Monday, November 25, 2013

Don't Go to Law School

 "The minute you read something you can't understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer."

    - Will Rogers

All the smartest students in my college class went to law school. They didn't do it because they had the concrete notion that they actually wanted to practice law. No, it was more that they didn't know what they wanted to do, and law school was perceived as a logical extension of a liberal arts education. It was an easy way to kick the can on making a hard decision, and it didn't seem as, well, self-interested as a business degree.

Fast forward to my 10th reunion. All the long faces, those that already looked beaten down by life at age thirty-two, were the lawyers. Much to their surprise, going to law school actually results in becoming a practicing lawyer. Somehow that wasn't the plan. Heck, the plan was to change the world, but no one came to interview for that, so the job at Cravath sounded really prestigious, and their moms were really proud, but how come no one told them that being a lawyer was so bone-crunchingly tedious, a world of endless minutia and reams of time sheets?

What they were told was you could "do anything" with a law degree. In theory, there's something to this. A knowledge of the law is useful, and some do escape the confines of law firms. But here's the thing: legal training is all about risk aversion, and that's where I take issue. As a lawyer, you're been hired by others - people actually taking risks - to cover their backsides. Usually, this involves endless amounts of time considering contingencies that have less than a 1% chance of actually occurring.

Is this a necessary process? Yes.

Does it sound like fun? It's not.

Should our country's brightest minds be doing it? Absolutely not, at least not in the numbers that they are.

Seriously, if you're young, go build skyscrapers, cure diseases, start the next Google - solve some interesting problems. Fail at some stuff. Be one of the risk takers that make our country great. If, for some reason, you're hell-bent on becoming a lawyer, for God's sake, I beg you to first go get a job as a paralegal. Get inside a law firm and see what it's like for yourself. Perhaps you're the type that likes to proof read endless documents that only a handful of people will ever read. Then by all means go for it. You've done your due diligence.

Most of you will seek a different path and will be happy that you did.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ted Cruz Is Electable

Scott and Ted

Could Ted Cruz be the One? Yes.

Conventional wisdom, generated inside the Beltway and the media, says he's a crazy conservative and could never be elected to be president. John McCain called him a "wacko-bird" (a moment of immense eloquence, that). The filibuster was said to be the death sentence for the Cruz brand.

I had lunch with Cruz today and about 25 others, and I'm here to tell you it's hogwash. This guy is the real deal. For starters, he will be the smartest guy in any field. Alan Dershowitz, no conservative, called Cruz the smartest student he's ever had at Harvard Law. He was a legendary debater there, and at Princeton. Son of a Cuban immigrant who was tortured by Batista's henchmen, he memorized the U.S. constitution when he was thirteen. The left generally likes to frame conservatives as "dumb," but I don't see how that's possible here. They will go with crazy. And he most definitely isn't.

Cruz is an articulate and passionate conservative, but more than that, it turns out he's very funny, charismatic, and good on his feet. Every answer was precise and spot on, and frequently sprinkled with a great anecdote. Of course, he was speaking to a very conservative bunch, but it's clear he won't change a word of what he says to suit a different audience. This is where Romney had so much trouble; since he wasn't informed by any particular philosophy, he always had to think about his answers and they always seemed carefully calibrated to the room in which he stood.

Here's where we get into the great Republican debate about "electability." You know who was electable? Here's a list:

Gerald Ford
George H.W. Bush
Bob Dole
John McCain
Mitt Romney

So, I don't have to piece this together, do I? They all LOST. (Note: Bush 41 did win the first time when he ran as Reagan's heir. He lost the second time when it became apparent that he wasn't.)

Seriously, how many data points do Republicans need? The conventional wisdom, promulgated by consultants and dismissed by Cruz, holds that you run to the right in the primaries and then move to a spot just a smidge to the right of the Democrat in the general. Nixon first said this. The problem is, as a strategy this DOESN'T WORK, because you're not giving Republicans a real reason to turn out. What was Mitt Romney trying to sell us? I still don't know, other than he "wasn't Obama." What did he, or any of the failed candidates above, really believe in? Who knows? Liberalism light? Points of light?

Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, made it clear what he was selling, and as a conservative, he was naturally written off by most as a cowboy with an IQ slightly above room temperature. Perhaps not all there. And this is what the mainstream Republicans were saying about him!

Of course, Reagan beat the establishment candidate, Bush, in the primaries, and then, not changing his tune one bit, eviscerated Jimmy Carter in the general, much to the shock of the intelligentsia everywhere. His first term was then the most conservative four years from the executive branch since Coolidge, and this resulted in winning 49 states against Mondale.

Why has it been so difficult for Republicans to follow this playbook? Well, that's a longer blog post, but one thing is clear: Cruz is following it to the letter. He is basically ignoring the media and the party elders, and he's taking his message straight to the grass roots. You need a spine of steel to do this, but from what I saw today, he's got one.

To Republicans who still think we need a moderate to win, consider this: the press will turn on our guy no matter what. You really think they'll go easy if we nominate Chris Christie? Think again, it's a set up. They played nice with Romney right up until the convention, then they turned on him like hungry sharks. When Romney was accused of being a "murderer" by the Obama campaign, where were they? Nodding their heads in agreement. It was the same with McCain, who was a "maverick" and a "war hero," right up until the general. Then he was just the enemy.

I'm not endorsing Cruz, at least not now. It's way too early for that, and the Republicans have a deep field. Scott Walker and perhaps Rand Paul look interesting. Rubio, we'll see. But I am endorsing the idea that we have to nominate a principled conservative. After the disaster of the Obama years, a very clear and different vision must be articulated by our standard bearer.

No more moderates, my friends.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Harvard - Life Inside the Cocoon

In the past, I have often made snarky comments about the political hegemony of our nation's faculty lounges. Recently, I spent a couple of days at Harvard with a friend of mine who's a fellow there, and yes, we even spent time in the faculty lounge (in Harvard's case, a faculty "club"). I went into the heart of darkness.

And what a pleasant existence it is. We audited a class (immensely entertaining, if odd, and featured on 60 minutes). A Kennedy sat behind me. We wandered over and checked out Widener Library and lunched at the business school across the Charles (excellent food). We then popped over to the Law School where there was a 40th Anniversary retrospective of the Paper Chase (great movie, if you've never seen it). And yes, we fit in coffee at the Faculty Club.

The evening was spent having fun debates over beer with a variety of students about the sort of stuff you only talk about in college. An astronomy PhD candidate and an aspiring documentary film maker hotly debated the probability of life elsewhere in our galaxy. I really got into it over tort reform and "stop and frisk" with an American Studies kid.

The coccon is more pleasant than anyone can imagine from the outside. My friend says this is not an atypical day for him. Of course, many of us get to experience it firsthand during our college years. University life is a reassuring womb, where your every need is taken care of. There's a reason we all called life after the "real world."

The days and nights are perhaps most pleasant for the professors because here's a dirty little secret: teaching is not that tough. It doesn't take much time, and once you've taught a course once or twice, you can do it in your sleep. I know this from personal experience, since I taught as an adjunct at Yale. The first time I gave the course, it took some real thought and preparation. By the next year was a piece of cake. Oh sure, you tweak here and there, but nothing that's terribly time consuming. Mostly, you get to spend your days like my friend, gliding between the faculty club, lunch with interesting people, and cultural events.

There's a vast ecosystem of professors, fellows, visiting scholars, perpetual grad students, and administrators that never venture out of the cocoon. Why would they want to? And this is a problem, I think, because they all think alike. 96% of Ivy League professors donating money in the last election gave to Obama. That kind of uniform thinking is horrible if you believe in free discourse and independent thinking.

Sadly, in places isolated from the burdens and responsibilities of the real world, one can take on irresponsible positions without consequence, and everyone around you will have your back.

The cocoon will provide.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Obama's New Idea Is Setting Insurance Companies Up for Lawsuits

One concept liberals either don't grasp or just don't care about is unintended consequences. That a 2000 page bill would be rife with them should come as no surprise. Johnston's Theorem states that unintended consequences rise with the square of the number of pages in a bill.

And now we have Obama's desperate attempt to put lipstick on the healthcare pig by saying insurance companies can continue to offer their old plans for another year. More specifically, he's saying "I know it's the law, but we won't enforce it."

Aside from how constitutionally horrific this is, something Republicans are pointing out, there is an unintended consequence no one has pondered. If an insurance company goes ahead and continues people's plans, they are breaking the law. Now, it maybe true that Obama's army of bureaucratic enforcers won't go after them, but what about lawsuits? Lawsuits around insurance companies and healthcare are as common as breathing. If I sue my insurance company, say, next March over something, the centerpiece of my suit will be that they are breaking the law. Perhaps it will be a nice juicy class action suit ginned up by a law firm that specializes in such things.

What is the insurance company going to say? Yes, we knew we were deliberately breaking the law, but the president said it was okay? Oh, and the dog ate my homework.

This will be bad.