Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Quite a Mistake

If you're in-house counsel, and you're going to conspire with management to steal a rival's trade secrets, and you just left a voice mail message for in-house counsel for that rival... perhaps you should double check to be sure that you remembered to hang up? (Thanks to Have Opinion, Will Travel)

My biggest surprise in this case, at least from the article, is how long it took for courts to zero in on the crime-fraud exception to lawyer-client privilege.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A Feast Fit For A King

Today, the London Guardian speaks somewhat critically of the fortune expended by the Queen to support her various households - £36 million, or $65,823,000.00. The article notes,
The £500,000 a year that the Queen spends on these occasions is, apparently, partly due to the gluttony of the guests - each of whom, on average, consumes 14 buns, bridge rolls and ice creams. A spokesman, demonstrating a grasp of arithmetic that is beyond question, pointed out that if the average is 14, some people ate even more. One of the ways of cutting the royal budget is, as Marie Antoinette failed to recognise, "let them eat less cake".
I would venture that the issue is not that the guests eat, on average, "14 buns, bridge rolls and ice creams. I would venture that the issue is that the Queen's caterers order that many "buns, bridge rolls and ice creams" per guest to ensure that no guest ever has to hear the words, "I'm sorry - we're out of buns. Will a bridge roll do instead?"

Whatever the case, I do hope that the Queen permits her staff to enjoy the leftovers, rather than having the surplusage go to waste.

The Shrinking Box Office

Reportedly, Hollywood is in something of a tizzy because of declining box office revenues. I think a big part of the problem has to do with the behavior of movie house patrons, and the reluctance of their owners to intercede.

A few years ago, an older woman I know expressed to me that she stopped going to movies when they were transformed from a nice night out to a place where you had to suffer through the person behind you slurping soda and chomping a bucket of popcorn. I don't think she would be attracted back to today's movie houses, where increasingly you can add such items as pizza, nachos, and hotdogs to your list of "eat while viewing" pleasures. Yet most people adapted to that level of interference with their movie enjoyment. So enter what bothers me.

The phenomenon of parents dropping kids off at a movie theater for several hours, such that the movie theater acts as a de facto babysitter, is not new. Nor is the fact that some teens don't behave well in the theater. But in recent years the type of bad behavior one might associate with a young teenager seems to be exemplified in a population of young adults - people in their late teens and early twenties - who seem to believe that the movie theater is an extension of their living rooms. Most of these people are just plain inconsiderate, but some actually make a special effort to make a movie unenjoyable for everybody else in the theater. When a patron complains, missing part of the movie to do so, management may warn the rambunctious viewers, but the sanction for bad conduct rarely extends past a warning, and the bad behavior often resumes the moment the manager (or security guard) leaves the theater.

I think that the theaters view this as in their own self-interest. The problem customers are frequent visitors. The complainers are typically infrequent customers. With profits turning on repeat viewers (that is, people who watch the same movie more than once) and high concession sales, movie theaters seem to prefer losing the older, more mature customers who are irregular movie viewers, in favor of retaining those who disturb the viewing pleasure of other patrons but (statistically) see lots of movies. (Movies, particularly "blockbusters", are increasingly written to draw viewers in their teens and early twenties to the theater, two, three, four or more times. The economics of a blockbuster are dependent upon repeat viewers.)

Two adult tickets, a couple of sodas, and a bag of popcorn - about $25? A DVD rental, a bag of microwave popcorn, beverages from your fridge, and nobody talking over the movie dialog - about $7? If this Michigan experience is typical of the rest of the nation, presumably a big part of the box office decline can be attributed to people deciding that there are darn few movies which they want to see so badly that they won't wait for the DVD.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

My Faulty Memory

Today, David "Babbling" Brooks cautions us about being too hasty in our assumptions on the future of Iraq:
Still, one thing is for sure: since we don't have the evidence upon which to pass judgment on the overall trajectory of this war, it's important we don't pass judgment prematurely.
My memory seems to be faltering - did Brooks issue a similar caution during the lead-up to the war, about the "candy and flowers" scenario? Did he issue a similar warning in the days leading up to Bush's "Mission Accomplished" banner? Or is he only concerned about the thoughtful review of such niceties as "facts", "evidence" and rash action when the wind isn't blowing in the direction he wants?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What If You Threw A Bipartisan Commission And....

The Washington Post editorializes that the Democrats should somehow, magically, forge a bipartisan initiative to resolve the long-term financial viability of Social Security.
But there is also the little matter of what's right for the country. Failing to act now will make the problem harder to fix down the road; cuts or tax increases will have to be steeper the longer the problem goes unaddressed. ... Democratic lawmakers keep insisting that they take the Social Security problem seriously and want to deal with it. This seems a good time to start.
Unless I missed something, Bush has not reached out to the Democrats and invited them to participate in an effort to reach a bipartisan plan for the future of Social Security. He has been much more consumed with dismissing any criticism of a plan, even as he declines to give specifics, while pressuring Republican representatives to sign on to his plan and attempting (rather unsuccessfully) to sell his plan directly to the American people, so that he can avoid negotiating over details. In terms of negotiation, the available evidence suggests that Bush views "everything I want" as the starting and ending point. If the Democrats offer any plan which gives Bush an inch, he'll take it - and then castigate the Dems for not giving him a mile. So where's the upside for the Dems in proposing reform plans which will never be adopted by the Bush Administration, but will instead be used to advance the distortion, "you voted for it before you voted against it", to obtain compromise at no cost?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Now It Makes Sense

Last week, John Tierney suggested that older Americans were greedy and lazy for not working past standard retirement age. Today, he tries to redeem himself, holding out President John Quincy Adams as an example:
Most workers could keep going longer if they and employers reconsidered the old assumption about a career trajectory. They could learn from the example of John Quincy Adams, who was elected to Congress after serving as president. He dismissed objections that the new job was beneath him, and voters didn't discriminate against him for being overqualified.

Adams started his new career at age 63, just about when the typical American man now retires. He wasn't especially spry, once calling his body "a weak, frail, decayed tenement battered by the winds and broken in on by the storm." Yet he stayed on the job until his death at age 80.

He accomplished so much in those years that he is remembered as a better congressman than president. You could call him an inverse example of the Peter Principle, someone who succeeded by being demoted below his level of incompetence.
So I guess the next time I see a person, past the retirement age, clearing tables at McDonalds or working as a "greeter" at WalMart, I'll keep in mind Tierney's suggestion of the "inverse Peter Principle" - that they were probably not competent at their jobs before they took the more humble work - and that they could be serving in Congress had they not found that particular job to be beneath them.

Oh, how sad it must be to be a former President, with so few income opportunities available to you - and all of them so demeaning. Tierney sure knows how to blow the wind out of the sails of a song like "Fortunate Son".

Monday, June 20, 2005

Wedding Rings

A wedding ring story from mythago, and her comment on John Scalzi's wedding ring story (to which she links), brought to mind another....

A friend of mine was getting married, and was emphatic that he was not going to wear a wedding ring. Perhaps needless to say, he endured some teasing on the subject from his friends.

The minister who was to preside over the ceremony approached him and inquired if this was in fact the case. My friend affirmed that it was. "I see," the minister responded. "In all my years as a minister, I have only had one other man who didn't wear a wedding ring after the ceremony. He worked with industrial machinery, and if a wedding ring were caught in a machine it might rip his finger off." The minister then excused himself to attend to other duties.

"See?," my friend asked, "The minister says it's okay if I don't wear a ring."

(I doubt that I need to explain that my friend does not work with industrial machinery, for you to figure out that the minister probably intended a different message.)

Epilogue: He now wears a wedding band.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

The New York Times offers a Father's Day perspective of parenthood from a father who lost his baby daughter when she was 47 days old. In many ways his experience was the opposite of mine - he had, by all appearances, a healthy daughter who died unexpectedly of a brain hemmorhage. I had an unexpectedly unhealthy daughter, entangled in her umbilical cord, who made a remarkable recovery from that birth trauma. (Her 1 minute APGAR score was 1.) A few seconds after the delivery, my wife said "I hear her crying". I'm not sure what she heard; I'm not sure what, if anything, I said in reply. It was a long couple of minutes before she made her first noise.

I'm not sure that I breathed between the time she was born, and that point about ten minutes later when a nurse asked for our camera so she could take some pictures for us. Fourteen minutes after she was born, Emma briefly met her mother. Four hours later, she was released from the NICU and into our care.

I can't really describe the weight of that moment - the fear. The room is full of medical professionals, all focused on the baby. Nobody has the time to tell you "it's going to be okay", and (if you can imagine seeing this scene) even if they did it would be hard to believe. The many months spent anticipating parenthood, a tough delivery, and the sudden experience of your life, your hopes and your plans being completely beyond your control.

A delivery room nurse, checking on my wife after delivery, was concerned that I might see a small blood clot - "The way you turned white when the baby was born," she said, "I thought you were afraid of blood."

On this Father's Day, I am very grateful to have my daughter.

George Will on America

Today George Will shares an interesting perspective on the Emmett Till case.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The War on Drugs

Today George Will suggests that the war on drugs is one we can win - or, if not, that it is nonetheless worth fighting. To advance his point, he presents the following arguments:
  • In the early days of the War on Drugs, during Nixon's presidency, key administration officials already perceived it as an unwinnable war;
  • Profit margins for illegal drugs are enormous, and the sale price for cocaine can reach 100 times the cost of production;
  • Illegal drugs are easily smuggled from impoverished nations into the United States;
  • Inflation-adjusted prices for marijuana, cocaine and heroin have decreased significantly over time;
  • There are 19 million active users of illegal drugs, 7 million of whom are addicted;
  • Marijuana is stronger and more potent than ever (although I know some aging hippies who scoff at that claim);
  • The increase in drug prosecutions since 1990 arises from increased prosecution of marijauana possession, not trafficking offenses; and
  • The cost of the "war on drugs" is $35 billion per year.
I will acknowledge that Will notes periodic downward trends in marijuana use among teens, that occasional large seizures of portions of the 200 metric tons of cocaine that entered the U.S. last year caused "abrupt shortages in some metropolitan areas", and that alcohol use did not rise to pre-prohibition levels until the 1960's, but otherwise... which side was he arguing, again?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"It Couldn't Happen Here...."

In a scathing attack on gerrymandering, the Washington Post opines:
In some areas, open competition between political parties gave way to deal-cutting that foreordained most results and so depressed turnout.
Oops - my bad. That was about Lebanon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Closed, Polygamous Communities

When you are living in a polygamous community, where the male leaders want and expect to have a dozen or more wives, how do you balance the demographics? How about exiling the teenage boys who would otherwise be competitors for wives?

Keeping The Elderly In The Workforce

When I saw the teaser for Tierney's latest on Social Security ("If the elderly were willing to work longer, there would be lower taxes on everyone and more national wealth and tax revenue to help the needy.") my first thought was, "He's probably going to tell us that if we would only work to the age of 105, like the industrious Chileans, everything would be perfect." (I was inspired, of course, by his past writings.) I didn't actually expect that to be the case, but I was a lot closer than I expected. Meanwhile, Tierney continues to overlook the once-lauded "privatization" of Britain's pension system.

Tierney argues, with little apparent thought given to the realities of life for the elderly, that
Americans now feel entitled to spend nearly a third of their adult lives in retirement. Their jobs are less physically demanding than their parents' were, but they're retiring younger and typically start collecting Social Security by age 62. Most could keep working - fewer than 10 percent of people 65 to 75 are in poor health - but, like Bartleby the Scrivener, they prefer not to.
Those darn lazy elderly workers have, it seems, no incentive to work once their Social Security benefits become effectively fixed.
Once you've worked 35 years, more work often yields only a tiny increase in your benefits (sometimes none at all), but you still have to keep paying the onerous Social Security tax, which has more than doubled over the last half century.

If the elderly were willing to work longer, there would be lower taxes on everyone and fewer struggling young families.
This, of course, is meant to be an argument for privatization of Social Security - that if people contributed to their private accounts, rather than contributing to a defined system of guaranteed benefits, they would have greater incentive to keep working because their "private account" would continue to grow. But somehow, recalling the various elderly people I see working in the community at stores like Meijer or even fast food restaurants, I find it hard to believe that they see no financial benefit from working - it seems far more likely that they are trying to supplement their fixed retirement incomes by working low-wage jobs. Perhaps, though, Tierney (who, in a most non-elitist manner, compares the retired elderly to Bartleby the Scrivener) isn't even aware that such people exist. The Guardian provides a more informed take on the situation:
It is all very well to talk glibly about raising pensionable ages. Nobody has yet explained what many people will do in their extended working lives. Some are capable of carrying on for years past 60: doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, desk workers.

But nobody can reasonably expect manual workers to keep going as their physical strength declines and all the usual ailments of late middle age set in. Even more significant for industry and commerce, it seems absurd to suggest that people in executive roles should be given a right to keep them after 60.

Most of us slow up, some become burnt-out cases. It is already a problem for many businesses that, amid relentlessly changing markets and technologies, key jobs need the energies and imaginations of 30-something-year-olds, not tired sexagenarians.
The Guardian acknowledges that some realignment of the British system may be requires, but unlike Tierney it directly addresses the realities for elderly workers:
Many people in their last working years will have to do humbler jobs than they have been used to, for less pay.
Tierney also argues that by forcing the elderly to work longer before they could retire, ostensibly while removing Social Security from the tax system, the net result would be "more national wealth and tax revenue available to help the needy, including people no longer able to work as well as the many elderly below the poverty line because they get so little Social Security." Hm. So if the elderly work longer, more jobs will magically be created in the economy? If Social Security taxes are no longer part of the tax system (through a privatization estimated to require $2 billion from the general fund?) tax revenues will go up? And the net effect of this will be to allow us to subsidize the impoverished elderly, who presently retire too early because Social Security is so generous? One hardly knows what to say.

And then, to cap it off, he resorts to the Chilean system - and actually suggests that if we had a system like Chile's we could retire sooner than the present system allows. But he apparently recognizes the contradiction, and thus suggests that Chileans have a "saner attitude about retirement" than lazy American baby boomers, and typically intend to work after they retire. (His thesis is supproted by a conveniently perfect quote from an ostensible "typical Chilean", encountered... somehow. Tierney's taking a page from Friedman's style book.)

[Updated to correct hyperlink to Tierney's original editorial.]

Restore My Faith In Human Nature (A Bit)....

Please - somebody tell me that the woman releasing doves with each Jackson "not guilty" verdict was one of his employees....

Monday, June 13, 2005


Rep. Candice Miller, concerned about the possibility that Michigan will again lose at least one Congressional seat following the next census, has proposed a constitutional amendment affecting apportionment.
"I find it absolutely outrageous that people who are not in our country legally are having such a profound impact on our political system," Miller said. "Every 10 years the census determines the number of Congressional districts allocated to each state and how those districts are drawn. If we continue to include illegal aliens in that count, we'll allow criminals to steal the Congressional voice of honest, legal Americans. This is about fundamental fairness and the American ideal of `One Man; One Vote."
I wonder if Miller would accept a compromise proposal whereby we count all citizens, and three fifths of all other persons.

Class Mobility

Uh oh - Sebastian Mallaby is engaging in class warfare.
Now, you want to hear something really bad? The poorest fifth of Americans has experienced a rise in incomes of just 3 percent over the past three decades. The real problem in America is not about the middle class. It's about the underclass; about Americans who lack the skills and habits to advance at all.
Hey - wait a second. Aren't we supposed to pretend that we're a "classless society", that everybody is "middle class", and that the richest of the rich aren't really any different from the rest of us? Perhaps I should consult Ann Coulter to see if Mallaby should be indicted for treason.

This comes on the heels of an observation by Mallaby which I deem, at best, banal:
This is more than merely heartwarming. It takes the ugliest monster in American society and smacks it on the head. Inequality in the United States is sharpening, and income increasingly reflects parental status. And while this may be linked to bad Republican tax policy, it has a lot more to do with bad education policy, defended for the most part by interest groups connected to the Democrats.
As you might expect from such a statement, Mallaby essentially argues that the real problem in our society is inequity in our K-12 schools, apparently best overcome by bashing teachers unions and public school boards. (Never mind that performance in charter schools and in private or parochial schools accepting vouchers is on the whole no better, and in some cases is worse, than that of their public counterparts). But the root of why kids end up with similar earnings as their parents has very little to do with the policies of either major political party and far more to do with modeling - kids pick up a lot from their parents. Does Mallaby think it is a mere coincidence that the children of college graduates are more likely to attend college, the children of teachers are more likely to become teachers, the children of doctors are more likely to enter the medical professions.... Even within "bad" school districts, you will find trends of that sort.

And no amount of improvement in the Los Angeles Public Schools, directly or through charter schools, is going to magically provide the same type of opportunity that wealthy kids in our society are born into. At the extremes, the hardest working kid at one of Kushner's schools isn't going to be admitted as a legacy into Harvard or Yale on middling grades, and he isn't going to be able to follow his father's footsteps into government. She's not going to be able to hire a publicist and a plastic surgeon, repeatedly create a public spectacle of herself, and end up starring on a pseudo-reality TV show on the basis of her manufactured fame. And, in more mundane terms, he is not likely to be welcomed into the "CEO Class", even if he finished college and attends a good business school.

News Flash: Children learn a great deal from their parents, however good or bad their public schools. You can't expect a child's school to magically cure a lousy, unsupportive home environment. Nor can you expect a public school (or private school, or charter school) to create limitless opportunity for every student, entirely divorced from what their parents do (or do not do) for a living.

Mallaby concludes,
Education is the last, lumbering public monopoly, and it is not performing: Only 23 percent of blacks and a fifth of Hispanics graduate from high school prepared for a four-year college; a quarter of all college freshmen require some sort of remedial course. So long as this is so, the alarming wealth gap in this country will remain unbridgeable, no matter whether tax policy is designed by Republicans or Democrats
But where is his evidence that public schools are not performing at least as well as the alternatives? Citations to exceptional examples do not prove the case, and the statistical evidence to date suggests the opposite - that on the whole charter schools underperform public schools. The most strident supporters of vouchers, particularly where parochial schools qualify to receive them, typically oppose requiring the schools which accept vouchers to administer the same standardized tests which are supposedly essential to measure performance in public schools. That suggests first that their goals are something other than improvement in education, and second that they don't expect objective measures of performance to lend support to voucher programs.

I'm no fan of public schools. But I'm even less a fan of proposed "magic answers" to persistent problems which are based on knee-jerk politics and guesswork. In my opinion, Mallaby's editorials often read like reworked press releases from lobbying groups seeking to advance a political agenda, presenting broad generalizations which seem to be backed with little thought or evidence, and this doesn't seem to be an exception.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Entreaties to GoogleGuy

At WebmasterWorld's forums, an anonymous representative of Google, "GoogleGuy", has taken on the thankless task of responding to webmaster inquiries about Google. There are a lot more questions than answers, perhaps because... well, if I were to parody the typical inquiry, my query to GoogleGuy would probably be along the lines of,
Googleguy, my right mouse key sticks ever since the Google "Bourbon update", and this is costing me thousands of dollars. When can I expect this to be fixed?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Professorial Carelessness

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy a couple of days ago, Eugene Volokh wrote:
I Am Glad To Live in a Country in which the President does not say things like:
Let us stop drinking from the enchanted waters of Lethe, which strike with amnesia those who want to quench their thirst, and let us dare to taste those 'fresh waters that run from the Lake of Memory' -- as the words say on the golden bars of the disciples of Orpheus, that bard of metamorphosis and of ascending reincarnation.
This passage was attributed to an article in the London Telegraph, which identifies the new Prime Minister of France as a self-published poet, whose "excrable verse" has led President Chirac's wife to deem him "Nero", adding,
Recently, in an essay on France's need for national confidence (which, note, is not quite the same thing as Euro federalism), de Villepin wrote: "Let us stop drinking from the enchanted waters of Lethe, which strike with amnesia those who want to quench their thirst, and let us dare to taste those 'fresh waters that run from the Lake of Memory' - as the words say on the golden bars of the disciples of Orpheus, that bard of metamorphosis and of ascending reincarnation."
I would have thought that context would have been important to Professor Volokh - we're not talking about a statement made in public, but part of a self-published poetic essay by a hobbyist poet - made worse, no doubt, by translation from French into English. Is it the language and metaphor to which Volokh objects? Here's how a song the President has proudly and publicly performed (en masse, in mass) reads when roughly translated into French:
J'ai lu un mandat ardent d'evangile dans des rangées polies d'acier;
"comme affaire de ye avec mes contemners, ainsi avec vous ma grace s'occupera";
Laissez le héros, soutenu de la femme, écrasement le serpent avec son talon,
puisque Dieu marche dessus.
Battle hymn or no, out of context it looks pretty silly. So perhaps Prof. Volokh's comment,
In fact, maybe that should be our reaction any time President Bush is mocked for misspeaking: "Hey, at least it's not 'Let us stop drinking from the enchanted waters of Lethe . . . .'"
should be taken with a grain of salt. Or at least with an eye first to context, and second to audience - two factors I would expect a law professor to consider as a matter of instinct.

I recognize that it is fashionable in some circles to gratuitously bash the French - as was the apparent intent of the opinion article he quotes (which is even titled, in reference to a line from the Simpsons, "Surrender Flunkey") - but I am willing to assume that Prof. Volokh had something else in mind. Perhaps he did mean to simply express that, while we have a President who sometimes trips over his native tongue, we are lucky not to have one who is a mediocre hobby poet. There, of course, he makes the assumption that President Bush doesn't have a desk drawer stuffed full of poems he authors during his free moments. Perhaps he should reflect upon why he believes that assumption is a safe one to make.

Additionally,the position of Prime Minister in France does not parallel that of the President in the United States, and is more one of carrying out the directives of the President and managing France's civil service. Perhaps Prof. Volokh overlooked the portion of the article which describes how de Villepin took office after his predecessor was "sacked by President Chirac" - something that should have put him on notice of a difference. Do I care if somebody in the Bush Administration, such as Andrew Card, writes horrendous poetry in his spare time? Not in the least.

But perhaps the most peculiar aspect of Prof. Volokh's jibe is that it doesn't seem to have anything to do with qualification for office. I would prefer an articulate President. I would prefer to read good poetry. But if a Presidential candidate is reasonably articulate, at least to me, other issues become dominant - and whether he writes poetry (good or bad) in his spare time isn't among them.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Don't Believe The Hype

A Lawyers Weekly article, reprinted in the Arizona Capital Times, reflects significant excitement about legal weblogs ("blawgs"). But some of the statistics presented in the article seem dubious:
  • "In the four months since the blog — — was launched, the number of readers has skyrocketed to 50,000, up from 4,000 readers a month."
  • J. Craig Williams, a lawyer in Newport Beach, Calif., estimated that his blog — — gets 20,000 hits a day."
  • "“You can set up a Web site for $10,000, or put up a blog for $10,” [Larry Bodine] said. “I tell all my small-firm clients — forget the Web site, let’s get you a blog.”"
The first claim, of 50,000 unique visitors per month (or perhaps they were confused, and mean 50,000 total visitors, or 50,000 page views) would be extremely high for a subject such as antitrust. The Overture "search term suggestion tool", which indicates how many times a particular search term or phrases is used on all properties which use Yahoo! Search Marketing products, indicates that in April of this year there were 5,831 searches using the term "antitrust" across such properties as Yahoo!, MSN and InfoSpace. Even giving Google its due, "antitrust" is not such a popular subject that a claim of 50,000 visitors per month seems likely. (And other measures which might support a claim, such as Alexa rankings, link popularity checks, or even the number of comments on the blog itself, don't support the claim.)

As for "" getting 20,000 "hits" per day, that particular term has long posed problems - does a "hit" mean a "file hit" (for which there are typically multiple "hits" per page view), "page view" (the number of times a page is displayed), or something else? And given the report that this traffic "generates one new client a week for his five-lawyer firm", well, generating business is good, but that would be an unbelievably poor conversion rate if that's one new client per 140,000 visitors to the weblog.

I am reminded of a lawyer I know who insisted that a peculiar website she was running was getting "a million hits per day". I'm sure her SEO ("Search Engine Optimizer") was telling her that the site was achieving that level of popularity - but neither its subject matter nor its subsequent (lack of) prominence supports that claim. Be aware, folks, that web designers and SEO's will not always be honest about the amount of traffic their work inspires - if you hear a huge figure from a professional you have hired, ask to see an actual report of traffic metrics based upon an analysis of the website's logs.

As for Bodine's suggestions, I simply disagree. First, it's only going to cost you in the neighborhood of $10 for a weblog if you "do it all yourself". And if you use that measure, it is no more expensive to set up a website if you "do it all yourself". Second, if you were to retain Mr. Bodine's services to set up a small firm website, I sincerely doubt that his quote would be in the $10 range. Third, websites and weblogs provide very different functions. A good law firm weblog can be integrated into the firm's website, with ready access to other content from that site, including information about the firm and its lawyers. A stand-alone weblog will be a less effective marketing tool. And, to the extent that Bodine's insistence that the "freshness" of a weblog's content helps a weblog achieve better search engine results, that would also hold true for a weblog which is integrated into a website.

And that traffic thing....
The other big reason for starting a blog, Bodine said, is to increase a firm’s visibility on the Internet. Google and other search engines rate the relevance of a site by how frequently it’s updated, as well as the number of other sites that link to it.

“The reason you want to have a blog is because it gets much more traffic [than a Web site] because search engines have tuned up their algorithms to seek and list blogs first,” Bodine said. “Blogs are basically what search engines are looking for — text and something that’s refreshed and interesting.”
Well, then, going back to an earlier example, what happens when you search Google for the word antitrust? The Antitrust Law Blog is result #42 - a decent result given the 7,390,000 hits reported, but not likely to generate significant traffic. Many of the "top ten" results are from traditional websites, some of which have seen little to no change in years. Yes, "fresh" content can get you a boost in the search engines, but that of itself won't give you staying power, and that of itself won't necessarily cause you to outrank established, traditional websites. Further, good content on an established website will continue to rank in search engine results, month after month, year after year, while "fresh" content from a weblog will typically become effectively absent from search engine results within weeks.

Yes, it may well be possible to create a new weblog, and to use the weblog to achieve short-term search engine results which are better than those you are likely to achieve with a traditional website. (As I've mentioned in the past, most law firm websites are bad, and it shouldn't be surprising that bad websites don't generate much business.) If you have neither a website nor a weblog and you feel you must choose one or the other, it can thus make sense to start with a weblog, and then to establish your traditional site. If you will be attracting business based upon current legal issues and events, a weblog may well be the easiest way to get that "fresh" content before your potential clients. But if you are producing good content which is of longer-term interest, you will almost certainly benefit from building a traditional website.

Whatever you do, in the (im)mortal words of Public Enemy, don't believe the hype.

Say What?

I have been following some of the news about Apple's decision to switch to Intel as the future supplier of its CPU's. Let's just say that although some people love Windows XP, I am not among them. I was not particularly impressed with early analysis, which often went along the lines of "Apple will never switch, so this is really about negotiating a better deal for the Power PC chip". Moving onto an Intel platform raises a number of interesting possibilities for Mac, presently theoretical, particularly if Microsoft continues to suffer delays in its release of its next generation operating system.

Some technology coverage, though, still leaves me scratching my head. For example, an article that asks (in its headline) "Apple Goes To The Dark Side?" How is switching from IBM to Intel "going to the dark side"? The author states,
For Apple, crossing over to Intel, which many of its longtime customers consider “the dark side”, makes for some interesting future directions.
Well, no explanation there. The author continues,
If the release of the Mac-mini was any indication, Apple has decided to try and lower the price of its systems to gain market share (currently a paltry 2 percent of the total PC market). With the move to Intel based machines, Apple will be forced to bring the price point of Macs closer in line to that of PCs.
Right.... Just like when GM puts the same engine in a Cadillac as it uses in a Chevrolet, it can't price the Cadillac significantly above the Chevy....
Furthermore, moving to the Intel platform will make it easier for other manufacturers to produce Mac clones – something Apple already knows will make a significant dent in its hardware sales.
Well, not really. That is, unless Apple permits other manufacturers to make Mac clones. One of the big attractions of the Intel chip is its built-in features which help facilitate the licensing of intellectual property (and make infringement more difficult) - something that should be of use as the iTunes Music Store continues to grow, but which could also help Apple block its OS from running on any unauthorized hardware. That is, the new processors should make it harder to clone a Mac, absent Apple's express consent.

That's not to say that we couldn't see Apple authorize Mac clones, or issue versions of its OS (or server software) which run on any PC. But I fully expect Apple to retain control of its hardware, until such time as it decides that "clones" should again be allowed.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Representing Yourself In Court

Looking at a document, prepared by a lawyer who is representing himself, I note that he described himself in the caption as "Im Pro Per". ImProPer? Defense counsel may agree with that one.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Power Outage

No power in parts of Ann Arbor for more than a day, after a brief but very intensive storm? I guess the bright side is, it didn't happen in Ohio.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Nothing Magical Here....

The Sun and Mirror take on practitioners of the dark arts, in an effort to save Harry Potter. Or something like that. Book 'em, Danno.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


In a line of argument even Powerline seems to regard as nutty, Ben Stein, Peggy Noonan and Pat Buchanan are attacking "Deep Throat" for supposedly causing Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia (by participating in events which led to Nixon's resignation from office when, in Stein's words, "No one doubts RN would never have let this happen") I am left wondering... given Nixon's 1970 expression on Cambodia's civil war, what would he have done? He wasn't even particularly committed to standing against public opinion at that time ("A majority of the American people want to end this war rather than to have it drag on interminably. The action I have taken tonight will serve that purpose.") The Watergate break-in occurred more than two years after he gave that speech.

Further, it could be suggested quite plausibly that the roots of the Cambodian civil war lie with Nixon's secret war in Cambodia (with its estimated 600,000 casualties), and with U.S. support for the corrupt and incompetent government of Lon Nol.

Also, Pol Pot did not take power until 1975 - so is the suggestion that but for a scandal which started in June of 1972, Nixon would not have brokered a 1973 peace deal with North Vietnam, would have conqured the North, and would have kept a significant U.S. military presence to stabilize both the reunified Vietnam and Cambodia, and thereby would have prevented the rise of Pol Pot? It seems to me that events that led to the "victory with honor" withdrawal from Vietnam were well in progress prior to the Watergate scandal.

Am I wrong in suggesting that, but for the intervening years of Gerald Ford's Presidency, at least Noonan and Buchanan would be blaming Carter for the genocide as well? Can anybody find a single word from any of the critics, which in any way, shape or form is approving of Vietnam for invading Cambodia and bringing Pol Pot's brutal reign to an end? Did any of them criticize Ronald Reagan, following Vietnam's invasion, for insisting upon the continued recognition of the Khmer Rouge as the official government in exile of Cambodia?

Updated to remove reference to the wrong Ben. Ben Stiller? What was I thinking....

Ben Stein seems like a bright guy, but....

Oh, spare me.
Can anyone even remember now what Nixon did that was so terrible? He ended the war in Vietnam, brought home the POW's, ended the war in the Mideast, opened relations with China, started the first nuclear weapons reduction treaty, saved Eretz Israel's life, started the Environmental Protection Administration. Does anyone remember what he did that was bad?
Ben, pick a better hero.

The Presumption of Innocence

I've been contempating for a couple of months over a possible blog post on the diminishing "presumption of innocence" in criminal cases. For now, an interesting discussion at Crime and Federalism on post-arrest, pre-Miranda silence, and a plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose-type followup (or whatever that would be in Latin) by mythago will have to suffice.