Wednesday, December 13, 2006

quick question

Ok, after talking to the Pole about this over burgers and boulevard season on friday night, i've reached a somewhat flummoxing point:
The Saudis have now formally said that should the United States pull out, they will not stand idly by as their Sunni brethren face almost certain cethnic cleansing at the hands of the predominately Shii'a government. However, US withdrawl leads to the end of support for the central government and the end of training the army (which we might think of as a state sponsored shii'a militia).
So paradoxically, it seems that if we stop supporting the shii'a majority, shouldn't the sunni world applaud?
(for those that aren't familiar with with why this is such a big deal, the Volokh Conspiracy has a good discussion of it in a post railing new House Intel Chair Rep. Silvestre Reyes)
I mean, i could see their pause. First, its most likely that no US action is ever going to be satisfactory in the region, short of leaving the Israelis or Kurds high and dry (neither of which we will do, and as a Jew I'm quite happy about that). Second, we've already sunk a huge cost and there will be an effect of there being a large somewhat trained and disciplined Shii'a army (and it's not clear that it'd even be under the central gov't's command, which is even more frightening).
I swear to god, this all didn't occur to me until Fareed Z was on the daily show last night whilst taking a study break.
And of course, as jack pointed out to me, the saudis invading Iraq puts Shii'a Iran on the defensive, which could prompt them to blockade the straight of Hormuz. And then there's the Syrians and turks doing god knows what. All hell breaks loose. Basically, whatever US presence left there would be little more than speed bumps on the highway to WWIII. At least we have an idea of the Worst Case scenario.
Any ways, I don't know what comes next. Scary stuff I tell ya, scary.
My quick question, more or less prompted by last week's ISG report is:
What do you do next?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Glad to know you can read...

Part of a recent press conference, posted on


Q Mr. President, you have said that you have the Baker-Hamilton report, you also have the -- you're waiting to hear from the Pentagon, you're waiting to hear from the State Department. This report was prepared by a bipartisan group, the only one you'll get. Secretary Baker has a special relationship with the family. Should this report not get extra consideration? Does it not carry more weight than any of the others?

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's an interesting question. It's certainly an important part of our deliberations, and it was certainly an important part of our discussions this morning. Some reports are issued and just gather dust. And truth of the matter is, a lot of reports in Washington are never read by anybody.

To show you how important this one is, I read it, and our guest read it. The Prime Minister read -- read a report prepared by a commission. And this is important. And there are some -- I don't think Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton expect us to accept every recommendation. I expect them -- I think -- I know they expect us to consider every recommendation, Jim. We ought to pay close attention to what they advise. And I told them yesterday at our meeting that we would pay close attention, and would seriously consider every recommendation. We've discussed some of their recommendations here at this press conference. And we are -- we will spend a lot of time on it.

I'm not really sure where I can even start with this one...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Strange Attractors

So while I've practically been living out of the law library, I've wondered how many law school final exams will feature questions relevant to the K Fed/Britney divorce saga? I'm sure there are some interesting issues that the lawyers will bring up, including Britney's competence as a parent, Kevin's future earnings potential (think reality show), Kevin's alleged relationship wtih a former porn star...

My biggest question: Will K Fed have a greatest hits album?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The costs of law firm attrition

I was sitting here in the law library, preparing for my nonlinear dynamics final, when I realized I should have some kind of cover in case someone walked by and wondering what this undergrad might be doing in this place. So of course I pull up Anonymous Lawyer and through some very odd succession of hyperlinks ended up reading an interesting article by Calvert and Williams (2001) that mentioned, among other things, that it is very costly to replace attorneys who leave the firm. Specifically,
Law firms typically focus on revenue generation rather than bottom-line profitability.
For this reason, they may overlook the fact that they are losing millions of dollars to
high attrition. Replacing each attorney who leaves costs between $200,000 and
$500,000 – and this does not include the hidden costs of client dissatisfaction due to
turnover, lost business of clients who leave with departing attorneys, and damage to
the firm’s reputation and morale.
The footnote in the lexis article that led me to Williams and Calvert's article noted more specifically that the costs of associate attrition were generally highest, especially associates who left in their third or fourth year, right after the firm's investment in training was complete but before the associate had become net profitable.

A few thoughts: first, not having to pay the cost of training is obviously closely linked to the high signing bonuses that are given to associates with clerkship experience, etc. Second, a question: does the estimated cost of $200K-500K assume that the firm must hire a new fresh-out-of-law-school associate or does this cost germane to lateral transfers? Having only a minute academic knowledge of these dynamics, I'd hazard that in a closed market where law firms experience some level of attrition, the cost of attrition is mitigated by the ability to hire laterally, that is, associates whose experience is equal to or greater than the experience of the lost associate. So the attrition game is certainly a game that features non-negligible costs, but is primarily an exercise in optimal matching in which firms might be (and probably are, if we assume that associates look for matches better than their current firm) better off. Of course, relaxing the assumptions of that world makes things a bit more complicated, but I'll leave it at that.

The rest of the article is worth reading if you're interested; the authors do a nice job of debunking "conventional wisdom" regarding associate schedules and part time work in law firms.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Word of the Day

Main Entry:plangent
Etymology:Latin plangent-, plangens, present participle of plangere to strike, lament * more at PLAINT

1 : having a loud and reverberating sound : RESONANT *let out a plangent roar New Yorker* *plangent organ music J.L.Lowes*
2 : having an expressive especially plaintive quality *the long plangent ripple of the harp strings Osbert Sitwell* *a strange, chanting cry, slow and plangent C.G.D.Roberts*
–plangently adverb

Definition from Merriam Webster's Unabridged

Friday, December 01, 2006

Jaw drops, is recovered

Apparently someone made a Harry Potter: Order of the Pheonix movie USING THE SIMS GAME ENGINE (and some rather clever artistic hacks, apparently).

Link here (chapter 5 or whatever, the youtube page links to the rest.)