Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mann v. Steyn-- An Attack on Free Speech.

When internet surfers see more articles on the slugfest in the District of Columbia Superior Court that goes by the name of Mann v. Steyn, they may yawn and think it's all political and who cares?   The purpose of this post is to explain that while it is indeed political, you should care.  What I have found very little of in all the online discussions is any actual comprehension of the legal and factual issues involved.  So I now embark on an effort to provide an outline of those issues, which,  while highly simplistic is more or less accurate.

Two fields of law are involved here.  First, defamation law: Michael Mann alleges that Mark Steyn, Rand Simberg, the National Review magazine and the Competitive Enterprise Institute defamed him.  I will concentrate mostly on Steyn because what I am really trying to convey is LEGAL principles to people who are not lawyers (assuming, she vainly wishes, that lawyers will already understand those issues.).   

A suit for defamation is what you file when someone tells falsehoods about you and you suffer damage as a result.  It can be oral (slander) or written (defamation). In order for a statement to be considered defamatory, it must be a statement that seems to be a statement of fact, as opposed to a statement of opinion.  So “He stole money from his employer” appears to be a statement of fact and has the potential to be defamatory. “He is a rotten scumball” is most likely a statement of opinion. People are entitled to express derogatory opinions, and opinions can never be proved to be false.  Second, the allegedly defamatory statement must be a statement that is derogatory or would bring a person into disrepute.  So “He gave a million dollars to the Red Cross” is probably not defamatory even if false.

In the bad old days, before the U. S. Supreme Court started protecting the free-speech rights as effectively as it has recently, if you proved those two things and also proved that you had suffered some harm, you won.  

But then came the 60’s and New York Times vs. Sullivan.  The New York Times published an  advertisement signed by three black preachers, inter alia, who were civil rights activists.  There were a number of facts set forth in the advertisement about what was going on in the south with regard to sit ins and arrests and the like.  Some of the facts in the ad were wrong.  The plaintiff, who was the police commissioner in Montgomery, Alabama was awarded $500,000 by an all-white Alabama jury.  Even today, most people can see the potential such a judgment would have to cripple the civil-rights movement.  The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court.  That court, noting that it was ruling for the first time on the intersection of the First Amendment, which protects speech, and defamation law that protects citizens from harm from false speech, ruled that where a person is a public figure, meaning a person who is widely known, he or she must prove not only that factually false and defamatory statements were made about him or her, but that the person making them knew that they were false when he made them or that he made the statements with a reckless disregard for the truth.  The court reasoned that public figures have access to the media and have an easy opportunity to get out their side of the story.  On the other hand, fear of being sued would certainly chill the open and robust debate that a free society needs and should have about issues.  So recently, Courtney Love was sued by her former lawyer for defamation.  Love had sent out a tweet that apparently accused her lawyer of taking a bribe from the people on the other side of the lawsuit.  No one at the trial even disputed that the lawyer had ever taken a bribe.  Everyone knew at that point that the lawyer was innocent of the charge.  But the question the jury was asked to answer was: Did Courtney Love believe that the claim was true when she made it?  The jury answered “yes,” that Love did believe the charge was true.  Love won the lawsuit even though she had made a false and defamatory statement about her lawyer.  

Here is the form for California jury instruction upon which instructions to the jury were modeled.  It is a fairly accurate statement of defamation law everywhere in the country. 

1700. Defamation per se—Essential Factual Elements (Public Officer/Figure and Limited Public Figure)
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] harmed [him/her] by making [one or more of] the following statement(s): [list all claimed per se defamatory statements]. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove that all of the following are more likely true than not true:
That [name of defendant] made [one or more of] the statement(s) 
to [a person/persons] other than [name of plaintiff]; 
That [this person/these people] reasonably understood that the 
statement(s) [was/were] about [name of plaintiff]; 
[That [this person/these people] reasonably understood the statement(s) to mean that [insert ground(s) for defamation per se, e.g., “[name of plaintiff] had committed a crime”]]; and 
That the statement(s) [was/were] false. 
In addition, [name of plaintiff] must prove by clear and convincing evidence that [name of defendant] knew the statement(s) [was/were] false or had serious doubts about the truth of the statement(s).

Interpolating for Mann v. Steyn an accurate jury instruction might go like this

1700. Defamation per se—Essential Factual Elements (Public Officer/Figure and Limited Public Figure)
Michael Mann claims that Mark Steyn harmed him by making the following statement: “Michael Mann’s hockey stick is fraudulent.”
 To establish this claim, Michael Mann must prove that all of the following are more likely true than not true:
: That Mark Steyn made the statement to [a person other than Michael Mann]; 
That this person reasonably understood that the
Statement was about Michael Mann;That this person reasonably understood the statement to mean that Michael Mann had used  falsified data in creating his hockey stick graph.

In addition, Michael Mann must prove by clear and convincing evidence that Mark Steyn knew the statement was false or had serious doubts about the truth of the statement.

So Michael Mann has a heavy burden to shoulder in order to win. He (not Mark Steyn) has the burden of proving that the statements are false and he has to prove that Mark Steyn, at the time Steyn made the statements, believed them to be false or entertained serious doubts about their truth.

To all lawyers and pettifoggers, yes, I know this is oversimplified.  That is the whole point of this post.  To make it simple enough for people who do not practice law for a living to understand.

The second issue one must understand is Anti-Slapp law.  I have personal experience with this one ,having been the victim of a SLAPP suit and having been awarded the somewhat modest sum of $5000 in attorney fees and costs for having to go to the trouble of getting it thrown out. 

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.  Fortunately for me, California has just such a law and I was protected by it when the boyfriend of a party who was my opposition in a case decided to sue me.  He now owes my lawyer $5000. 

These laws were passed because dishonest lawyers and other people had been engaging in what some call “lawfare” to shut down public discussion of important issues.  In California this sometimes took the form of a developer suing a group of citizens who protested his planned development.  The legislature realized that by the time you have been dragged through the courts and spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend yourself, even if on paper you won,  in fact, you lost. In the meantime, citizens who protested the development were forced to shut up for fear of more expensive lawsuits that they couldn’t afford.   Thus the Anti-SLAPP motion was invented to allow defendants in mostly defamation cases to get rid of a frivolous lawsuit immediately and force the people filing the lawsuit to pay their attorney fees and costs.  Many states and the District of Columbia have adopted similar laws.  D. C.’s law is very similar to California’s .  Here is the text of the  D. C. law.

a A party may file a special motion to dismiss any claim arising from an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest within 45 days after service of the claim.
b If a party filing a special motion to dismiss under this section makes a prima facie showing that the claim at issue arises from an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest, then the motion shall be granted unless the responding party demonstrates that the claim is likely to succeed on the merits, in which case the motion shall be denied.
c(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, upon the filing of a special motion to dismiss, discovery proceedings on the claim shall be stayed until the motion has been disposed of.
2 When it appears likely that targeted discovery will enable the plaintiff to defeat the motion and that the discovery will not be unduly burdensome, the court may order that specified discovery be conducted. Such an order may be conditioned upon the plaintiff paying any expenses incurred by the defendant in responding to such discovery.
d The court shall hold an expedited hearing on the special motion to dismiss, and issue a ruling as soon as practicable after the hearing. If the special motion to dismiss is granted, dismissal shall be with prejudice.

I will confess that, other than looking up the statute itself, I haven’t done much research on D. C. cases interpreting D. C. Law.  But just scanning the summaries it appears that conservatives lose and liberals win.  This is not a good thing and perhaps I am wrong. But that will be the subject of another post after I have done the laborious work of reviewing all of these cases.

In California, which has a very similar statute, the cases have rarely involved such highly political issues as have been involved in D. C.  Further, the court has held that The filing of a lawsuit is, per se, an act of advocacy which brings the case under the Anti-Slapp rules.  Having said that, here are the basics of Anti-Slapp.

The moving party (i.e. the person who files the Anti-SLAPP motion, aka the defendant) only has to prove one thing: that the underlying case is an issue of public advocacy.  That is entire burden of proof on the moving defendant.

Once the defendant has proved that the case involves First Amendment rights, the burden shifts to the plaintiff in the underlying suit to prove that he or she is likely win the underlying lawsuit.  The plaintiff, of course, always has the burden of proving his case, but when an Anti-SLAPP motion has been filed, he must come up with enough proof to show that he is likely to win.  If he or she fails to come up with sufficient proof, then the motion must be granted and the case thrown out of court before it goes to discovery and trial.  

While it is easy enough for Michael Mann to come up with a gazillion people who think that he is a fine fellow, it appears that the D. C. Court addressed only the issue of whether the hockey stick was a fraud.  But, as we have seen in the Courtney Love case, he also has to prove that Mark Steyn believed that the hockey stick was not a fraud or entertained serious doubts about whether or not it was a fraud.  From what I have seen, the court simply skipped over this issue altogether.  The court said that the plaintiff had stated a cause of action.  To non-lawyers that sounds like the court did find that the plaintiff had come up with the evidence.  But lawyers know that stating a cause of action has nothing to do with evidence at all.  

When the court considers whether a plaintiff has stated a cause of action, the court is looking only at the written complaint.  It is not even allowed to look at evidence. Looking at the complaint, the court decides whether the plaintiff has managed to say things that show he is claiming a legal wrong has been committed.  When the court decides that a cause of action has been stated, it is not saying that there is even one little bit of evidence to support the statements made in the complaint.  It is only saying that if  the statements made by the plaintiff are true, then he is entitled to be compensated for his injuries.  

But there is no comment whatsoever being made about whether the statements are true.  Here is an example: Suppose you witnessed an auto accident and it really shook you up to see it.  You didn’t know any of the people in the cars, but bodies were flying and you can’t forget it.  So you sue the person who caused the accident.  The court will tell you that even if everything you say is true, you can’t sue that driver because you were not involved in the accident, period.  You have failed to state a cause of action.  But supposing that one of the people in the accident was your child, then you may have a cause of action. 

So let me put a little more context around this because it is important.  In any court, when a complaint has been filed against you, you may answer it or you may choose to challenge whether the complaint even states a cause of action against you.  In most state courts this is called a demurrer; in federal courts it is called a motion dismiss for failure to state a claim.  In ruling on such a motion, the court is not looking to see if there is any evidence at all to support the claims made against you.  The general rule in ruling on such a motion is that the court must assume that all the facts alleged are true because the purpose of such a motion is to get rid of claims that don’t even merit a hearing. For example, if a spoiled 18-year-old girl sues her parents for support, a court might say to the girl, “You are a grown up.  Support yourself.  I am not interested in why you think your parents should support you because you have no basis in law for forcing them to.”

On the other hand, sometimes a motion to dismiss in federal court is about whether or not there is any evidence to support the claims.  In California it is quite clear in Anti-SLAPP motions that the plaintiff has to produce actual evidence showing that his claims are true and has to show the court sufficient evidence  supporting his claims to persuade the the court  that the plaintiff is likely to win.  The reason for this rule is simple: Well-educated lawyers know how to draft a complaint that “states a cause of action.” Before Anti-SLAPP legislation was introduced, they could and would base the complaint on the flimsiest of evidence, or simply on a belief that there might be evidence.  Two years and a hundred thousand dollars in attorney fees later, it would be shown that there was no substantial evidence at all supporting the claims asserted in their frivolous complaints, but by that time, whatever it was they were trying to accomplish had succeeded and the people who were protesting against them had been sidelined fighting a frivolous lawsuit.  

This requirement is discussed in a recent California case, Hunter v. CBS (2013). The court notes that there is a two-pronged test in making an Anti-SLAPP decision.  The first question that must be answered is “Does this case arise from activity that is in furtherance of the exercise of freedom of speech?” In reaching this conclusion the court should not actually discuss the merits of the claims at all but, rather, whether the claims involve free speech or public advocacy on an issue.  Clearly Mark Steyn’s words were connected to his advocacy of a position on an issue of great public concern--global warming.  

If the court answers the first question “Yes”, it then proceeds to the second question: “Does the plaintiff have evidence showing he or she is likely to win?” Note that I said evidence, not allegations.  An allegation is something you say happened.  Evidence is proof that that thing actually happened.  We’ve all watched enough cop shows to know that there is a difference between allegations and evidence.  

So, you can sue someone for defamation involving a matter of public interest, but you have to demonstrate to the court, right in the beginning, that you have actual evidence sufficient to prove your claims.  In other words you have to have evidence to show that what you say in your complaint is true (at least in California).  In the CBS case referred to above, the California Court of Appeals noted that the trial court had not proceeded to the second step because it erroneously concluded that the hiring of a weather anchor was not a First Amendment issue.  

The Court of Appeals concluded that it was a First Amendment issue because it was a matter of public interest.  Since the trial court had not looked at the evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claim, the appellate court sent the case back to the trial court to look at the evidence.

Now you may think, ”Well, that’s California.  Why should a court in District of Columbia follow that rule?” The answer is that there is no reason for an Anti-SLAPP statute if courts are not required to look at the evidence on an Anti-SLAPP motion.  Any defendant in any case filed has been able to get a case thrown out of court rapidly if it fails to state a cause of action.  If how you wrote the complaint is the issue, then there is no need for an Anti-SLAPP statute.  Courts have been able to throw badly written complaints out literally for centuries.  There is even a very old fashioned word for it; as noted above, it’s called a demurrer.  

The reason for Anti-SLAPP statutes is to enable courts to throw out claims that are well written but lack substantial supporting evidence.  In the CBS case, CBS asserted that, contrary to the plaintiff’s claim of age and gender discrimination, three of its five weather anchors were male and over the age of 40.  That tends to show that CBS does not discriminate based on age and gender.  That is, it tends to show that the evidence does not support the plaintiff’s claim of age and gender discrimination. In nonSLAPP cases, plaintiffs don’t have to prove their claims until much later in the process, but in SLAPP cases they do have to prove that they have substantial evidence supporting their claims very early in the process.  That is the reason for putting Anti-SLAPP legislation on the books: to prevent the filing of non-meritorious claims that discourage the exercise of First Amendment rights.  But that only works when plaintiffs have to first provide evidence that shows they are likely to win.  Anyone with a good lawyer can file a complaint that will pass muster on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action.  The Anti-SLAPP statutes are designed or should be designed to require more, otherwise there is no point to them.

So, a recap.  What Judge Weisberg should have done in writing his decision was to address the following questions in the following order: 

First, is this a case arising from an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest?  If the answer to the first question is yes, he should have proceeded to the second question; Has the plaintiff (Michael Mann) demonstrated that his claim is likely to succeed on the merits?  Proving that your claim is likely to succeed on the merits is a question of both fact and law.  Questions of fact are decided based on evidence.  Such evidence can be submitted in the form of sworn declarations, as CBS did in the case described above.  

Judge Weisberg, in his decision denying Steyn’s Anti-SLAPP motion, based his conclusions entirely on the allegations of the complaint. You can read Judge Weisberg’s order here.  No evidence was cited in his decision showing that the allegations of the complaint were true other than a reference to the fact that many people agree with Michael Mann about Global Warning.  None.  He did not even address the intent issue, which is critical in a defamation claim against a public figure.  He did not decide whether Michael Mann is a public figure.  He did not decide whether Michael Mann had any evidence to support his claim that Steyn acted with reckless disregard for the truth.  

What he did was a major error, in my view.  He decided the motion as if it were a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action.  He stated explicitly in his order that he was assuming that all of the facts alleged by the plaintiff were true.    He wrote, ”Viewing the alleged facts in
 the light most favorable to plaintiff, as the court must on a motion to dismiss, a reasonable jury is likely to find the statement that Dr. Mann “molested and tortured data” was false, was published with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, and is actionable as a matter of law irrespective of special harm”  [emphasis added].  In other words, he mistook an Anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss for an ordinary motion to dismiss.  

That is a basic and egregious error.  If Anti-SLAPP motions are judged on the same basis as ordinary motions to dismiss, what is the point of having an Anti-SLAPP statute?

The Weisberg order does not point to a shred of evidence that Steyn did not believe what he said was true. Yes, there are thousands of people with degrees in science who apparently think the hockey stick is good science.  But there are also thousands of people who have degrees in science who think it is hooey.  The point is not what all those people believe but what Mark Steyn believed when he made the statement.  You may think, ”But that’s an impossibly high standard for a plaintiff to meet in a defamation case.”  It is high but not impossibly so.  Plaintiffs may have proof of bad intent in previous statements made by the defendant or statements made that show the defendant does not really believe what he is saying or is saying it to extort money.  But it is a very rare thing for a public figure to win a defamation lawsuit.  And that is exactly what the United States Supreme Court intended when it decided New York Times v. Sullivan.  Let's go back to that case.  The people who ran that ad, and the New York Times, were taking a position that was unpopular at the time.  They were supporting sit ins and peaceful resistance to racial segregation.  They were trying to raise money to support their work, work that was extremely unpopular in the South.  The court noted in reaching its decision that its rule would protect unpopular minorities and that it was intended to to do exactly that.  Its rule was intended to protect the public debate.  The court recognized that the use of libel and defamation suits could silence such debate and said that the silencing of such debate was not a good thing.

To summarize, the purpose of an Anti-SLAPP law is to prevent shutting down legitimate debate on issues of public importance. In failing to recognize such a purpose, and allowing the defendants in this case to have to continue to appeal, or face an expensive and time-consuming trial, while ignoring the lack of evidence that it would be likely to succeed for the plaintiff, Judge Weisberg made a grievous judicial error that, if upheld by the appellate court, would eviscerate and render meaningless the Anti-SLAPP law passed by the District of Columbia. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Income Disparities and Free Enterprise

It appears that despite 5 years of Obamanomics, income disparities in the U. S. are greater than ever.  Leftist wesites prescribe more government control to cure this problem.  This is a little like the old practice of bloodletting as a cure for disease.  That, distinctly harmful, practice was based on a theory about the human body that was as correct as the flat earth theory.  Despite any real science supporting it , it was practiced to the detriment of the ill for centuries.  

Excesive government intervention in an economy is the cause, not the cure of inequality in income.  Because friends, here is how it works in "nature" so to speak.  When people organize themselves into social groups they tend to specialize.  That is, one person begins to take on a particular task for the whole group because he or seh is better at than others.  Each person tends to pick a specialty and then trade with others for goods and services.  Watch your own social groups and you will see that this tends to happen.  You do the washing and I'll dry.  That kind of thing.  It's based on personal preferences, skills and talents .  Writ large in society, some people make cars and some people grow food.  When someone is very successful at his specialty, he or she hires helpers-- people who are not as knowledgeable but who are willing to learn and to assist for pay.  The guy with the skill, the history and the reputation for having the skill (AKA the "owner") allocates the money and, somewhat naturally, keeps most of it for himself.   That's how employment works.  Unrestricted by excessive government intervention that process goes on until one of his or her longtime employees gets tired of the boss getting the largest share of the profits and decides to strike out on his own.  He sets up a competing company.  He may be able to charge less than his old boss and still make more money for himself because the boss was keeping most of the money for himself or hersself.  

The ability of the employee to make this move is critical to reducing income disparities.  That is why I am going to emphasize that fact here.  Employers and the powerful have historically used all kinds of devises to prevent that kind of competition and the employees have always fought back in one way or another.  As a positive inducement not to leave many employers offer partnerships -- i. e. stay with me and I will share the profits with you, higher wages and security-- the origin of company pensions.  

There have also, hoevr , been negative interventions-- slavery-- I own you you can't leave, indentured workers, I own you you can't leave for 7 years, and non competition agreements-- if you come to work for me you cannot leave and compete with me.  

Now the big rich people have discovered a new, and very effective way, to keep you from competing with them-- well, its not so new.  You have to have a license or a permit to engage in an occupation and I will make sure you don't get it unless I approve.  That actually has been around in different guises for a while.  

But the new wrinkle is that what the rich and powerful do to prevent you from leaving and starting your own enterprise to compete with them is they make it very costly through the use of government regulation. For example, how much trouble and cost do you encounter in starting up as an auto mechanic on your own.  I haven't verified it on my own, but have been informed by at least one client that the cost of strating up a repair facility where you change the oil and perform other tmaintenance and repari tasks on a car is at least $100,000.  Ye one hundred thousand dollars -- and that is just the cost of obtaining a permit.  Here in California the Department of Toxic Substances Control began requiring permits to operate repair and maintenance stations for outo repair in around 1994.  There are a myriad of regulations that have to be satisfied and a a mountain of paperwork.  The delay can be months or years and the cost, just to obtain the permit according to my client, is around a hundred thousand dollars..  The existing businesses were pretty much grandfathered in but new businesses face a formidable obstacle just to obtain a permit.  Of course chain auto repair shops owned by big companies have people on staff who specialize in getting permits and know all the people you need to know at the state regulatory office.  And they have the hundred thousand dollars.  But the average auto mechanic who has perhaps worked for them for 10 or 15 years, doesn't have that kind of resource.  Because the cost of trying to strike out on his own is so high, his employer has much less motive to pay him well.  And as for partnership-- forget it.  

As I said, some big businesses seem to have learned this lesson.  So, rather than saying I don't want Joe to compete with me, they say, it's dangerous to allow Joe to have his own auto repair shop because he is going to destroy the environment.  I am using auto repair shops as an example.  It's true in almost every field of endeavor.  So the cure proposed by the left-- more government regulation--is, in fact, the cause of increasing inequality.  And this effect is what we should come to expect.  Governments tend to  be controlled by the rich and powerful.  The rich and powerful tend to be in favor of those laws and regulations that maintain them in power.  The genius of the left has been to become kind of parasites on the rich and powerful.  They get government grants and subsidies.  They get private foundation grants and subsidies for promoting policies that have the consequence of benefitting the rich and powerful.  So we see the specatcle of a Middle Eastern Oil producer state controlled media, Al Jazeera, sponsoring an anti fossil fuel "documentary".  Why?  They know the main place this documentary will have an impact is in the United States and that it will be used to stop private individuals in the United States from develping U. S. fossil fuel resources, thus forcing the U. S. to import more oil from the Middle East.  

You may get the idea that I am opposed to all government regulation.  No. I  am not.  There is a place for goernment regulation in preventing harm.  It doesn't have to be done by the government.  As an example, Underwriter Laboraties is a private organizaiton, but their seal of approval indicating that an electrical appliance meets therre standards is still seen as a proof of safety which influences consumers. And most state bar associations are private and started out as a way to assure people they are hiring someone who has a certain minimal competence in practicing law.  Government has taken over some of those functions-- as an example the California State Contractor's Licensing Board.   It's seal of approval assures us that the person we hire to build a house or make major repairs has a minimal level of knowledge and competence.  I am in favor of state regulation that helps assure that buildings won't fall down in the next earthquake and airplanes won't fall out of the sky because those are matters that are extremely difficult and expensive to investigate on our own.  But we must always be vigilant that the paperwork is not excessive and not unrelated to the function of protection.  Environmental regulations have become the latest method for preventing individuals from starting their own businesses.  

But they are not the only device.  I will be looking into more of these in other posts, but my point here is that the best cure for income inequality is to reduce the barriers to entry into business to the minimu consistent with safety.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Cheap Weddings Part 2

More thoughts on what and how weddings should be.  A wedding, in the olden days, was a community event.  You didn't really need an invite to a wedding because the church announced you were getting married and the whole village responded.  You know that part where the minister asks if anyone knows any reason why you should not be allowed to be married?  That was in there because everyone was allowed to attend and anyone who knew you were secretly married to someone else could stand up and say so.  

But I digress.    I feel the need to express some more thoughts about weddings.  Specifically, who should be in the wedding party and who should be invited.  And who should plan it and such.

To have a semi traditional wedding you need a best man and a maid of honor.  Everyone else is optional.  The best man takes charge of the rings and is generally there to make sure the groom is supposed to be where he is supposed to be.  When your cute nephew walks up to the front of the church he should be directed to handle the pillow thing to the best man who will be in charge of it.  The groom will soon need to be holding hands with his soon to be wife so the best man hands out the rings at the appropriate time in the ceremony and is generally, along with the maid of honor, in charge of making sure people like small children are where they are supposed to be. The maid of honor holds the bridal bouquet.  When the bride reaches the altar, her Dad or other giver awayer if she has one, withdraws and hands her over to the maid of honor who takes the bouquet and makes sure her dress is okay and what have you.  

Whom to select.  This is a BIG ISSUE.  I have heard reports that some people select bridesmaids et cetera based on how attractive they are.  SHAME ON YOU.  This is a family and community affair in which your family and his family and all of your friends are getting together to help you form a marriage.  Whoever is your best friend should be your attendant,   Period.  Put a nice dress or good suit on him or her and they will look fine.  Yes they will.  If you are worried that other people are going to think your best friend is too fat, SHAME ON YOU.  You should not be putting looks before relationships.  The person who is your attendant at the wedding should be the person you confided in when you fell in love, whom you turned to for help when the caterer fell through at the last moment et cetra.  That person.  

Having said that your bridesmaids, aka attendants should also be your friends with one exception.  It used to be  customary to ask any sisters of the groom to be bridesmaids.  This is a good practice and one which helps to form a new family unit.  And we can at least all pretend to be friends.  Some people do not want to be bridesmaids or be in weddings, but at least extend the invitation.

A wedding is a family formation event, not just for the bride and groom, but for their families and friends as well.  So, again, my preference, weddings should be held where people can get to them without much expense I have been invited to weddings at distant places and I hardly ever go because it costs a lot of money and I can't afford it or don't have the time to travel.  If you both live in some big urban area where all your friends are but have family elsewhere, that is a problem.  You have to choose a place where most of the people you love can come.  In the hard choices area, I say pick family over friends and hope for the best with regard to travelling.  Your family will always be your family.

I think flower girls and ring bearers add a lot to any wedding and most of them (especially the girls) really love being in weddings.   Wow.  You are the princess that day and the flower girl  gets to be princess junior.  Mostly, because little girls like to dress up, being a flower girl is a very special memory for a girl.  Flower girl dresses can cost a hundred dollars or so even at David's Bridal, so I say encourage the mom of the flower girl to shop at Penny's or elsewhere for a pretty white dress (or whatever color.)  Weddings shouldn't break anyone's bank.

If you choose wisely and kindly who will be part of your wedding party, your wedding will be a happy memory for your whole extended family and long time friends.  So remember, that is what the choice is all about.

With regard to wedding vows, what can I say.  I'm an Episcopalian.  As one of our priests not so delicately put it to one couple who were agonizing over writing their vows, Not to worry dear, we already wrote them for you. You will find them in the Book of Common Prayer.  The priest continued that "if you want to be married in an Episcopal Church, you will have an Episcopal wedding."  Even if you are not an Episcopalian, it is a very lovely and traditional ceremony.  I especially like this part

The Celebrant then addresses the congregation, saying
Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your
power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?
People      We will.

It is a strong reminder that this isn't just a piece of paper or a big party, it is about two people comitting to spend their lives together, loving and caring for each other. 

Because it is that, turning it into an exercise in statuts seeking or excessive spending or an occasion to be bridezilla are all inappropriate.  A very wise priest commented at one rehearsal I was at that all the fithts and all the distress and conflict were really not about the things people were saying they were about.  They were about two whole big families coming togther and becoming connected.  That is what a marriage is really about.  So have a beautiful wedding, but use the occasion to build up your family and your community.  And have fun.

How to Have a Beautiful, Relatively Cheap Wedding

An article in National Review  has moved me to write this.  First of all, unless you are very wealthy it is STUPID to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding.  You need to spend that money on buying a house and furniture and setting up your life together not on flowers and expensive venues.  Second, all you really need for a wedding are the following:  a husband, a wife (now modified if its a gay marriage) a marriage license and a priest or justice of the peace, a witness (in some states).  All the rest is bling and party.   Really.  As a member of the altar guild who attends other peoples weddings as a representative of the church, I've had to repeat these words many times to anxious mothers of the bride and anxious brides.   Your marriage Should NOT be founded on what kind of party you have.

Having said that, and as a total party lover, I move on.  Of course you want to have a party and dress up for it and have a good time.  The last part is the important part.  Have a good time.  While the bride and groom  are the honored guests at t he party, they should plan for it to be fun for those they invite.  This means good food, and a comfortable place to eat it.

Rule number three, figure out how many people are important to you and whom you want to be there so share in your founding the most important relationship in your life.  Figure out how much you can afford to spend for the food.  Divide the latter figure by the former figure.  That is the price you should be working with in ordering the food and finding the venue and everything else. You are starting our very badly in life if you cut people out of this experience because you can't afford to buy them the fancy feast you think you need to serve.

Getting these preliminaries out of the way.  Here is my advice:

Decide if you want a religious ceremony or someone special to marry you. This is an actual necessity.  Having someone to perform the ceremony.  The three calendars that are the most important are the two people getting married and the person who is marrying them.  If so, consult with that person on the next priority-- time and place. consult with your parents and friends as well.  Once you pick a date, stick to it. My preference is a religious ceremony by someone who actually knows the bride and groom. Many religious organizations require a counseling period before the marriage so do this first!!!.

Set a date and Find a place:  You need to do this second.  You need an address and a time for the wedding invitations and just about everything else.  You do not have to be married in a church just because you are having a religious ceremony but it is often convenient and cheap.  You need a place for the ceremony and a place for the reception which can both be the same place if you have friends who will help you move the furniture around. Church parish halls are often a good value because they are next to the church, they have chairs and tables and kitchens and people don't have to drive.  IF you choose someone's back yard then you need to find a rental agency unless you are planning a very small wedding.  Chairs and tables and wedding arches can all be rented.  We had my daughter's wedding in a back yard and by the time we had set up the chairs and decorated the wedding arch and made a moveable altar out of someone's butcher block table, we had a very beautiful place.  It may sound silly, but one, not very expensive thing we rented really dressed everything up--  white chair covers with gauze ties that matched the wedding colors, made the rows of folding  chairs look very elegant for about 2.00 per chair.  An arch gives a focal point to the ceremony if it is outdoors and makes the place look very festive.  In my experience you can easily decorate it yourself with  floral ties, fresh flowers and a lot of tulle all of which you can buy for not too much at floral supply shops. This is a perfect job  for the mother, or mother in law or aunts who want to help.  Fresh flowers and tulle bows tied to an arch look like wedding and you don't have to have a lot of skill to do it.

DRess:  I have helped to plan three weddings recently and have come to the conclusion that David;s Bridal is it.  The prices are way more reasonable than most other stores.  They have a lot of variety, You can pre-shop for your wedding dress online and have an idea of what's available before you go.  For the attendants, they are terrific too.  Many, many dresses for under a 100.  The best strategy that will make your bridesmaids happy is pick a color (they have quite a variety)  and tell your bridesmaids they can pick whichever dress they like in that color.  They will really appreciate you for that.  It may not be a color they like, but at least they can pick a style they think is flattering.  And on your wedding day, the unity of the color will look terrific and the different styles will all seem to blend.  And as a bonus, David's Bridal coordinates with Men's WEarhouse so the men  can get matching ties or vests.  Everyone will coordinate and you will all look terrific and you will not totally bust the budget.

Obviously, it is better if you plan ahead for a long time but a couple of months is plenty of time if you are not dealing with jerks.

Food.  Food depends on the place and your pocket book.  My best advice is figure out what you would serve to your friends if you were throwing a party and then serve that.  For my tastes, buffet is best, whatever the content.  It allows people to mingle and talk and move around.  It also allows them to select what they like and as much as they like and to sit where they please.  All of this seems quite better to me than more formal receptions, but that's me.  Yes you want to have a table for the bride and groom so that everyone can come up and shake their hand.  for the rest, I say let people make their own seating assignments.

On the food issue-- if you are looking for catered I suggest you go for an ethnic cuisine-- it can be made ahead and delivered hot and tasty for not too much money.  Approach a restuarant you like or look at some ofthe chains that do food you like or ask your friends to cook ahead and bring it for the party.  All of these approaches can lead to tasty food and fun.  But if this is an informal wedding burgers and hot dogs are a great idea too.  It's a party to celebrate an important event, not a dress rehearsal for Downton Abbey.  Having your party at a church parish hall (depending on the church) or in a backyard can also solve the booze problem.  Paying by the drink at a hotel is VERY EXPENSIVE. You can provide a very nice experience in someone's back yard with sodas wine and beer you can buy at Costco for very cheap.

Wedding cake-- probably best to buy it from a bakery and have it delivered the day of.  Doesn't have to be fancy.  Remember you need a table and stuff for it.

Utensils and such:  you can buy nice looking plastic at party supply stores, COSTCO, Walmart, Target and Smart and Final.  Or you can rent from a rental place.  If you rent, you should hire someone to wash them and put them back in the delivery cartons.

Invitations:  You can order them from a printer and wait several weeks and pay a lot or you can buy the fancy blanks at Staples, Target, Office Max, Office Depot and so on and print them on your ink jet printer.  They will look very nice, really and will cost you less than a dollar per invite depending on which blanks you choose.  Invitations should, ideally, be sent about from 4 to 6 weeks before the wedding.  If you are planning far ahead you should send a save the date post card that gives the time and place so people can plan around your date.  But you should send a more formal invitation a few weeks before the wedding so they have something in hand to find the place.

Programs for the wedding, same deal -- buy the paper from an office supply store and print them yourselves.  Nice looking programs make all the keepsake you  need for people to remember your wedding.  I mean, seriously, did you save the little doohickeys people handed out at their weddings to remember their weddings?  I don't think so.

Photogaraphs.  In the age of digital photography you don't have to have a professional take your pictures.  I used to be favor of handing out those throw away cameras to people to take pictures but these days, everyone has a camera on their phone.  Just ask a couple of your friends to take lots of pictures and give you the disk.  But on the day of you need to have a designated picture take for the group pictures.  You need someone who not only snaps the photo but rounds bpeople up to pose for the pictures that you will be still looking at 50 years from now.  Yeah.  Group photos with the whole family will gain value over time and will end up being some of your favorites.  So designate a cat herder and ask everyone to cooperate.  Must do photos-- bride.  Bride and Groom.  Bride and Groom and parents.  Bride and Groom and wedding party.  Bride and Groom and priest or officiant at the wedding.   Bride and dad walking down the aisle.  Wedding dance.  There are a lot of variations.  These are the basics.  If you have a friend who is a semi pro pay him or her $500 and ask for a disk of the photos.  A lot of people will do it for free, but it seems like taking advantage.

Here is one hint I learned from my church and I applaud it greatly.  Have everyone come early to the church and take a lot of the shots BEFORE THE WEDDING.  Then you will not have to keep your guests waiting for an hour for the party to start.

Flowers:  Flowers can cost you a ton of money.  Most large urban areas have wholesale flower markets which not only sale fresh flowers but also floral supplies for less than half what you would pay at ordinary retail shops.  Bouquest are easy to make if they are kept simple. No one knows six months from now what will be in bloom and reasonably priced on any given day, so you need to stay flexible and select what is available .  If you are doing it yourself, or someone is a friend doing it for you.  You can buy the flowers the day before and keep the arrangements in vases or such.

I suggest hiring a hair dresser or cosmetologist to come to the church to do everyone's hair but some people discourage that.  If you are doing fancy dress, get dressed at the church.  That reduces the opportunity for accidents to happen between getting dressed  and getting to the wedding.  Another hint, from a minister.  That little pillow thing that the ring bearer is supposed to carry down the aisle?  Tie the rings to it and give it to the wedding coordinator or other responsible adult.  Do not give it to the ring bearer until he or she is standing in the aisle of the church ready to walk down it.  6 years olds are not responsible people.  Just remember that.  Same goes for whatever  flowers you give the flower girl.

with help from friends and family and the right attitude you can have a beautiful and memorable wedding and a great party after that will cement your relationship and be a fond memory for less than $5,000.  And for most people, that is what they should do.  The wedding industrial complex should be for people with lots of money who don't care how they spend it.  Not for common folk.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On IQ, Race, and Jason Richwine.

A young man,  Jason Richwine, just starting out his career, has been forced to resign because of a doctoral dissertation he wrote at Harvard. One presumes, based on experience, that the dissertation was read by an entire committee of tenured academics and approved by them, but now, we discover, from opinionated know nothings on the left, that the the dissertation, which I suspect none of them has actually looked at or read, is evidence of serious Nazi like racism.

And while these sanctimonious airheads strut their stuff in the comments section of various tabloid websites preening themselves with their imagined virtue,  they care nothing about ruining someone's career without so much as allowing him to respond.  Just more canon fodder in the war between right and left over who gets to spend the tax revenues in this country.  This scene, like so many before them, is nauseating.  It is not anything new, this phenomenon.  We saw it in the French Revolution, now celebrated in the movie musical, Les Miserable, where supposedly high ideals lead to mass slaughter based on nothing more than rumours, innuendo and a desire to grab other people's property.

I don't know Jason Richwine and I have not read his dissertation, nor do I intend to.  What I know is that the thing that he is being crucified for, besides having the temerity to challenge the unproven assumptions of corporate capitalists looking for cheap labor and leftwing ideologues looking for votes, is analyzing indisputable statistics.  Yes indeed, people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds do test differently on tests of mental performance.  That is an established fact and has been for at least 50 years.  The only intelligent discourse I have ever encountered about this fact is that written by Thomas Sowell in several different books, most recently, √Źntellectuals and Race

You can actually read a good part of his discussion online by clicking on the image of the book.  I will sum it up for you in a few words-- Sowell surveys the results of a huge variety of mental performance tests sdministered around the world in the last 100 years and concludes that intelligence, whatever that may be and he doesn't know for sure, is  the result of culture and environment as much as of heredity.  He concludes that such tests do predict future academic success with a fairly high degree of accuracy.  Since that is the way in which they are usually used, they are valuable but the studies do not tell us what to do in a policy sense.  There are a number of statistics which pose a serious challenge to any idea that intelligence is linked to race.  Like the hypothesis that all cats have brown eyes is disproven by findig one cat with blue eyes, the hypothesis that race and IQ are linked can be disproven by very few studies showing no such link.  Two that he cites are of black children adopted by white families (average IQ 109) and comparing the IQ's of German children who were the offspring of American soldiers during the occupation and raised by German single mothers-- no discernible difference in IQ.

The problem with this sort of discussion is that, of course, neither side in this mud slinging debate is usually interested in truth.  The leftwing is interested in tarring conservatives with the racist epithet although they can point to no evidence from the dissertation itself showing that.  One commenter who likened Richwine to the eugencists of the early 20th century (who, by the way included Margaret Sanger the founder of planned parenthood and a whole raft of left-wingers) because Richwine advocated an immigration policy skewed toward admitting people who are smart.  My non racist interpretation of that is that he would like to see more immigrants like my daughter in law from India  who has two master's degrees in scientific fields and less of dime store clerks.  My unscientific sample of graduate foreign students in the sciences is that a very large proportion of them are Asian.  So it sounds to me like he wants more of those people admitted and fewer people with less education admitted.  I am not saying he is a right but I fail to see the anti- dark skin color connection.

But what leaves a really sick feeling in the pit of my stomach is the way in which too many of my fellow citizens like to get on a bandwagon and banish people without a hearing, without a trial in order to make themselves feel better.  Too often the result is like what happened to the McMartin pre-school defendants.  The lives of innocent people are devastated because unscrupulous headline seekers rise in self righteous indignation and demand "justice" based on little or no evidence.  And when, after all the wreckage is cleared, it turns out that the condemned were not guilty, they seldom even receive an apology.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Thought Experiment on Preventing Violence

In their arguments to support measures limiting the capacity of magazines used in guns, gun grabbers have engaged in "thought experiments" where they imagine what might have happened if the capacity of Adam Lanza's guns had been 8 bullets instead of 30.  It might, they argued, have saved lives as he had to stop and reload.  So here is another thought experiment.   Let us suppose that (horror of horrors) the principal of the Sandy Hook elementary school had been trained in the use of firearms and had a gun in a gunsafe on the wall of her office.  (But no, that could never happen because she is a woman who is incapable of firing a gun!) But, just for the sake of argument, let us suppose that, though a woman, the principal, ever zealous for the protection of the students in her care, had spent the time and money to learn how to fire a gun and how to store it properly.

Her gunsafe (with that many children around she should keep the gun in locked place that  could not be accessed by others-- and a gunsafe is really just an ordinary safe such as you might use to protect valuables except smaller) might have been equipped with both a touchpad and a fingerprint opening device to assure that she wouldn't have to fumble with a key when she needed a gun.  (I have, parenthetically, become quite enamored of such devices.  I use the fingerprint scanner to sign in at my gym and I have a touch pad lock on my front door).  Her gun is in the safe, loaded and ready to use but protected from those who might want to use it improperly by the aforementioned locks.

She sees Adam Lanza breaking the glass in the front door on the video.  (Several accounts say the school had a live video on the front door and that Lanza broke the glass to get in).  She sees what might be a gun.  She takes her gun out of the safe and walks calmly down the hall to meet him.  She points her gun at Adam and says "put down the guns Adam or I will have to shoot you.".  What happens next depends on Adam.  Either he puts down the guns and he waits as she calls the police to take him into custody or he doesn't put down the gun but raises it to shoot her.  She shoots first.  Total one dead, Adam Lanza.

The number of women buying guns is on the rise, according to a number of studies.  People used to refer to guns as "equalizers" for a reason.  A small woman with a gun is more than equal to a big man without one and she is at least equal to a man with a gun. The image of women, especially teachers, with guns is upsetting to a lot of people. Particularly at the elementary school level, we think of teachers as mother figures.  And mother figures with guns can be frightening.  Of course, back in the old frontier days, I suspect most women in the west knew how to shoot a rifle at least.  Danger could come to you and yours from wild animals as well as wild people.  I don't have a gun.  It is a huge responsibility that I don't want to deal with right now. But if I were in a situation where protection was needed, I would acquire one and learn how to shoot it and store it safely.  The idea that educators might want to arm themselves in the event of an Adam Lanza is neither crazy nor outrageous.  It is realistic.  I am confident that properly trained teachers, whether male or female, are quite capable of doing what is necessary to protect their students and if that includes shooting an attacker, so be it.  No normal person wants to kill anyone, but sometimes our choices are pretty limited.

The science is that states that have concealed carry permit laws have lower rates of violent crime than states that have strict gun control that makes getting a concealed carry permit difficult or impossible.  

Here, of course, is the big problem with my thought experiment.  It is pretty much illegal for anyone other than a sworn peace officer to carry a gun on school grounds.  That is a federal law which has been imposed on the states as well.  The law would have to be changed to allow the principal to have the gun on school grounds.  Some states are getting around this problem by swearing in the teachers who are willing to carry a gun as peace officers.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about a concept he called "cheap grace".  It is seeking the grace of God without sacrifice.  Bonhoeffer was no piker in that regard.  He, a German who could see the Nazis for the monsters that they were, had left Germany and was safely in New York when he decided to return because he felt God called him to be in Germany working to bring God's love to Germans.  The Nazis arrested him and hung him shortly before Germany was occupied by the allies.  The cost of discipleship for him was his life.  I am not one to claim I am willing to give my life for Christ.  I am a feckless fearful sinner sort of an old lady who hopes devoutly that she will never be asked to do so. But the concept of cheap grace applies elsewhere as well.

One thing that really gets my dander up, makes me really angry in a Jesus confronting the moneylenders way, is people who CLAIM to be doing something for others when all they are doing is preening their self righteousness in front of others.  There is a lot of that going on right now and most of it, so far as I can see, is on the left.  It is because the display of their self righteous peacock feathers is their real purpose and not actually helping one single living soul that most leftists will not engage in any rational discussion about any of their programs.  Their idea of rational discussion is "you are a racist sexist homophobe who is ridiculously stupid".  Please.  That's just name calling not rational argument.  If they are so smart, why are they incapable of articulating reasons to support their policies that go beyond, "I want it that way, it makes me feel good.".

So, very often we are treated to shows in which large groups of preening peacocks get together and parade around showing their self righteous feathers to the rest of us.  "Look at how virtuous I am" their behavior screams.    The latest show to provoke my ire is a so called pilgrimage to the border fence that separates California from Mexico.  This is an activity sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.  That I am a member of that Diocese may explain why I am especially provoked.  

So what is the purpose of this show, other than to demonstrate what wonderful caring people the pilgrims are?  Supposedly to achieve "just" immigration laws.  There is, I believe purposefully, no specification of what about our immigration laws which are enormously more liberal than Mexico's as an example, that is unjust.

Beef Number One:  If immigration is the subject, then this "pilgrimage" is enormously racist.  Yes racist. About 30 percent of the people in this country illegally are NOT OF MEXICAN origin. Or from any country south of the border.  Many are here from Canada, China, India and other countries.  Those illegal immigrants tend to be people who come here on a tourist visa and overstay their visas. They are just as illegal, and, while not a majority are a substantial minority.  Illegal is illegal whether you are here from Canada or from Mexico.

Beef Number two:  What, exactly, is accomplished by this pilgrimage?  What, of any substance actually helps anyone?  Thousands of churches and other groups from the United States take food and money to poor people in Mexico every year.  Those people may not be accomplishing much, but they are accomplishing more than is achieved by Bishop Jardine and her group.

Beef # 3:  By focusing on immigration policies these preening peacocks who constantly campaign against the idea that the United States is possibly full of people who actually have good intentions and do good things, they avoid asking the rather obvious question as to why there are so many really truly poor people in Mexico.  These preening peacocks are often people who want to impose here in the United States, the very same policies and governmental practices which contribute to the ongoing poverty in other countries.  Socialist theories always sound just and fair to people who have not experienced the economy in practice.  But they create poverty and squalor.  They rob people of hope.  This kind of peacock parade action takes the focus away from the discussion that needs to be had-- how societies can be changed so that there is less poverty and want around the world, not just in the United States and other first world countries.  The preening peacocks don't like that discussion because it focusses on the reality that Capitalism and business create wealth.

Hernando de Soto, in his book, the Mystery of Capital, lays bare what needs to change.  But these paraders don't want that kind of change.  They advocate a kind of return to the feudal system where supposedly benevolent betters are in charge and distribute the community wealth to whom they see fit.  Those who have studied history know how that turns out.  There is a wealthy elite and most people are poor, enslaved and impoverished.  It was the rise of middle class bourgeoisie business people that brought most people to a comfortable level of living.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Okay all you double entendre fans, the word Nook in the title refers to the e-reader device of that name.  Most of my friends can guess that I am not a big fan of Paul Krugman the Nobel prize winning leftwing idealogue who masquerades as an economist.  I use the word "masquerade" because one of the first economists I worked with in a discrimination case told me "liberal economist" is an oxymoron.  No REAL economist, he told me, is a liberal.  His argument was that everything we know about economics tells us that a free market with fee competition produces the optimum world for the consumer who is you and I.  We are the consumers and we benefit the most from a free market system. The real arguments against socialism, he told me, were all to be found in the history of socialist economies vs. Free enterprise economies.

Having said all of that.  And it is a lot.  Paul Krugman, who also masquerades as a liberal, has found the academic sweet spot where his text books sell for outrageous prices (if you think $156.81 for a paperback is outrageous)   to students who are forced to buy them.  You can rent it for less.  That means they mail it to you and charge you for the shipping and you mail it back to them and pay for the shipping.  All in all, if you take care of the book and don't write in it or let it get dirty you can save about a hundred bucks.  But, having downloaded books from iBooks and Kindle you think, hey, I will download that book to my mini iPad and save the shipping and be able to add annotations and underlines.  Foolish you.  If you could do that easily, no one would buy the paper book.  Or at least, a lot fewer people would do that.  I'm one of the ones who wouldn't.  I love e-books.  I have about 30 of them on my iPad.  And that is one of the reasons I love them.  I can easily carry a hundred books in my purse.  Yay!!!! (As a senior citizen with presbyopia, I love them for the adjustable viewing features as well)  But I digress.

I am not planning to read Paul Krugman any time soon, but alas, a student in my life is one of the unfortunates who is required to read this piece of trash for a course.  So it has to be read.  We set about trying to download it et cetera when we discovered that Barnes and Noble is engaging in a very old and long term unsuccessful marketing strategy.  They have a monopoly on the book.  That is to say, they are the only on line seller from whom you can buy it.  They have a whole text book department full of books on which they have a monopoly of that sort.  They know you have to have it as do the publishers so they can charge 10 times what other willing buyers pay for this author's books.

Now for the e-book aspect.  Having downloaded literally dozens of books from Amazon and iBooks, I figured I knew how to do this.  I had not run in to the Nook e text book yet.  So I will let you know the scam.  Barnes and Noble tells you, on their Nook textbooks page, that you can read your textbook anywhere (this is not a new feature of books, of course.  Except for the biggest and the heaviest, you could always read them everywhere.).  Despite that claim, it turns out that you can only download text books to your computer, not an ipad, kindle or nook.  So actually, you can only read them somewhere that you can take a computer.  If you have a laptop, that's cool.  If you have opted for an iPad, Kindle or Nook, you are out of luck.  The reason given for this is that textbooks, in B & N's opinion, don't really look good on small screens.  Hmmmm.   Apple seems to have gotten past this so-called problem as has Amazon.  If, like a lot of people, you have a desktop computer and a tablet device the only place you can read your textbook is on your desk top  computer screen.  And we all know how comfortable that is.

So if you want to read your textbook "anywhere" you have to invest in a new laptop.  Or you can just invest in the old portable approach, which is to buy the paperback for $153.00.  It may be heavy and you will never want to read it again after the class is over, but at least  you won't have to worry about spilling your coffee on it and you won't have two trips to the post office.

If you could buy the e-book version from Kindle or iBooks, you would.  Better still, you would rent it from them if  could.  Another student I know rented a textbook for the semester in an e-book version at a considerable savings.  When the rental period runs out, the text book deletes itself from her tablet.  The essence of a cool marketing arrangement.  Made possible by Amazon, not Barnes and Noble.

This whole marketing arrangement and the monopolistic power of Barnes and Noble are brought to you by the upper level elites of the Academic Econosphere who have somehow persuaded all of us to give them the power over our lives that they have.  How can I say that?  Professors, or at least the academic establishment, has the power to designate the books that will be textbooks.  In my Education for Ministry class ( I am a co-mentor) The University of the South has just decided to move to textbooks (from a self published course).  The books they plan to use which are very scholarly and written by widely acclaimed academics, are sold as regular books (not textbooks) through Amazon.  While we thought the prices a bit steep at first, they are positively cheap next to the books sold through Barnes and Noble's text book service.

Does Paul Krugman have a choice as to where to sell his textbook?  Yes.  HE does.  He sells other books that are sold through Amazon for $14.95 or less. But those are books that people can choose not to buy.  (I, for example choose not to buy).  But when he has a captive market of students who want the stamp of approval from some institution of higher learning, he gouges them.  Or he signs up with a publisher who gouges them.  This is reprehensible behavior from anyone but even more so from Paul Krugman because he writes such supposedly caring drivel in the New York Times everyday about the harsh and uncaring Republican party.  But when the opportunity to gouge poor students comes along, why, he takes it.  Of course, he is not the only person making millions off of students.  But so what?  Put your money where your mouth is, Mr. Krugman.  Make your textbooks available on Amazon for a reasonable price if you really mean what you say about social justice.  I am not holding my breath.  More proof that liberal and hypocrite tend to go together.  Especially when you are talking about wealthy liberals.