Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow in New Orleans!

It was a Winter Wonderland here in the Crescent City this morning. En route to work the semi-sleeting ran quickly changed to snow and started coming down pretty steadily. I turned around, went back home, and woke up the wife and dog to make sure they got to see it.



The entire city got a nice dusting, though at most it accumulated an inch, but it was beautiful and, according to the weather service folks, only the 17th time since 1850 that the city had a measurable amount of snow. St. Charles Avenue looked beautiful:

and, as you can see, the streetcars were getting stacked up because the tracks were blocked by everyone out taking pictures of them.

The Latter Branch of the public library was only one of the many mansions along St. Charles that evoked Currier and Ives:

I had to force myself to go into work but when I got there it soon stopped snowing. But for a while, it was a gorgeous magical morning.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Never Been #1 on a Top Ten List Before!

In fact, I've never been on ANY Top Ten list before. And, yes, its not really me, but one of my CALI Lessons was the #1 CALI Legal Research Lesson of Fall 2008. This was the list posted on the Law Librarian Blog on December 8th:
Top 10 CALI Legal Research Lessons, Fall Semester 2008
1 Introduction to Secondary Resources by Brian Huddleston.
2 Legal Research 101: The Tools of the Trade by Sheri Lewis.
3 How to Find Case Law Using the Digests by Brian Huddleston.
4 Anatomy of a Case by Brian Huddleston.
5 Updating/Validating Case Law Using Citators by Rebecca Trammell.
6 American Law Reports by Kimberli Morris.
7 Periodicals Indexes and Library Catalogs by C. Andrew Larrick.
8 Introduction to Search Logic and Strategies by Sarah Gotschall.
9 Legal Research Methodology by Wendy Scott & Kennard Strutin.
10 Finding Statutes by Kit Kreilick.
As noted on the Law Librarian Blog, this ranking is from the "CALI Zeitgeist" statistical ranking of all lessons run since August 1st. (Thanks to Joe Hodnicki, who, as the post's author, I presume, extracted the legal research lessons from this master list.)

Instead of ringing my own bell by pointing out what two of the other top five entries on this list were, I'll admit I was lucky to be a participant fairly early in the CALI Legal Research Authoring Project, and so I got to write some of the main lessons. And editor extraordinaire Deb Quentel does a great job of shepherding all us CALI authors through the process, and the legal research editing committee is a thorough and very professional group of law librarians who help push the legal research authors to new heights of excellence.

I'd like to thank the Academy, and my wife, who is my ultimate inspiration and the love of my life, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and I'd like to dedicate this award to all our brave men and women in uniform, and I hope those serving overseas will soon return home safely. I'm King of the World! Let's party until dawn! You like me, you really, really like me!


Full blog post...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Follow-Up: The Who2 Kennedy Honors and "The New Boss, Same as the Old Boss"

How funny! I was just rambling with my post last night about Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend being among the Kennedy Center honorees this year. Then a news article today appropriates the same quote from "Won't Get Fooled Again" that I used!

The article is at Politico and the relevant paragraph is below:
Liberals voice concerns about Obama
...
Now some are shedding a reluctance to puncture the liberal euphoria at being rid of President George W. Bush to say, in effect, that the new boss looks like the old boss.
...
Or, as Pete Townsend put it:
"Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
"
Can I get an Amen?

Full blog post...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kennedy Center Honors Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend

What? The two surviving members of the Who were Kennedy Center honorees this year? My teen-age icons of rebellion? This story confirms it, and notes that they weren't the first British rock stars to be so honored - Elton John was a recipient a few years ago, but then I never had my father tell me I was shaking the house by playing "Your Song" too loud when I was fourteen.

This White House photo and press release shows all the recipients this year. George Jones was the one deserving musician who received the honors this year.

I will never be able to listen to their music the same. How can I ever sing along again with:
We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
But next month I can still take to heart the final lines of what is still the greatest rock anthem ever:
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
And I guess since they've become so establishment now just like any old fogies, this serves as official notice that we can rebel against them.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Slow Blogging" as a Movement

This story in the New York Times the other day:

Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a Snail’s Pace

basically talks about leisurely, reflective and in-depth writing in blogs and calls it "Slow Blogging", or rather picks up that term from a few people who adhere to this approach, including some guy who wrote a "slow blogging" manifesto.

I guess it can be useful giving anything a handy label, and "slow blogging" might be useful to distinguish these types of blogs from the now-too-common "two lines and a link" (my jargon!) blog of the "Here's an interesting story about XYZ: [WITH A LINK]", which seems to be what many blogs are.

But, and I don't think anyone interviewed in the NYT article points this out, blogging used to be viewed, at least early on, and the ultimate self-publishing format, and was seen as an alternate to traditional media, though it was then shortly criticized for being mostly self-centered naval-gazing. But, the point is, most blogs used to consist of long postings, and many always have. The better ones in legal education, though they haven't replaced the law review process as some predicited, are auxillary brainstorming forums to the process.

Did I have a point? I guess since I seem to have fallen into a once-a-week average posting, after a pretty prolific October, I was somewhat happy to see my pace (or lack of pace) of posting to be justified as a "movement".

What the article didn't mention is whether there's been any study of the lengths of post in relation to their frequency on different blogs. When I get started, I can write up a storm so I would rank high in that comparison.

The NYT article points out that some blogging, mainly those are consist of short posts to keep friends and family updated, are being displaced by Twitter and such. Similarly, I think the the "two lines and a link" blogs, where people just note an interesting article or web page and try to push people there with just a cursory description (which describe a LOT of law library/librarian blogs) are also going to fall by the wayside - people won't "read" those blogs, but they might follow someone's del.icio.us or digg tagging/accounts/whatever they're called, if they're interested in similar subjects.

Funny, I wrote up the AALL meeting in Portland last summer, including a whole session on those sharing technologies - and I don't even have the jargon down. And there was that discussion on the ALL-SIS list about RSS that somewhat confirmed how little its actually being used by law students. All this points in one direction, and idea for an article I had a while back: all these technologies that get hyped when they're the newest thing are reall just "Solutions in Search of a Problem" (that would be the title of the article).

Full blog post...

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Texas Funeral and Legacy Technology

Got back Sunday from Texas where my wife’s extended family gathered to lay her late grandmother to rest. Helping to sort through her stuff, I found the old 35mm slides and 8mm home movies that she and her husband had made over the decades. The slide projector worked for a bit, but the cord was frayed and was going to short out, so we stopped messing with it. But the 8mm projector was in perfect condition, the bulb worked, and we had a great time watching old movies that none of them had seen in, probably, over twenty years.

The movies themselves dated from the early to mid sixties through the early seventies, and though they were just haphazardly stored, they were in good condition and worked fine in the projector. The old spring-driven 8mm camera was also in working condition and with film would have been able to take new movies (is 8mm movie film made any more?).

Fastforward to today. My wife is on her third iPod because the screens keep going bad on her and I’ve had at least that many VCR and DVD players die on me in the past fifteen years, and my DV camcorder has a bad tape drive. In forty years, if some of our descendants dig out a thumb-drive of digital pictures, or a laptop with a powerpoint on it, or a DVD with home videos burned onto them, will they be able to fire up such ancient technology in 2048 and enjoy such a comparable treasure trove of lost memories like we were able to do? Doubtful.

Oh, and at the cemetery, a few rows down from the burial service, I saw the model for the tombstone I want:

Well, perhaps except for the tennis racket and the “little redneck” part. I don't play tennis and I haven’t figured out how to put a gun rack on the back of my bicycle.

Full blog post...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy 233rd Birthday to the Marine Corps

This joke comes to mind today:
The place is Tun Tavern and the day is the first day that the Corps of Marines has been authorized. The first potential recruit walks in the door and after he signs up he gets his free tankard of beer.
The second recruit walks in and after he signs up he walks up to the bar and begins to talk to the first recruit. The first recruit looks the second recruit in the eye and say, "Son, let me tell you about the Old Corps."
Another version has the exchange taking place in a boat below the trapdoor in Tun Tavern (apparently, in this telling, located on the docks of the Philadelphia harbor) into which the “recruits” fall after being lured in with the promise of a free beer (in this variation the early marines were a bit less than volunteers). The first recruit is waiting when the second recruit falls into the boat and tells him “If you think this is bad, you should have seen the Old Corps”.

And I’ve always thought the final stanza of the last verse of the Marines’ Hymn was funny:
If the Army and the Navy ever look on heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.
Yes, even in heaven, we get stuck with guard duty.
Full blog post...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday's Second Biggest News Story: Michael Chrichton Died

One of my favorite authors, Michael Chrichton, died Tuesday. The Andromeda Strain was perhaps the first books that I was compelled to read straight-through, staying up as late as I could in college and then waking up to open it and continue the next morning. Later I read his late-1980s/early-1990s novels like Rising Sun and Jurassic Park. Since then, whenever his name comes up in casual conversations, I mention the fact that he was a graduate of Harvard Medical School which, for the most part, my fellow conversants do not know.

Nor do they typically know, until I inevitably inform them with the boring details, that he was also an active advocate and practitioner of various “New-Age” philosophies. Few folks who have read his novels know about his collection of non-fiction essays, Travels. Its one of my favorite books (though, I have to admit, I will now have to dig it out from whatever bookshelf or box I have stuck it in) and in it he writes about both his time at Harvard and his explorations into different new age things like aura-viewing and exorcisms (his personal experiences with both are detailed in different chapters in the book).

What to me is most fascinating is that he examined these new age beliefs with an open mind but was staunchly conservative in the scientific views expressed in his books, even besides his explicitly anti-anthropormorphic climate change novel “State of Fear”, a notable passage from Jurassic Park notes that the hubris of some of mankind’s belief that we can actually make significant changes in Earth’s climate is completely unfounded was brilliantly recited by the late Charleton Heston in this YouTube clip:

The concluding chapter in Travels is a lecture for some learned scientific society that he was invited to present, but which for some recent he didn’t actually go through with. He notes several historic instances of scientists who were later found to have falsified their results, but also points out that the weight of anti-paranormal arguments that are based on the inability of advocates to produce their purported results in a laboratory setting are reduced by counter-arguments based on the inability of artists and musicians to demonstrate similar results of their purported abilities when plopped down in a laboratory, surrounded by white-coated scientists, and connected to electrodes and compelled to conjure up the “art” and “music” that they claim they can create under less strenuous circumstances. I’ll have to dig that out and re-read it soon.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

11/04/08: A Historic Night...

From Punditkitchen.Com, part of the LOLCat network of sites at ICanHasCheezburger.Com:




And now can we stop talking about how Republicans steal elections, the evil influence of money on political campaigns, and how America is a racist nation (unless you want to discuss the fact that a much higher percentage of African-Americans voted for Obama than Caucasian-Americans voted for McCain)?

Full blog post...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Senator Lamar Alexander, The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Bourbon Street

Listening to American Routes yesterday, I was surprised to learn that Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is both an accomplished musician and clerked here at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for Judge John Minor Wisdom.

Because he wasn’t paid much, Alexander filled in for musicians down on Bourbon Street. In the one-minute clip below, he described the time that Judge Wisdom took the judges on the court down to hear Alexander play.



I got to meet Judge Wisdom briefly when I did a three-week internship at the Fifth Circuit law library, but I had no clue at the time that I was meeting a living legend of the federal judiciary. Only later did I learn how unusual it is for a court building to be named for a living judge, and that he had been at the forefront of implementing Supreme Court desegregation decisions in the Fifth Circuit. It did not make him popular, and there were death threats and I’ve heard stories about how his dogs were poisoned and rattlesnakes were left in his mailbox.

Alexander’s description of Justice Wisdom and the other judges stomping around and dancing at Bourbon street is great. The Father’s Moustache is indeed not that there any more, and I haven’t turned up many details about the place.

Full blog post...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Judicial Spelling Error, Multiple Mitchies/Miches on Banks and Banking, and the Legacy of Legal Treatise Authorship

A patron showed me this reference in a 1998 Louisiana Supreme Court case:
The initial deposit of funds gives rise to the contract between bank and depositor; the subsequent creation of rights of others to an interest in an account involves an amendment of the original contract. 5A Mitchie on Banks and Banking 18 (M.J. Divine & G.E. Legner eds., Rev. ed.1994).

Marx v. Whitney Nat. Bank, 713 So.2d 1142, 1145 (La. 1998)
And asked me if we have “Mitchie on Banks and Banking”. He had the report volume and showed me the reference in the case and I look it up but, no, we don’t have “Mitchie on Banks and Banking” and as I offer to see if any other law library in town has it, he says, no, its not that important, and walks away.

But then I think, well, I’ve never heard of "Mitchie on Banks and Banking" and I check anyway to see who has it and there is NOTHING listed in OCLC for this because, of course, the actual title is “Michie on Banks and Banking”. We do have this set and so I grabbed the first volume and found the patron and said, yes, we have it and I confirm that the case he showed me did indeed mis-spell the name of this set.

In fact, thirty-two cases have mis-spelled “Michie on Banks and Banking” over the years. That includes several cases back in the 19-teens which at first led me to think that maybe at one time there was ANOTHER multi-volume banking treatise called “Mitchie on Banks and Banking” that has since been confused with “Michie on Banks and Banking” (maybe each written by rival attorney brothers who altered the spelling of their last name to spite their arrogant, over-bearing Germanic banking-lawyer father whose original name was something like “Meitchei”). But, no, there are over 700 citations to “Michie on Banks and Banking”, some of which also date back to the second decade of the twentieth century, so I guess judges and their clerks have been mis-spelling “Michie” as “Mitchie” for almost a century.

Funny thing is! When I didn’t find a title phrase “Mitchie on Banks and Banking” and did a title keyword search on OCLC for “mitchie” and “banks” I found that one library actually has a record for “Mitchie in Banks and Banking”:

Mitchie in Banks and Banking, By the Editorial Staff of the Publishers. Under the supervision of A.D. Kowalsty, R.W. Walter and M.J. Divine.
Charlotte, Va : The Mitchie Company Law Publishers, 1993-
Description: v.
So, New Hampshire Law Libray, vanquish your erroneous cataloging record! Correct the spelling of “Michie” and change the mistaken preposition! Its “Michie on Banks and Banking”! Published by the lovely folks at Lexis-Nexis,
Michie on Banks and Banking is an encyclopedic treatise based on exhaustive and continuous study of the case law involving the organization, functions, rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of banks and other financial institutions. With more than 100 subject matter titles, Michie on Banks and Banking addresses virtually any question attendant to banking law and practice.
(“Any question attendant to banking law and practice” sounds like the same ad copy that might have accompanied this work when it was originally published way back in 1913 or whenever.)

Two questions come to mind: is “Michie” of this “On Banks and Banking” title the actual Michie for whom the publishing company, now owned by Lexis-Nexis, is named? And, just how long does somebody have to be dead before a legal treatise they wrote and which has been revised several times since their death no longer warrants the use of their name in the title? John Henry Wigmore died in 1943 but Wigmore on Evidence is still a leading treatise on that subject; which, I had heard, is undergoing a revision at the hands of a professor I once worked with, Craig Callen. What it will be called after this revision remains to be seen.

The other recent example is one I happened to actually use this past week. The standard treatise on statutory interpretation is still referred to as “Sutherland on Statutory Construction”, though the actual title had always been “Statutes and Statutory Construction” by J.G. Sutherland. Since I was a wee young law student at the University of Alabama, I’ve known that one of my favorite professors there, Norman Singer, has been the editor of that set for a good while, but he and Mr. Sutherland were still both listed as authors, though Sutherland died in 1902. Only this past week when I again had cause to use this set did I learn that the recent revisions have dropped Sutherland entirely from the credits, which is probably entirely appropriate since his last contributions would have occurred, at the latest, during the administration of Teddy Roosevelt.

So who was Michie and when did he - the actual person, and not the company - die? And when will his legacy fade away as subsequent authors feel their contributions mandate the erasure of a credit acknowledging the original scholar’s initial efforts?


Full blog post...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Were the Two Tennessee Would-Be Assassins Caught because of their E-mail?

Another pair of lowlife skinhead neo-nazi f*&!-heads were caught with some half-baked plan to both wage a race war and assassinate Senator Obama. They didn't even get as far as the meth-heads who had a similar plan back in August at the Democratic National Convention; those tweaker clowns were at least actually in the city where the Senator was known to be (but they apparently had no clue that it would be impossible to set up a sniper's nest around Invesco Field).

I looked at several accounts of the arrest of the Tennessee skinheads, like this one from the New York Times:

Arrests in Plan to Kill Obama and Black Schoolchildren

and none of the news stories describe exactly how their quote-unquote "plot" was uncovered. The stories DO mention that the "the two men met via the Internet through a mutual friend" and swapped e-mail with each other.

Hmmmm.... Could it be that the feds got wind of these yokels and discovered what they were up to through - gasp - monitoring the internet? Oh the horrors!

The affidavit of complaint against them (PDF)is from the ATF and lists some specifics about how the two guys were casing out homes and a gun dealer to rob and how they shot out a window of a church. The paragraph about their actually apprehension says that the day after shooting the church window they drew "racially motivated words and symbols" on their car and then "were taken into custody by Crockett Co. Sherriff's Office later that night". But it doesn't specify what they were taken into custody for.

The two thrill-billies now face federal charges for possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiracy to steal firearms from a federally licensced gun dealer, and for making threats against a presidential candidate. None of the articles say there are facing any state charges. And it is not clear from the affidavit of complaint if they were picked up for shooting out that church window or for their planned robberies, including the one where a dog may have scared them off. The affidavit says the ATF agent was contacted by the Sheriff's office to assist in the investigation, but it is not unlikely that it was the Sheriff who was tipped by the feds to check them out.

Plus, if they had just been arrested on suspicion of plans to rob a gun store, and the sawed-off shotgun mentioned in some accounts was then discovered, I think even the dumbest skinheads would probably know to keep quiet about their half-baked sceme against Senator Obama. Specifics like their plan to wear white top hats and tuxedos during their final rampage doesn't sound like something that would be included in a jailhouse confession, but like the weird boastful details that you would rave about in an e-mail exchange or a chat room session.

Also, note in that Rocky Mountain News story about the Denver meth-head conspiracists I linked to earlier that it specifies both that one of the suspects "told friends while doing drugs at a local hotel" that he wanted to shoot Obama during his acceptance speech at Invesco field. But, the story then says these two were NOT being charged with conspiring to kill a presidential candidate because their statements were the "rantings of people under the influence of methamphetamine".

The news stories about the Tennesse skinheads, by contrast, do not specifiy when and in what situation the threats to assassinate Senator Obama were made, but most of the stories specifically say that those two are indeed being charged with making threats to kill a presidential candidate. To me, that says they made the threats in some manner besides drug-fueled or off-the-cuff rantings and ravings. As in e-mails or chat room conversations. Yes, subsequent details may prove my suspicions wrong and it may turn out that the two Tennessee Sheriff's departments may have just been doing their ever-vigilant best to prevent burglaries and the skinheads may have been dumb enough to mouth off about their entire preposterous scheme, white top hats and all, but I won't be surprised if we either don't hear any more details about this case or some e-mail transcripts turn up or are referred to in later proceedings.

So if they were indeed caught because of Echelon or some other surveillance programs, did the feds have a warrant they served on the ISP? If not, had the ISP stood firm and not turned over the records without a warrant, would they be hailed as heroes of civil liberties even though the plot hadn't been stopped and the minor detail of the ISP's non-cooperation was later discovered?

What if these exemplars of human scum had the brains enough to suspect that discussing their plans at home with their primary e-mail accounts might be risky, and had used secondary e-mail accounts from computers at the local public library? Had the feds tried to examine those computers or the library’s server and the director stood firm and refused their warrant-less requests, or had even challenged a warrant and delayed the feds’ computer forensics examination until after some hearing, would the director be similarly feted for protecting patron privacy even if they had accomplished any of their plans?

To vary a legal aphorism, is it better that two low-life skinheads intent on a racial massacre and the assasination of a political candidate go free rather than one innocent man have his e-mail monitored?

I'll sleep better knowing my ISP is letting the feds search my e-mail for suspicious phrases if it keeps guys like these off the streets and prevents what they were planning to attempt. Of course, this whole post is now a prime example of Echelon Salt and so I guess I'll go whole hog and use this Wired Magazine article's suggested e-mail signature file:
ATF DOD WACO RUBY RIDGE OKC OKLAHOMA CITY MILITIA GUN HANDGUN MILGOV ASSAULT RIFLE TERRORISM BOMB DRUG KORESH PROMIS MOSSAD NASA MI5 ONI CID AK47 M16 C4 MALCOLM X REVOLUTION CHEROKEE HILLARY BILL CLINTON GORE GEORGE BUSH WACKENHUT TERRORIST
I promise to be very cooperative when the Secret Service calls.

Full blog post...

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Orleans Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $30,000,000 from Former Firm

This case has been bouncing around the local federal court recently, and the local news just announced this morning that Jamie Perdigao has probably struck a plea deal to charges of defrauding his former law firm, Adams and Reese, and their clients of thirty million dollars. Luckily, he’s not one of our alum, and I won’t mention what law school he went to, but I’m sure he got a great education and only missed that one day’s class in professional responsibility where they discussed the illegality of submitting phony invoices to your clients and pocketing the remitted fees.

Funny - if you look him up on Westlaw’s Legal Directory (database ID: WLD), it says “Current Firm Information Unknown” but still gives his e-mail address at arlaw.com and what is, presumably, his old phone number there.

The more colorful aspects of this story are the civil suit and counter-claims Perdigao filed; the details sound like a Grisham novel. He tried to get the local U.S. Attorney’s office to recuse itself, because he said they were unwilling to persue some of the leads he gave them which, he claimed, would have lead to overturning former Governor Edwards’ multiple convictions for fraud and other misdeeds.

He also filed suit against Adams and Reese, alleging that they were involved with Worldcom’s financial shenanigans and other sundry shady activity. Neither of these suits or claims got very far.

Thirty million dollars. That’s not like petty cash from the cigar box under the cashier counter. What kind of person does this sort of thing and thinks they can get away with it?

Full blog post...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Habitat for Humanity and the Corporate Conscience of American Companies

Saturday morning I went along with my wife and a group of her students to work at one of the many Habitat for Humanity houses still going up here in New Orleans. Then Sunday morning I woke up and immediately called my mother to thank her profusely for the effort she and my late father took to instill in me and my brother the importance of education. I only spent four hours helping to lay tarpaper on a roof, but since that involved what was essentially a half day of deep-knee bends and multiple trips up a sixteen-foot ladder carrying heavy rolls of tarpaper, Sunday morning my legs and lower back felt like knots of twisted steel. I’ve never been happier to be a law librarian and not a manual laborer.

But working on the Habitat homes is a worthwhile endeavor. They’ve been active all over the world since their founding in 1976, but since Katrina, they’ve been responsible for hundreds, maybe now over a thousand, homes here in New Orleans. We only pitch in every couple of months, but even over three years after the hurricane, there is still a non-stop stream of volunteers coming to town to help out for a day or two or a few weeks during the summer.

Besides my wife’s students, many of the other volunteers Saturday were employees of the GAP from all over the U.S. and Canada. I believe they mentioned that both GAP and Banana Republic employees (both chains are apparently part of the same corporate hegemony, along with Old Navy and maybe other stores - what the hell is Piperlime?)

have been coming to New Orleans recently to work with Habitat, and that the GAP has both donated money and underwritten, at least in part, I believe, their employees’ trips to New Orleans. Yeah, GAP! In appreciation, I promise from here on out to only buy my underwear from you. Yes, GAP brand men’s briefs are the most comfortable, stylish, and durable underwear I have ever had the pleasure of wearing.

And, from the Times-Picayune today we learn that for the first time in its corporate history, Starbucks is holding its annual sales meeting outside of the northwest and while they are here, two thousand or so of the employees attending will be helping out with various volunteer efforts in the city. The story mentioned that they needed something like forty-five buses just to get all their people out to the different places in town where their volunteering. Go Starbucks! Their Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino® is detectably delicious (and is basically, come on, a coffee milkshake, right?). I don’t indulge regularly; in fact, I only have them once a year, and that’s because CALI editor extraordinaire Deb Quentel has started giving us CALI authors a giftcard as a reward for working the CALI booth at the AALL annual meetings. I usually gain about two pounds in the weeks after the meeting while I reap my Frappuccino® rewards.

If I hype up any more corporations and join Google AdSense, will ads for those companies start appearing here in the margins? I do have a lot of space in the layout that is going to waste and I need to bling it up.


Full blog post...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Towards the Licensing of Clowns

On that trip to Texas I mentioned in a few earlier posts, I picked up this business card at the counter of the little diner where we had breakfast every morning:



The first thing that bugs me is the name of the national association that Piccolo above belongs to: "Clowns of America International". Huh? Is it an international association of clowns from America? Or an American association of clowns with international aspirations?

Writing and blogging about scary clowns, fear of clowns, etc., has almost become a cliche, so forget about all that - the people who work as clowns have their own professional associations with bylaws, professional ethics, and annual conventions! I'm torn between the surprise of learning this and the realization that I shouldn't be surprised at all by this enlightening fact.

And - LOOK - its the Clowns of America International Code of Ethics! Called "The Eight Clown Commandments", most of them are a middlin' paragraph in length and not of a concise, "Though shalt not use sub-standard cream pies" commandment style like other, more well-known sets of commandments. Part of the second one is a bit puzzling:
I will provide my own costume.
As opposed to, what? Stealing someone else's costume? Performing naked? Along those lines, parts of commandments 1 and 3 are:
1) I will keep my acts, performance and behavior in good taste while I am in costume and makeup. ...
3) I will neither drink alcoholic beverages nor smoke while in makeup or clown costume.
Reminds me of the idea I had to be a rude, slovenly, drinking and smoking clown for Mardi Gras. Of course, the better sense of my better half prevailed, although the idea would be great. My initial inspiration for that idea is the old Evil Clown comics that National Lampoon published back in the late 80s and early 90s (at least that's when I subscribed and read them). The creator, Nick Bakay, has some stories at his web page, but they're scaled-down images and kind of hard to read. I wish he could get an anthology of all the Evil Clown comics published.

So Piccolo is also a member of the Texas Clown Association. I haven't perused this and other clown association web pages, but I would bet that somewhere some of them talk about the importance of only hiring a clown subscribing to the clown Code of Ethics and that some have even proposed, if not the licensing, then at least the certification of clowns. How many annual credits of CCE - Clown Continuing Education - should a professional clown have to keep its certification current? And do they have cautionary tales of parents who hired an uncertified clown and the tragedy that ensued when little Johnny say Bucky the Clown taking a smoke break out behind the garage during his birthday party? The horror!

Well, to wind this back to some semi-professional point; AALL has proposed the licensing of law librarians in the past. (Yes, yes - I'll dig up the references later - not that anyone is reading this....) Living in the one state that licenses florists (to protect consumers against the dangers of sub-par birthday bouquets) Louisiana and florists are a perfect example of how licensing often serve primarily as a barrier to entry into a given market.

Similarly, with law librarians, if we were required to be licensed in all 50 states, then what? Would we be paid more? If licensing attempted to manipulate the market to raise librarian salaries - by making librarians a more scarce commodity by making it harder for people to become librarians by forcing us to become licensed - we all wouldn't get a raise, but when a firm, school, or court needed more labor in the library, we would see more secretaries, paralegals and student workers filing looseleafs, re-shelving books, and conducting research. Would we then try to pass statutes against the un-authorized practice of librarianship so that only we - the actual, certified/licensed librarians could perform these and other tasks intrinsic to the operation of a library? Then, how would you define those tasks? Would you make it so that NOBODY but librarians can re-shelve the books? Even the patron who pulls the book off the shelve for two seconds to glance at the back cover? What if one patron asks another patron where the U.S. Reports are? Unauthorized practice of librarianship! Licensing isn't needed for clowns, florists, or librarians.


Full blog post...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bluebook Follies

One of our students was working on a paper that has been submitted to our maritime law journal. Half of those articles, including this one, seem to deal with the “Jones Act”. That’s the common name for the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 which, as I understand it, is basically workers compensation for maritime workers. The main provision of the Jones Act used to be 46 U.S.C. §688 and practitioners who work in this area and professors who teach this subject refer to “section 688” by rote.

And so this student was checking all the citations for the article and was looking up 46 USC §688 and couldn’t find it. That’s because, as of October 2006, the Jones Act was amended and re-codified as part of the entire revision of Title 46. What used to be §688 is now found in §§ 30104 and 30105 of Title 46. But because the United States Code itself is only re-published every six years and the feds are still in the process of issuing the 2006 edition, this re-codification is not in the U.S.C. but can be found in the U.S.C.A and U.S.C.S. (the two commercial and non-official editions of the code).

The student was very conscientious and wanted to find out the best way to indicate that the law had been re-codified, so that all the old-timers who see this article and don’t see their familiar “46 U.S.C. §688” will understand that this provision is now in two new sections. But the Bluebook isn’t clear on this, and as I told the student, its not really a question of citation format, but one of style. The Bluebook doesn’t require authors to note when a law has been re-codified, it just requires them to cite the current law. So because it would really be only a courtesy to readers to note this, I told the student that perhaps a parenthetical statement noting this fact would be appropriate. (And, since the author of this article has passed away since he drafted it, the journal staff has a bit more leeway in adding things like this than they normally do.)

And, like I often do when helping students with citation quandries such as this, I suggested we look and see how other law reviews have treated this situation. For example:
“...the Jones Act [46 U.S.C. §30104, (formerly §688(a))]...”

David W. Robertson, The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Sct's Provisions on Jurisdiction, Remedies, and Choice of Law: Correcting the Fifth Circuit's Mistakes, 38 J. Mar. L. & Com. 487 n 161 (2007)
But for every good application of citation rules to an unclear situation like this, there are citations like this:
“...[t]he Jones Act also allows injured sailors and the next of kin of deceased sailors to obtain damages from their employers for the negligence of the shipowner, the captain, or fellow members of the crew. See 46 U.S.C. § 30104 (2000)...”

Bin Wang, All Bark and No Bite: A Modern Evidentiary Argument for the Retirement of the Age-Old Pennsylvania Rule, 49 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 2309, 2329, n. 121 (2008)
No, no, NO! Bad law student, bad, bad law student! ... What happened here is that the student editor probably saw that the current Jones Act has indeed been re-codified at §30104 of Title 46 of the United States Code. But that codification has only been published in the U.S.C.A. and the U.S.C.S. and NOT in the U.S.C. The purpose of citing all this stuff in such detail is, in part, to guide the reader to where the resource the author is citing can be found. And readers are going to be perplexed when they go to the 2000 edition of Title 46 of the U.S.C. and DON'T FIND a section 40103.

The Bluebook does NOT require citation to the U.S.C. in all instances. Rule 12.2.1 says “If possible, cite statutes currently in force to the current official code or its supplement” ... “[o]therwise cite a current unofficial code”. So in this instance citing to the U.S.C.A. would have been entirely appropriate as its impossible to cite the statute currently in force - the revised and re-codified Jones Act - to the official code because it is not IN the official code. So, instead, they got the cite from U.S.C.A., lopped off the “A”, and created an incorrect citation.

And not to pick on the William and Mary Law Review - this sort of thing happens all the time in most law reviews. Someone probably erroneously told the staff that they had to cite to the U.S.C., which at one time, I believe, was a strict requirement of the Bluebook.

God, is there anything less worthwhile to get all worked up about these days???


Full blog post...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Texas Religious Supplies

Another photo from our Texas trip:



We kept passing this place and could never figure this out. Was it a joke? Were they just a VERY THOROUGH religious supply store? Or are the fireproof shirts and caps a side business and separate from the religious supplies?
Full blog post...

Signs of Optimism for Obama

On our trip to central Texas this past weekend, I took this picture:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Three things are notable: 1) This wasn't in Austin or another big city in Texas, but in Eden, where the only industry is apparently a prison; 2) this wasn't the only Texans for Obama sign we saw; and 3) the sign wasn't on fire. If Eden, Texas is tolerant enough to let this person keep an Obama sign on his yard unimpeded, there may be hope for us yet.
Full blog post...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Research and Information Needs of Presidential Campaigns

(I.E., "The Article that was Never to be Published")

Over the summer, I worked on an article for American Libraries magazine. My "pitch" was basically "who does research for presidential campaigns?" and the editor at A.L. liked the idea. A quick literature search confirmed that nothing - as far as I found - had been written on this. The hook for the article would be a scene from the 1992 documentary "The War Room" and if I could get a brief phone interview with someone in each campaign who did that sort of work, it would be a decent article.

But both campaigns blew me off, preferring to only deal with more "mainstream" and "serious" media outlets like Blender magazine.

So, with three weeks until the election, here is the article I WOULD have written (well, a lightly-polished draft of it). Everything in brackets is my notes, possible text, and where I had reserved places for the quotes I never got.
_____


The Research and Information Needs of Presidential Campaigns

     Many librarians are used to high-pressure research situations where information has to be found quickly and accurately, with no excuses allowed. Few if any settings are more high-pressure than a presidential campaign in the final months of an election. Saying “I couldn’t find it” or “I’ll finish this tomorrow” is not an option in the world of twenty-four hour news coverage where every fact and claim is checked by reporters and double-checked by a legion of amateur pundits in the blogosphere.

     The 1992 documentary “The War Room” is a detailed look into Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Sixteen years later, it is still the best “inside the crucible” documentary about a presidential campaign ever made. For librarians who are familiar with it, one scene may stand out. At about the thirty-three minutes point, James Carville and the staff of the titular war room are watching the broadcast of George Bush the First’s acceptance speech at the 1992 republication presidential convention. The camera is close on Carville and as Bush attempts to rebut Clinton’s critique of the 91-92 recession you can tell that Carville’s mental wheels are spinning around at full speed. Carville had made “It’s the economy, stupid” one of the campaign’s internal mottos and, knowing the fiscal concerns of voters in the slumping economy, he turns and talks to someone off screen in his lilting cajun drawal, “Liz, I want to know if I can say this is the first time an incumbent president has given an acceptance speech and not mentioned his economic record.” The camera pans to a young staff member - presumably Liz - who nods and confidently heads off to answer this question. [WATCH THE SCENE HERE.]

     Yes, it’s a reference question in the middle of the 1992 presidential campaign. If you listen to the speeches of the current two candidates for president, they are full of detailed facts and claims and so, obviously, they must have people whose job it is to conduct research, provide these facts, and double-check the assertions of their opponents. But who are they? How do they fit into the campaign organization? And how did Liz tackle that assignment during the 1992 campaign?

     For the first time in American history, both major party nominees are current members of the Senate. As members of congress, they have access to the staff and facilities of the Library of Congress for conducting research in their capacity as Senators. But Janine D’Addario of the LOC’s Congressional Research Service confirmed that Congress has internal guidelines governing members’ use of facilities and services for campaigns; just as Senators and Representatives can’t used their offices for campaign purposes, they can’t use the Library of Congress for research related to their campaigns. [JANINE WAS THE ONLY PERSON TO RETURN MY CALLS; THANKS, JANINE!!!]

     So how do presidential campaigns conduct research? I had two opposing visions in my head. Maybe the campaigns actually had skilled information professionals, maybe even - gasp - librarians with degrees and everything - who were masters of their domain and wielded resources both digital and traditional with amazing dexterity under immense daily pressure. Or maybe they only have low-level interns with Google and Wikipedia book-marked on their laptops. I set out to find out which vision was the closest to the truth.

[INSERT GREAT QUOTE FROM ONE CAMPAIGN HERE; DESCRIBE SOURCE’S POSITION IN CAMPAIGN, ETC.] So it turned out that they actually do have professional information jocks on the [OBAMA/MCCAIN] campaign staff. [DISCUSS HOW THIS CAMPAIGN INTEGRATED INFORMATION RESEARCH WITH THE OTHER COMPONENTS OF THE CAMPAIGN.] [ANOTHER QUOTE, MAYBE.] [MORE DISCUSSION, ETC., ETC.]

[ALTERNATELY:]
[INSERT NOT-SO-GREAT QUOTE FROM ONE CAMPAIGN HERE] I was disheartened. It sounded like my fear of junior flunkies with laptops was not far from the truth. But then I asked [WHOEVER] how comfortable they were with assertions like [INSERT EXAMPLE OF SOME STATISTIC OR FACT IN RECENT CANDIDATE SPEECH.] [FOLLOW-UP WITH ANOTHER DISMAL QUOTE.] With all the phone calls and follow-ups, I had started to feel like a reporter with a hot lead. Research-gate? Will the election of the next leader of the free world depend on sound-bites researched by [WHOEVER, WHATEVER, ETC., ETC., ETC.]

[Was the [OTHER CANDIDATE]’s campaign organized for research just as effectively?] OR [Maybe things were better at the [OTHER CANDIDATE]’s campaign.] [DISCUSS OTHER CAMPAIGN’S ORGANIZATION AND HOW ITS SET UP FOR RESEARCH, COMPARE AND CONTRAST, MORE QUOTES, ETC., ETC., ETC.]

[WRAP UP MIDDLE SECTION ON CURRENT CAMPAIGN, EITHER RELIEVED THEY TAKE RESEARCH AND FACT-CHECKING SERIOUSLY OR DISMAYED AT THE HALF-ASSED JOB THEY DO.]

     So what about James Carville, the 1992 campaign, and Bush Senior’s non-mentioning of his economic record during his acceptance speech? The Clinton campaign apparently never used that iota of data and regardless of the answer to Carville’s “War Room” query, Bush senior lost the election. But what was the answer? I had to find out.

[I TRIED TO CONTACT CARVILLE AND “LIZ” FROM THAT SCENE IN THE WAR ROOM; SHE WORKS FOR NBC NOW AND HE IS ALL OVER CNN THIS ELECTION SEASON, BUT WHEN THE CANDIDATES WOULDN’T GET BACK TO ME I STOPPED PESTERING THEM FOR A COMMENT. BUT I COULD HAVE MADE THE ARTICLE WORK WITHOUT THEIR INPUT IF ONLY I HAD SOMEONE FROM EACH CAMPAIGN DEIGN TO SPEAK WITH ME. EVEN A BRIEF E-MAIL EXCHANGE WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE!!!]

     Since there were probably more important things to work on, Carville may have never received an answer. And if he did, its clear why it was never used in the campaign. Of the 40 previous chief executive before Bush the First, 35 of them ran for re-election (FDR doing so three times). But acceptance speeches presented at a party’s nominating convention are a modern innovation in the political process. As late as 1932, Herbert Hoover did not even attend the election that re-nominated him as the Republican candidate. He was notified of his nomination by telegraph and replied, presumably in the same manner, with a brief, two page message.

     In “The War Room” Carville specifically asked about acceptance speeches. Part of being a good reference librarian is understanding why a question is being asked. Carville obviously hoped that the history of presidential nominations would enable Bill Clinton to say something like “My opponent was the first president to accept his party’s nomination without mentioning his economic record in his acceptance speech”. Perhaps Liz’s research led to this realization that only a minority of presidents have actually made acceptance speeches at their party’s convention. Then the strength of the potential claim falls apart under a mound of clarifications - the “modern nominating process”, “modern convention acceptance speeches” or “of those presidents who actually made speeches,” etc., etc. None of those have quite as much rhetorical heft.

     Since I am not a reference librarian in a presidential campaign, and I’m looking at a question that arose during a campaign sixteen years one, I have the luxury of being able to research a question just for the sake of knowing the answer. In the modern presidential era, starting in 1939, executive orders and other documents issued by the presidents have been published in the Federal Register. Starting in 1957, the Office of the Federal Register has published the series “Public Papers of the President” for all chief executives since then, and retrospectively back to the aforementioned Mr. Hoover (the one exception being FDR, whose public papers had already been privately published).

     Thus compiled sets of all the presidents’ papers since Hoover have the acceptance speeches for those who have run for a second term. And indeed all of them up through Reagan in 1984 mention their economic record in some way. So Carville’s instincts, at least for the modern era, were correct and Bush Senior was indeed the first President to give a renomination acceptance speech and not tout his economic record.
_____


Neat, huh? It would have been a nice article. But they blew me off. I kept throwing around things like "100,000 readers who, as librarians, are very politically savvy and vote at a higher rate than many other profession" when I e-mailed and called. The 100,000 figure is correct, but I didn't bother with researching the voting rates among professions. I imagine we vote more than some professions.


Full blog post...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Spanking Tulane Law Review and the Limitations of Student Law Review Editors

I know this will sound like sour grapes coming from someone at a rival law school, but I’ve never heard of a state supreme court taking a law review to task for an article critical of how the court conducts its business. But, if you stick your neck out like this and make such a dramatic claim, you’d better have your numbers correct. (Just to be fair, I will also show an instance where our law review should have been publically spanked, but it was such a minor article and it didn’t take on any giant public institution like the Louisiana Supreme Court, so no one noticed.)

It all started with an article last spring in the Tulane Law Review by a Tulane law professor and an economics professor over on Loyola’s main campus. The article,
Vernon Valentine Palmer and John Levendis, The Louisiana Supreme Court in Question: An Empirical and Statistical Study of the Effects of Campaign Money on the Judicial Function, 82 Tul. L. Rev. 1291 (2008)
made headlines throughout the state and beyond by purporting to be a definitive statistical study of the Louisiana Supreme Court that, as the authors say in their preamble,
demonstrates that the court has been significantly influenced--wittingly or unwittingly--by the campaign contributions from litigants and lawyers appearing before it. In a statistical sense, campaign donors enjoy a favored status among parties before the court. Facing an aggregate of $1.3 million in political donations in the cases under review, the justices did not find reason to disqualify or recuse themselves.
Down here in Louisiana, we, along with thirty-eight other states - see Judicial Campaigns: Money, Mudslinging and an Erosion of Public Trust (PDF) - elect our judges. Your average man on the street and the typical cynical professorial type thinks that the judicial game is rigged by these campaign contributions and that if the evils of money were removed the judicial process would be... what? More fair? Less corrupt? The man on the street and the professor would probably say yes to both of those.

Local Times-Picayune columnist James Gill nicely summarized the fallout when two separate rebuttals to the Tulane article pointed out errors in the authors’ statistical methods:

James Gill, Professors Collaborate on a Giant Goof-Up, Times-Picayune, Sep. 18, 2008, at B7.

Gill notes that drafts of the article were circulated prior to its publication, including to the New York Times (which published a short article on it back in January), but that Chief Justice Calogero essentially had to beg to look at it. Tulane did address some initial errors that Calogero pointed out, but apparently many remained.

The Tulane article is a variation on the argument that politicians are influenced by campaign contributions. But, obviously, consider causation vs correlation. Yes, politicians vote in the particular way that their contributors prefer, but perhaps they inspire those contributors to donate money in the first place because they promise to vote in that particular way. This is the main objection that the two rebuttals bring up, and which are posted on the Court’s web site:

E. Phelps Gay and Kevin Tully Rebuttal (PDF), Newman, Speyer, and Terrell Rebuttal (PDF)

They use statistical jargon to explain both the causation/correlation fallacy and to point out a few other statistical errors. And both of them note that in footnote 14 the authors actually say, quote:
It is worth observing that this article does not claim that there is a cause and effect relationship between prior donations and judicial votes in favor of donors' positions. It asserts instead that there is evidence of a statistically significant correlation between the two.
Well, there is also a statistically significant correlation between sunrise and a rooster crossing, but I don’t think we’ve seen a law review article about that. Post hoc ergo prompter hoc and all that (which is the only other latin phrase I know by heart after the de rigeur cogito ergo sum).

But - and this is what I think is unprecedented - last month Tulane Law School Dean Lawrence Ponoroff issued an apology to the Court that is now on both Tulane and the Supreme Court’s web pages:

Apology at Supreme Court

(At least I think it WAS on the Tulane web page.) As Dean Ponoroff says, you can’t expect law students to be responsible for examining the sort of statistical analysis that the authors did in this article. Palmer has, according to a New York Times note, said “the corrected data appear to continue to support the study's general conclusions ... [and] ... that he was seeking an independent review of the study.” Editor’s Note, NYT Sept. 20, 2008, p4 (available at the bottom of the original article). But, again, given their disclaimer in footnote fourteen, their "general conclusions" aren't that earth-shattering.

So now, just to be fair, here is an article that our law review published a few years ago. Both of these articles - Tulane’s and ours - point out several weaknesses in the American law review system, the main one being that legal novices are ill-equipped to decide what topics have legal merit and whether those that have merit are addressed in any given article in a thorough, scholarly manner (law is unique in that the majority of its scholarly journals are run and edited by students in the second and third year of their legal education; medical students don’t edit journal articles about new surgical techniques, do they?). A second weakness is the sheer volume of material that law reviews must produce. There is at least one “flagship” law review at all of the 195 ABA-accredited law schools and typically one or several more “specialty” law reviews at each school. Each of these publish an average of four or so issues a year, thus requiring, in the aggregate, as one commentator notes, about 7200 law review articles per year.

Long story short, many law reviews are hurting for content and will accept just about anything that has a scholarly facade on it. Which is what our law review did back in 2003:
Ellis Washington, The Nuremberg Trials: The Death of the Rule of Law (In International Law), 49 Loy. L. Rev. 471 (2003)
Where to begin? Mr. Washington starts with a page and a half of acknowledgments, which is a common game as I understand it, allowing the author to engage in some big-time name-dropping. So if you shoved your manuscript under the men’s room stall at the AALS meeting hotel when Larry Tribe was heeding the call of nature and he yelled “get that thing out of here”, you can then include in your acknowledgments “Special thanks to Professor Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School for his comments on this article”.

But Mr. Washington goes beyond the pale here. He says:
This article's significance has been recognized by many institutions throughout the world, including: The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, The collected papers of all nine present Justices of the United States Supreme Court, The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, The Helen G. Simon Hillel Center at Indiana University, Yad Vashem Library (Jerusalem), State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Leo Baeck Institute (New York), Harvard Law School, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Jerusalem), The Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organization, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Today.
For one, this article is just now being published, so how can its significance have already been recognized by so many institutions? And, not to pick nits, but present Justices of the United States Supreme Court do not actually have “collected papers” because, ahem, they are using their papers since they are, yes, the PRESENT Justices. I actually checked this one out and found that none of the Justices at the time this article was published had collected papers and that in the Court’s entire history, only one Justice - I forget which one but its in my notes somewhere - donated their papers while still on the bench, but it was when he was about to retire anyway.

So that should have been a red flag but law students - and not just here at Loyola but I imagine at many schools - are so eager to have material that they’ll pretty much let an author say whatever they want in these prefatory acknowledgment footnotes.

But then, what really got me mad, as a law librarian, was footnote two, a brief biographical note about Henry L. Stimson, who served as Secretary of State under Hoover and Secretary of War under F.D.R. It is a biographical note to explain who Stimson is because he is the source for the second of two epigraphs at the beginning of the article, which Mr. Washington presents as:
[W]ar . . . is an illegal thing.
- Henry Louis Stimson 2
Yes, that is a correct Bluebook use of ellipses, but Jeez - you think maybe the words left out might be relevant? Or the context? A more extended version of this statement is quoted a lot and is typically cited as being in one of the collected documents from the Nuremberg Trials, which we don’t have, but it was also cited in full in a 1941 volume of the American Journal of Comparative law, where it is a footnote in a speech given by the U.S. Attorney General at that time, and which cites a speech that Stimson himself gave in 1932 which is apparently the original source of the quote. Which, in full, is:
      “War between nations was renounced by the signatories of the Briand-Kellogg Treaty. This means that it has become illegal throughout practically the entire world. It is no longer to be the source and subjects of rights. It is no longer to be the principle around which the duties, the conduct, and the rights of nations revolve. It is an illegal thing.”
That is - count them - fifty-six words that Mr. Washington left out! But that, no THAT isn’t what bothered me. What really bothers me is that the footnote that he provided, and which our law review apparently signed off on, is to just a biographical note about Mr. Stimson, and not an actual source for the quote. The footnote, which is a muddled mess, is:
2      Henry L. Stimson, [Secretary] of War 1911-1913, 1940-1945, Secretary of State 1929-1933, was very influential. In fact, he recommended the use of the atomic bomb to Truman (as chair of the Interim Committee). Stimson was encouraged by Conant to publish an article in Harper's Magazine explaining the decision to drop the bomb. Stimson and Conant were both concerned that w/o public support for a willingness to drop the bomb in the future and the decision to drop it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the past, the US would lose clout against the Soviets in UN negotiations and in vies for attracting 3rd world nations (this is also a reason nuclear power was encouraged commercially, to increase U.S. international prestige).
      Henry L. Stimson, Essay 1, at www.people.virginia.edu/~ ejk4e/hius316/answers.htm#Stimson (last visited Oct. 15, 2003). See also Robert H. Jackson, Opening Address for the United States, Nuremberg Trials, in David M. Adams, Philosophical Problems in the Law, 7, 12 (1992) (describing Henry Stimson's views on war).
The initial indented text is a quote in full from the web page at the University of Virginia, which doesn’t include the quote, doesn’t say where the quote is from, and which is, in fact, a SAMPLE MIDTERM ANSWER to an undergraduate history course!

Then there’s the misleading point of having someone say “War...is an illegal thing” when the speaker's comments were from 1932 and made in reference to the Kellog-Briand Pact which, yes, technically outlawed war but, as we know, was not really a resounding success.

I presume Mr. Washington was trying to be ironic or funny. But since the full context of the quote wasn’t provided, no way would most readers know that Stimson was referring to the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

This being the second footnote of this forty-six page article, things can only get better, right? Well, no. Besides some awkward sentences, minor citation errors (which I promise you just about every law review article has, no matter how careful the editors are), and a random first-person point of view in one section, we get to the one part of the article that our faculty DID notice and which, collectively, we held our breath and hoped no one else would find. At page 491:
Under the United Nations, governments and nation states were seeking to formulate a one-world government.53
53 Melvin Sickler and Myron Fagan, Thirst for Justice: A Satanic Plot for a One World Government, at http://www.prolognet.qc.ca/clyde/illumin.htm (last visited on Oct. 7, 2003).
Yes, finally! A law review article that recognizes the Illuminati as a valid scholarly authority!

This reminds me - has anyone ever tried to pull an Alan Sokal in legal scholarship?

Full blog post...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Marcus Eriksen's "My River Home": War Memoirs, River Tales, Cataloging Quandaries and the Value of Browsing the Stacks

Just finished reading "My River Home: A Journey From the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico" by Marcus Eriksen". He was a Marine back about the same time I was. A reservist from here in New Orleans whose unit was activated for the first Gulf War ("G.W.I."? - the war and the president - hahaha...), he spent the following decade "buried in books" getting a doctorate in science education, an option, as he notes, a bit more healthy compared to being "buried in the bottle" like so many other vets end up. But, according to him, it was just as much of an escape.

On the eve of "G.W.II" in 2003 he followed through on a promise he made to a fellow Marine to raft down the entire length of the Mississippi River together. It turns out he couldn't track down the other guy, so the flashback to his time in the Gulf doesn't lead to the tragedy you expect, in which his friend dies under fire and his dying words are about the journey they planned (but if Hollywood options his book, that is the narrative the suits may impose).

"My River Home" is the book Erikson wrote about his trip. It's a great book in many aspects. A story of growing up admiring war heroes he sees in movies and in his neighborhood and then enlisting to try and realize that fantasy, an honest memoir of learning the hard lesson that the reality doesn't live up to the fantasy, and a great story of how one Marine found some sense of resolution with both his epic journey down Old Man River and his involvement with Veterans for Peace during the run-up to the sequel of his own bit of military history.

One of my favorite passages is his description of the ritual that occurs every time two Marines meet:
   "You were in the Marine Corps, huh?" I ask. Stan wears a camouflage cap with the Marine Corps emblem stenciled on it.
   "Yup," he says with a smile. When two former marines meet, they typically begin by identifying their unit and years served. They automatically resume a mental program of camaraderie. I particularly enjoy this deep sentiment and ignore the battlefield function of this type of training.
(Marcus Eriksen, My River Home, at 9.)

I guess members of other services have comparable exchanges, but because the Marine Corps is the smallest of the branches of the military its members have, I believe, the most in common with each other no matter when they served. Hell, our dress uniforms still look like what John Wayne and his platoon wore on liberty in "The Sands of Iwo Jima", and different Marine units don't deal with all that frou-frou that the Army deals with. Maroon berets? Jeez... But I digress.

Of all the elements in Eriksen's book, my favorite are the stories of the people he meets on the river. After an initial stretch in a canoe, he makes the bulk of the journey on a home-made raft made out of empty soda bottles lashed together. His raft works as an instant conversation starter wherever he ties up for the night and in every little town he inevitably finds an offer of a meal, a place to stay, and/or a ride to the hardware store for supplies to fix his rickety makeshift conveyance.

But after reading this, the librarian in me asks, how do you catalog a book like this? The Loyola's undergraduate library when I was looking up some titles on Louisiana history. I wasn't looking for any memoirs of the first Gulf War, and I had never thought to read about riding a home-made raft down the Mississippi. Thus I became my own perfect example about how browsing the physical stacks at a library led me to a book I otherwise would never have found; sometimes I can be such a "teachable moment" cliche!

Full blog post...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman (R.I.P) and The Interpretation of Laws

We all knew he was dying of cancer, but still, its heartwrenching. One of the ever-dwindling number of classic bright lights in Hollywood’s firmament of great actors has gone dark.

Everybody else will be quoting the obvious memorable lines from their favorite Paul Newman movies, but luckily YouTube has the scene with one of my favorite legal quotes from any movie, this one from Newman in Hud on how to interpret laws:



“Well, I always say the law was meant be interpreted in a lenient manner, and that’s what I try to do. Sometimes I lean to one side of it, sometimes I lean to the other.”
All the first year students are working on a research assignment this weekend, so today I announced that I won’t answer any question until they first tell me their favorite Paul Newman movie. Typical responses include “Who”?, “Ummmmm”?, “Isn’t he a singer or movie guy?” and “I know his salad dressing”. But one student said “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” right off the bat so there may be hope yet for some of this generation.

The final scene in Hud when he is left alone in the house is one of the saddest I know in any movie. Its subtle and underplayed because, though he’s won and the farm is his, popping open his beer is the only celebration available to him and we know the future only holds more of the same emptiness he now has all around him. Larry McMurtry, who wrote "Horeseman Pass By”, which Hud is based on, has written two sequels to “The Last Picture Show” that updates those characters, so I’ve always wondered if he had notes or ideas about what happened to the characters in Hud after this story ends. Particularly Lon - where did he go, what did he do, and did he ever come back or ask for his share of the ranch?

And, yes, everyone else is probably linking to this scene, but here is the classic “Plastic Jesus” from Cool Hand Luke:



But who else is quoting the text of this scene from the book? -

   Without a word, the Yard Man dropped a telegram on the blanket, turned and shuffled away.
   Luke looked at the telegram which had already been opened and read. He stared at it, threw in his cards, got up and went to his bunk. A few minutes later we heard Luke's banjo. He was playing very softly, picking out the slow melody of an old hymn on one string.
   Koko found out what was the matter. He went over to Luke's bunk and found him sitting on the floor, his bare feet tucked up beneath his drawn-up legs. He picked at his banjo, tears streaming down his face and over his bare chest. Koko looked at the telegram lying there on the floor. Luke's mother had died early that morning from a sudden heart attack.
   For the rest of the day the Building was hushed. Radios were turned low, voices were subdued. There was no horseplay, no yelling, no laughter. Luke was left along to brood by himself, the rest of us knowing what it was like to be on the inside while out families celebrated and suffered, struggled and mourned without us. Luke could send no flowers, pay no homage, convey no sense of his presence to the rest of his family.
Donn Pearce, Cool Hand Luke", p178 (Sphere Books edition, Copyright 1965).

Where can we send flowers and pay homage?

Full blog post...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Slavery Reparations Reference Question

One of the things I like about working in a law school library that is open to the public is working with public patrons who either are trying to deal with their own legal problems or who are just curious about the law for some other reason. Loyola New Orleans isn’t quite as readily accessible as some other urban law schools (like whichever Georgia law school is in Atlanta - their law library is apparently just across the street from the jail and/or police headquarters - I forget which).

Here is a reference question that was left on my voicemail this past summer; I’ve bleeped the name and phone number of the guy who called (and it’s a private, non-searchable Google “video”):



His question was a variation of the slavery reparations urban legend/scam.

I did call him back, explained to him while this reparations have been debated, nothing has been passed into law. I told him if he was interested in researching the different proposals and plans for slavery reparations, we could help him if he wanted to come into the library. But, as far as I know, he never came by. So I don’t know if he was motivated just by the possibility of getting his share of reparations, or if he was interested in the issue in general. I could have at least pointed him at these two opposing viewpoints on the issue:

National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America

This looks like an umbrella group advocating for reparations. The dates on their “News” and other parts of their web site are about three years old, so either they’re not that active any more or they need to fire their webmaster.

The National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives’ “Slavery Reparations Information Center”

I haven’t heard of this group - guess they don’t get a lot coverage on CNN or in the New York Times. Several good articles here arguing against reparations. One notes the intellectual disconnect between warning that tax cuts threaten social services programs and advocating a trillion-dollar-plus government package of reparations.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricane Warning Escalation

In the days before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, the National Weather Service used some language that they have previously kept in reserve for storms that looked to be particularly lethal. The warning went out at 10:11am on August 28 and said, in part:
MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS […] POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

(See U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, service assessment: hurricane katrina, August 23-31, 2005 18 (2006) (available at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/assessments/index.shtml)

Katrina weakened to a Category 3 and though it still had the highest storm surge on record, it was the failure of the federally built levees in New Orleans that resulted in the 1300 deaths here, not the direct effects of the storm.

So last week for Hurricane Ike, the NWS had to up the ante in their warnings. Many news stories mention the "certain death warning" given for Galveston:
ALL NEIGHBOURHOODS AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES WILL BE INUNDATED DURING THE PERIOD OF THE PEAK STORM TIDE. PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE- OR TWO-STOREY HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH.
(See, for example, 'Certain death' warning over Ike, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7612106.stm)

I haven't found the actual warning that contains that language on the NOAA/NWS web site, but though there have been a few dozen confirmed casualties, it looks again like the warning was again over-the-top. As it should be, I guess, though this didn't convince everyone to leave Galveston.

But then what will the NWS do next time? Nothing is much more dire than "certain death", so expect the next big hurricane to inspire warnings such as:
HURRICANE ARMAGEDDON IS PREDICTED TO RIP THE TIME-SPACE CONTINUUM AND UNLEASH THE DEMON HORDES OF CTHULU TO RAIN DOWN DEATH AND DEVASTATION UPON ALL SURVIVORS IN THE REGION; ANY RESIDENTS NOT KILLED IMMEDIATELY BY THE STORM OR UPON THE RAZOR CLAWS OF THE OLD ONES' SPAWN SHALL HAVE THEIR LIMBS RENT ASUNDER AND THEIR ENTRAILS STREWN UPON THE BARREN WASTELAND THAT USED TO BE THEIR HOMES.
Maybe that will get people's attention.

Full blog post...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike on West End Boulevard




Ike is so huge that even here in New Orleans, on the south-western shore of Lake Ponchartrain, outside of the levee the lake was pushed by the wind and the edge of Ike's storm surge into the parking lot of Landry's seafood and over the docks of the adjacent marina. Hank enjoyed the temporary wading pool.




Full blog post...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

“Google Racing”/Googlewhacking

How fast can new web pages containing unique phrases appear on Google? I’ve tested this twice now, with the same result of about three days. That’s how long some unique phrase takes to appear on Google. I haven’t found a term or jargon to describe to act of measuring this. “SEO” - search engine optimization - discusses issues related to this, like how long it takes for new terms on a web page to pull in related hits and how long a new web page takes to be indexed by Google. (You can measure the same thing on any search engine; Google is so ubiquitous and easy to make into jargon that its what most people use when describing any web-search phenomenon.)

What I’m curious about it how quickly Google indexes changes to a given page. I tested this earlier on my blog when I found a phrase that wasn’t found though Google when searched AS A PHRASE (i.e., with quotation marks around the two search terms) and thus which, for all intents and purposes, does not exist as a phrase on the web.

It took three days for my first test - the prhase “tarpaper kumquat” - to appear. And it also took three days for my unintentional second test - “Hurricane Evacuation Bingo” - to appear as a Google phrase search.

But then I got to thinking, this blog is new and isn’t linked anyway except my home page and, of course, blogspot/blogger is owned by Google. So a better test would be to post a unique phrase somewhere else and see how fast it appears on Google from that page. My home page is linked a few places, including CALI because of the legal research lessons I’ve written for them, so I should post a test phrase on my home page and see how long that takes. I should also create a test blog somewhere else and see when that is picked up. OR I could post a unique phrase in all three places and see which one comes up first, hence the jargon “Google Racing”, which I’m calling this until I find out that, of course, someone has done this before and calls it something else.

Another point is related to finding a unique test phrase. And this one DOES have jargon, but I forgot what its called. This may be it - Googlewhacking. Yes, I think that's it. I read a newspaper article a few years ago about this. Basically, two words - no quotes - and try to get the fewest results on Google. Any number below 100 is good, and surprisingly hard to do, and the closer to one the better. You can’t use proper names, and no fair looking through a dictionary for obscure words you’ve never heard of.

My first test: tarpaper kumquat

gets 731 results none of which, of course, had the words together as a phrase until three days after I posted them AS a phrase in sentence in my first test.

This shows why it is usually so pointless for reporters to blithely mention something like “Just Google [term1] and [term2] and you’ll get 30,000,000 results” to try to illustrate how popular or prevalent something is. The vast majority of those hits - for two terms NOT in quotation marks - will bring up pages where those two terms do NOT appear in relation to each other. There are a lot of forums, blogs, discussion boards etc., that contains dozens or hundreds of pages (if printed out) of text on one web page and, through shear probability, the chances of two words which are even at all someone common will appear many times on different pages is very likely. Its hard to find two words with few hits. I mean, jeez:

arsenic imagination

gets 195,000 results.

Anyway, its something to do when things are slow at the reference desk.

Oh, and it turns out that there actually is an education tool that IS Hurricane Bingo (though not hurricane evacuation bingo). Its recommended for grades six and up as a way for students to learn hurricane terms in a “fun, fast, atmosphere”. (Do kids have any concept of games that aren’t electronic?)

Full blog post...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back at Work/Faculty Scholarly Productivity Study

The law school is back after losing a week to Hurricane Gustav. We’d had only two weeks of classes before that, so its almost like starting the semester all over again. I’ve got to re-learn the names of new faculty and staff that I’ve forgotten during our nine-day labor day weekend.

So I lost a week's work for the short articles and the new CALI lesson I’m writing, and for verifying Loyola’s data for professor Michael Yelnosky’s “Study of Scholarly Productivity of Law Faculties” in 3rd and 4th Tier Law schools. I got stuck doing that because I compiled, maintain, and update the the current faculty publications bibliography for our faculty.

Prof. Yelnosky has done a lot of good work, but I found discrepancies in the data he had for three of our faculty. We’ve addressed one of those three, and he’s going to get back to me on the other two, but that’s a 10% error rate for us. His student workers did NOT compile lists of the “qualifying articles” for each faculty, they just did the Westlaw queries - which they did compile and which Michael sent me - and, I guess, tallied the qualifying articles on a piece of paper. (“Qualifying articles” are those published by faculty in the list of top law reviews that he’s using.) So he can’t tell me what 4 articles Professor A at our law school he’s counting, he just needs me - and, presumably, someone at all the other 90-100 schools in tiers 3 and 4 - to verify his numbers and send him the discrepancies.

The thing is, this just screams to be some sort of huge, on-line collaborative project. Had he actually generated the lists of qualifying articles and put them on the web with his other data, we - meaning myself and any other borderline obsessive-compulsive types out there - could be cross-checking the results of OTHER schools ourselves. I don’t think that would be difficult to set up. Maybe I’ll post something on the ALL-SIS listserv and see if any other librarians have got ensnared in doing this at their law school.

Full blog post...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gustav Clean-Up: Four Days and 22 Trash Bags

We got back to New Orleans on Wednesday afternoon. The power was initially on, then blinked off and was out for about three or four hours. The funniest thing about this - thankfully brief - evacucation and return was hearing our neighbor on WWL call in and ask if they knew anything about why the power here in the Irish Channel was out again. Whoever was hosting then said they would check about it. The neighbor came out on his porch and we cheered him for getting on the radio and, honestly, not more than five minutes later the power came back on! I knew he had connections, but wow - that's impressive.

We lost one of our three palm trees in the back and had to cut down a lot of other stuff - some of which we had planned to do anyway - and it was a brutal over-haul. With that, sweeping, and cleaning out the gutters, we generated a LOT of yard debris - all of which, amazingly, has already been hauled away so I don't have an impressive photograph of the pile of trash bags like I did after we cleaned up post-Katrina.

Here's two back yard photos from earlier this summer:





Here's two from Wednesday before we started cleaning up:





and here's two from when we finished today:





Depressing... but the Tibetian prayer flags that Emily had picked up before Gustav even formed is a perfect way to fill in that corner with some color. Hopefully they will bring us good luck and help push Ike to Texas.

Oh, yeah - one last picture. My goal yesterday was to cut everything down and get it to the curb, including the stump of that palm tree. Well, I broke BOTH our shovels trying to dig it out, then I spent about an hour cutting at the roots with some small clippers. I was obsessed with getting it done and I had visions of running through the neighborhood swinging the stump around by its roots like a warrior and his victim's severed head. But Emily, Lauri, and Lauri's neice Cassie had just ordered pizza so I was content with a victory lap out to the debris pile on the street:



There can be only one! Tonight you sleep in hell, you vile palm tree stump!!!

Full blog post...