That’s the question that came to my mind after reading this article in the Boston Herald about the effects of a bitterly contested presidential election on employee productivity. My colleague Paul Secunda is quoted in the article, noting that emotions are at an especially high level in this election year. And if the workplace is being affected, I’m guessing the classroom is, too.
Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I’ll be the first to admit I do not “get” tattoos. If you really want to show off that rebellious streak (or solidarity with the underclass, or unrestrained individualism, or whatever), there are many other ways to do so that are much less painful and permanent. When I see young people with prominent tattoos, I can’t help but think about the professional job opportunities they have foreclosed by making a permanent record of their youthful passions. But, according to an article in today’s New York TImes, my concerns may be misplaced:
In a mysterious and inexorable process that seems to transform all that is low culture into something high, permanent ink markings began creeping toward the traditional no-go zones for all kinds of people, past collar and cuffs, those twin lines of clothed demarcation that even now some tattoo artists are reluctant to cross.
Not entirely surprisingly, facial piercing followed suit.
Suddenly it is not just retro punks and hard-core rappers who look as if they’ve tossed over any intention of ever working a straight job.
Artists with prominent Chelsea galleries and thriving careers, practicing physicians, funeral directors, fashion models and stylists are turning up with more holes in their faces than nature provided, and all manner of marks on their throats and hands.
Two interesting things happened this weekend that led me to think a bit about sports, the need for identity, and conflict. Part One: As we are on our way this weekend to a baseball game between the Nationals and Padres (neither of which is a particularly important team to my Brewers-Mets-Pirates family), my three sons are discussing for which team they are rooting. My youngest announces that he is not rooting for any team but rather just going to enjoy the game (and the ice cream, popcorn, hot dogs, etc.) My other two boys tell him, rather forcefully, that he has to pick a side, he has to root for a team. “But why?” he asks. And he raises a good point. Continue reading “Sports Identity (and Why I Have to Take Down My Steelers Banner)”
The reaction is rightfully upset after reading news like this:
Up to 10,000 staff at the New York office of the bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers will share a bonus pool set aside for them that is worth $2.5bn (£1.4bn), Barclays Bank, which is buying the business, confirmed last night.
The revelation sparked fury among the workers’ former colleagues, Lehman’s 5,000 staff based in London, who currently have no idea how long they will go on receiving even their basic salaries, let alone any bonus payments. It also prompted a renewed backlash over the compensation culture in global finance, with critics claiming that many bankers receive pay and rewards that bore no relation to the job they had done.
Suzanne Vega has a fascinating essay over on the New York Times website about her song, “Tom’s Diner,” and its subsequent history, which is rich with details about the artistic creation process, how an artist reacts to an unauthorized remix, the burdens of licensing, and the history of MP3 files. “Tom’s Diner” was originally released as the lead track on her best-selling album (the one that had “Luka” on it). A few years later, a pair of studio engineers calling themselves “DNA” remixed Vega’s a cappella “Tom’s Diner” with instrumentals and a base beat, turning it into a dance track. They then printed up some vinyl records and began selling them, which attracted the attention of Vega’s label. But Vega herself liked the remix, and a licensing deal was struck. To Vega’s surprise, the remix took off and became a hit, three years after the original song was released.
And then there’s the story about how “Tom’s Diner” was used to create the MP3.
Representative Tom Tancredo has introduced something he calls the “Jihad Prevention Act.” The bill would exclude from admission into the United States of “[a]ny alien who fails to attest . . . that the alien will not advocate installing a Sharia law system in the United States . . . .” The bill raises a number of questions but the one that calls out to me is the question of the government’s interest in the religious beliefs of its citizens. Constitutional doctrine says that the state must make no religious decisions and treat all equally but, as I argue in a forthcoming paper (and I was hardly the first to notice), the government engages in all sorts of conduct that is calculated to shape the religious beliefs of its citizens, and there is probably no way to avoid that. Certain religious systems may well be incompatible with liberal democracy. Christian Dominionism may be one of them. Perhaps a form of Islam insisting upon Sharia law is another.
Does the government have an interest in discouraging the formation and spread of such beliefs? If so, what can it do to further that interest?
The second installment of the symposia celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Marquette Law School was convened earlier today. The same panel of scholars from the first session returned to discuss the period from 1908 to 1940. Joseph Ranney began by explaining how this time period saw the bureaucratization and professionalization of both legal education and the bar, and how these trends shaped the development of the Marquette Law School. In particular, Mr. Ranney noted the importance of the creation of the American Association of Law Schools, which sought to establish an accreditation process for law schools, and the transformation of law school faculties from exclusively part-time/adjunct professors to a combination of full-time and part-time/adjunct professors. Continue reading “Marquette Law School in the Early Twentieth Century”
At today’s faculty workshop, Robin Slocum, the Boden Visiting Professor Law, gave a fascinating presentation of her latest paper, entitled “The Dilemma of the Vengeful Client: A Prescriptive Framework for Cooling the Flames of Anger” (forthcoming in the Marquette Law Review). Noting that lawyers and the legal system can sometimes become weapons for vengeance in the hands of an angry client, Robin suggested that client counseling can help both the client and the lawyer achieve better outcomes in litigation and avoid the psychological and physiological costs of such vengeance-seeking activity. Effective client counseling, she argued, should focus on uncovering the thoughts and beliefs that underlie anger in order to identify the more rational aims of litigation. In addition, Robin suggested that law schools may consider adopting courses that build lawyers’ emotional competency to engage in this type of counseling.
There is an on-line book club discussion at PrawfsBlawg, organized by Matt Bodie (Saint Louis), about Steve Greenhouse’s new book: The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker. Yesterday, Steve himself responded to the comments made by the other participants in the book club. Here’s a taste:
For starters, I want to say that when I researched and wrote my book, The Big Squeeze, I saw that workers were suffering not just from one squeeze, but from several squeezes. There is of course an economic/financial squeeze with wages stagnating and health and pension benefits getting worse. Then there is a time squeeze with Americans working 1,804 hours a year on average — 135 hours or nearly three-and-a-half fulltime weeks more than the typical British worker, 240 hours or six fulltime weeks more than the typical French worker and nine fulltime weeks more than the typical German worker. (Those of you who answer work emails at 11 p.m. know what I’m talking about.) The United States is the only industrial nation without laws guaranteeing workers paid vacation, paid sick day and paid maternity leave. (In the 27 countries of the European Union, workers are guaranteed at least four weeks vacation.)
Good piece here from Ed Zelinsky (Cardozo) on the 401(k) aspect of the 2008 economic collapse from the Oxford University Press Blog:
Even as we contemplate the financial carnage of the Crash of 2008, the federal government sends a strong, paternalistic and, ultimately, misguided message to 401(k) participants: Invest your retirement savings in common stocks.
I address this question in a new paper I’ve just posted on SSRN entitled “Explaining Sentences.” Here is the gist of the paper. Since 2005, federal judges have had increased discretion to impose sentences below the range prescribed in the federal sentencing guidelines. Since the guidelines ranges are based almost entirely on the aggravating circumstances of the crime, defendants typically argue for below-range sentences based on mitigating personal circumstances (e.g., post-offense rehabilitation, effects of extended incarceration on innocent family members, positive record of military or other community service, mental illness, physical disability, age). Some precedent, perhaps most notably in the Seventh Circuit, indicates that sentencing judges should respond to such arguments even when they choose to impose a guidelines sentence, explaining to defendants why their arguments have been rejected. Other decisions, however, indicate that the sentencing judge need do little or nothing to explain a guidelines sentence. For instance, in Rita v. United States, the Supreme Court seemed to indicate it would suffice if the sentencing judge merely acknowledged the defendant’s arguments at some point somewhere on the record.
I think decisions like the one in Rita are unfortunate. Given what is at stake–often years of a person’s life–it seems a small enough imposition to require district court judges to explain themselves in a more thorough manner. Moreover, a robust explanation requirement may help to counteract the natural tendency of busy judges (as Judge Posner puts it) just “to impose the guidelines sentence and be done with it”–a practice that threatens to undermine the Supreme Court’s rejection of mandatory sentencing guidelines three years ago.
It’s a prevalent meme in contemporary copyright scholarship that the public domain is being “enclosed” by expansions in copyright law. Scholars point to many examples of this alleged expansion, including term extension, anticircumvention laws, and court decisions rejecting certain attempts to claim fair use. But one widespread source of complaint among copyright scholars is the idea that contracts are somehow being used to expand copyright owners’ rights. And the chief villain in this story is the decision that allegedly started it all, the Seventh Circuit’s own ProCD v. Zeidenberg, authored by Judge Frank Easterbrook.
I should note right off the bat that I am not quite so enamored of form agreements as Judge Easterbrook is. That much I probably share with my fellow copyright specialists. But I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that the case for contracts somehow expanding copyright rights is vastly overstated, and perhaps illusory. ProCD–with the exception of one overlooked wrinkle–is not the threat everyone seems to think it is.