Saturday, January 5, 2013
Based on no scientific research whatsoever, I am convinced that the most frequently abandoned property in the United States is exercise equipment -- and the king of abandoned excercise equipment is the Nordic Track. Moreover, I am convinced that abandoned Nordic Tracks begin sprouting like crocuses, curbside, every Fall -- just as my 1Ls are learning about abandoned property. I consider them a godsend. In September, I can always count on a quick search of free stuff on Craigslist to provide me with ready examples.
My surmise is that people buy them right about now, after they have made New Year's resolutions to exercise FOR-REAL-THIS-YEAR-I-MEAN-IT. They try it out once or twice, keep meaning to use it again, start covering it with clothes, and about nine months later realize they bought a very expensive and unwieldy clothes rack. Come Fall, it's time to face the truth and get rid of the thing.
The students always get a kick out of it and so do I -- until the day, that is, one of my students approached me after class and told me her grandfather was the inventor of the Nordic Track.
But, at least I was able to tell her I spoke from experience. I've got a Nordic Track in my garage if anyone wants it -- FREE -- to help with that New Year's resolution!
Mark A. Edwards
Friday, January 4, 2013
Jordi Sanchez-Cuenca looks at ariel pictures of Mexico City and decides that the metropolis is the world's best labratory to examine the consequences of street grids and planning. Its 20 million residents live in neighborhoods based on an incredible variety of street plans. A few more photos after the jump.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
I spent two weeks in Oklahoma City during the Winter Break. It's a wonderful place full of good restaurants, warm people, and interesting shopping. For those who don't follow politics in fly-over country, Oklahoma is also one of the "reddest" areas in the country. Mitt Romney won EVERY COUNTY in 2012. McCain won every county in 2008. Hell, George Bush won every county in 2004.
Given this, it's worth noting that Oklahoma City is in the middle of an Urbanist renaissance. In the last 15 years, the city has built a 15,000-seat downtown ballpark; constructed a new downtown library; built a pedestrian-friendly entertainment district; developed a trolley transit system; integrated the North Canadian River into the city, redesigned the sidewalks and public spaces downtown, and moved the interstate out of the center city in order to build a park(!).
And what's truly fascinating is that most of these improvements have been paid for with tax increases. In 1993, citizens voted to approve a penny sales tax (in one of the most anti-tax jurisdictions in the country) to pay for these defined capital projects that help to increase density and urban living.
I mention this because I sometimes get the feeling that people think the urbanist agenda stops somewhere around the Mississippi River and doesn't pick up again until you pass Las Vegas, or that it only applies to places that have subways. But this is wrong. There are a lot of places in the middle of the country (like Oklahoma City) that are ripe for more creative thinking about land use and urban policy. Sure, people there will always love their cars (and really, it's just too damn hot to walk) but there's a lot of low hanging fruit to reap for young lawyers and planners willing to live outside of the I-95 corridor.
(Image: Oklahoma City's Bricktown Neighborhood)
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Rand Simberg looks at the basic issues:
Despite the progress in technology, and the appeal of valuable resources, space settlement has been hampered by the lack of a clearly defined legal regime for recognizing property rights in space under current U.S. and international law. There is in fact some slight internationally recognized legal precedent for retaining ownership of resources mined in space, as lunar samples returned to Earth on both U.S. and Soviet missions (the latter robotically) have been exchanged for other tokens of value. But actually owning the portion of the celestial body from which the resources are harvested — as in a traditional mining claim — is more problematic. Without legally recognized rights to buy, own, and sell titled property, it is difficult if not impossible to raise capital to develop land or extract the resources it holds. Property rights have long been considered one of the pillars of prosperity in the modern world, and their absence in space — due to the contingencies of the history of international law during the early space age — partly explains why we have not yet developed that final frontier.
(HT: Andrew Sullivan)
Robin Craig (Utah) has posted Treating Offshore Submerged Lands as Public Lands: An Historical Perspective (Public Land & Resources Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
President Harry Truman proclaimed federal control over the United
States’s continental shelf in 1945, he did so primarily to secure the
energy resources — oil and gas — embedded in those submerged lands.
Nevertheless, the mineral wealth of the continental shelf spurred two
critical legal battles over their control and disposition: First,
whether the federal government had any interest in the first three miles
of continental shelf; and second, if so, whether the federal government
had authority to regulate the continental shelf under traditional
federal public land laws, such as the Minerals Leasing Act. Congress’s
reactions to federal courts’ resolutions of these questions, embodied in
1953 in the Submerged Lands Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands
Act, continue to provide the foundations for state and federal
management of the nation’s continental shelf and its energy resources.
Nevertheless, the Outer Continental Shelf’s status as federal public lands remains ambiguous. This Article takes an historical approach to assessing that issue, reviewing the traditional definition of federal “public lands” and the historical context of the public lands issues that arose for the Outer Continental Shelf. It concludes that the Outer Continental Shelf, from a natural resources perspective, qualifies as the newest of the federal public lands, but it also acknowledges that — unlike for many other public lands — federal statutes repeatedly and consistently exclude the states from gaining ownership of those submerged lands.
Monday, December 31, 2012
I don't know what to say about the idea that the lichen which grow on gravestones in the Northeast are biologically immortal.
That's. Just. Poetically. Awesome.
(By the way, anybody recognize the cemetery in the above picture? I'm channeling Al Brophy.)
...if you have $500,000 to invest in a commercial enterprise in a targeted employment area ($1,000,000 in a non-targeted area), and plan to create at least ten permanent full time jobs for qualified US workers, then you may be in luck.
The New York Times has a story about the EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa program today, and the investment that it has spurred in a remote part of Vermont, described by the developer as the "biggest economic development project Vermont has ever seen." Promising to create 10,000 new jobs, the price tag on the construction spree is $865 million.
What's really interesting is how the project got financed. The lead developers are investing $90 million, and they have raised $275 million for the first phase of the project from 550 foreign investors in 60 countries. Phase II will require an additional 1,000 investors willing to invest $550 million. Those investors are seeking a green card through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program. Around since 1990, the program has been particularly popular with hotel developers since the financial crisis put a crunch of commercial real estate loans in 2008. Developers particularly appreciate that EB-5 investors are focused on more than the profitability of the project. As one observer put it bluntly: “Foreigners are buying visas and are much less concerned about the rate of return they earn on their investment,” said David Loeb, a senior analyst at Robert W. Baird.
Although the program is not limited to investments in real estate, investments in commercial real estate have been a popular mechanism for gaining the EB-5 visa. Companies have sprung up to help vet real estate investments and assist potential investors in navigating the process. For example, one company advertises on its website: "American Life offers secure real estate investments to local and immigrant investors ... You make an investment that also qualifies for an EB-5 immigrant visa and we provide the necessary services and information required to obtain your U.S. green card."
The creative financing employed by the Vermont developers is still fairly unusual, but the program that they are leveraging has been growing rapidly. According to the Times, in 2006 the government issued 802 EB-5 visas. In 2011, it issued 7,818. There is an annual limit of 10,000 EB-5 visas.
So, if you have always wanted a U.S. green card and have an extra $500,000 or $1,000,000 lying around, you probably want to act quickly in 2013 before the EB-5 visas run out.
Brandon Martin-Anderson, a graduate student at MIT, thought that roads, state borders, and topographical features cluttered otherwise informative maps of population density in the USA.
In response he took block data from the 2010 Census and converted the USA's population into points on a map. That's right: The map shows one point for every person in the country, and nothing else. The result is very cool:
The original, full map on Martin-Anderson's website is fully zoomable down to . Check it out here.
Thomas Gallanis (Iowa) & Josephine Gittler (Iowa) have posted Family Caregiving and the Law of Succession: A Proposal (Michigan Journal of Law Reform) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
As the American population ages, the need for long-term care, already great, will become even greater. Some of this care is paid for by government programs, such as Medicaid, and by individual long-term care insurance policies. But the combination of the public fisc and private insurance are, and will continue to be, insufficient to pay for all of the care our seniors and adults with disabilities need. The provision of care in a family residence by one or more family members is an important component of our health care delivery system and must be supported and encouraged by public policy and law. As experts in the law of estate planning and health care, respectively, we address in this Article the following question: How might the American law of succession realistically recognize, support, and promote family caregiving? Our answer is a pragmatic proposal that can be adopted into the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). We propose a modified elective share for a family member who has provided the decedent with substantial uncompensated care in a family residence. (In this context, “family member” excludes the decedent’s surviving spouse, because the UPC already provides a spousal share.) Our approach contrasts with the prevailing law in the U.S., which treats personal services rendered by family members as gratuitous, hence not compensable. The scope and amount of the caregiver’s elective share can be structured by way of analogy to the surviving spouse’s elective share, though with important differences, as we discuss herein.