Oct 202008

Blogs are such great things, connecting so many people to so many others and ideas.

It’s these connections that projects like Blawg Review are designed to celebrate. This week’s is hosted by recent bar-passer Dave Gulbrensen, who included my mortgage post (replete with bar exam reference) in his bar exam-themed post. If the bar exam motif doesn’t make your skin crawl, enjoy his clever assembly of interesting posts from around the blogosphere.

But that’s not the only blog-inspired connection to speak of here… Reader Brian Pikelny reached out to me to fill me on some sad news updating a post I wrote on Chiune Sugihara a few years ago after watching a show about him on PBS:

After living a well-lived, fascinating, and uniquely interesting life, Mrs. Yukiko (nee Kikuchi) passed away peacefully at the age of 94 years on October 8, 2008. Mrs. Sugihara was the widow of the late Consul Chiune Sugihara, who was assigned to a Consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania, prior to the onset of WWII. During this assignment, despite the orders of his government, he was instrumental in saving thousands of Jews in their efforts to escape Hitler’s Holocaust by issuing life saving visas. With Mrs. Sugihara’s support and encouragement, the family (including three sons), chose to risk their lives and safety, declaring, “Although I chose to disobey my government, I could not disobey my God.”

Mrs. Yukiko Sugihara was born in 1913 in Numazu and grew up on Shikoku Island. She met and married Chiune Sugihara in 1935. Their first-born (1936) son, Hiroki, founded a Foundation in San Francisco dedicated to perpetuate the memory and legacy of his father in 1997, and which Mrs. Sugihara supported as Honorary Chair. Before Hiroki passed away in 2001, he became a familiar figure in Japan town where he lived, while in the USA, ironically staying sporadically, due to visa requirements.

Following a stroke, the last several years of Mrs. Yukiko Sugihara was spent in a nursing home near Fujisawa. She is survived by two remaining sons, Chiaki Sugihara of Fujisawa, Japan and Nobuki Sugihara who resides in Belgium. A private funeral service was held by Chiaki following her passing. Her ashes will be interned at Kamakura where she will be joined with her husband, Chiune, a son, Haruki who passed away in 1946, and with Hiroki. Formal services are planned by sons, Chiaki and Nobuki that is scheduled to be held on November 9, 2008 in Tokyo, (Aoyama District), Japan.

I post Brian’s update in tribute to Mrs. Sugihara, and note how the story of the Sugiharas is one more example of how the things we do have the power to touch so many people — something to celebrate indeed.

 Posted by at 9:15 pm
Oct 192008

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post on my old blog, “Law Crossing: yay or nay?” asking if it was worth signing up with Law Crossing to help me find a job.
The answer is clearly, most definitely and unequivocally, “nay.” For the reasons laid out below, Law Crossing has demonstrated itself to be a most disreputable company, first by engaging in dubious business practices and then by trying to co-opt me and my blog in its efforts to cover them up and continue to exploit the public.

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 Posted by at 11:30 pm
Oct 122008

Yesterday Berkeley played host to the annual Students for Free Culture conference. (Actually, the “unconference” continues today with further workshops.) Although I am a frequent attendee at all sorts of law and technology events, this one was fairly unique: instead of being a room stuffed with lawyers, it was full of artists and technologists, and lots and lots of concerned students.

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 Posted by at 11:07 am
Oct 122008

For reasons I never could quite understand, mortgages are heavily tested on the bar exam, usually constituting at least a third of the property questions on the MBE. While I did learn the rules sufficiently to pass the test, my eyes always glazed over at the thought of them. I just couldn’t care about the technicalities of financial instruments; I cared about people.

Even in this current crisis, my view is the same. The technicalities of financial instruments still strike me as mind-numbingly arcane, but to the extent to they affect real people, real lives, and real homes, well, in that respect they are incredibly relevant.

However, it’s this dichotomy about mortgages that seems to be at the root of our current problem. And standing away of its solution.

On the one hand, mortgages are technical and often complicated financial instruments. Bought and sold, underwritten and recalled, mortgages are entirely pecuniary in character and exclusively of the realm of banking and finance experts.

But as long as they are regarded merely as mechanisms of investment, they will fail as mechanisms of investment. For doing so ignores their other dimension: as necessary tools to get people into homes.

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 Posted by at 9:19 am
Oct 072008

I think I will continue my inadvertent yet somewhat purposeful avoidance of discussing the presidential debates. There are plenty of other people out there who are writing pretty much what I would say, and I don’t want to post what would essentially be a “me, too.”

But I do want to note something John McCain said tonight that resonated with me. Mind you, little he says ever does, but at one point he expressed something cogently that tracked to a frustration I’d already experienced: that it is so difficult to transport one’s health coverage across state lines.

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 Posted by at 9:57 am
Oct 022008

I took over an hour this morning to figure out what to vote for this November. I already pretty much know whom to vote for, but my November ballot will be covered with state and local propositions, and they take a while to work through.

It is a quirk of the California constitution that there are so many separate ballot measures each election cycle. I’m not, however, sure it’s an altogether good quirk. On the one hand, direct democracy certainly sounds like a good idea, at least in theory. Let the people speak directly on the laws that govern them, rather than have to depend on some cadre of representatives make those decisions for them.

But in practice some of the same problems that infect the republican representative-based legislative process also infect the democratic public referendum process, and the latter introduces several new ones of its own. As I worked my way through the dozen state initiatives I am to vote on next month, I became acutely aware of them.

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 Posted by at 8:31 am