9

What’s in a Language?

spanish.jpgOver at the Glom, I posted on the possible acquisition of Univision Communications, which owns Univision, the Spanish-language channel. This topic got me thinking about the relative utility of learning various foreign languages. Being from Houston, I would have to say that the single most important language in the U.S. is Spanish. (For example, in the market for childcare, non-Spanish speaking buyers are at a definite disadvantage. I’m not saying this to be silly or rude. I’m saying it because it’s true.) I never understood why Texas public schools do not require the teaching of Spanish from first grade forward. I know, people in the U.S. tend to think that English is the only necessary language, unlike natives of other countries who learn multiple languages. However, even when Americans believe in learning languages, we tend not to be very practical.

Our public elementary school in Whitefish Bay teaches a foreign language beginning in first grade. I think this is wonderful. However, the language is French. I know, I know, a lot of people have learned French in school. But, other than maybe conversing with someone on your one trip to Paris and learning to speak in “this outrageous accent” a la Monty Python, what good is it doing you now? If we were staying here, we would be making a very big push to change this to Spanish or something else useful. We are now looking at two elementary schools in Champaign. They both teach Spanish and Chinese. These choices seem very smart to me. I took Latin in school, and even though I’ve never been able to use it in conversation, I think it was helpful as a building block language. The whole SAT thing and all. But I can’t vote for French. Hebrew, Sanskrit, any of these are fine. But not French.

So, what language do Co-op readers think should be taught in elementary schools (if any)?

1

Branding Eggs

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Eggs. Delicious, but hard to tell apart.

That was the problem confronting “The Country Hen Eggs,” of Hubbardston, MA. What did they do? First, they made some claims about the “kosherness” of eggs that turned out to contain very little information. But even better (as I discovered this morning when I opened a new pack), they “are the first organic egg with a selenium content claim on [sic] the carton.”

What does that mean? Well, inside of the cardboard box was a little insert, which talked to me about the anti-cancer properties of selenium. The insert continued to say that their eggs contain some amounts of the mineral (they don’t make a comparative claim), but disclaimed any attempt to make a “medical claim.” (Which makes almost no sense.)

In any event, why is this worth blogging about? Because I’m pretty interested in their attempt to build brand loyalty – after purchase - through product claims that are not differentiating. It’s as though they are saying: “Buy our eggs. Just like other eggs. But we’ll boast a little.”

A number of questions come to mind. Primarily, should inside-the-box claims be regulated as advertising (by the FTC and through Lanham Act suits) as a food label (by the FDA and product liability suits) as a warranty (under the UCC) or not at all (the market will clear). What if the claim inside the box were to (falsely) say: “Our eggs are 25% bigger than the average competitor’s egg.” Since it is inside-the-box, should we be less worried about the consumption distorting effect of the claim, or more worried on the brand-building side? These seem like tough questions.

I should say that notwithstanding the selenium claim, it was a tasty omelet.

2

Walking While Drunk

A colleague of mine chooses to start her day by reviewing the list of new detainees in the Tucaloosa County Jail. As my prior work indicates – particularly my study of the race effects of Megan’s Law – I too have a passion for studying on-line databases of criminals. I thus listen closely as she describes the quirks of the daily intake. Yesterday, she discovered a gentleman who had been booked on the charge of being a Pedestrian Under the Influence of Alcohol (Alabama Code 32-5A-221). Alabama law provides that “a pedestrian who is under the influence of alcohol or any drug to a degree which renders himself a hazard shall not walk or be upon a highway.” A highway, in turn, is “the entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.” Alabama Code 32-1-1.1.

I must admit my experience with motor vehicle offenses is thin (and this offense is under the motor vehicle section of the state code), but this was the first time I’d ever encountered a Walking While Drunk statute. Turns out, they are a standard part of the Uniforn Vehicle Code. Alabama is a little tougher than the folks over at the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances. (Query: what individuals choose to join this group for $100?). The Uniform Code provision provides that pedestrians “under the influence of alcohol or any drug to a degree which renders such pedestrian a hazard shall not walk or be upon a highway except on a sidewalk.” Alabama has no sidewalk exception.

It looks to me like there might be cases where a sidewalk is part of a highway (i.e., where it is a publicly maintained sidewalk within the boundary way. I’m thinking, for example, of sidewalks on bridges, and perhaps along parks.) In addition, since most Alabma roads are sidewalk-free, pedestrians must often walk on the shoulder. I know it may be a bit of a hazard, sometimes, but I suspect we’d prefer our local drunks to walk, rather than drive, home. Personally, I’ll think twice before I quaff a couple of Guinnesses (Rick Garnett has linked to an attractive establishment for this purpose) and stroll back to my humble abode. At minimum, I’ll try to stumble along privately maintained sidewalks.

0

Discussion on Payday Lending at the ‘Glom

There is an interesting discussion ongoing at the Conglomerate on the study of payday loans. Ronald Mann, who started the topic, is particularly interested in the interaction between virtual and nonvirtual lenders, and he notes that the e-market offers significantly better rates. Does this discount relate to different costs, or to different income levels? Go check it out.

4

Which Senator’s Staff Is Reading This Entry?

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We here at Co-Op sometimes get hits from the Senate Master-At-Arms IP domain. That domain had masked the individual IP addresses of the individual Senate offices. No longer. In a great follow-up to the Wikipedia senate editing story, investigative reporters from Wikinews have apparently cracked the code. (Solove predicted this resolution when the story broke.)

So, staffers of Senator X’s office: no more nasty anonymous comments for you! At least that is until the Master-At-Arms randomizes the outcoming address labels. I wonder which side of the aisle will be making that request first?

(Hat Tip: Boing Boing).

5

In Defense of the Megachurch

I’ve noticed lately that there are some who use “megachurch” as a derogatory term. I noticed this when I blogged that Ken Lay will be calling as character witnesses two pastors of Houston megachurches. I also noticed that Bernard-Henri Levy, who fancies himself the next Tocqueville, used the term quite condescendingly when talking about how he researched his book on American culture. Coretta Scott King’s memorial service was held at a megachurch in suburban Atlanta, much to the annoyance of some onlookers. Why do some people distrust megachurches? I don’t. I believe that megachurches serve a very important purpose in modern life, and what follows is a defense of the trend from someone quite outside mainstream Protestantism.

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1

More re-edited movie trailers

A while back, we discussed issues arising from the re-edited Shining trailer. Now making the rounds: A new (and pretty funny) re-edited trailer, Brokeback to the Future. Given the proliferation of editing software (making re-editing easier and better), and the popular reception that the funnier trailers receive, I suspect that re-edited movie trailers are not going away any time soon.

2

On Strategic Planning and the “Vision Thing”

My school is in the midst of developing its strategic plan. As I understand it, strategic planning is the process of figuring out where an institution wants to be at a certain point in the future as well as how to get there. In this effort, we wasted, er, spent a whole Saturday talking about what we want to become. And, of course, we want to be a first-class school, recognized for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service to the global community. Who doesn’t?

I’d like to hear from two groups of readers: First, to those of you academics who have gone through strategic planning in the past, has the process ever induced you to change your individual priorities, or has your school focused attention on achieving a particular goal, to the detriment of others? I.e., does strategic planning frequently lead a school to say, “We are proud of our teachers, but we really want to make a mark with scholarship,” or does strategic planning tend just to find a new way of stating a commitment to be all things to all people? And if the former, does that change the way individual faculty members approach their jobs?

Second, do students considering which law school to attend care about these statements? I remember reading statements of this type and all but ignoring them because they made the same unverifiable claims about the quality of teaching. Occasionally certain emphases could be discerned, but that was rare. I may be an exception, though, and I would be interested to hear others’ impressions of the importance of these statements from a marketing perspective.

0

Why You Should Teach Information Privacy Law

privacy2b.jpgSince now is the time that many new law professors are being hired, I thought I’d re-post an earlier post about teaching information privacy law. When new law professors are hired, there is often a lot of flexibility in what courses they can teach. While the law school will typically want a newly-hired professor to teach one or two “core” courses (first year courses or required courses), other courses are often highly negotiable. So if you want to teach a particular course, sometimes all you have to do is ask for it.

My goal is to get more new professors to think about teaching information privacy law. (I have a casebook in the field, so this is really a thinly-disguised self-plug.)

Information privacy law remains a fairly young field, and it has yet to take hold as a course taught consistently in most law schools. I’m hoping to change all that. So if you’re interested in exploring issues involving information technology, criminal procedure, or free speech, here are a few reasons why you should consider adding information privacy law to your course mix:

1. It’s new and fresh. Lots of media attention on privacy law issues these days. Students are very interested in the topic.

2. Lively cases and fascinating issues abound. There’s barely a dull moment in the course. Every topic is interesting; there is no rule against perpetuities to cover!

3. It’s a way to teach fascinating First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and other constitutional law issues. Often, those wanting to teach in these areas have to wait in line until the course is “released” by professors who already teach it. Getting the First Amendment course, for example, is about as easy as unseating an incumbent in Congress. Information privacy law lets you teach really interesting First Amendment issues and there’s usually not a long succession line to teaching an information privacy law course. Moreover, many law schools already have somebody teaching cyberlaw, and information privacy law covers some incredibly interesting law and information technology issues.

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4

Litigation Lessons at the Enron Trial

bates.jpgToday’s testimony in Houston involved an emotional breakdown and some lessons about discovery. Surprisingly, one had nothing to do with the other. On the discovery matter, Judge Lake told the jury that:

“Years ago they gave you a stamp, like a checker uses to stamp a can of peas with,” Judge Lake told the jurors. “I guess the original stamp was named for a Mr. Bates.”

“Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about this,” the judge said as he ended his instructional aside.

Commentators over at the Enron Trial Blog suggested that the Judge was wrong:, “Bates stamps” were really named for the Bates Manufacturing Company (pictured to the right). But the Company was founded by a Norman Benjamin Bates, so I think Judge Lake deserves a break. Thus, the many appellate lawyers watching the trial looking for errors will have to keep looking. Sitting Juror #11, on the other hand, well that’s a different story.