Saturday, December 3, 2011

CSU Hurricane Predictions: An Updated, Seven-Year Track Record

The 2011 Hurricane Season ended Wednesday. And, as last year, and as in most recent years, the annual CSU predictions were wildly off base. I’m not sure how accurate they claim to be, since few if any of the stories every Spring with their forecasts for the numbers of storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes even mention the level of statistical confidence they believe those predictions to be.

Anyway, the Times-Picayune did run a story that included a chart tracking the CSU predictions for the past three years, But the chart isn’t included with the on-line version of the story, for some reason; so here's quick fuzzy scan of it:
Times Picayune Hurricane Seasons Predictions Retrospective

Last year I also made a chart of past hurricane season predictions because there were very few follow-up stories that followed up on these predictions after hurricane season, despite how widely covered the predictions are when they are announced each spring.

Here is my updated Track Record graphic of the CSU hurricane predictions for Hurricane Seasons 2005-2011:
Hurricane Predictions Track Record: 2005-2011

Again, wildly off, but as I said, I don’t know how accurate they purport their predictions to be.

My favorite numbers above are still the predictions for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. After under-predicting each figure for the 2005 season by over 50%, whatever factors they rely on apparently indicated that that season would not be a fluke. But that wasn’t the case and their predictions for the two following seasons were very high compared to what occured: by 66% or more for five of the six factors across the two seasons.

The bottom line: we can’t predict months in advance what one hurricane season is going to be like, so why should we believe predictions about what our climate is going to be like decades from now.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Twitter Versus Listserv Smackdown: Listserv Wins!

I feel I’ve been living and breathing SSRN for weeks now, working to get our school’s RPS up and running. And today I needed to tweak a faculty paper one last time, hopefully. But I kept getting an error message when I tried to log in, and not just the message you get when you screw up your user name and password.

Here’s the capture of what I kept getting:

error message when SSRN log-in was down

So it looks like something serious is down on their end. This kept happening for about five minutes, so I e-mailed our faculty asking anyone with an account to try to log on and, yes, one person reported back right away that they were getting the same error message.

I thought that maybe it’s just a local problem - doubtful since that was the only web page giving us problems, but who knows. So, to see if anyone else around the country was having similar problems, I thought SURELY with all the amazing web 2.0 and social media tools at my disposal, I could instantly tap into my pool of colleagues around the country. So I go on Twitter:

Tweeting against the breeze
And post those three messages (which you have to read from bottom to top). Nothing. I am, of course, simultaneously e-mailing my contact at SSRN and asking the two professors here to make screen captures of their error messages. But I also post a message on the ALL-SIS listserv and within minutes I have two messages from people saying they aren’t having any problems like I am. Then when I try to log in again, no error message. A later follow-up from my SSRN contact:
e-mail from SSRN

confirms that it was a problem on their end, though it looks like it was just a brief glitch and I happened to be one of the few people to run into it.

The point is: as revolutionary as many people say Twitter is, and as useful as it can be in some situations, in this case a listserv, a 20+ year old technology, kicked its ass. Eventually all I got were exactly two responses from Twitter, both from @ssrn, and both of which were pretty useless. The first one:

Useless SSRN Tweet Number One
was useless because I WASN’T FOLLOWING SSRN and other users do NOT see @user responses you send to them if they are NOT already following you (and I’m following them now, which is why I was able to make that screen capture).

The second one was just a useless shout-out from them to, I guess, everyone who had used #ssrn in a tweet recently:

Useless SSRN Tweet Number One
Realistically, what this probably demonstrates is that there are, what, 1200+ law librarians on ALL-SIS, and probably not many more than 245 on Twitter, since I think I’ve found and am following everyone identifying them selves as a librarian at a law library, no mater where, what type, or what they do. If so, do we blame the librarians for being slow adapters? No, its been mainstream for, what, at least two to three years. Instead, I think we blame Twitter for not being as useful for our routine daily communication needs as some people hyped it up to be.

Now what Twitter is really useful for is stuff like this:

Mark Ingram is Eating the Best Steak in New Orleans

Mmmmm...steak. Wonder where he is? Dickie Brennans’s? The Ember’s? Crescent City Steak House?

Speaking of Ingram, now that it looks like Alabama will face LSU in the BCS Champsionship/Brawl for it All Round II, I have GOT to get a Bama jersey with his number on it.

(Oh, and if there was a real, worthwhile, final point here, I’ve long since forgotten what it was.)

Full blog post...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wife's Fundraising Letter from Bush II

My wife got a fundraising letter from the George W. Bush Presidential Library foundation, group, flunkies, whoever:
George W. Bush Presidential Library Fundraising Letter

They are wasting their money on whatever marketing firm got a list of potential donors with her name on it. I haven't laughed so hard since I got a membership invitation from the ACLU.
Full blog post...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Catholic University School of Law Cheating at SSRN

While browsing SSRN recently, I was looking at the most recent issues of various school's Research Paper Series (“RPS”). These are the e-mails with abstracts of recent faculty articles and such with links back to the text of those article at SSRN, which they send out on behalf of law schools (and other institutions) when you have an RPS account with SSRN. The general idea is that it’s a great way to highlight your faculty's recent scholarship and let other folks know how brilliant all your professors are.

So I was a bit perplexed that Catholic University’s most recent RPS consisted entirely of articles that are at least ten years old, with four of the five of them from either 1995 or 1996. They can, of course, do whatever they want with SSRN and their RPS, and a lot of schools are indeed uploading their back catalog of faculty scholarship onto SSRN, but the whole idea, generally, of these RPSs is to highlight recent scholarship and so I, and, I think, many other people familiar with SSRN, would consider fleshing out your RPSs with articles from the 1990s as very bad form.

SSRN doesn’t archive school’s RPSs, so here’s a PDF capture of this one:

And here are screen captures from this issue of their RPS; first, the top of it, showing that it is indeed from this past September:

Image Hosted by

And here is article 1, from 2000:

Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law cheats at solitaire and SSRN

Articles 2 through 4, all from 1996:

Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law cheats at solitaire and SSRN

Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law cheats at solitaire and SSRN

Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law cheats at solitaire and SSRN
And article 5, from 1995 (the year I started library school):

Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law cheats at solitaire and SSRN
This is dubious at best, dishonest at worst, but its like cheating at solitaire: few people will even know because few people actually read these RPSs, and fewer people read my blog.

Full blog post...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy 236th Birthday to the Marine Corps!

In my fourth annual traditional United States Marine Corps birthday celebration, here is this year's Marine Corps joke, found in the humor section of MarineDevilDog.Com (a determinedly state-of-the-art-as-of-1998 web site!):
A crusty old Marine Corps Colonel found himself at a gala event downtown, hosted by a local liberal arts college. There was no shortage of extremely young, idealistic ladies in attendance, one of whom approached the colonel for conversation.

She said, "Excuse me, sir, but you seem to be a very serious man. Are you this way all the time, or is something bothering you?"

"No," the colonel said, "I'm just serious by nature."

The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said, "It looks like you have seen a lot of action."

The colonel's short reply was "Yep, a lot of action."

The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, "You know, you should lighten up a little - relax and enjoy yourself."

The colonel just stared at her in his serious manner.

Finally the young lady said, "You know, l hope you don't take this the wrong way, but when is the last time you had sex?"

The colonel looked at her and replied, "1955."

She said, "Well, there you go; you really need to chill out and quit taking everything so seriously - I mean, no sex since 1955, isn't that a little extreme?"

The colonel, glancing at his watch, said in his matter-of-fact voice, "Oh, I don't know. It's only 2130 now!"
Semper Fi!!! (And if you don't get it...)
Full blog post...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Worst Academic Press Catalog Cover Image Ever

So there I was, looking for publisher information about a certain book a professor thought was representative of the type of academic press where he might try to place the book he is working on, when I’m confronted with what may be the worst choice ever for a book catalog cover (image after jump):

Patricia Piccinini - The Long Awaited, Vanderbilt University Press Catalog Cover Fall and Winter 2011-2012

What the hell is that thing? I’m going to have nightmares for weeks. Turns out its from the cover of Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination and - Oh my God! its not just an illustration, but a sculpture from the exhibit for which this book serves as a catalog. The artist is Patrician Piccinini and that specific work is here.

The giant mutant sea lion thing is weird enough, but some of her other work, conveniently listed here on another site, is even more disturbing. But the more you look at it, the more compelling the pieces are.

Still, a strange choice for the Vandy press catalog cover. Why couldn’t they have used this cover image instead:

Embodied Resistance: Challenging the Norms, Breaking the Rules

From the description:
Embodied Resistance engages the rich and complex range of society's contemporary "body outlaws"--people from many social locations who violate norms about the private, the repellent, or the forbidden. This collection ventures beyond the conventional focus on the "disciplined body" and instead, examines conformity from the perspective of resisters. By balancing accessibly written original ethnographic research with personal narratives, Embodied Resistance provides a window into the everyday lives of those who defy or violate socially constructed body rules and conventions.
That’s actually a book I would want to read.

Full blog post...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and Vague Statistics

Besides the white-washing of the more unsavory aspects of the Occupy Wall Street kids (including public masturbation in Madison, rape and sexual assault in NYC, and a guy caught on camera defecating on a NYPD patrol car), as well as the fact that the movement is more astro-turfed than their media sympathizers will acknowledge, the protesters’ grievances and demands are still vague.

One chart related to the OWS’s “cause” that I’ve seen on-line in various places concerns the non-story about the ratio of corporate executive’s salaries to the salaries of average workers:
Ratio of CEO to Worker Salary

I saw that and thought a little research was called for and made my own chart in response:
Ratio of CEO to Worker Sallary, Fortune 500 Corporations by Country, and Per Capita Grass Domestic Product

As indicated, I got the statistics for the Global 500 Corporations and the Per Capita GDP from reliable sources(CNN/Forbes and the IMF, respectively), but I’ve never see a source for those CEO:Worker salary ratios. I wouldn’t even know how to start finding that information. Does somebody compile average CEO salaries by country? That’s a task for some slow day at the reference desk.

Full blog post...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bored Headline Writers

Some headline writer at the Times-Picayune must be a bored Who fan.

A routine story about local restaurants composting their food scraps had this headline in today's paper:
Green Age Waste Land

Though its not the first time, by far, the same pun has been made.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs iDead

"Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
- Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, 2005

Full blog post...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Marines Dominate Post-DADT Repeal

I love this New York Times story about this Marine Recruiter in Oklahoma:

Elisabeth Bumiller, Marines Hit the Ground Running in Seeking Recruits at Gay Center
New York Times, September 20, 2011.

The day after the repeal of DADT was final, he was the only recruiter invited out of all the services to attend a celebratory shindig and set up a recruiting table at a gay rights community center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The story notes that:
"With the law now changed, the Marines appear determined to prove that they will be better than the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard in recruiting gay, lesbian and bisexual service members."
Semper Fi! I predict that, like a hell of a lot of political disputes, the resolution of this one is going to be a disappointment to both sides: it won't be the catastrophe that some of the right predict, and it won't be the paradigm shift that many on the left had hoped for. The article notes that of the three potential recruits the Master Sgt. talked to, two didn't meet the basic qualifications and standards.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CALI Presentation on The Internet and Learning the Law

Went to the CALI Conference on Law School Computing law week. I was invited by CALI Executive Director John Mayer to be one of ten presenters an the first day's Ignite! Plenary. Every one of the presenters were given the opportunity to talk for five minutes - about ANYTHING. Very fun, but very challenging - its extremely hard to talk for ONLY five minutes about something substantive and make it worth while. But I busted my ass for a month (he e-mailed us exactly four weeks before the day of the plenary), and I got a lot of good feedback on my presentation about the internet, technology, and its effect on law students' study habits and ability to learn the law.

The video of the plenary is available on-line, but the first part doesn't have any audio, and it ran late so the last part didn't get recorded. My part starts right at the thirty-nine minute mark. (Marquette uses MediaSite for their lecture and slideshow capture - a very cool system.)

The text, and the slides, from my presentation and below, after the jump. (At least this is the final draft that I mad more or less memorized, but which I continued to tweak as I practiced it a few dozen times the day before the plenary.) (And its damn near impossible to get the text and the slides the align correctly - Blogspot doesn't let you fully edit HTML if you also use the Compose option.)

Image Hosted by

In the past few years, there have beenImage Hosted by a lot of books and articles critical of our “always on”/“always connected” technology-focused culture. Some of these even suggest that web 2.0 applications, smartphones, all this technology we use, is actually changing the way our brains work, and not in a good way.

But in response to that, others have Image Hosted by ImageShack.uspointed out, no, in order to survive, our ancestors had to be alert to multiple possible threats around them and stay attentive to every sound or movement heard or saw.

So maybe this drive to regularly check Image Hosted by ImageShack.usour e-mail, Twitter stream, Facebook, RSS feeds, etc., is just an adaptation of early survival mechanisms and the evolution of the internet is just the latest step in mankind’s evolution and so, sure, we’re perfectly capable of dealing with this modern deluge of information.

Well, if that’s true, what else have evolution prepared us for?

For one, our taste buds and appetitesImage Hosted by evolved to crave fatty, high-calorie foods. So surely we’re also capable of dealing with the modern deluge of readily available, inexpensive food, right? How’s that been working out for us?

Well, today - thanks at least in part toImage Hosted by evolution - one-third of adult Americans are obese. Are we going to see an epidemic of “information obesity” soon? Are we starting to see that now?

The concept of “internet addiction” isImage Hosted by debatable, but our brains do have several re-enforcing mechanisms that recent research indicates are relevant to how we work with information today.

When our ancestors were on the hunt,Image Hosted by or seeking or searching for something, their brains released dopamine - a chemical similar to adrenaline - to help keep them sharp and alert and on edge. Then, when they found what they were looking for - a meal, a mate, whatever - that physical, concrete reward would satisfy that seeking/hunting behavior and their brains would then release endorphins to give them a nice, contented feeling. These endorphins would also balance out the dopamine, take the edge off, bring them down, and they’d feel relaxed and satisfied.

Today, we’re engaging in similar Image Hosted by ImageShack.usseeking/hunting behavior when we use all these on-line information resources and electronic gadgets: dopamine is responsible for that slight rush we feel when we’re on-line, searching on Google, browsing Westlaw results, checking e-mail, reading our Twitter stream, etc. BUT because the objects/targets of these electronic “hunts” are virtual, there is no concrete thing to trigger the endorphin-fueled feeling of satisfaction/contentment. So after we’ve completed our on-line “hunt”, we’re still on-edge from the dopamine rush, but it starts to wane, so to get it back, we’ll search for something else, starting a cycle of seeking behavior we’ll use to try to keep that rush going.

That’s how we’ll say “Oh, I’ll quicklyImage Hosted by look this up on Google, then get back to what I’m doing” and then forty-five minutes have passed and we’ve gone off on four or five tangents, checked all our e-mail, social media accounts, and maybe we didn’t even find what we were initially looking for.

Then the more we do that, the more Image Hosted by ImageShack.uswe crave that slight dopamine rush, the more we want to check our e-mail, Facebook, etc., and soon we’re falling asleep with our Blackberrys on our nightstand and checking them as soon as we wake up, and during the day we start to feel twitchy if we haven’t checked our e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, whatever, for a couple of hours.

So yeah, sure, evolution may have Image Hosted by ImageShack.usequipped us for this behavior, but we are not cavemen any more, and when our ancestors were staying alert, on edge, and paying attention to every possible danger around them, they were not also trying to read eighty pages of Con Law for their next class.

Being able to quickly check and skim Image Hosted by ImageShack.usdifferent resources and monitor multiple streams of information may be a useful skill in some situations, but the mental processes that requires are very different from the processes needed to “learn the law.”

Learning the law requires extended Image Hosted by ImageShack.usperiods of non-distracted focus/concentration on the written word, and you cannot do that with your laptop open next to your casebook while also regularly checking Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. When you look up from a book to a screen your brain makes several split-second decisions: is that important, do I click on that, should I respond to that? And in just that split-second you’ve disrupted the “deep reading” processes that enable your brain to comprehend what you’ve read and transfer it from your short-term “working” memory to your long-term, retentive memory.

We need to teach our students to use Image Hosted by ImageShack.ustechnology and social media deliberately, in a focused manner, to get the most use out of them: but don’t let these tools use YOU.

Do not let them interfere and distract Image Hosted by ImageShack.usyou from concentrating on the important tasks that NEED your undivided, focused attention.

The best advice for our students may Image Hosted by ImageShack.usbe the same common sense advice for a healthy diet: 1) All things in moderation, 2) know when to say when), 3) push away from the digital buffet - at least when doing your class readings.

Full blog post...

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Christian Science Monitor, Bad Fact-Checking, and Plagiarism

Came across this article in all the news about the Mississippi River flooding:
William Sargent, Letting Mississippi Run its Natural Course Could Save New Orleans from Hurricanes, Christian Science Monitor, May 19, 2011.
Sargent points out that, yes, it would have been good for the Louisiana coast to let the Mississippi River run wild, keep depositing sediment in the delta to build up new coastal wetlands, and shift course every five thousand years, as it has done throughout its history, and which it would have done at some point by now if man hadn’t intervened. But Sargent gets several points wrong and glosses over several important issues. Wrong is his statement comparing a possible breach of the river’s levees with Katrina’s flooding:
The full force of the Mississippi would fill up the underwater bowl in which New Orleans lies with far more force and water than filled the city when Lake Pontchetrain burst it’s levees after Katrina.
First, the lake is spelled “Pontchartrain” and its levees did NOT burst after Katrina; it was the floodwalls along the various canals in the city that burst. In fact, no levees “burst” during Katrina: some were overtopped, but it was the collapsing of the floodwalls that caused the worst of the flooding in New Orleans.

And he glosses over the drawbacks of letting the Mississippi flow down the Atchafalaya basin, as it would have done if the Army Corps of Engineers hadn’t tamed it with the Morganza Spillway and others structures along the river in that same area. Yes, all that sediment that the Mississippi washes down from the middle third or so of the country could now be building new wetlands along the middle of the Louisiana coast, but not if we wanted to keep it navigable. The reason we’re losing wetlands south of New Orleans is that the river has been engineered to not silt up and so all the sediment is going out into the Gulf instead of building up new land along the mouth of the river.

But Sargent’s most egregious offense is to rip off a memorable image from John McPhee’s 1987 New Yorker February 23, 1987 article, The Control of Nature (Atchafalaya). Sargent may have “consulted” this article in his research, as it is one of the standard works on the history of controlling the Mississippi, but he crosses the line with the second of these two paragraphs:
The Mississippi River is impressive. In New Orleans, it is straitjacketed between 20-foot high levees, and the river itself is over 150 feet deep. When President Bush finally went down to New Orleans to address the situation after hurricane Katrina, he stood on Jackson Square, facing the river that flowed by, 20 feet over his head.

You could see the superstructure of supertankers and hear the quiet thrumming of their engines as they cruised by in front of him. If the ships could have cruised over the nearby superdome they would have hovered in the air 10 feet above centerfield. It would have been an impressive photo-op, indeed, if the levees had decided to break during the presidential address.
Besides not capitalizing “Superdome” (a minor oversight, unless you’re a Saints Fan!!! Its “THE Superdome”, not “a superdome”, like there are a couple of dozen of them scattered around the country), the image of ships hovering over the playing field is clearly lifted from this paragraph in McPhee’s article:
William Sargent Plagiarized Plagiarism John McPhee

Here’s the two key sentences, side by side:

If the ships could have cruised over the nearby superdome they would have hovered in the air 10 feet above centerfield.
[I]f somehow the ships could turn and move at river level into the city and into the stadium they would hover above the playing field like blimps.
I’ve been reading a whole lot about plagiarism for an article I’m working on, and all the definitions for plagiarism include something along the lines of “using the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own.” And that, clearly, is what Sargent has done here. Oh, and “centerfield” is part of the field where baseball is played. In football commentators generally call the area around the fifty-yard line “mid-field.”

Full blog post...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Italian Combat Readiness in WWI

In yesterday's New York Times Book Review, the title review, by Christopher Hitchens, is Adam Hochschild, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, a new book on WWI.

What caught my eye is this accompanying photograph:

The caption in the review reads “Italian soldiers killed during an Austrian attack in the mountains near Cividale, circa 1917.” Well, no freaking kidding they were killed - they brought a damn guitar into combat - that shows where their priorities were!

Full blog post...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jazz Fest, Professor Houck, and Global Warming: Year 3

This is my second update to my original post in 2009 about Tulane Law Professor’s Oliver Houck’s prediction of how global warming will affect Jazz Fest. Prof. Houck’s article, Can We Save New Orleans?, 19 Tul. Envtl L. Rev 1 (2006) (PDF), is a very good piece written just after Hurricane Katrina and intersperses his personal evacuation tale amongst a detailed, pessimistic history of the environmental indignations that Louisiana, New Orleans, and the Mississippi River have suffered for the past century or so.

At one point Houck recites a litany of the worst predictions of rising global temperatures and, to try to make it more relevant to us here in New Orleans, flippantly says:
So what? Here in Louisiana we will be warmer in summer (think, maybe, 103 degrees at Jazz Fest) . . . . Houck, 19 Tul. Envtl. L. Rev 1, at 27.
The source he cites says that:
[It] is projected that by 2100, temperatures in Louisiana could increase about 3°F (with a range of 1-5°F) in spring and summer, slightly less in winter, and slightly more in fall. Envtl. Prot. Agency, Climate Change and Louisiana 2 (1997).
(See last year’s discussion for the minor problems with this cite in Houck’s article.)

Since I had been to many Jazz Fests when I read this article, and never remembered the temperature being in the high nineties, I thought this "prediction" was way off base and then, of course, had to figure out when the hottest JazzFests on record were. My original post on this, in 2009, talks about how I got the temperatures for all the past Jazz Fest (a pain in the ass) and about my methodologies in compiling them. Long story short, the hottest Jazz Fest ever was 2002, when the average temperature for the ten days of the Festival period was 89.7°F. Pretty damn hot, but a good thirteen degrees away from 103°F that Houck predicts and well out of even the maximum range by which the EPA says temperatures “could increase.”

This year’s Jazz Fest, with an average temperature of 82.6°F, was the 20th hottest on record. Here are the updated charts, current through the 2011 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

New Orleans Jazz Fest - Average Temperatures Year by Year

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Average Temperatures Ranked Hottest to Coolest

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Average Temperatures Ranked Coolest to Hottest

Conclusions? The 2011 was statistically right in the middle of all of them; three of the five hottest Jazz Fests were between 1987 and 1995, and three of the ten coolest Jazz Fests have been since 2004. There is no global warming trend evident at Jazz Fest.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is the New York Times and/or Stephen L. Carter Wrong?

Ok, so this isn’t the most timely comment. I’m catching up on stuff and cleaning off my desk after meeting two big deadlines in the past month, which is why this may have been, I think, the biggest gap in posts since I started this blog way back in aught-eight.

I had flagged James Traub’s review of Yale Law Professor Stephen L. Carter’s book, The Violence of Peace: America’s Wars in the Age of Obama, in the New York Times Book Review from back in - jeez! - January. Carter apparently takes Obama to task for continuing the Bush wars without any improved adherence to the “just war” theory that is the focus of Carter’s book.

The quote in the review that caught my eye was this:
Carter observes that the Bush administration coined the term “unlawful combatant” to place America’s new adversaries beyond the reach of the Geneva Conventions.
I read that and though, uhh, doubtful. Five minutes with Westlaw found several cases from WWII and the 1950s about “unlawful combatants”.

Here’s the relevant part of one such case, Colepaugh v. Looney, 235 F.2d 429 (10th Cir. 1956):

Colepaugh v. Looney

The case it cites is a Supreme Court case from WWII, Ex parte Quirin 317 U.S. 1 (1942), which says:

Ex parte Quirin

I’m no expert in this subject, but either 1) Stephen Carter is wrong - doubtful - 2) the NYT reviewer is wrong - possible - or, most likely, 3) the NYT reviewer was lazy in summarizing Carter’s statements about unlawful combatants and the Bush administration. Like all law professors, Carter is very likely a genius at grafting multiple layers of conditions and clarifications on anything he says. We have the book, and I really don’t want to read it just to find out about this, but I might have to because, based on the Traub review, Carter is absolute wrong and has completely mis-represented the Bush administration’s use of the unlawful combatant status in military law during its eight years, seven and a half of which were engaged in the war on terror, which Obama’s recent good luck in continuing Bush’s policies will probably do little to help resolve.

Full blog post...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Annual Mardi Gras Legal Satire

Every Mardi Gras seems to have some satirical take on the legal profession, and this year was no exception:

Morris Bart Mardi Gras new Orleans 2011

That's from a float that had several portrayals of local attorneys on it, but I was only able to capture this picture of our second floor computer lab's namesake.
Full blog post...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Legal Education and Twitter... Jeez

I think this student could be one of ours...

Law student in the law libry in sweaty gym clother browsing celebrity gossip sites

Of course, dumb law student Tweets are like shooting fish in a barrel, but I just happen to point my gun in this person's direction tonight.
Full blog post...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weird Westlaw Glitch/Typo

I think some Westlaw copy editor fell asleep and hit the Y key with their nose:

Weird Westlaw Glitch or Typo

Oh, and a “deck” is a copy editor term for part of the headline, like the “sub-headline,” I guess. So maybe that part was an error in the original newspaper. That story (Westlaw login required) has been on Westlaw at least since around its publication date, so say about ten months. Wonder if it will ever be corrected.
Full blog post...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Audrey Hepburn ALA-Styled "Read" Poster

Came across this lovely picture of Audrey Hepburn and thought it would make a great ALA-Style poster.
Audrey Hepburn reading

Wish I could see what book she was reading. Found this image on a Tumblr about fashion, and using TinEye found it in several other places, including on a blog post with a photo collection of celebrities and books. Also found a copy that isn't cropped. But I couldn't find any information about the source; will have to go scour her biographies one of these days at the library. Or go to Anthropologie - I've browsed several nice books about her there while my wife was shopping.
Full blog post...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Space Tragedies and Poetry

I looked it up a while back to check the date, but today is the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster. In a posting on another blog that even fewer people read than this one, I use that as a jumping-off point to talk about presidential documents and how you would use the Public Papers of the Presidents if you wanted an official cite to Reagan's remarks to the country that evening. I also prattled on about the "In Event of Moon Disaster" speech that William Safire wrote for Nixon in case NASA couldn't get Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin off the lunar surface and back to earth. (Nothing I've read about the contingent Apollo 11 speech makes mention of Michael Collins, who remained in the Command Module circling the moon, but apparently his greatest fear in the entire work-up for Apollo 11 was having to return to Earth alone as a "marked man for life". (Thank you, Wikipedia!!!))

But back to Space Tragedies and Poetry. Reagan's Challenger remarks, written by Peggy Noonan, quoted High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. As that link explains, he was an American pilot who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force before America entered WWII, and a test flight at 30,000 feet inspired the poem that Noonan excerpted and which Reagan related to a nation in mourning, telling his fellow Americans that the shuttle astronauts had "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God".

Reading Safire's article about his long-forgotten Apollo 11 contingency speech, he notes that his conclusion had Nixon say:
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
and which is a variation of the end of The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, which starts:
IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
At least one web page notes that both these disaster speeches - one never delivered, and one delivered memorably - used quotes from poets who both wrote about romanticized visions of war in the first half of the 20th century, but its only, as far as I've found, if you read the WikiP page for Brooke that will you discover not only did they both attend the same school in England (Magee's parents were missionaries so, though American, he got around as a kid), but that they both won the same poetry prize thirty four years apart from each other.

Did Peggy Noonan know of this connection? In both the column she wrote about the Challenger speech and in that chapter of her book about being a speechwriter for Reagan, she doesn't mention knowing about the Safire contingency speech at all, so this is likely just one of those very strange coincidences.

Noonan's column, incidentally, was written after the shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry in 2003. As far as the presidential response to that tragedy, Bush Jr. and his speechwriters, I presume, knew better than to bother with any fancy poetry (understandably, given that "There once was a man..." is probably the limits of his experience with poetry) and instead quoted Isaiah 40:36 in his response. It's a good, appropriate piece of verse, but overall Bush II's post-Columbia remarks are as unmemorable as was most everything else he said during his presidency.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Goat-Rope that is SSRN

Over the holiday break, I got another “Everyone Wins a Ribbon Day” e-mail from SSRN:
Dear Brian Huddleston:

Your paper, "Louisiana Legislative History Resources", was recently
listed on SSRN's Top Ten download list for LSN: Legal Information:
Authority, Citation, & Precedent (Sub-Topic). As of 12/30/2010, your
paper has been downloaded 48 times. You may view the abstract and
download statistics at

Top Ten Lists are updated on a daily basis. Click on the following
link to view the Top Ten list for the journal LSN: Legal Information:
Authority, Citation, & Precedent (Sub-Topic) Top Ten.
I got a message like this soon after I uploaded this paper, and it was a joke even then: that e-mail said my paper was in the top ten downloads for the previous two months, but I only had 11 downloads at the time. Yet I was in the top ten because, yes, there were only two papers within this subject “eJournal” for that two-month period, and mine was the second of the two. (And who the hell was downloading it? - its a pretty narrow subject to be browsing for something about Louisiana legislative history research on SSRN.)

The bottom line is that SSRN has so many subject-specific “eJournals” - seven related to ConLaw and jurisprudence, six related to employment law and related matters, etc., etc. - that ANY paper can just about be assured of being a “Top Ten” download for that particular eJournal soon after you upload it to SSRN. This fact is sometimes trumpeted by self-serving law professors who conveniently leave out the detail that their paper was a Top Ten download only in the “Law of Armenian Basket Weaving” eJournal and instead represent it as a overall “SSRN Top Ten Download”. But I’m not naming names...

This recent message from SSRN was all the more suspect since my “paper” is a year and a half old - I doubt its within the top ten of anything now. But yesterday SSRN President Greg Gordon sent the follow-up e-mail to, apparently, a whole mess of people who got a similar message:
We apologize for sending you one or more incorrect email messages
last week. While testing some new functionality, our servers sent
"Top Ten" emails to the top one hundred downloaded papers in certain
ejournals instead of the top ten.
Oops! Damn that decimal point! And how disappointing! - my 2009 paper was only in the TOP ONE HUNDRED downloads for 2010 in the “LSN: Legal Information eJournal, Authority, Citation, & Precedent Sub-Topic”.

Wait - I didn’t even notice that - the eJournal is “Legal Information and Technology”, but they rank the top downloads for EVERY “sub-topic” within that journal? There are about forty sub-topics under this eJournal, including a full dozen sub-topics about the “Practice of Law Librarianship” for all my fellow law librarians to bulk up their resumes with “Top Ten Downloads” boastings.

Realizing this, its not surprising I’m in the top 100 downloads for the “Authority, Citation, & Precedent” sub-topic: there are only sixty-three papers TOTAL under that sub-topic! And I don’t think I put my paper in that sub-topic - it has nothing to do with Authority, Citation, & Precedent - its about Louisiana legislative history and was a contribution to a 50-state survey that apparently is no longer going to be published in Legal Reference Services Quarterly. Does SSRN stick papers in these eJournals and sub-topics randomly?

And let’s not even get into the poorly-thought “opt-out” requirement for authors who don’t want to participate in SSRN’s new “Hard Copies for $9.99” service. There’s no way for authors to get any royalties on this, and apparently this will violate the terms of agreements that professors sign with most law reviews. SSRN said it needed to start doing this to help cover expenses, even though they’re bilking charging the majority of law schools $6000+ annually to sent out four or five e-mails a year with lists of recent faculty articles, aka the SSRN “Research Paper Series”. We've been debating ponying up for our own Research Paper Series but I've repeated offered to the Dean that I would do the same thing for half the price.

Full blog post...