Thursday, October 27, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
"Confessions of a Car Salesman".
Investigative journalism at its finest. While it was a close call versus Geraldo's opening of Capone's vault, I'll (controversially) rate this investigation superior on its discoveries.
Edmunds sent a writer into the bowels of car dealerships to generate an expose of their practices. In one sense, they got the expected--the shady tactics, the oily sales staff, the ethical lapses. In another, they got surprises--for example, humanization of some salespeople, sympathization with people caught in a dehumanizing grinder, and recognition of the honorable among the dishonorable.
This lengthy piece introduces the reader to the hiring process--including psychological tests. Questions about applicants' predilection towards booze and guns abounded. At one dealership, the mind games weren't limited to the printed page of the psych exam; they continued with varied (and creative) tests of one's assertiveness. For example, would you think 20+ phone calls would be intentionally ignored only for the 21st to result in a job offer? It did.
In addition, one interview involved a challenge to the applicant (the writer) to sell the interviewer on the merits of a .69 plastic pen. Deftly, the interviewee highlighted the handy storage capability for the cap, and the ability to see the status of the ink reservoir, among other things.
The writer actually worked undercover at two dealerships--one hard sell and the other "no haggle". The investigator illuminated how even the "no haggle" place maximizes its profits to the detriment of its customers.
You'll learn the lingo, the tricks, and strategies for avoiding being fleeced--along the way you'll be amazed and amused.
Read it for education, edification and entertainment. You will find all three there.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Da Vinci Debate: Let's Be Fair.
Time called Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code the novel that swallowed the world.
Critics call it the book that swallowed the truth.
In a sense, Brown has done a service. Regardless of one's position, he undeniably has brought Christological and theological issues to the forefront of culture that otherwise might have remained cloistered or ignored.
One need only look at the volume of magazine covers, newspaper articles, books, television shows, and the piece de resistance, the feature film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, to see that The Da Vinci Code has generated, and will continue to generate, unprecedented controversy about religious topics.
In the course of this (and all others for that matter) debate, I believe it's important to characterize fairly the other's positions. For example, the fine folks at In the Agora have provided a generally fair and useful summary of the points made in the book and their rebuttals. Moreover, the great La Shawn Barber is organizing a blog swarm to coincide with the run up to the film's release.
In addition to blogs, a veritable cottage industry of books responding to The Da Vinci Code has emerged. Revealing its thrust, one such book, entitled The Da Vinci Deception by Erwin W. Lutzer unfortunately does not adhere to the "fairness doctrine" as I have articulated it.
"It is not my intention to list all of the historical errors in The Da Vinci Code--that would be a lengthy list indeed. These false statements included: 'Jesus was a historical figure of staggering influence...(he) inspired millions' when he was here on earth and 'during three hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women." (E. Lutzer, The DaVinci Deception, p. xxi; emphasis supplied.)
Two problems. First, the author provides a single page citation in his endnote for this quotation (p. 125). However, turning to Brown's text, one discovers that Lutzer actually amalgamated two (2) separate quotations into a single thought and endnoted only one.
The second half of the quote beginning with "during three hundred..." does appear on page 125, but the first part does not. Instead, it is found on page 231 of The Da Vinci Code. This may simply be an error of editing or carelessness. But, it leads to a larger concern.
Second, Lutzer attributes a significant thought that does not appear in Brown's text. Even if one were to find the page to which Lutzer was referring, one ascertains that the words "when he was here on earth" do not appear in the cited Brown text.
Here's the full quote from The Da Vinci Code: "Jesus was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesized Messiah. Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions, and founded new philosophies. As a descendant of the lines of King Solomon and King David, Jesus possessed a rightful claim to the throne of the King of the Jews. Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land." (D. Brown, The Da Vinci Code, p. 231.)
In other words, Lutzer apparently wants to show that Brown is deceiving his readers into thinking that Jesus "inspired millions" while on earth, when any casual student of the New Testament and its milieu would know that Jesus did not encounter, let alone inspire, millions during his earthly ministry. That inspiration came later.
The glass house analogy comes to mind when one somewhat sanctimoniously titles his book The Da Vinci Deception, and then does not fairly or accurately characterizee the book it attacks as being deceptive.
I'll have some additional comments on the "It's a novel" versus "It's making historical claims" debate in part two.
Friday, October 21, 2005
At least he wasn't a fan of Warren Sapp, #99.
"A 27-year-old man demanded extra prison time because he wanted to honor his basketball hero, Larry Bird.
"A lawyer for Eric James Torpy reached a plea agreement with Oklahoma City prosecutors for a 30-year jail term on two charges of shooting with intent to kill and one count of a weapons violation, District Court Judge Ray Elliott said in a telephone interview.
"Torpy then insisted on getting 33 years to match the uniform number Bird wore when he led the Boston Celtics to three National Basketball Association championships during the 1980s, Elliott said. The judge on Oct. 18 accommodated his request.
"'He told his attorney that Larry Bird was his long-time hero, and that if he was going to go to prison he wanted to go down with that number,' Elliott said. " (HT: Bloomberg.com: U.S. via The Volokh Conspiracy.)
Imagine if he worshipped Warren Sapp, who plays adorned with number 99.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Rendering Unto Caesar.
Want to read others' tax returns? Think they might be revealing?
They are; they are also generally immune from discovery in lawsuits because they are too private.
However, presidents often have theirs publicized. Here is a site that has cataloged numerous tax returns for Presidents Bush, Clinton, Carter, Nixon, and FDR, and even Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates. (HT: Tax History Project.)
Check out the deductions that some took--the used underwear donations by Clinton are legendary. Also, President Bush's 2000 return shows a business gain of about $300, and a loss of $128 for rental real estate/partnerships. I'll enable the comments for you to include your own discoveries.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Curiouser and Curiouser.
Earlier, I litigated massive product liability cases. The cases often turned on the application of forum non conveniens. In sum, this doctrine presents factors for judges to determine whether the case should be transferred to another jurisdiction in the interests of justice (not mere convenience).
Counterintuitively, plaintiffs labored to have the case heard away their domiciles in the forum where the manufacturer resided. Conversely, the manufacturer fought to have the case transferred to the plaintiff's home court, often a foreign country.
On the surface, this seemed curious. Alice in Wonderland's famous line, "Curiouser and curiouser", received common quotation in the briefs. However, each side had its own subtextual motivations, such as application of more favorable law in the target jurisdiction and disruption of the other side's agenda.
Isn't it ironic that the so-called stealth candidate, Harriet Miers, has the clearest, most verifiable record against abortion of any recent nominee to the High Court?
Now, this disclosure will makes for some interesting contortions, much like those experienced in the forum non conveniens litigations. The left and the right might reverse their initial positions and oppose/support her depending on her obvious opposition to abortion.
Seems like a game of musical chairs might be in the offing.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Just this week, a bachelor lawyer in our office remarked that he was thinking of buying billboard space to advertise for a wife.
Thinking he was joking, I laughed.
Then, a couple of days later, I was driving south on Newport Boulevard, just before Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach, and saw a billboard employing that very strategy: "Wife Wanted". Seriously.
The "Billboard Bachelor" then directed interested parties to a website, Billboard Bachelor.
A few observations:
1. The site carefully avoids providing "Dean's" last name. Hey pal, your picture is about 20 feet tall for all to see (along with pictures on your internet site); privacy is not preeminent.
2. The selling points on the sign: "Single, Successful, Ready." The motto on the site: "Looking for Mr. Right... is Looking Up." Fill in your own punchlines.
3. There is a protocol for submitting your application. "All applications must include at least one (1) recent photograph of you before the system will accept the application." Query: how will the "system" know if it is "recent"?
4. Applicants must direct general questions to a certain email--not the one for the application itself. "Someone" will contact you. This guy has "people" evidently working on the project.
5. This fellow claims to be an "investment banker". Maybe this is part of a global business plan, the first fruits of a franchise operation. Spend $20,000 advertising for a spouse. How will you make money? Volume.
Any comments? Behave.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
How about a little levity?
The Miers nomination (dubbed Quag-Miers) has loosed much rancor inside and outside the blogosphere. Doing my part to lighten the mood, I present two amusing aspects.
1. Here are some gushing notes from the nominee to the then-Governor. My favorite: "You are the best Governor ever...!". (HT: The Smoking Gun.)
2. To help the nominee prepare for the confirmation hearings, here is a site dedicated to donating Con Law study materials to her. (HT: Jeremy's Weblog.)
Friday, October 07, 2005
The Delaware Supreme Court, Blogs and the Protestant Reformation.
At first glance, the Delaware Supreme Court, blogs and the Protestant Reformation seem disparate.
However, as I mentioned here when reviewing Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World, Hugh Hewitt correctly analogized blogs to the Reformation in that they both democratized information. I wrote: "I believe the book's greatest innovation is its comparison of the blogosphere with the Protestant Reformation. (Chapter 2; note: my theological training may have influenced this conclusion.) Humanly speaking, what loosed both the Reformation and the blogosphere was the 'democratization' of information. In the case of the Reformation, the printing press and wide dissemination of scriptures in common language empowered the masses. By the same token, the breakdown of barriers to publish and distribute information and ideas, such as through the 'net and blogs, has a similar empowering effect."
In an opinion published this month (Doe v. Cahill), the Delaware Supreme Court has grasped blogs' (or more broadly, the internet's) ability to empower individuals as disseminators of information, as follows:
"The internet is a unique democratizing medium unlike anything that has come before. The advent of the internet dramatically changed the nature of public discourse by allowing more and diverse people to engage in public debate. Unlike thirty years ago, when 'many citizens [were] barred from meaningful participation in public discourse by financial or status inequalities and a relatively small number of powerful speakers [could] dominate the marketplace of ideas' the internet now allows anyone with a phone line to 'become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.' Through the internet, speakers can bypass mainstream media to speak directly to 'an audience larger and more diverse than any the Framers could have imagined.'" (Emphasis supplied.)
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Humility is Beauty.
While hubris is dangerous, humility is beauty.
Yesterday, I had lunch with the president of a new corporate client regarding an appeal I will be handling.
During the lunch, the topic of playing football came up. A law partner and I mentioned that we had played flag football on weekends--"weekend warriors", at best.
We asked the president if he had any interest in playing. Almost in passing, the president responded that he had played a little in college.
As a result of my gentle questioning, he said he had played at USC in the mid-to-late 70s. So, doing a little search of my memory, I deduced that he probably owns a championship ring. He admitted that he did. In fact, he was coached by the late, great John McKay and John Robinson and played with several hall of famers.
But, what was interesting was that he downplayed this achievement. Comparing it to the runaway success of the current Trojans (going for 3 consecutive championships), he humbly said it was only one ring.
"Just one ring"--indeed.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Many years ago, a junior partner in a firm was sent to a far-away state to represent a long-term client accused of robbery.
After days of trial, the case was won, the client acquitted and released. Excited about his success, the attorney telegraphed the firm, simply stating: "Justice prevailed."
The senior partner quickly replied: "Appeal immediately."
Monday, October 03, 2005
Book Review: Rough Edges.
While in law school, James Rogan interviewed with a law firm.
The interviewer chastised him for violating the supposed "cardinal rule" of resumes--he exceeded one page. When the interviewer questioned why the one page rule went unheeded, Mr. Rogan balled up the resume and threw it at him with an explanation.
"Because I didn't live a one page life."
This anecdote (which did not lead to a job offer) fairly encapsulates James Rogan's Rough Edges: My Unlikely Road from Welfare to Washington. Mr. Rogan told the truth--his maverick life cannot be reduced to a single page; in fact, his book spans 352 page-turning pages, and that's just getting started.
While Congressman Rogan gained notoriety as one of the "managers" during Clinton's impeachment trial, the autobiography instead focused on Rogan's life prior to Congress.
For those wondering how the book could be filled with interesting stories from before Mr. Rogan's entrance on the national stage, this book will surprise.
Mr. Rogan details his hard, early life in the Mission District of San Francisco, which included welfare (as the title previews), and the death of his beloved grandfather who took him in, when his biological father wouldn't. The pages are full of childhood pranks that keep the reader laughing.
The funny stories continued into his stints as a union organizer at a pizza parlor, as a bouncer and bartender (during law school), and thereafter. Mr. Rogan became a prosecutor in Los Angeles County and, as a result, the book provides amusing "war stories" from some of his trials.
Then, when he became a judge, he details at least two unforgettable stories. First, when Mr. Rogan showed up in his (soon to be) courtroom in street clothes, the bailiff who did not know him or his position treated him extremely rudely because he deigned to wear a hat. When the bailiff found out that he had just treated his future boss so shabbily, he took early retirement.
The second story involved a recalcitrant party who would not accept any punishment from Judge Rogan--and said so in colorful language. Judge Rogan's restraint and charm under fire were something to behold. In fact, in this context, he mentioned that we was guided by his motto, "Always be charming." Not a bad one to live by.
While Prosecutor/Judge/Congressman Rogan left his Clinton impeachment saga for another tome, he previewed Clinton's role in his life in this one. Mr. Rogan noted how Clinton was an early positive influence in his political career.
Further, Mr. Rogan details two conversions. First, he reports his conversion to Christianity through a tape from Charles Colson, who in turn was converted after reading C.S. Lewis' masterpiece, Mere Christianity. Second, Mr. Rogan details how he converted from being Democrat to Republican in part through the influence of Ronald Reagan (who made a similar conversion).
Impressed with the book, I wrote Congressman Rogan to compliment him. Ever the gentleman, he graciously responded with some kind words. He noted that he personally wrote the book--no ghostwriter. This reality permeates the book--it's personal and passionate.
I heartily recommend.