of Law and Sociology, University of Westminster, London
“Widely regarded by experts in the field as a pioneering work in the sociology of the legal profession and a foundational piece in the slowly emerging canon of empirical research on inside counsel…. Not limited to rich, thick description, the study also normatively challenges the legal profession’s ideology of moral ‘independence.’ …With the long-awaited publication of this manuscript, corporate lawyers will have something to guide them.”
– Prof. Sung Hui Kim, UCLA School of Law, from the new Foreword
Also was blogged about at Froomkin's Discourse.net (terming it a cult classic), Business Law Prof Blog, the Advanced Legal Studies@Westminster Blog and Random Academic Thoughts (Flood calling it wonderful), and others (and finally, me!). Libraries can order it through Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Amazon, etc. UPDATE: I forgot to mention that (and thank) Jeff and Nancy and others gave some great blurbs for this you can see below the fold....
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Posted by Alan Childress
Becoming the first general law review to publish its current issues as an ebook (plus its traditional print volumes), the Stanford Law Review now includes Kindle and the other ebook formats in its distribution. I helped the editors digitize the first academic-year issue, Vol. 63, #1, as part of the "Quid Pro Books" project I discussed at Law Librarian Blog before. (They are the publisher, of course, not me--though one is tempted to insert an article...) SLR's Issue 2 ebook will soon follow.
For now, Issue 1 is available in the Amazon Kindle store (and its UK store); at Barnes & Noble for Nook; on the iPad with these apps and also Apple's iTunes bookstore; and in multiple formats including Sony, ePub, and rtf at Smashwords. This issue features articles by Ryan Scott (on sentencing disparity), Scott Hershovitz (what Harry Potter means to torts), Robert Cooter & Neil Siegel (collective federalism), and Brian Galle & Jonathan Klick (AMT tax). Hope it's a convenient way to keep up with scholarship for some, and a necessary adjustable font for others. Enjoy.
Other Quid Pro updates: latest releases in print and all ebook formats include Robert Rosen's Lawyers in Corporate Decision-Making (more soon on that, as very pertinent to the blog topic), and the latest book from Amitai Etzioni, Law in a New Key: Essays on Law and Society.
Also re-released are two classic books: (1) the sociological study (so far in digital, soon in paper), Neil Smelser's Sociological Theory; and (2) in print/digital in political science and criminal law, Stuart Scheingold, The Politics of Law and Order.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Well, almost. This blog, due I am sure to Mike's content and tenaciousness (and oh those headlines), was named Blog of the Month by Penn State. Here. Let's hope Mike has a less frilly outfit than last year on the red carpet. TMZ was brutal. [Alan Childress]
Monday, August 30, 2010
Posted By Alan Childress
Following up on my project, with great authors, of bringing back some good old books that went out of print -- or putting out some new ones, such as Lisa Webley's study of lawyering styles in the UK, now on Amazon in paperback -- here is where we are, many now in print form. Admittedly some are on-topic (though Rogelio Perez Perdomo is on-topic for the profession in Venezuela, and in Spanish), while some just aren't but are part of the project so I hope this is useful. In addition to Kindle, Nook, and other ebooks easily found en masse at the Kindle Store, and B&N, etc., here are all the paperbacks out now [or will be listed as available at the link within two days]. All previous works were very well reviewed when first out (hence my interest in them):
1. Jerold Auerbach, Rabbis and Lawyers: The Journey from Torah to Constitution. First with Indiana U Press, now in paperback; studies the legalism that took over U.S. Jewish leadership in the 20th century and what they meant to Zionism, the Holocaust, and Israel. Disputes the usual meme that Brandeis, Mack, Wise, and Frankfurter were the best leaders for their cause, and that lawyers are always the best leaders generally. Auerbach recently published on the Pueblo Indians, too.
2. G. Edward White, Patterns of American Legal Thought, published by Lexis before and now in paperback. Analyzes the tools and dilemmas of legal historicizing, the origins of gay rights, tort law in the U.S., and insights on Holmes and Brandeis. White has written some 14 books in all and was nominated for a Pulitzer. He is a law prof at UVa with a PhD in History and his JD from Harvard before that.
3. Susan Neiman, Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin. Was with Schocken, now in paperback, and the author recently wrote 2008's Moral Clarity. Her debut memoirs were about West Berlin in the 80s, before the Wall fell, and her sometimes surreal experiences living there as an American and as a Jew. They did not call cigarettes Salem because it sounded too Jewish. Insightful period piece and very witty from the Director of the Einstein Forum. Jeff loved this book and suggested I ask Neiman to re-up it.
4. Grandfather J. B.: Letters to my Grandson. Memoirs in letters by Joseph Bercovici to his poly sci grandson Joel Grossman, now at Johns Hopkins, during the 60s. Published by Little, Brown before. Explores the nuances of English from a self-taught immigrant, and a family of prodigies seen through his acerbic and sometimes naive letters. Even explains why irregardless is wrong, and chastises Joel for his VW bug.
5. Cardozo's The Nature of the Judicial Process (also on Amazon main site), featuring new Foreword by Andrew Kaufman, law professor at Harvard and his premier biographer. Just out and should be the standard work since it is much more legible and modern than the original Yale print run but still embeds its page numbers for citing. Includes photographs and interesting bio information on Cardozo. Does not engage the question whether Cardozo was the first Hispanic Justice, though Kaufman has been interviewed on that. Cardozo looks like Conan. Kaufman, who was punctual as all get out and kind, is shown left. He is on-topic for the blog, since he wrote the first casebook on legal ethics in the U.S.
6. My own The Annotated Common Law (also on Amazon), adding some 200 notes to Holmes's classic book, to decode and demystify it. Translates Latin and Greek but mostly makes it modern, in both the print presentation and in bringing his phrasings up to date. Also defines legal terms and updates legal concepts so even nonlawyers and history buffs would read this with a clear understanding. Most versions of this book are hard to read in content and even in presentation; the digital books had been error-ridden nightmares. Includes my
7. An unannotated basic, cheap paperback of Holmes but with my Foreword, plus the modern but accurate presentation and embedded pagination missing in most versions, online or print. The Foreword author's most recent book is the coauthored treatise, Federal Standards of Review, 4th ed. 2010, LexisNexis Co., a link to which Lipshaw declared, "That's a 'spensive mother." True, for the Lexis treatise, though the basic The Common Law is like $13, better than most on Amazon; also on Amazon here.
Also from blogging before but now in paperback on Amazon: 1. my students' ethics survey, Hot Topics In The Legal Profession; 2. Kadish & Kadish, Discretion to Disobey; 3. Kitty Calavita, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration and the INS; 4. Joel Handler, Law and the Search for Community; 5. Peter Gabel's CLS essays, The Bank Teller; and 6. Auerbach's Jacob's Voices. Dean, that is how I spent my summer.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
In which I finally join the Luddite Party despite our destiny to lose elections because of the unwillingness to employ "new media" methods. Twitter's Entire Archive Headed to the Library of Congress, or Library of Congress to House Entire Twitter Archive. [Alan Childress]
Monday, February 22, 2010
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
Anita Bernstein (Brooklyn, left) is a guest blogger over at our sister Torts Prof Blog and has an interesting take on whether and how to mix professional responsibility into the torts class. (HT: Sheila Scheuerman)
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Posted by Alan Childress
Just opened and already clever, the blog of the state bar of Michigan offers "comment, news and issues of interest to Michigan lawyers" plus really to many of us not so blessed. Why blog when you cannot legally take positions except on core legal profession matters? Well,
[W]ho better to compile a daily quick summary of news and observations on issues of immediate interest to Michigan lawyers than an organization that has a close and constant view of both the national picture and local and specialty bars in Michigan, as well as of the work of the Michigan Supreme Court, legislature, and governor’s office?
One of the first posts, Score One for the Maize and Blue, describes an exchange in the U.S. Supreme Court that actually must touch about five of Jeff Lipshaw's sweet spots: the oral argument...
...piqued the interest of the lexophiles on the Court when he described a Justice Kennedy hypothetical as a valid issue for future cases but “entirely orthogonal to the issue at hand.”
Roberts: “I’m sorry. Entirely what?... What was that adjective? I liked that?"
Scalia: “I think we should use that in the opinion…or the dissent.”
Of course, we in Michigan all know that orthogonal means “at right angles,” having walked across the orthogon on campus many times.
My own sweet spot is hit when imagining C.J. Roberts saying the above in the droll southern voice of Fred Gwynne: Say what? The two what? Did you say yoots?
Fred was actually a Harvard grad playing a Yale grad.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
Mark Edwards (William Mitchell, left), a guest blogger at Concurring Opinions, has an interesting post on the recent fire sale disposition of the Silverdome, the former home of the Detroit Lions, primarily on the subject of bargaining power between landlords and tenants, and the importation of contract law principles into residential and commercial leasing. Mark commented on the "Michigan" aspect of the Silverdome's decline, and I felt a personal tug, because I'm a Michigander born and bred, still own a home there, and I started kindergarten at the Herrington School about a mile from the Silverdome, in a little neighborhood just across Featherstone Road from what many years later would become the site of the Silverdome. I wrote a comment over there I'm re-posting in large part here, because there is, it turns out, something kind of Michigan about the problem.
Mark suggests that the Silverdome problem has to do with the commercial power of the tenant, but I see it somewhat differently. It strikes me that it arises because of the non-fungible and substantial fixed nature of the asset (which indeed was dictated by the tenant at the outset). You could have a very powerful tenant in an attractive office building in mid-town Manhattan, able to dictate terms versus the owner, and not have the Silverdome problem. You could also have a smaller building and not have the Silverdome problem (I see a lot of restaurants that clearly used to be A&W Root Beer Drive-Ins.)
If there is something particularly “Michigan” about the Silverdome problem, it’s the problem of dealing with the redeployment of large fixed assets when the forces of creative destruction take down an industry. As a former executive in the chemical industry, I can attest to the dilemma of the rational impulse to continue to operate fixed assets, even when they are not returning their total costs, because, in the short term, there is a marginal return on the marginal cost. It’s Microeconomics 101 – you operate at a loss on total costs until you reach the shutdown point of no marginal profit. If it were just one chemical plant sitting somewhere that has been made non-competitive (somewhere after not returning total costs and extending to shutdown), it would be unsightly, and the owners would have taken the loss, but it wouldn’t be a crisis. It’s a crisis in Michigan because it’s happened to an entire industry at the same time.
It’s also not the first time it’s happened to an industry in Michigan. Take a drive some time around the Keweenaw Peninsula, the part of the U.P. that juts into Lake Superior. Calumet, Michigan and the surrounding township used to have 25,000 people there, mining copper. I think about a thousand live there now. Copper Harbor, at the very tip of the peninsula, still has street grids laid out.
Nor is it unique to Michigan – see steel towns in Pennsylvania, mills and factories in Massachusetts. But I’m not sure anything has ever compared to the auto industry in terms of the dependence of whole regions and nations. During the Chrysler bailouts of the 1980s, I remember hearing George Will, supporting the idea, say that something like one-sixth of the U.S. GDP was related to the auto industry.