23 December 2022

Details, Details

Sometimes the details that matter aren't small, either — like whether an entire agency has been derelict in its duty to ensure that its outside-the-agency boss has complied with that agency's generally applicable requirements (even when those requirements are themselves unjust because they're not truly or evenly "generally applicable").1

  • Sometimes an inattention to detail — for a particularly obvious and objectively verifiable detail — can be the rationale for distrusting the rest of a self-confident proclamation.

    Zola believed that fiction should do the same. Instead of plucking its characters from the author’s imagination, it should select them from real life; instead of cooking up fantastical plots, it should chart its subjects’ interactions with the disinterest of a technician watching a petri dish. The results would be brutal, but invigorating. “We teach the bitter science of life, the uncompromising lesson of the real,” he said, sounding a little like Morpheus telling Neo to stare through the matrix.

    To younger writers like Flaubert, Maupassant and Daudet, however, such pitilessness was a natural evolution from the adventurousness displayed by their great Romantic progenitor, Victor Hugo: a freedom which had been liberating at one point, but developed over the years into a “huge oak,” in whose shadow, as Zola put it, “it seems impossible that any new tree should grow.”

    The first sentence of the second paragraph rather blows up on the fifth word. Flaubert was older than Zola, and published the work for which he is best known in English nearly a decade before Zola published anything. Slightly later in the sentence, Daudet was a "younger writer" by two weeks. Things don't get much better later in the piece, such as the snickering at the variant spellings of "Turgenev" in nineteenth-century English-language newspapers (using conventions widely accepted at the time)… when the "modern" transliteration "Turgenev" is not much, if any, better. (One wonders if Mr Billings has ever been to KievKyiv.) The later reliance on Joseph Conrad in proclaiming which translation embodies Turgenev's work in English further undermines the piece's credibility, once one remembers that Conrad was not a native speaker of English.

    All of which is rather picayune when one gets to the theory and advocacy… over which there is considerable space for both agreement and disagreement on many levels. But credibility had already left the room (probably in search of a better bowl of egg nog) by the time anything "interesting" was stated.

  • And the details of who actually does attract bar discipline also detract from the organized bar's credibility — not just in that state, either. It's infuriating to check back for discipline imposed on attorneys whose representation of clients has been judicially held to be sufficiently poor that the client must be released from jail. Or, rather, check back for the absence of such discipline imposed on either white lawyers or in representation of white clients (an aspect of the LAT story that is not made very explicit).2 The conclusion that one can draw is that the organized bar is a playground bully… and playground bullies are pretty good at not picking on the kids whose parents can and will do something about it, aren't they? Which, in turn, reinforces any adverse inferences one might make considering, on the one hand, the organized bar's blithe assertion that the public will be deceived by lawyers proclaiming a "specialty," and on the other hand the converse implicit assertion that all lawyers are competent in general for any matter3 — unless one were to believe that deception occurs only through overt misrepresentations and never through silence. (And unless one were to accept that CLE as it now exists is insufficient.)
  • Over across the Pond, other kinds of details matter, too. This blawg's only feline friend the IPKat has noted a plethora of year-end decisions that have direct or indirect interest to authors, due if only to the pesky little detail that "If your book or article is available on the 'zon, it's probably available in Europe sufficiently to support jurisdiction there." Ranging from a tall blonde woman with one red-soled shoe (disturbing additional detail: the opinion is not at this writing available in English) to the propriety of declaratory judgments pointed at other jurisdictions to limitations on geographic trademarks and what actually constitutes (mis)using another's mark, these decisions may require thought. Or attorney's fees.
  • But even those attorney's fees would be less painful than arguing about nepo babies. And it's an argument that rather misses the point: In a fully literate and even moderately generally-educated society, does it make any sense whatsoever to proclaim the superiority, or even acceptability, of the multigenerational "family business" — especially in segments like the arts that (are supposed to) rely on creativity and originality? I suppose that, after living in Chicago when Dah Mayah epitomized nepo-babyhood, and living in an America in which father and son had a Thing for Iraq (whose boundaries were misdrawn by nepo-babies at the British Foreign Office a century ago in a way that made at least some significant bloodshed inevitable) — and after observing all too closely what can happen when opportunity is denied for lack of family connections and implied credibility — I'm just a little irritated. A little irritated that too few have paid attention to the obvious corollaries of not visiting the sins of the father upon the sons.
  • Worrying about whether Santa Claus is a kindly elf or a CIA spook (to quote, or perhaps paraphrase, Calvin — the real philosopher, not the third-rate theologian) may be the least of the problems in Hamburg of late — or, even more so, in Hesse (of which even US military-justice authorities during the 80s maintained healthy skepticism).

  1. Consider, for a moment, the problem of student loans. If a business entity assumes and pays off its employees' (or principals') student loans, that's 100% deductible, above the line, against income — and can produce a tax loss eligible for carryforward. An entrepreneur sole proprietorship might be able to deduct the interest on "the boss"'s past student loans as a business expense, if there's a sufficient and direct relationship between the education involved and the nature of the business. A "mere employee," however, is stuck with whatever limitation rules are applicable this year on a 1040… and that's historically been below the line, reducing tax/taxable income (depending, again, on year-to-year variations) but not adjusted gross income. And since almost all state income taxes start from the AGI, that's already less helpful… just because said employee — a senior medical resident, a senior associate attorney or accountant, a journeyman electrician — is a mere "employee."
  2. The "celebrity" issues swirling around at the edges of the Girardi matter also bear considerable thought… or would, if sufficient detail to consider them were not hidden in confidential files whose very existence remains undisclosed. Not to mention overreaching nondisparagement agreements imposed by insurance carriers and at times by the disciplinary panels or process — especially when the miscreant is him/herself a "celebrity" of some kind, like a former member of a state bar's governance body/committee or a talking head on national news media. (Why yes, I have seen relevant documentation; one of the fun things about doing consultations on defamation actions is evaluating absolute malice and truthfulness.)
  3. See R. Prof. Cond. 7.2(c)). The relatively recent addition of "certified as" to that rule itself deceives through silence concerning what "certification" requires, is offered, and applies to multijurisdictional practices and matters.