Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Correcting Errors: Wikipedia and the Library of Congress

Errors on Wikipedia are not hard to find and errors in the Library of Congress catalog are, I guess, not unheard of, but I found one of both today and thought I would use the mechanisms for reporting errors in both and see which one was fixed first.

Of course, in Wikipedia, anyone can edit the entries and correct errors. And easily verified errors in objective facts are not as rampant as its detractors may think, especially in the most popular and widely-read articles. What I found was two related articles that contradict each other; the articles were relatively minor and the fact is a small point, but they don't jibe 100%. And since I don't know the correct answer, I posted a talk comment in both to see how long it would take until someone resolved the differences.

I may have heard of Southern Rock group Black Oak Arkansas and their singer James "Jim Dandy" Mangrum before I saw them mentioned on a documentary I watched over the weekend ("Van Halen: The Early Days"; the documentary pointed out that "Jim Dandy" Mangrum was a big influence on David Lee Roth's on-stage persona; I thought this was a good title to test Netflix's streaming movies for the first time - it works pretty good, its turns out, not that I would want to watch a lot of movies streaming to my computer).

The Wikipedia entries for them, of course, overlap considerably but the one for Mangrum says an early incarnation of Black Oak Arkansas:
"moved to New Orleans and recorded a Stax record that went nowhere."
But the entry for Black Oak Arkansas itself says they:
"moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1969 and signed a record deal with Stax Records. Their self-titled debut album, and their only album with Stax, was largely ignored by the populace."
So where was it, New Orleans or Memphis, where they recorded with Stax? Or did they sign the deal with Stax in Memphis but record the album in New Orleans? This may just be sloppy writing and not a contradiction. Either way, I posted a note in the discussion part of each entry asking for clarification.

The error in the Library of Congress catalog is just a typo. I was looking for some Latin America materials - from any country - for a faculty member and found this title:
Li´neas y criterios jurisprudenciales,Sala de lo Penal, 2005 / [coordinador, Ulices del Dios Guzma´n Canjura ; compilador, Mauricio Haim Luna].
With this subject heading:
Ccriminal law --El Salvador --Digests.
Yes, just a typo - with the extra "c" in criminal.

There's a form on the Library of Congress' catalog for reporting errors, so I entered the LCCN number for this record, put in my brief summary of this error, added my e-mail address, and submitted the message. The acknowledgment said it takes five days on average to respond to these error reports, so I'll keep an eye out for a response and see how long it takes. And I'll check back on the two Wikipedia entrees to see if anyone is monitoring changes to them on their watchlist (which include additions to the discussion pages) and will correct the discrepancy between them. Which will be corrected first?

Full blog post...

Friday, March 27, 2009

CALI.Org Kidnapped by Thai Pirates!!!

Well, digitally kidnapped - something called the “Thailand Knowledge Center” is leeching the web page and trying to glom onto the CALI bandwagon:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
(Click the above image for a full-size copy of the screen capture.)

When I inquired about this - thinking that maybe it was a new partnership with a Thai law school - CALI editor extraordinaire Deb Quintel told me they had no idea what was going on and that they would look into it.

Just one of many strange things about this page (like the mis-spelled “CALI: The Canter for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) is the pop-up about web browsers when you first pull it up (this is the Chrome version of the pop-up:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The CALI folks weren’t surprised by the Japanese essay/paper/presentation I found recently with a bunch of citations and references to CALI, American legal education, instructional technology, etc., because CALI Executive Director John Mayer apparently goes over there regularly and talks CALI up to the local legal ed folks there. Should we start working on anime versions of the CALI lessons? -

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

One of the recent items I noted at CALI.Org - the original, genuine thing, not a cheap, foreign rip-off - is the CALI disc recyling program; sounds good, but my wife and I have our own version of this:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
We didn’t make this - a local artist did, but we soon discovered that when exposed to sunlight for any period of time CDs, DVDs, etc, become very brittle so I’m constantly cleaning up and replacing the bits and pieces that crack and shatter and fall in the garden. So a lot of our school’s CALI discs from previous years get used as replacements.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

President Obama: Law Libraries are Cool!

Well, its not a direct quote, and he wasn’t president then, but a posted picture on PunditKitchen has a photo of the President when he was younger, and those definitely are case reporters on the shelves.

barack obama

Probably taken for the Harvard Law student newspaper or something? Unless its from U. Chicago, when he was a lecturer at the law school there (1992 - 2004, I believe I read recently). Either way, yes, he - and law libraries - are definitely cool.

Ah! It was from his Harvard student days - one of the hits on the first page of results when searching Google image for

obama “law library”

is this one:

from this story in the Boston Globe from January 28, 2007.

Its from the same photo shoot, and the caption indicates it was from Harvard. But the phrase “law library” in the article isn’t about the picture:
In the fall of 1989, when Obama returned to campus for his second year, students were protesting the lack of minority law school faculty. They staged sit-ins in the law library, camped outside the office of Dean Robert C. Clark, and carried signs that read "Diversity Now" and "Homogeneity Feeds Hatred." (Emphasis added)
Sit-ins in the law library? They didn’t cover how to handle that when I was in library school. (And couldn’t the smart kids at Harvard law have thought up a slogan more catchy than “Homogeneity Feeds Hatred”?)

Good thing the law library at Harvard has all these great chairs:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

(From a great presentation at the 2000 ABA Bricks and Bytes conference by Terry Martin, director of the Harvard Law Library.)

Full blog post...

Monday, March 23, 2009

CALI Lesson: Louisiana Primary Legal Resources

My CALI Lesson Louisiana Primary Legal Resources (membership required, and you have to be logged in to access the lesson), is now on-line at CALI.Org.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The lesson will also be on the forthcoming 2009-2010 CALI DVD-Rom.

This was pretty quick - I turned in my final draft with revisions based on the two reviewers' comment about three weeks ago. But it was the first CALI lesson I wrote directly for the flash interface that CALI now prefers to use for all their lessons. The older lessons converted to the flash format don't look so great, but I took into consideration the layout of the flash lessons' display when I made the graphics for this one and it turned out pretty good.
CALI's Legal Research and Writing advisory group started soliciting state lesson a few years ago. I guess the main appeal for these are to students at law schools in a particular state, or who know they are going to be practicing in a state and want to learn about that state's legal resources. We have enough unique stuff in Louisiana to make for a decent lesson, and I hope students at the four law schools here get some use out of it.

Full blog post...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Is the Obama Administration Browsing Blogs for Policy Ideas?

I was belatedly reading at a discussion on Money Law, about the AIG bailout/bonus brouhaha. One of the comments linked to another blog, ButAsForMe.Com, with a posting about the car rental industry jockeying for TARP money. A clause in some legislation in January that amended TARP apparently makes car rental companies eligible for these loans (and, yes, as many commentators have pointed out, much of these “bailouts” are, as I understand it, loans that will eventually have to be paid back by these companies).

This piece at ButAsForMe.Com, posted on February 25, mainly discusses whether Enterprise Rental actually laid off the 2000 employees they said they did when they went begging for their share of the TARP pie. I didn’t read it until this weekend, but what stood out in my mind was this line:
Enterprise successfully argued you can help Detroit by giving loans to end-users. They said they deserve a bailout because they buy a lot of cars and will help the automakers through their own purchases. By following that flow of logic, everyone in the United States should be eligible for a government backed loan to buy a car. (Emphasis added)
The “[b]y following that flow of logic” line is, I guess, meant to be a bit of reductio ad absurdum, the absurd bit being “government backed loan[s] to buy a car”! Hahaha - how ridiculous!!! Even the Obama administration wouldn’t go THAT far, would they?

The reason that line stood out is I had just watched the Leno/Obama gabfest on our DVR. I had to check the transcript, but this story reminded me of something the President said:
In the meantime, we're taking a lot of steps to, for example, opening up -- open up separate credit lines outside of banks for small businesses so that they can get credit -- because there are a lot of small businesses out here who are just barely hanging on. Their credit lines are starting to be cut.

We're trying to set up a securitized market for student loans and auto loans outside of the banking system. (Emphasis added)
I guess its not so ridiculous because the President said it less than three weeks after the ButAsForMe.Com blogger used this as a theoretical absurdity to argue against allowing any company that has to buy cars as part of its business to use TARP money to do so. So the President says that they’re trying to set up a system under which we can all be eligible for a government backed loan to buy a car: good-bye, auto financing industry, or at least a big chunk of it, right? There goes another large segment of our economy usurped by the feds. But its early in the Obama administration and a lot of what they’re throwing up against the wall is not going to stick.

The moral of this story is: be careful what you blog about, for it might come true. Or don’t be careful if you have a wishlist of government entitlements - the administration may be trolling the blogosphere for ideas they hadn’t thought of already. Government-backed car loans! Ha - that is as absurd as the federal government setting up its own chain of check-cashing payday-loan stores! (Posted March 22, 2009; I’m hoping it becomes an official government proposal by mid-April - those 30% fees at Check-N-Go are killing me! Please, President Obama - cap all payday loans at 1% over prime! That’s fair, right?)

Full blog post...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Missing ABA Legal Education Statistics

I got obsessed with the “200 law schools” issue in my previous posting because I let myself get sidetracked while looking for some ABA statistics. Back in the Summer of 2007, several folks noted (Paul Caron here and Tom Bell here) that the ABA had finally put all the data from the ABA/LSAC Official Guide on the ABA web page in Excel spreadsheets so that the data-obsessed among us could crunch and sort the numbers however we wanted. It’s the same numbers published in the print edition of the Official Guide, and the ABA’s legal education page has some slices of the data in PDF, and other sites have other chunks of the data, but these were the raw numbers, in totality, in a format that you could use to do just about anything.

For example, I’ve been on the self-study committees for both of the ABA/AALS re-accreditation visits that we’ve been though since I came here in 1999, and I like to do things like compare the ratios of library books per student and per faculty, library square footage per student, etc., between us and our “peer group” law schools. Some of those turned out to be worthwhile comparisons and we actually used a few in the self-study reports. Back in 2001 I had to manually enter the data, but in 2007 I used the Excel spreadsheets and it saved me a lot of time. The spreadsheet also make it easy to sort all the data and see where your school falls among all 198 law schools when ranked according to all sorts of factors - percentage of minority students and faculty is one popular parlor game to play with those statistics around here.

Back in 2007, I think everyone presumed that the ABA was going to make new data available in a fresh set of spreadsheets each year thereafter. We had our site visit in April 2008, and I was only too glad to forget about law school statistics for a while, so I didn’t check back to get the following year’s spreadsheets until recently. The ABA statistics page is here:


and all they have are STILL the statistics that were there in the Summer of 2007, the “2008” data. (This is a confusing point - the ABA Official Guide is published the summer before the calendar year that is indicated by its “edition year”, and its data is from the questionnaire conducted in the previous Fall; so data from the Fall 2006 questionnaire was published as the “2008 Edition” of the Official Guide, which came out in the summer of 2007; the introduction to the print edition of the Guide explains this, more or less.)

So seeing that the expected 2009 data wasn’t there, I contacted the ABA statistics person. He said they were hard at work on the data collected last semester (Fall 2008) for the forthcoming “2010 Edition” of the Official Guide, which will be published this summer. When I clarified that I wanted the data from the 2009 edition, which was published last summer, and that all the web page had was the data from the previous edition, he told me that he had started working at the ABA last summer and so in the transition from his predecessor the data just didn’t get posted. He said that both sets of data, from the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Official Guide, might be released in the future, but that the decision to do so would be up to the ABA legal ed consultant.

So I’m going to gently prod our Dean to bring this up whenever he deals with the consultant or anyone else at the ABA, as well as when he talks to his fellow law school Deans at their various get-togethers, and anyone else interested in the law school accreditation process and comparisons and rankings and such should also gently prod the ABA legal education folks to release this data in those handy-dandy Excel spreadsheets and to do so routinely each year.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

200 Law Schools? Well, not quite...

Last week we got the 2007-2008 Annual Report of the ABA Legal Education Consultant. (Yes, we JUST got it - why it took that long to get the 07-08 annual report out, and why its not available on the ABA web site, I don’t know). It trumpets “Marking a Milestone: 200 Law Accredited Law Schools”. I must have missed this last summer when it was a news item in legal circles. I track law schools for ALL-SIS survey on Continuing Status and Tenure, and I knew we were getting close to have 200 ABA-approved schools, but I only had 198 schools on my list, including the three new schools that were provisionally approved last year (Drexel, Elon, and Charlotte).

I compared my list with the ABA’s list in the annual report and the first thing I noticed was that the ABA’s 200 schools includes the Army Judge Advocate General School, which I didn’t think the ABA really “approved” as its not a J.D. - granting institution. I may be wrong, but searching the school’s web page, I couldn’t find any mention of the ABA.

The other discrepancy I found between my list and the ABA’s is that they count the two Wideners separately, and I had it only once. I knew the two Rutgers (Camden and Newark) are administratively separate law schools, but I thought Widener was more like Thomas Cooley, which has three campuses but is just one school and is listed as such by the ABA.

Then I checked the ABA/LSAC Official Guide listings. There, Widener seems to occupy a middle ground between Thomas Cooley, which has just one listing, and the two Rutgers, which have separate listings: Widener has separate data pages for each campus, but it has just one “information page”, the page with all the stuff provided by each law school, along with the school’s applicant profile.

Next I looked on the web page for the ABA Legal Ed section and the master list of law schools there:


The two Rutgers are listed separately, but Widener is only listed once, as is Thomas Cooley.

So what’s the determining factor? A single Dean? Separate administrations? What?
Widener only has one Dean for the two campuses, while each Rutgers has its own Dean (well, one dean and a dean search getting underway at Rutgers Newark). There’s also just one web page for Widener, but two for Rutgers.

Then I checked our catalog and grabbed last year’s ABA Legal Education annual report. In the 06-07 report’s master list of approved law schools, the ABA does NOT list Widener as two separate schools. Also, the text of the report (at page 25), gives a brief summary of how many schools there was that year and notes that “[t]wo of the approved law schools, Thomas Cooley and Widener, have branch campuses” and also says “Penn State University operates a second location”. Cooley, both last year and this year, is only listed once by the ABA, but why is Widener now listed twice? I don’t think they changed the way they operate or how they’re organized.

Maybe the ABA legal ed folks were just a little over-eager to pass the “200 law schools” milestone. But even with quibbling about the JAG school and Widener, in another year or two, we’ll definitely have over 200 ABA-approved law schools. The 2006-2007 report noted that two other new schools had applied for provisional approval, though one of them - American Justice School of Law/aka “Alben W. Barkley School of Law” is now closed. And I don’t know much about the “Eugenio Mara de Hostos Law School”, in Puerto Rico, but there are others in the wings working on approval.

Full blog post...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two points on "Tales from Torture's Dark World" by Mark Danner

"Tales from Torture's Dark World" by Mark Danner, from Sunday's New York Times is generating a good bit of press across the blogosphere. Danner, a journalism professor at Berkeley, has a book coming out, "Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror", so this op-ed/essay and the longer article flogged in the byline notes coming out soon in the New York Review of Books are all helping to publicize the book.

The piece itself is mostly extended excerpts from a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, "clearly intended only for the eyes of those senior American officials", referenced earlier as CIA officials. He was provided a copy by unnamed sources, and after a cursory check, I didn't see the full thing anywhere on-line, but it may be out there. Just curious about that - there's no reason to think he's being selected in his excerpting.

Danner notes several times in his introductory remarks that because the report, and the statements made by the prisoners, were not intended for public distribution, that this lends them a strong aura of authenticity. But as several former officials of the Bush administration have noted in response to this report and earlier accounts on mis-treatment, members of the Taliban and other combatants have been trained to relay stories of torture if captured. They wouldn't be completely ignorant of what the ICRC's purpose was in conducting those interviews, and if well-trained they would relate such stories any time they were asked about their detention and their interrogations.

Two details from this story jumped out at me:
"A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe."
If a black cloth was over his face, then how did he know it was a mineral water bottle being used to pour the water? Did his interrogators show him the bottle before they covered his face and told him "here's the bottle we're going to use to pour the water on you after we cover up your face"? And what is a mineral water bottle, how is it different from any other water bottle? That struck me as a strange detail to include. If you're being water boarded, the specific vessel used to pour the water would seem to be one of the more inconsequential details.

The second detail is from one a detainee who had lost a leg from a combat injury. He notes that:
I was kept in a standing position, feet flat on the floor, but with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal bar running across the width of the cell.

And then that:
After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists
He removed his artificial leg while his arms were fixed with handcuffs above his head? OK, maybe his interrogators uncuffed him so he could remove his leg, but if the stump of his missing leg was hurting, isn't that all the more in keeping with the intent of all these proceedings? Or was he able to shake off his prosthesis without using his hands?

These both sounded like the sort of statement a decent defense attorney would seize upon when cross-examining a witness.

Full blog post...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

1960 CALR (Computer Assisted Legal Research)

I found this photograph in the book - or, as the introduction describes it, the “souvenir album” - produced for the 83rd Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association in 1960. The meeting that year was in Washington D.C. and this was one of the demonstrations in the exhibit area:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The caption above reads:
ELECTRONIC LAW LIBRARY. That’s what the IBM Corporation called its data processing equipment put on display for convention visitors. When fed key words relating to a specific problem involving taxation of charitable hospital property, the machine produced in a few minutes the applicable statutes and case citations. Regional electronic law libraries available to the bar and judiciary are foreseen by some authorities as a development of the not too distant future.
And the book has this additional text:
ONE OF THE NOTABLE EXHIBITS at the Washington meeting was the first public demonstration of workable methods of searching statutes and case law with the aid of electronic computers. An IBM 650 computer demonstrated to several thousand curious lawyers how, in 26 minutes, it could complete the process of searching, selecting and printing the citations and texts of 10 relevant state health and hospital statutes. The particular search involved a tax problem of charitable hospitals. A manual state-by-state search would have taken several days.
Twenty-six minutes, you say! I guess that was impressive back then, though I think they exaggerate the “several days” it would have taken to manually research this issue in print resources for only ten states. I’ll have to use this in some of my classes and presentations to try to make the students appreciate what they have today. (The ABA meeting book is American Bar Association 83rd annual meeting, Washington, D.C., 1960 - looks like 39 other libraries have this, though the copy I’m looking at isn’t part of our collection, but was sitting around the office of one of our retired professors.)

I don’t think I knew that IBM had done early work on computer-assisted legal research. The text here seems to indicate that this was just a prototype so perhaps they never released a commercial product. Further research would confirm that but if they did try to market this to law firms, it predates LexisNexis’ claim that in 1966 its early “electronic data-search system became the first to retrieve full-text documents”. See LexisNexis, Company History.

And, looking closely at the picture, there doesn’t appear to be a keyboard on the IBM 650 - as, I think, was typical of these old computers (oh, and this model cost $500,000 back then, which is roughly $3,500,000 today). And, yes, that’s a punchcard reader to the right of the guy sitting down. My father worked on mainframes like this in the late 1960s and the punchcards were “written”/“typed”/”created”/whatever on separate units and then fed into the computer (I remember banging away on one of those when I was three or four and thinking it was cool how the machine made little rectangular holes in the cards.) I’ll have to delve into the literature sometime to see if there’s any mention of this system.

Full blog post...

Monday, March 9, 2009

CALI Legal Research and Writing Lessons are Big In Japan

Well, at least a bunch of the CALI LRW lessons are listed in a table at the end of this paper:


Here’s an image of the table:Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

And here’s an image of the cover page, with “CALI” highlighted:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

I’m not sure what this paper is. It might be something about orientation for Japanese students coming to take classes at law schools here in the U.S. Google has a translation option, but it says this document is too long. But I copied chunks of the first page over to http://babelfish.altavista.com/ and it translates what is apparently the title of this document as:
Role of legal information investigation and the low library in the United States
Since “low library” must be some spelling glitch, I’m guessing that this is about “Legal Research and the Law Library in the United States”. Some of the footnotes are in English, and there are a lot of them about legal education, technology, and distance education, and some of them link to CALI, so its probably about technology and legal education as well.

Full blog post...