The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

An unhappy bar review course customer
Tom Smith

What we have here is an unhappy bar review course buyer. 

Recent law school grads prepping for the bar certainly do present a juicy target for vendors.  It's a classic case of the buyers knowing they need something, but not knowing exactly what it is.

I reviewed for the bar in the worst way possible, by not doing so.  I had been out of law school for a couple of years when I took it, and was working full time in DC as an RR policy wonk.  I really did not feel like studying for it.  I put it off to the last weekend before the test, then watched a Bonanza TV marathon for most of the time alotted instead.  I think I had some issues I was working out.  While there is a lot of ethics in Bonanza, there is not a lot of law.   Fortunately, it was the Pennsylvania bar, a notably easy one, so I passed, but it was a very unpleasant experience having to reconstruct Anglo-American law from first principles before each multi-state question. The people who say study hard for the bar are right, especially if you are in California or New York.

May 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Kettlebells
Tom Smith

A kettlebell blog.  I'm thinking of buying some.  They do seem to provide an excellent workout, and you can do one in very little time.  But you have to be very careful about technique, as you can really hurt your back if you do it wrong.

May 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

The iPhone
Mike Rappaport

The New York Times reports:

After almost a year of strong sales that have made it one of the dominant smartphones in the United States, the iPhone has settled down to a less-than-spectacular pace: roughly 600,000 units a month, according to the company.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., had shipped about 5.5 million phones by the end of March, the most recent figures it has released. It sold just 1.7 million phones in the first three months of this year, meaning it must sell more than 8 million phones to reach Mr. Jobs’s publicly stated goal of selling 10 million iPhones in 2008.

I bet you Apple could sell a lot more iPhones if it distributed them through other companies.  I would buy one in a second, but I don't want ATT.  Make it available with Verizon and I'm there.

May 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

You gotta love it
Mike Rappaport

This is really cool:

Two monkeys with tiny sensors in their brains have learned to control a prosthetic arm with only their thoughts, using it to reach for and grab food and even to adjust for the size and stickiness of morsels when necessary, scientists reported Wednesday.

Its almost enough to make you believe in the singularity.  Well, not really.  But it is cool.

May 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Freeman Dyson on Global Warming
Mike Rappaport

Quite an interesting and powerful article by Freeman Dyson critiquing the conventional view of global warming and its "solution."  I strongly recommend it.

I should say that I was surprised to see the review in the New York Review of Books.  Kudos to the Review for publishing this!

Hat tip: Instapundit.

May 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Affronts to human dignity
Tom Smith

Steven Pinker's provocative screed against "conservative bioethics" has got me thinking, though perhaps not in a very serious way. (hat tip to our own Professor Rappaport.) Pinker damagingly quotes Leon Kass on one affront to human dignity:

Worst of all [Kass writes] from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone--a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive. ... Eating on the street--even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat--displays [a] lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. ... Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. ... This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if we feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior.

Some people are really weird about eating.  One of my best friends at Oxford would have sex with anything that moved, but would not endure my descriptions of escargot in a butter and garlic sauce, which he regarded as obscene.  Not the snails either, but all that butter. Don't ask me.  Melted butter may be indulgent, but it's a lot less icky in my view than sex with the usual representative of the minor nobility.

But that is not my point.  My point rather is that as long as we are listing things that are inconsistent with human dignity, let us get a few other more important affronts than ice cream cone licking on the list.  I intend to be candid here, so I advise the easily offended to stop reading and go back to your linguine in clam sauce (another offender) right now. 

So then, to begin, Jack Nicholson running around without his shirt on is inconsistent with human dignity, as is showing one's manboobs generally.  An ethical system that gives us some sort of argument to prohibit this sort of thing has something to be said for it, and this has to be weighed against Pinker's criticisms.  Indeed, rare are the occasions when men should go around without their shirts on.  If a man is buff, he is showing off, and if he isn't, he is affronting human dignity.  Just by going to a place such as St. Bart's, you are taking risks with human dignity.  Many years ago, when as an associate at a big law firm I thought I was making a lot of money, LWJ and I went to St. Bart's, a French island in the Caribbean  where French people and some deluded Americans indulge in nude bathing.  There were affronts to human dignity everywhere one turned practically.  For example, old and presumably rich French men with their young and beautiful girlfriends, both on the beach, and both as naked as the considerably separate days on which they were born, and one of them affronting human dignity for all he was worth, which I hope for her sake was a lot.  The wine there is really good though.

Many tattoos are affronts to human dignity. 

I consider the goatee very often an affront to human dignity, especially if combined with a pickup truck.  If you drive a pickup, please do not sport a goatee. Tattoos, goatees and pickup trucks together are a dangerous combination and almost certainly immoral.

Yammering vacantly on your cellphone within the hearing of others or while driving is an affront to human dignity.  Locutions such as "I saw her at the mall and she was like so totally cute" are an affront to human dignity, especially if spoken on a cell phone.

I don't see what the big deal is with cats.  Cats have feline dignity.  I think the way they eat is fine.  Kass needs to rethink his position on how cats eat.

Nearly everything gangsta is an affront to human dignity.  Recently my teenage boys and I ate at an In N Out burger in a poorer section of San Diego.  Some young gentlemen seated next to us were affecting a gangsta style of dress and conversation.  I asked my sons "So would you say those guys are 'gansta'?"  "Don't say that!" they hissed at me. "What, 'gansta'?" I said.  More wincing and hissing.  "Yes, that!"  I was having so much fun I could barely stand it.    If you want to see a real gansta and get some really good food, check out Pete's BBQ on Sports Arena.  People of every sort eat there because the food is so good.  Do not make fun of the ganstas at Pete Phil's BBQ, or you may find your human dignity being affronted.  Gangstas have human dignity and you want to make sure you respect it.  And their ho's too.

May 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

More on Not Voting for McCain
Mike Rappaport

Via Instapundit, Rachel Lucas writes:

We’re done with Bush now and we’re getting a new president. And it’s probably going to be Obama because so many people who otherwise could prevent that outcome simply won’t do it because McCain doesn’t say what they want him to say about whatever their pet cause is. It doesn’t matter to these people that there is no “Reagan” waiting in the wings to take over after Obama pulls a Jimmy Carter on the country.

We don't know who will be available 4 years from now.  But one good way to make sure there is no Reagan is to elect John McCain, who will not only govern badly, but will also make it hard for the Republicans to have any principles. 

Notice how Lucas turns issues of principles into "pet causes."   That is absurd.  But she's right about one thing.  Her post does treat principles as the equivalent of "pet causes."

So, in response to Rachel Lucas, right back at you: "I think your plan is shitty."

May 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Coburn on Becoming Republicans Again
Mike Rappaport

Tom Coburn gets this right:

Becoming Republicans again will require us to come to grips with what has ailed our party – namely, the triumph of big-government Republicanism and failed experiments like the K Street Project and "compassionate conservatism." If the goal of the K Street Project was to earmark and fund raise our way to a filibuster-proof "governing" majority, the goal of "compassionate conservatism" was to spend our way to a governing majority.

While Coburn recommends John McCain, the problem is that becoming Republicans also requires that Republicans not attempt to regulate the economy each time some entity does something one doesn't like or understand.

May 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pinker on Kass
Mike Rappaport

This critique by Stephen Pinker of Leon Kass and his use of dignity as a limit on science to improve the human condition seems right on target to me.  I had written a post about it, but it was somehow lost, so a briefer version will have to do.  I haven't read very much Kass, so I was scared that Pinker's criticism might be unfair.  But this defense of Kass by Larry Arnharat, whose blog I very much like, is so weak, that it lend credence to Pinker's criticism.  I particularly like Pinker's analysis of dignity as relative, fungible, and harmful.

May 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oil: Free Markets and Regulation
Mike Rappaport

For those who can remember before the Reagan presidency, the nation then had some problems with oil prices as well.  Back in those days, free market principles were understood even less than they are today.  So one had a system of price controls and other regulations in place, but that didn't stop people from blaming markets and the capitalist system for the gas lines and the high prices that the regulations caused.  These people were sort of like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but with more fire. 

These days, it seems like the oil markets -- in the United States, of course, not with OPEC -- are reasonably free, but it is not true.  And the restrictions are significant.  As Powerline reported,

According to the Department of the Interior, 62 percent of all on-shore federal lands are off limits to oil and gas developments, with restrictions applying to 92 percent of all federal lands. We have an outer continental shelf moratorium on the Atlantic Ocean, an outer continental shelf moratorium on the Pacific Ocean, an outer continental shelf moratorium on the eastern Gulf of Mexico, congressional bans on on-shore oil and gas activities in specific areas of the Rockies and Alaska, and even a congressional ban on doing an analysis of the resource potential for oil and gas in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The Argonne National Laboratory did a report in 2004 that identified 40 specific federal policy areas that halt, limit, delay or restrict natural gas projects. I urge you to review it. It is a long list. If I may, I offer it today if you would like to include it in the record.

And, of course, these restrictions do not even mention the limits on nuclear power that are imposed in this nation, not to mention oil refining.  One could go on, but you get the picture.

It is, of course, environmentalists and Democrats who are behind these and other restrictions.  These groups do have their own solutions to these problems.  It is simple:  more taxes.

I wonder how close to energy independence the nation would be if all of these sources were allowed.  My guess is that we would be pretty darn close.

I should add that I am not necessarily recommending energy independence.  I am not sure what it would involve.  It sounds like a nationalist/mercantilist type of program.  But the point is that there would be a lot more oil available if these  sources were made available.  Now why aren't we discussing that?

The answer, unfortunately, is pretty obvious.  All of the Presidential candidates -- McCain and the Democrats -- appear to favor these restrictions.

It is looking more like the 70s every day.

Update: I left my name off by mistake. 

May 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)