Author: Deven Desai

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Max Roach, Jazz Great Dies at 83

Max Roach, a key figure in the growth of bebop, died today in his sleep. He was 83. Why does it matter? Well, many can explain his contribution to jazz, better than I. For me, jazz was one of the bridges to my father. From there it has grown into a point of joy. From Preservation Hall style jazz to bebop to hard bop to cool to fusion and more the art is, as so many have said an Amercian one. As for the law, one can look to the work of K.J. Greene for race issues and music, but I think a simpler way to consider jazz applies. As schools start classes again, trials pick up speed, and life plows ahead, consider jazz as a way to pause and appreciate the varied rhythms of life. It does not have to be jazz, but attorneys who find a way to take in life and step back from the warp speed at which law seems to move are likely to be better at their jobs and quite possibly enjoy themselves too.

Still for those needing more law-related reasons to listen to Mr. Roach, the article notes “Roach also was a civil rights activist who brought politics into his art. In 1960 he created “We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite,” a seven-part suite featuring vocalist Abbey Lincoln that addressed slavery and racism in America. Some of his work with Ms. Lincoln is on YouTube (a search for Max Roach YouTube should do the trick to find several clips).

Here is a clip of Mr. Roach and his quartet in full glory, playing all out.

For those who want more, there are two clips below the fold. One is called Mr. Hi-Hat. Notice Mr. Roach’s nod to Jonathan David Samuel Jones for his mastery of the hi-hat. Mr. Roach was known for “shifting the time-keeping function to the cymbal, allowing the drums to play a more expressive and important role and, in the process, contributing to the shift of jazz from popular dance music to an art form that fans appreciated sitting in clubs” yet gives Mr. Jones his due. It reminds me of the night I saw Branford Marsalis and Sonny Rollins play a double header concert in Berkeley. Brandford started, was cool in a nice suit, and played some excellent jazz. He ended and said roughly that he was able to do two of his favorite things that night, play for an audience and get a lesson from a great. He then told people who might be foolish enough to leave to stick around. Fifteen minutes later Sonny Rollins came out. He wore RayBans, a short sleeve bowling style shirt, and blew the roof off the house.

The other clip is a drum battle between Elvin Jones, Max Roach, and Art Blakey. (Oh yeah, check out Art Blakey’s Mosaic and by that I mean just buy it.)

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Well Done: Student Wins Criminal Appeal in the 4th Circuit

Just a quick note on how law students can accomplish much (but it takes time, effort, and persistence). Law.com reports that Meghan Poirier, a West Point graduate and recent graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law, has won an appeal on a criminal conviction for possession of a fire arm. The defendant was a felon who had to grab a gun from his wife so that she did not shoot him. He tried to turn the gun in to the police but his wife cut off his calls. When he turned the gun in to his boss, the police were there based on a call from his wife. His first attorney instructed him to plead guilty, because he believed that all the police had to show was possesion of a firearm by a felon and that there was no justification defense. Thanks to Ms. Poirier’s work Judge Paul V. Niemeyer was able to write that “It was patently inaccurate for Mooney’s counsel to have advised Mooney and to have represented to the court that no such defense was ever available.” An assist goes to Professor John Korzen who runs the clinic but he states, “She did it all. She did the research and drafting of the briefs. We had three or four practice rounds of oral argument.” Ms. Poirier has just taken the bar and returns to the military to work within the Judge Advocate General corps. May she continue to do well in her career.

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Form of, “Did I Say That?”: Cheney on Occupying Iraq

It is difficult to stay pure as a politician. Subtle understandings about support for a position one day and reversals later are lost on the public. Decisions to do one’s duty by going to war and then doing one’s duty as a citizen or Senator by being critical of poor policies (so yes Kerry did his duty and served our country each time and should have said so) are hard to understand. Take a look at the clip below. In it Cheney, in 1994, identifies real issues about Iraq and holds that the U.S. should not have taken over Baghdad because of specific reasons having to do with the U.S. being alone, having to occupy the country, power vacuums, possible disintegration of the country, casualties, and more. The reasons or possible problems never went away. Thus although one may accept new reasons for supporting the invasion (dubious or not), the clip shows clear insights by a smart person that seem to have been ignored in planning the current war. Maybe there are points that are hard to understand, and only those in power are privy to them. But the exact detail with which Cheney describes the problems faced today in Iraq are stunning and suggests that the government may want to offer full, honest details about how it planned to address the issues Cheney identified in 1994. Even with the current reasonable distrust of the administration, such a move might rebuild a little faith in government.

Hat tip to Marjorie Cohn.

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Codes and the Law, 38,000 Potential DUI Charges May Be Dropped

blurred driving2.JPGApparently code really is law or rather code matters to the law. CNET reports that CMI, which makes breathalyzers, refuses to give a client, the State of Minnesota, the code for one of its units. The defendant wants the source code, and the court has rejected the state’s position “that the state was not entitled to the code because of its confidential, copyrighted and proprietary nature.” The court ruled that under the contract the code belonged by extension to the state. Now here is the fun part, CMI has a history of not turning over its code to other states. If it does not do so here, the defendant should be able to have the charge of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 thrown out. As the article notes, there around 38,000 such tests at issue in Minnesota and they too would likely be thrown out.

There is also a curious point: the report claims that CMI competitors routinely make the code available for the competitive edge in these situations. So one might think that Minnesota just chose poorly especially given that CMI has apparently behaved this way at least one time more than a year ago. But if the court is correct about the contract, it seems CMI is another example of knee-jerk claims regarding the need to maintain double secret probation for any piece of intellectual property even after a company apparently signs a contract indicating that its client in fact has some ownership of the IP in question. Thus another question arises: Why isn’t the state seeking an order requiring the code be given? Indeed, it seems that the state should make two moves. First, in the short term seek a protective order to defeat the CMI claims of loss of trade secret etc. and prevent the possible loss of the immediate case not to mention the potential for the quick move for dismissal by all the other 38,000 defendants. Second, as a long term strategy issue, sue CMI for breach of contract, go after whatever damages one could claim for the potential loss of 38,000 cases and the purchase of the devices, and last go to a competitor who realizes that the law needs the code.

Cross-posted at Madisonian.net

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Death of a Newsman: Hal Fishman 1931-2007

Hal Fishman.jpgFor those readers not from Los Angeles or who have not spent time there the name Hal Fishman may mean nothing. But for those longing for a Cronkite-like news anchor, one who inspired trust and sought to present the truth, know that Hal Fishman was just such a person, and he died this morning. Mr. Fishman obtained his bachelor’s degree from Cornell and his master’s in political science from UCLA. He started as a professor in the CalState system but is best known as a news anchor for more than 30 years in Los Angeles.

He was funny as shown by his first on-air comments ever: “Good afternoon, I’m professor Hal Fishman, and this course is certainly quite unique for me, because it’s the first course that I have ever taught where the student can turn the professor off.” And he used a simple method to stay popular: “being dedicated to being informed,” and being “a person that people can trust to give them a straightforward and accurate account of what’s going on in the world.” In his career he covered many major stories including the “Watts riots, the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the Sylmar and Northridge earthquakes and the Rodney G. King beating case” and was part of his station’s wining Peabody and Emmy awards for their coverage of the news.

Perhaps his simple view of the news desk as a classroom podium is why I will miss him: “‘When I was a professor…I used to tell my students, “You can’t have a properly functioning democracy without an enlightened electorate.” It’s our job as newscasters to enlighten the electorate. We are the conduits of information.’” Mr. Fishman relied on his knowledge of history and politics as he shared information and educated millions. The key is not the scale but the perspective on what it means to be a conduit of information and the responsibilities of such a position. In short, for his dedication to teaching and presenting clear, honest information I am grateful and hope that others try to emulate his approach to the news.

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London-style CCTV Coming to New York

CCTV 2.JPGDan’s post about CCTVs in London coincides with a report by CNN that if Manhattan can obtain $90 million in funding (not to mention $8 million a year for maintenance), the city will install its own “Ring of Steel” as the British call it. The plan is called the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative and the claim is that “The primary purpose of the system is deterrence, and then an investigative tool.”

Yet at least in London it appears that the cameras have helped track people after a crime has been committed while deterence is harder to show. Here are some choice quotes from the CNN article in which Steve Swain who worked with London’s system for four years talks about his experience with the London system:

“I don’t know of a single incident where CCTV has actually been used to spot, apprehend or detain offenders in the act, he said, referring to the London system. … Asked about their role in possibly stopping acts of terror, he said pointedly: “The presence of CCTV is irrelevant for those who want to sacrifice their lives to carry out a terrorist act.” … Swain does believe the cameras have great value in investigation work. He also said they are necessary to reassure the public that law enforcement is being aggressive. “You need to do this piece of theater so that if the terrorists are looking at you, they can see that you’ve got some measures in place,” he said.

In contrast the article also details the way that Washington D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; and Chicago, Illinois among other cities use private cameras mixed with public ones as part of law enforcement . In addition, some cities have seen a drop in crime which they attribute to the cameras.

In short, one way or the other cameras are here, and we are on them. So whiten those teeth, fix your hair, get an agent, and smile, because This Is Your Life is back, and you are the star.

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Beware! There Be Pirates Ahead!

jolly roger2.JPGThere were many good panels at LSA 2007 in Berlin. One presentation by Salvatore Poier of the University of Milan focused on the nature of the term piracy. The project examines the term as it was used in what the author calls the Golden Age of Piracy. Part of the claim is that the term shifts over time sometimes applying to a practice where those with few options created societies with relatively flat structures and had a certain respect to periods where the term has less favorable views. The word’s etymological roots are in Greek and the term stems from the word for to try or essay. In addition, I happen to be reading Paul Woodruff’s On Justice, Power, and Human Nature, a translation of Selections from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, and recall that Thucydides presents a view of pirates that may be of interest. Assuming Woodruff’ translation is correct, it presents an interesting perspective for the term. It was not insulting and had some respect but became a practice to be eliminated as society changed. Here’s a quote:

In ancient times, you see, the Greeks had turned to piracy as soon as they began to travel more in ships from one place to another, and so had the foreigners who lived on the mainland shore or on the islands. Their most powerful leaders aimed at their own profit, but also hoped to support the weak; and so they fell upon cities that had no walls or were made up of settlements. They raided these places and made most of their living from that. Such actions were nothing to be ashamed of then, but carried with them a certain glory, as we may learn from some of the mainlanders for whom this is still an honor, even today, if done nobly. The same point is proved by the ancient poets, who show that anyone who sails by, anywhere, is asked the same question–“are you a pirate?”–and that those who are asked are not insulted, while those who want to know or not reproachful.

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You Are Never Too Old To Learn

cap_and_diploma 2.JPGReuters reports that a 94-year-old woman in Australia has become the oldest person to receive a master’s degree. The woman, Phyllis Turner, obtained a Medical Science Masters Degree from Australia’s Adelaide University for her research on “the anthropological history of Australia prior to European settlement.” She left school at age 12 and returned much later to obtain her undergraduate degree with honors in 2002 and then her masters. The quotes from her supervisor are worth repeating: “Mentally she was like any other student. You couldn’t tell her thinking, her enthusiasm and her interests apart from somebody who was 25. She has a lively mind,” he told Reuters. “She used to wake up at 5am in the morning and think about something, and then ring to say she wanted to check on it.”

My school has older students whom I love to teach, and I recall the so-called reentry students at Berkeley were great to talk to (they also had I believe the highest GPA as group which tended to annoy the straight from high school crowd). So no real comment other than it is great to see someone at any age jump into their education and achieve. In short, well done, Ms. Turner.

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Happy Associates? Say It Isn’t So

yellow cup 2.JPGLaw.com reports that associates are happier than ever but here’s the punch line: they still plan on leaving firms. In fact, 44.9 percent plan on leaving their firms and 11.7 percent expect not to be equity partners. And as the article puts it, “Despite all the hand-wringing over associate retention, law firms report that in nearly half the associate departures — 49 percent — the firms were either neutral about the departures or happy to have the associates leave.” Perhaps the best part for law school readers is the prediction that AMLaw 200 firms want to hire about 10,000 associates and as the article explains “That astonishing number equals about one-quarter of all the students who will graduate from U.S. law schools next year. To put it another way, the top 20 law schools will only produce about 6,500 graduates.” The article goes on to predict talent wars and salaries in the $200K range. All of which is wild (insert appropriate the market is mad etc. comment and wait for the firms to continue on the path) but another point from the article may be more interesting: Hiring techniques of firms are suspect.

If these numbers are correct, it could be that firms should invest in human resources staff closer to what other corporate enterprises use as way to mitigate what seem to be hiring errors (These methods are suspect as well but appear better than current firm hiring systems). Alternatively it may be that hiring from brand name schools misplaces trust in those schools’ admissions. Sure the people are smart and can be attorneys, but do they want to be one bad enough to suffer through the life of a firm attorney for years and/or do they aim to be a partner? More on that question and the nature of firm hiring is below the fold.

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“23 Business Days to Respond” Lessons in Goodwill and Customer Experience

luggage trolly 2.JPGThis line should never be part of a customer service message “If you have requested a response to your email, you should hear from from [sic] us within 23 business days.” In other words, thanks but we will take more than a month to respond. It takes chutzpah to send such a message, especially after the customer was directed to the email system as the phone system was overloaded. The source? Northwest Airlines. The result: A customer who will endeavor never to fly the airline again and will pay competitors a little more for that option. It is not just this experience that fueled the decision. In fact, I am willing to listen to companies’ apologies and stay loyal if the over all experience is solid and some amends are made for the poor service at issue. What is impressive is that NW has had several chances to change my impression but instead it has shown that NW is a consistent sign of source and quality – just poor quality. The full details are a bit comical and are below the fold along with some observations about customer complaints, brand strength, goodwill, and market opportunities.

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