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Meet Entitlement Eric - Robot Pimp

Wherein I Solve World Peace - Lampshade, Esq.

A Necessary Delusion - Shadow Hand

Do you even need to shave overhead? - Lawyerlite

LSAT Jenga - Publius Picasso

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Constitutional Daily

Crazy Uncle Ron Doesn't Understand Crimea

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In a USA Today op-ed, Ron Paul asks why the United States should care about what's going on in Crimea:

What's the big deal? Opponents of the Crimea vote like to point to the illegality of the referendum. But self-determination is a centerpiece of international law. Article I of the United Nations Charter points out clearly that the purpose of the U.N. is to "develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

Why does the U.S. care which flag will be hoisted on a small piece of land thousands of miles away?

If you read most mainstream news coverage of the Crimea referendum, you've probably heard about the 97%+ vote in favor of joining Russia, and how the vote was probably rigged or otherwise influenced by the occupying Russian army. Ron Paul argues that the illegitimacy of the vote shouldn't matter:

Critics point to the Russian "occupation" of Crimea as evidence that no fair vote could have taken place. Where were these people when an election held in an Iraq occupied by U.S. troops was called a "triumph of democracy"?

Just, wow, holy shitballs, where to start...

Yes, both regions were occupied by a foreign invader. Here's the differences:

(1) Iraq was being asked to whether or not to become a member of the nation that just invaded it.

(2) The options in Iraq weren't, "Would you prefer to be ruled by a governor appointed by George W. Bush, or to break into half a dozen smaller autonomous nations?"

You see, in the Crimean referendum the choices were only to join Russia or to become autonomous. The decision to maintain the status quo as part of Ukraine was taken off the table, which is why the vote was so skewed towards joining Russia -- people who wanted to stay in the Ukraine decided not to vote as a form of protest.

 

Now all that aside, there still is the question why we should care if people decide to secede from their nation. And to answer that question we can go back 150 or so years to Abraham Lincoln and the years leading up to the Civil War.

In numerous speeches Lincoln talked about preserving the Union, and the reason wasn't just that the United States is so awesome. To Lincoln the preservation of the Union meant something much greater, it meant the survival of democracy and the rule of law. If secession became the mechanism by which nations resolved major disputes the nation would soon fall completely apart. The North and South would split, then New England may split from the rest of the North (an idea that had been contemplated there before the war). Rich areas would secede when they decided they didn't want to support poor areas. States would split off over abortion, the death penalty, health care, social security, war votes, defense spending, any number of things. With more small nations with competing interests we'd see the kinds of local conflicts predicted by the authors of the Federalist Papers, and we'd devolve into warring city states until an authoritarian empire invaded.

That's why we care about self-determination going to the point of secession.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

Against Loan Forgiveness

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This White House petition just came to our attention resulting in a massive headdesk:

The Presidents proposed 2015 Budget includes a provision that will change the Public Interest Loan Forgiveness (PILF) program by capping overall forgiveness to $57,500. This change only hurts the hard working employees who work by serving their community often in low-wage jobs. These individuals' student loan amounts often exceed the cap as they consist of people with more than a college degree: Social Workers, Speech Pathologists, Lawyers, etc. These dedicated public servants chose to work for the public good with the added promise that their dedicated service of 10 years would be rewarded with complete loan forgiveness, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them by a misstep by the administration. Please sign this petition and support those who work to help you.

This is just another case of special snowflake syndrome, but not the way you think. The people calling for loan forgiveness are absolutely right that education is way too expensive and if you have to use debt to finance your education you'd be unable to take low paying public interest jobs. They're not asking for loan forgiveness because of a sense of entitlement, they're asking for it because they want to be public servants and they don't see any other way of doing it with their debt loads.

It's special snowflake syndrome because it fails to ask a very simple question: How does this affect other people?

Loan forgiveness programs present the college-bound with a very enticing narrative: Either you'll make a lot of money in the private sector and your loans won't be a problem, or if you don't get such a job you can go into the public sector and your loans won't be a problem. Either way you do not need to care about how large your loans are. And when customers don't care how much they have to pay, prices skyrocket.

And that royally fucks things up for the folks starting college after you. Tuition keeps rising and when they enter the workforce fewer of those private sector jobs will cover their debt. That increases competition for public interest programs and that competition means there's too many high-debt grads for the number of jobs. Now you've got people with huge debtloads who can't pay them off.

Just to kick the folks behind you in line while they're already down, the more of your loans that you get forgiven, the less money there is to go around for everything else, and the less popular these forgiveness programs become, making it increasingly likely that we'll have to either lower the amount available or get rid of the forgiveness entirely.

 

The better alternative to loan forgiveness is increased wages. If your job pays (after taxes) $30,000 and gives you $10,000 in loan forgiveness that's exactly the same as paying you $40k and letting you give the bank $10k. Bank gets paid the same and you have the same money left over.

What's different though are the incentives. If you're going to be making $40k no matter how high your loans are, you're going to seriously consider keeping them low. Price competition among universities helps to bring down the cost for everyone, so bam, you've already done a tremendous public service even before you've graduated.

Funneling the money into salaries also allows public sector jobs to attract better employees. By having so much of the compensation tied up in loan forgiveness the jobs attract people with lots of debt while people with high debt will tend to look elsewhere. Now this is just going to be a general trend, but we're willing to bet that people who graduate with little debt are more likely to be desirable employees. People who got scholarships tend to be pretty bright, people who worked to pay their way have experience, and people whose parents paid out of pocket have parents who can donate to the public interest organizations their kids are working for (and have friends that can be hit up for donations as well).

So, people with debt aren't any worse off, people without debt are better off, there's an incentive to keep your costs under control so you're better off, and keeping costs under control helps everyone else. Who's hurt by this? People with above average debt. If the money is moved into salaries, people aren't being compensated based on their debt, so people with a ton of debt are now worse off. ...Tough? It's certainly not a perfect system, and governing means making choices, picking winners and losers. Sure there will be some losers, people who were previously winners in the system, but the current plan of debt forgiveness just makes the entire game stink.

All I Want For Christmas Is To Sue

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It's not even Iron Bowl (ie: Thanksgiving) weekend yet, but apparently the Christmas season has already started. Of course, for those of you with jobs, the Christmas season started with Q4 when you looked at how far you were from reaching your annual billable hour target.

But, there's a cold front hitting New England and the Mid-Atlantic, and snowflakes have been spotted in Philly -- and we don't just mean the newest crop of students who think they'll beat the law school employment odds. Actual, melt on the ground, not melt-down in your class snowflakes. So, I guess that means it's Christmas Law Revue video season.

And by season, we mean one video from some kids at Syracuse Law. Enjoy:

We also would have liked: All I Want For Christmas Are Two Vacant Seats (on the Supreme Court)

Gives a new meaning to "Bang on the drum all day."

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Millennials are shallow, lazy, entitled, self-centered, delusional, trophy brats. They expect to be given great jobs right out of college when they've got zero experience and have not yet put in any of the hard work (except for the last 16 years of hard work, but no credit for time served). And they expect that great job to come with a pile of money (after adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage has dropped 20% over the last 40 years, and Gen Y is entering the workforce with $25,000+ of debt). It's like these damn kids think they don't have to spend the first two years of their careers fetching coffee and doing grunt administrative work for free (something never before expected of any generation).

So if Gen Y is busy tweeting their entitled attitudes during their lunch break (which was supposed to be spent working, you bums!), just what is the incredibly industrious Boomer generation doing all day?

Turns out they're looking at porn.

And they're bad at it.

A survey of 200 IT professionals found that 40% had to spend time removing malware from an executives computer which was downloaded by clicking a malicious link on a porn website. There are laptops, and tablets, and loads of free porn websites that are free of malware, so the Boomer executives (that's right, executives) aren't just wasting their time at work looking at porn, they don't even understand how computers or the internet works.

It's not just the folks who accidentally dropped their little blue pills into their morning coffee either. 56% of IT professionals said that executives had downloaded malware by clicking on a link on a phishing e-mail. Another 45% found malware that got there because the executive let a family member use their work computer -- and assuming they're not lying, that means the family member was smart enough to do all their dirty work on someone else's device. Perhaps the wrong person is in the boss's chair.

So, maybe Millennials are lazy and entitled, but they're at least modest about it. They want to be paid to do a job. Boomers want to be paid 270x as much to watch porn.

The National Intelligence Law Job Opening You Didn't Need Illegal Surveillance To See Coming

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Remember when Senator Ron Wyden as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" And James Clapper answered "No, sir." Remember that?

Then it came out that the NSA collects data about pretty much every communication that happens in the United States. And the NSA tried to argue that telephony metadata isn't data, because you know, it's metadata, even though Wyden said "any type of data," and metadata is a type of data. The NSA's argument would have been more plausible if they said telephony metadata isn't data because it's phoney.

With even more news about our government's extensive spy program coming out, people are pissed off and calling for heads to roll. Specifically, Clapper's head and a charge of perjury for lying to Congress. A poll conducted in five states found a substantial majority of Americans want Clapper prosecuted, 69% in Kentucky, 68% in Texas and 65% in Iowa; even in the blue states of Hawai'i and California folks want Clapper behind bars, with 57% and 54% respectively supporting prosecution. [HuffPo]

So, it should come as no surprise that the federal job opening has a high-paying job available. No, it's not Director of National Intelligence. Not yet, at least. But as of last Tuesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is looking for legal counsel:

Major Duties and Responsibilities:

Provide expert legal advice and guidance to senior Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) leadership on complex areas of law affecting ODNI’s duties and responsibilities under the National Security Act, Presidential directives, Executive Orders, and other related laws and policies.  

Provide expert legal counsel to support the development, review, and preparation of United States (US) Government-wide and IC-wide policies, procedures, guidelines, rules, and standards.

Counsel clients, including senior ODNI leaders, on complex legal issues and provide innovative and highly effective guidance on possible courses of action; expertly prepare complex, high profile, and persuasive legal documents on complex legal issues for a variety of internal and external recipients.

[USAJobs]

Interestingly, the job appears to have zero qualifications other than U.S. Citizenship, a resume and a cover letter:

 

No mention of having attended law school, or passing a bar and having a law license, or experience in a relevant field, or even the typical X years at Y paygrade. None of that. For $150,000 a year, you'd think the government could afford to hire someone with at least a JD (though according to the Department of Education, if you have more than $96k in student loans, the $150k salary doesn't get you out of financial hardship, so maybe not). Maybe this is how Clapper got in trouble in the first place.

Hint: If you're called before Congress to testify, and are given the questions in advance, and one of the questions will require you to either perjure yourself or to disclose classified information, and a non-answer would in effect be disclosing classified information, you're allowed to request a closed session so that you can answer honestly without violating any laws.

Blind Drunk Justice, Season 4 - Episode 1

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It's baaaaack!

That's right kiddies, Blind Drunk Justice is back, but this time with a new co-host Orange Julius! (Because Namby Pamby is currently busy trying to rescue Philadelphia Lawyer from a Nazi castle on the Austrian-German border.)

In this episode BL1Y and Orange Jules alienate the Jewish community, the Syrian community, the gay community, the transgender community, the feminist community, the international maritime shipping community, the law school construction subcontractor community, and of course, Sovereign Citizens. Though to be honest, all of those are due to BL1Y, not Orange Julius, except for the Sovereign Citizens, that's all on OJ (lock your door, bro).

Stories include The Incredible Expanding Law School, China passing a law requiring their citizens to behave themselves while on vacation, and Syria.

You can check it out using the handy dandy player on the left side their (clear your cache if the playlist hasn't updated), or just click here to play it in a new window (or right click to download), or visit this page to download old episodes.

About that thing going on in Syria

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Here's what we know is going on in Syria: There's a rebellion that's been going on for about two and a half years. A ton of people have died, including a lot of civilians known to have been killed by the Assad regime. We also know that someone has used chemical weapons, it was probably Assad, but may have been the rebels, there may be some false flagging going on, and it may be the case that both sides have used chemical weapons.

Anyone who heard Obama's "red line" comments a while back would know that Syria using chemical weapons would be apparent regime suicide. Assad can possibly win a protracted civil war, but if the United States gets involved it's going to be game over for him, and chemical weapons have such a huge stigma that he should expect to gain many other opponents and lose any allies who are on the fence.

Of course, he probably has used chemical weapons, and ended up calling Obama's bluff. That's going to be deeply embarrassing for the President. Even if Congress does vote to strike, asking for permission to back up a threat makes him appear weak, so even the best case scenario for Obama is still pretty bad. There's a problem with this plot though -- it doesn't explain why Assad would use chemical weapons. What does he gain from embarrassing Obama, or even for making the US look like it won't back up its threats? It might embolden his supporters some, but that's a huge risk to take for what may be minimal gains.

There is the possibility that Assad is either stupid or desperate or desperately stupid, but at the international level you have to suspect that there's a larger strategy at work. Our Mentat is suffering from a dental emergency at the moment though, so we're going to have to turn to another angle of the Syria crisis, the legal angle.

 

Under international law, there are only two grounds for an attack against a foreign nation: Self Defense, and a United Nations Security Council resolution. With China and Russia holding veto power, such a resolution against Syria will never come, and a civil war in Syria poses no imminent threat to the United States. ...Political gymnastics aside, of course. Could a civil war result in chemical weapons slipping out of the country and into the hands of terrorists? Yes. Is destabilization in the Middle East something the United States should be worried about? Yes. But if that counts as a threat so imminent that an attack can be classified as self defense, then so could a preemptive strike against any leader who we thought might have sympathies with our opponents, along with a whole host of other very weak reasons, and self defense would become an utterly meaningless concept.

Doug Bandow, writing for the Cato Institute, pointed out another interesting legal angle to the Syrian conflict. As we all know, chemical weapons are banned under international treaties. What you might not know is that five nations have not signed on to that treaty: North Korea, South Sudan, Egypt, Angola, and yeup, Syria. (In South Sudan's defense, they're a new nation and maybe haven't gotten around to it yet.) In addition, Myanmar and Israel have signed it, but the treaty was not ratified by their national legislatures.

Since Syria hasn't signed on, that makes it very hard to argue that the United States should intervene solely because of the use of chemical weapons. Plenty of dictatorial regimes have killed their own civilians, and with a wide variety of weapons. Chemical weapons aren't even particularly deadly compared to other modern weapons. The high end estimate is about 1400 people killed with sarin in Syria. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it killed about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers without the use of chemical weapons. Since the invasion, over 20,000 coalition and Iraqi security forces have been killed -- without the use of chemical weapons.

And one last point... DMDNB, 2,3-dimethyl-2,3-dinitrobutane, the explosive in C4 and other plastic explosives, is a chemical, so the distinction really is a pretty silly one.

This is why we can't have nice things kept away from not nice things

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In New York City, real estate developers often cut deals with the local government in order to get zoning variances and tax breaks, and often what they have to give up is a slice of their profitability by providing a certain number of affordable apartments. A new development on the side of the Hudson River on the Upper West Side has just such an arrangement; developer Extell is making 55 out of the 219 units in its luxury condo building affordable. Condo owners have to shell out a minimum of a million dollars to live their, but the affordable units will go for as little as $845 a month.

So of course, Linda Rosenthal, who represents Manhattan in the State Assembly, wants to shut the project down. Why? Because the condo would have a separate entrance and elevator for the affordable units. Oh the humanity!

Speaking to the local Fox affiliate, Rosenthal said:

My question is, why do the affordable units have to be segregated apart from the condos that the wealthy can afford to buy?

Developers up and down the west side and across the city manage to inter-mingle the affordable units with the non-affordable units – it’s done everywhere. There’s no reason that there needs to be segregation.

Rosenthal's objection underscores the basic problem with government in the Big Apple. "What do they have to be segregated," "There's no reason that there needs to be segregation."

They don't have to do it, they choose to do it, and private citizens shouldn't have to justify their choices to a government niceness council. The government can rightly put certain stipulations on the zoning and tax perks, things like the units need to have windows, and a minimum size, and maybe some paint on the walls. But Rosenthal wants to go beyond that and use the building process as a way to ensure that poorer residents of New York City don't have to suffer the indignity of using a separate entrance from the rich folks.

Well here's a news flash Ms. Rosenthal: There already is a separate entrance. It's called the Triborough Bridge.

Stop and Frisk: Racist and Sexist Policy is Racist

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A New York Judge has finally slapped down the state's controversial Stop and Frisk policy on grounds that it violated the 4th and 14th Amendments was doubleplus ungood. ABA Journal coverage of the decision points out that racist underovertones to the policy:

In 52 percent of those 4.4 million stops, the person stopped was black, in 31 percent the person was Hispanic, and in 10 percent the person was white. Weapons were seized in 1 percent of the stops of blacks, 1.1 percent of the stops of Hispanics, and 1.4 percent of the stops of whites. Contraband other than weapons was seized in 1.8 percent of the stops of blacks, 1.7 percent of the stops of Hispanics, and 2.3 percent of the stops of whites.

Left out of the ABA Journal's coverage is that 92.8% of people stopped were male. Noticing this oversight, we poked around a few other law blogs to see what was going on in their coverage. Specifically we wanted to see what the coverage was like in feminist spaces since all the rage in feminism these days is about how The PatriarchyTM is also bad for men and feminism helps everyone, so come on, put on your This Is What A Feminist Looks Like t-shirt and become an ally! Nevermind that the label "allies" is necessarily describing someone in terms of otherness.

Predictably, Feminist Legal Theory, a blog run by some professors at UC Davis fails to have a single post discussing stop and frisk, though it has plenty of posts on race issues, BLTGI issues, and a couple on animal abuse. Feminist Law Prawfs, a site which counts virtually every Law and Gender/Women/Feminism professor among its contributors, likewise has no stop and frisk post. It does however have posts on racial discrimination, BLTGI issues, and yes, animal abuse. And that's in spite of its slogan, "Nearly all of us root for fairness, not for our own sex."

Of course some people will argue that it's okay to profile men because men are actually more prone towards violent crime -- doing the same for racial minorities is bad though, because the races are equal. (Nevermind that there's a link between poverty and violent crime and between race and poverty.) Stop and frisk is still getting it wrong. Women are stopped only 7% of the time, but are 20% of violent offenders. [BJS, Table 38]

And yet, we've heard no complaints about women being woefully underrepresented in stop and frisk incidents.

Let The Tax Debate Be Held In Secret

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As you may have heard from one of the not-quite-a-handful of media outlets that decided to cover the story, members of Congress working to reform the tax code have decided to conduct their negotiations in secret. [Click here for Daily Show coverage. We removed the video due to autoplay problems.]

Conducting major policy debates in secret strikes many people the wrong way, and rightfully so. Keeping the legislative process in the dark tends to fly in the face of the basic principles of democracy. And yet, we're going applaud our leaders in Washington for perhaps finally making a right call. Not that they'll come up with sensible tax reform, but conducting the process in secret is definitely the right way to do it.

The tax code is full of special interests and any attempt to debate it in public is going to be met with too much resistance, even from people who would gladly accept system-wide reform. If each provision is put up for debate on its own, its supporters will fight for it tooth and nail, and the process quickly becomes gridlocked with no representative daring to offer up his constituents' interests in exchange for someone else's.

The idea that policy debates which involve a multitude of issues none of which seem touchable should be conducted in private is hardly new. It's the same procedure that was used to craft a little piece of law you may know as THE CONSTITUTION. Whole lot of third rail issues there, the big states vs. little states, taxes, individual rights, the national debt, slavery. Members of the Constitutional Convention knew that they couldn't go on record as supporting any small bit of a compromise, but also that the nation would accept the entire package. So, James Madison took notes, and they were kept sealed for 50 years.

Democracy does require transparency, but that is satisfied by the entirety of the law being presented for open debate. All the provisions and compromises are included within the four corners of the bill, and the vote will be televised on the CSPANs. All that's left out is the ability to yell at your congressman for any one particular item.

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