Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What is this "Standing" Business?

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal heard oral arguments in the Prop. 8 case yesterday.  If you heard or read any of the news reports, you likely heard about the issue of "standing."  In a case that raises big meaty constitutional, philosophical, and moral issues surrounding marriage--same-sex marriage in particular--you might be surprised that the key issue appears to be basically procedural.

So what is this whole "standing" thing, anyway?  Basically, "standing" means that a party to a law suit actually has an interest in the controversy; i.e. they actually suffered an injury because of another party's action.  It's not enough to simply not like something, or to simply be offended by something someone else does.  You have to actually be injured in some way.

Why does this matter?  At the top, it's about practicality.  Lawsuits consume a lot of time, energy, and money--none of which are limitless--so the legal system has to create some method of limiting the number of potential lawsuits.  If we could all sue anyone simply because we didn't like what they were doing, the courts would be even more backlogged than they already are.  The important cases would get lost in the mess; collective injustice being the result because the courts' ability to redress genuine wrongs would be essentially nonexistent.

That would be bad enough on its own, but there is a deeper issue at work as well.  Standing is also about liberty.  If everyone could sue without showing standing--proving they suffered a real injury--then no one could live freely.  Your personal liberty should not be curtailed unless the exercise of that liberty harms others.

Consider the standing issue in the Prop. 8 appeal.  Supporters of Prop. 8 brought suit to keep same-sex couples from marrying.  The court wants to know how same sex marriage actually harms anyone?  Clearly, if there is a fundamental right to marry that the people of California cannot deny same-sex couples, those same-sex couples are injured by Prop. 8's enforcement.  The same cannot be said of people who oppose same-sex marriage.  Sure, they may not approve but that is thin ice in terms of injury.  Essentially, the court is asking Prop. 8 defenders, "where's the beef?"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Big Belly Rub to Start the Day

Saw this guy on my corner this morning, just standing in the sunlight rubbing his big belly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Economic Propaganda in Comics!

The good folks at Planet Money inform me that the Federal Reserve published a comic book about monetary policy.

Contrary to legend, the X-Men don't spend all their time battling Magneto.

There's also this 1945 "comic" (really just illustrated bullet points) about how war time economic policy can lead to facism, courtesy of General Motors.

Or maybe you join the party for their artificial elbow implants.

In the spirit of equal time, here's another "comic" about the "Money Myth."  It's long and, well, stupid, but worth checking out if you like your fools raw and unfiltered.

The Evil Banker Oliver Demands Repayment.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hipsters Anonymous

Somewhere in the Mission or Williamsburg . . .

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rich Iott: Idiot

Rich Iott is running for congress in Ohio's 9th District on the GOP ticket.  Iott was recently exposed as a happy member of the Wikings, a WWII reenactment group that spends long weekends dressing up as Nazi soldiers and playing with guns in the woods.  Iott is clearly an idiot.

Good to know that conservative family values are still intact -- that's right, Glenn Beck thinks it'd be fun to play Nazi with your son.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Folsom Street Fair: Pluralism Baby

Last weekend was San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair.  For the uninitiated, Folsom is a celebration of the leather arts.

My wife and I were on our way to the East Bay during the Fair and passed this Auntie buying fruit while some fair-goers waited for the walk signal.  Two guys in assless chaps and leather cod-pieces didn't faze her at all.  I love San Francisco.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jury Duty Pt. 2: Criminal Court Brings Out the Characters

Lexpat Unlimited now has an RSS feed!  Click on the "Subscribe" button on the right.

Jury duty rolls on (though I think I may be done sooner than anticipated).  Like I said before, no talking about the case.  But the Hall of Justice has some serious characters in its halls.

I've seen this guy several times waiting on one of the benches outside the courtroom.  With hair like this, I can only guess he's a defense attorney.

This guy was shaving in the bathroom one morning.  His friend was telling him about how he'd gotten rid of things when the cops came.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jury Duty Pt. 1

I am currently a proud member of a California Superior Court jury!  Jury selection actually took three days and, since I was the very first person called, I had the privilege of sitting through every single question asked of every single potential juror.

Portrait of the Artist Over Three Days of Jury Selection

Of course, since I can't discuss the case, I won't be able to post anything about the trial itself.  But I am in the criminal court building all day, so there's plenty of other material to come.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Guard: Chapter 2

 Chapter One is Here; click to expand . . .
to be continued . . .

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Motown Philly

This morning I was listening to some Boyz II Men.  First, I remembered couples skate at the roller rink, trying to make my hands stop sweating while wishing I could look as cool as the older guys who worked there and never laced up their skates.  Then I remembered that I used to try and convince my mom to buy me some of the clothes Boyz II Men and BBD wore in their videos.

I probably would have looked even worse.

Around the same time, I also had a very long conversation/debate with my barber about why he could not or would not give me a high-top fade.  Hector was a wise man. 

The Castro Safeway

Last weekend, I was standing outside the Castro Safeway.  I was wearing a tie for no particular reason.  This guy walks up to me, stares at me for twenty seconds and says: "I lika da tie!"

I thanked him but he just stood there.  "I lika da tie!" he said again.  Then: "But-a maybeh too formal for Satuhrday!  But I lika da tie!  You look good!"  I'm not exaggerating his accent.  He sounded like this.

Then he walked away.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welcome Back to Fog City

First sign that I was coming home after two weeks of genuine summer weather in the City of Broad Shoulders -- the connecting flight from San Diego to SFO was delayed for an hour because of fog.
Second sign -- and the real confirmation -- was this hipster I passed on my way from BART to my house:
No one told me about the Russel Brand Look-Alike Contest

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hoosier Mama Pies

The very, very cheerful woman who worked the front counter at Chicago's Hoosier Mama Pie Company.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Dosa Man

My wife's parents threw an amazing party the other night, complete with freshly made dosa.  The man behind the dosa had this great touch where he'd use the little bowl to ladle the batter onto the griddle then smack it a few times and use the flat back of the little bowl to spread the batter, like a crepe paddle.

That was a party.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

One of My Neighbors: The Cigarette Man

Travelling in Chicago right now - so no access to my scanner, just photos of sketches.
Another one of my neighbors - he asks everyone for a cigarette.  No matter how many times you've told him you don't smoke, he'll always ask you then just keep walking.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One of My Neighbors: The Paperback Reader

He stands on our street, leans against a parked car and reads a paperback everyday.  As the sun moves across the sky, he relocates to stay in the sunshine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bar Exam Highlights

The California Bar exam is three days long, six hours each day.  It brings out some characters . . .

His hair was like a halo around his head, every day.
Some people found it very important to be as comfortable as possible.

Other people did not.  This woman wore stripper heels every single day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Guard: Chapter 1

Now for something a little different . . . (click to expand)

to be continued . . .

Monday, June 14, 2010

Superfans - US Soccer Fan Fails Part 1

Believe it or not, his outfit is the least of his problems.

Happy as I am that the US managed a tie against England on Saturday, it makes me a bit worried.  There was a certain type of US soccer fan that was bad enough before.  Now?  I'm getting worried.

It can only get worse from here.  Superfans were bad enough when the US never won anything important.  No matter how tiny and inept the other team was, these guys would celebrate like we won the World Cup itself.  If you didn't get excited that we outscored Guam, they'd accuse you of personally holding back the American soccer program.

The worst was that they'd always get excited that we qualified for the Cup.  We play in CONCACAF, guys.  Mexico is good but the rest?  Not so much.  It's like bragging about how you were first in your class in kindergarten.  Nicely done; everyone else was eating paste.

If the US manages to make it into the next round, it's all over.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

California and Arizona's Laws Compared

It was pointed out to me that California has a law on its books similar to Arizona's new immigration statute.  This was pretty surprising, so I looked it up.  Well . . . they're similar, but only in the broadest sense.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Are You an Imperialist?

I got called an agent of capitalist imperialism the other day. This wasn't the first time. It's probably my own fault.

Business Law Journal staff photo.

It begs the question, though: why do I care about corporate law reform in other countries? Am I just acting out a sublimated desire for Anglo-American legal hegemony on the rest of the world?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just Say No

I'm in the throes of studying for my Anti-Trust final. As I go back over my notes, outline, and the cases in the book, I can't help but be struck by the government's tenacity in enforcing the law. The DOJ can't just smack a company for violating the anti-trust laws. It has to prove the allegations in court and the judicial branch isn't shy about restraining the executive. But the DOJ and FTC just keep coming back for more.

Why didn't I think of that?

This may seem normal to us but it's a hard balance to strike. One of the hardest challenges facing poor countries is how to create institutions that will enforce the law and not just cater to the whims of whoever's in power. When you don't have "robust" institutions, you have a lot of corruption and exploitation. How do you create a group of people who are more-or-less incorruptible when the entire environment is rife with corruption?

Monday, April 26, 2010


The funny looking diagram on the right is a flow-chart I made studying for my securities regulation exam. I do get to take this into the test itself but keep a couple things in mind:
  1. This chart only covers a little under half the material that will be on the exam;
  2. I won't really have time to read this during the test, so I memorize it as I make it;
  3. This is only a very rough map of the law we're being tested on - it doesn't include many of the cases or the actual text of the codes.
This is my version of an outline. Some people write more traditional looking outlines (I., A., B., etc.) but I'm pretty visual so this works better for me.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Lost", Fu Manchu, and Corporate Governance

I'm one of those "Lost" fans that can't help themselves. The writers keep throwing out so-called explanations that just make less sense than the original nonsense but persist. I just want some closure.

Since I'm not a complete idiot, I realize the "Lost" writers will deny me that basic human need. So I'm forced to find meaning in my addiction through alternate means.

In the most recent episode, "Lost" reminded me of a bit of comparative corporate governance insight buried in the show's convoluted storylines. If you think this is a stretch, bear with me for just one second.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Optimism & Jugaad

A newly released pole quantifies the optimism I mentioned in my earlier post on India. The Mint has a basic recap here. For a full copy of the survey conducted by London's Legatum Group, look here.

The Mint piece mentions jugaad, which is a Hindi word meaning basically "a quick and dirty fix." It's analogous to our "Yankee ingenuity" or the "can-do spirit" but implies a bit more in the way of obstacles.

I heard about jugaad from a number of people while I was in India. Its implication can vary widely. Some people use it positively, like Yankee Ingenuity. It can also be sardonic as hell.

Hopefully, the optimists win out. The Legatum survey suggests that entrepreneurs are nearly unanimous in wanting a more responsive and less corrupt government. As this constituency becomes more powerful, that may well come to pass.

Also, IBM is extending its start-up partnership program to India. That should give India start-ups some necessary infrastructural support and access to clients they currently lack.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

European Disunion

Only a few weeks ago it seemed like Greece's EU friends would take care of it. That idea fell through, though, and now Germany and France are squabbling over whether to bring the IMF in to deal with the problem. As if things weren't bad enough on the Continent, Portugal's debt was downgraded with exquisite timing.

Germany's reluctance to bankroll a Grecian bailout is pretty understandable. Athens routinely cooked their books when times were good, and the Greek public is throwing fits over cuts to a posh welfare state they couldn't afford to begin with. Add to the Greeks' own bad behavior the fact that Germany is essentially the keystone for all of Europe's economy these days and you can comprehend why Germans might be getting a little frustrated.

These troubles highlight just how weak the EU is as a political institution. EU member states must beg their sister states for help--the equivalent of Florida having to go directly to New York every time it wanted to repair hurricane damage. Despite all the regulations coming out of Brussels, the EU is still more of a confederation than a real union. During the EU elections last year, I kept hearing a weary sort of optimism from Europeans about the future strength of the EU. The Grecian Dilemma (sounds like a Ludlum story about hair dye) casts more cold water on that dream.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


There was a very good article in yesterday'sNY Times about the testing culture in India's middle class, focusing on the need for more good colleges and universities to handle the country's huge young population. Random impressive statistic: 320,000 students applied for I.I.T.'s 8,000 open spots.

The university overcrowding was behind the Cabinet's recent decision to open up higher education to foreign universities--three cheers for another protectionist barrier falling!

To drive home the connection between university quality and development, here's an article from the January Economist about the "Engineering Gap" between the U.S. and India.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Red Tape Indian-Style

Certain times in history belong to specific places. Chicago in the 1890s, New York in the '50's, Paris in the '20s; where all the varied currents in the world seem to come together in one spot and define a moment. Right now the moment belongs to the BRICs; Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

To visit India now is heady stuff. In Mumbai they are repaving the airport's runway with a gang of women using hand tools and baskets full of gravel on their heads. But the airport is busy with new low-fare airlines, and increased middle class air travel is pushing that expansion. An Indian wine industry is gaining real traction.

Our generation is the last to know a pre-reform India--a country that derided its own stagnant economy as the "Hindu rate of growth." There was nothing inherently Indian about the poverty, though. It was the country's forty-year experiment in socialism that held it back. Rampant protectionism, planned economies, and a self-propagating bureaucracy strangled an economy that, at independence in 1947, was one of the developing world's most vibrant and industrialized. Now the restraints are falling away.