Thursday, March 30, 2006

The "Method Acting" Defense?

What is it with prima donna celebrities throwing telephones at people? Do you think it would work if she argues, "But your honor - I am trying out for the role of Russell Crowe in an upcoming biopic. I know I was out-of-line, but I was just that deeply into character."

I like this,
[Defense attorney David] Breitbart called the [prosecutor's] request for $3,500 bail "an insult," saying his client's Park Avenue apartment is worth more than $3 million and she earns "more than six figures on a regular basis."
Would an appropriate response be, "Would your client find a $1 million bail less insulting?"

(It appears that Ms. Campbell has been previously accused of similar acts.)

Whiny Crybabies

I know that James Lindgren disagrees with the study which suggests that conservatives were whiny crybabies as children, even if perhaps asserting statistical arguments which are no less dubious, but his blogging colleagues are doing him no favor with their endless whiny posts about how hard it is to be a conservative.

Oh, crikey.... Just when I was thinking Ilya Somin's posts were somewhat reasonable....
Some of those who claim that campus intolerance of conservatives and libertarians is not a significant problem argue that right of center students are themselves obnoxious, intolerant, and so forth. If there really is an overrepresentation of such people among outspoken campus right-wingers, this fact may itself be the result of PC intolerance. If speaking out in favor of un-PC viewpoints can lead to social ostracism, an obnoxious jerk is less likely to be deterred by this danger than a conservative who is generally nice and popular. After all, the jerk is probably already widely disliked, while his more popular counterpart has much more to lose from any PC backlash to his remarks.
A recent post on what to me seems like a childish grudge match leads to this:
Just wanted to drop you a line to tell you how much I enjoy your blog and also commend you for standing up to Brian Leiter. Without articulate spokesmen like yourself, upcoming conservatives wouldn't have a chance of survival in today's leftist-dominated universities. Good work.
You know, I just can't bring myself to feel sorry for tenured professors, most of whom were privileged enough to go to schools like Harvard and Yale, when they whine for decades afterward about how horribly oppressed they were in their college years. If they have a valid complaint, judging from the typical post on the subject, it seemingly should be that they managed to spend that much money on their bachelor's and graduate degrees at top colleges yet didn't develop better critical thinking skills.

Subsequent Remedial Measures

I realize they're playing it up for the media, but would this type of claim make you want to hire this firm?
Apple Computer’s release Wednesday of a software update to limit the volume level of its iPod music player confirms the product is flawed, U.S. attorneys involved in a class-action suit against the company said.
Also, what's so special about an iPod that common sense shouldn't apply? Hearing loss from excessive volume was an issue with the "Walkman" back in the 1980's.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blaming Google

In an article that tries to blame Google for the decline of literacy in society, Edward Tenner writes:
Many students seem to lack the skills to structure their searches so they can find useful information quickly. In 2002, graduate students at Tel Aviv University were asked to find on the Web, with no time limit, a picture of the Mona Lisa; the complete text of either "Robinson Crusoe" or "David Copperfield"; and a recipe for apple pie accompanied by a photograph. Only 15 percent succeeded at all three assignments.

Today, Google may have expedited such tasks, but the malaise remains.
Actually, Google makes it easy.

The Mona Lisa.
Robinson Crusoe and David Copperfield.
Apple Pie.
More owners of free high-quality content should learn the tradecraft of tweaking their sites to improve search engine rankings.
Spoken like somebody who knows nothing about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), or how hard it can be to "rank" for a commercially competitive keyword.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

It's all about the links....

There is a conventional wisdom in legal circles that blogs ("blawgs") are great because they can generate traffic and interest which won't be generated by a traditional website, while helping to establish you as an expert. There is truth to this, but the reality is "it's all about the links".

If you have a decent weblog you have a good chance of being linked within the "blogrolls" of other weblogs. You also will periodically have your posts, typically your freshest posts, linked to other weblogs. "Look at 'this really cool thing' Mike wrote over at Crime and Federalism." "Paul Craddick's been a bit slow with the posts lately - is he waiting for something?"

Search engines love links, and more to the point they love natural links. (By "natural links" I mean those inspired by a genuine interest in the linked material, as opposed to links added for the primary or sole purpose of trying to inflate a site's search engine ranking.) Weblogs are a natural source of both.

Search engines also love fresh content, and sometimes give it a boost in their results for a few days after they find it. If you update a blog with any regularity, you are producing fresh content for the search engines.

Also, weblogs typically feature RSS feeds which can create an easy avenue for people to follow your work without actually visiting your site. That is a lot more efficient than trying to create and distribute an online client newsletter.

At the same time, the older material on a traditional site tends to do better in search engine results than do older blog entries. There are a couple of obvious reasons for this. First, although new blog content tends to generate links, linking tends to drop to nothing or near-nothing within a day or two. The absence of fresh links, and the fact that existing links are relegated to archive pages on other blogs, and the passage of the material from the front page of the weblog where it was published, diminishes the value of the linked content to search engine algorithms. In contrast, a traditional collection of quality articles will tend to continue to generate interest and links over time.

In my humble opinion, a law firm will typically benefit from a weblog, but the weblog should be integrated into the firm's site. The firm should build a collection of articles on the firm website, and use the weblog to feature its new article content. By featuring an article on the weblog (e.g., by announcing its publication with a short excerpt and a link), the odds go up that external links (those on other sites) will be directed at the article as opposed to the weblog entry, which in turn should help that article in future search engine results.

Only the Spare Change

A clarification of a blog post from a few days ago. Katherine Harris has clarified that she won't be spending her $10 million inheritance on her Senate campaign, and will instead only be spending her "existing assets" which also amount to about $10 million.

I wish I had that kind of change kicking around under my sofa pillows....

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Seat At The Table

Is a seat at the big table enough? David Bernstein seems to think so:
Oh, and there's an EXCELLENT reason for a black conservative, especially a political activist, to be a Republican: if you want the GOP to pay attention to the interests of African Americans, it's very helpful if there are some blacks in the party who are in the room when important decisions are made.
Eugene Robinson suggests otherwise:
You could rationalize working for someone like Helms by telling yourself that you could do more good for the African American community from the inside, next to the seat of power, than from the outside. You could tell yourself you were advancing the interests of black people, even if most black people disagreed. You could ignore racism or pretend it was something else. You could tell yourself that you were making compromises and sacrifices for the greater good.

Finally, you could arrive at the White House, with a big job and regular access to the president. But it might be a White House where all the big decisions were made by just a few people, and you weren't one of them.

Then what?
But really, how often does this actually happen in any context. Somebody who wants to be political active and be a force for change in the world, who (strategically) never joins the political parties or organizations with which he agrees, who goes under deep cover in the opposing party where he rises to a position where he has access to its leaders, and who then tries to influence the party's decision-makers to take the positions he has hidden throughout his life (and to at least some degree must continue to hide in order to protect his position)?

Even if such covert work were effective, how often would your time and energy have been better spent working for the causes in which you believe?

Both the Bernstein and Robinson positions seem to assume a compromise of ideals.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Political Ideology and Racism

Over at the Volokh conspiracy, contributor James Lindgren (who is quite adept with statistical analysis software and the data at issue) contends that white Democrats are significantly more racist than are white Republicans:

To your list I would add that, over the last 30 years, typical white Republicans in the general public have been significantly less traditionally racist than typical white Democrats.

For example, in the 1996-2004 General Social Surveys, 11.9% of white Democrats think that differences in black/white success are due to black inborn disability, compared to only 9.1% of white Republicans. Similarly, 14.5% of white Democrats favor laws against racial intermarriage, compared to 12.2% of white Republicans.

In the two decades before 1996, these differences tend to be much stronger. Republicans have traditionally been less traditionally racist.

So, although there is a shift in traditional racism toward members of the Republican Party, members of the Democratic Party have been still more racist over the last decade--though the Republican Party may overtake it soon. Only if one uses "modern racism" measures that conflate opposition to big government with racism do Republicans usually score as significantly more racist than Democrats.
Given the tiny percentages at issue, it is astonishing that Lindgren would try to assert significant racism or lack thereof on the basis of his recited figures. But beyond that, if the data truly supports his claims, why is he the only one making these claims? Would Karl Rove truly sit on such explosive data, as the Republicans attempt to make headway among this nation's minority populations?

Although I don't have access to the same tools as Lindgren, it is possible to perform a basic reality check on his assertion through Berkeley's SDA Archive site. Using the "Frequencies or crosstabulation" tool, looking at the General Social Surveys, 1972-2004 Cumulative File, focusing on Lindgren's hallmark of racism, the question of inborn ability [RACDIF4], limiting results to white respondants [RACE(1)], and weighing results with a non-response adjustment [WT2004NR], I see the following results:

When I look at expression of admiration for blacks [ADMIRBLK], I see the following results:

By Lindgren's measure (and let me again emphasize that I disgree with his measure), if Democrats can be said to be significantly more racist than Republicans, conservatives (and moderates) would appear to be vastly more racist than liberals.

When I look at Lindgren's argument that Democrats are more likely to favor laws against interracial marriage [RACMAR], he's right - the survey indicates that strong and moderate Democrats and strong Republicans are more likely to support such laws:

But when liberal and conservative ideology is examined, it seems that strong support for such laws comes from people who describe themselves as moderate, polically conservative and strongly conservative, while political liberals are significantly less likely to support such laws:

Perhaps the difference between the two results is explained by the fact that political moderates are more likely to self-identify as Democrats than they are as Republicans:

I don't agree with Lindgren's extrapolations from the data - I don't think his data supports his claims, and I think he knows it. I know that at least one statistics guru passes by this blog on occasion - I would love to hear an expert opinion on this, as a final word on my clumsy analysis as presented above.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

If Only Nixon Had Thought Of This....

According to,
But in a little-noticed white paper submitted by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to Congress on January 19 justifying the legality of the NSA eavesdropping, Justice Department lawyers made a tacit case that President Bush also has the inherent authority to order [warrantless] physical searches. ... The memo cites congressional testimony of Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, in 1994 stating that the Justice Department "believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes."
(Note to Gonzales: Ditch the weasel words, stop trying to pass the buck or hide behind the opinions of others, show some backbone and state what you believe the law to be.)

In any event, I'm still trying to find the "except if you're the President" clause in the Fourth Amendment. (And isn't it terrifically activist to read a "foreign policy exception" into such plain language?)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Should I Be Impressed or Appalled

Katherine Harris really wants to be a Senator:
U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris plans to spend $10 million she inherited from her father in her race to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, she announced Wednesday night.
Does she view the expenditure of $10 million of her own money as an expression of her devotion to public virtue {cough}, or does she look upon it as a capitalist - an investment, which is expected to pay off even greater returns?

Don't Insert That Screwdriver... Where?

In a joke that might redefine the concept of "painfully funny", there's an image circulating on the web depicting a screwdriver set with a most unusual warning label: "Not To Be Inserted Into Penis".


For the record, here's what the unedited packaging would have looked like:

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Wonders of Modern Pseudo-Medicine

Thanks to the wonders of modern pseudo-medicine, you can now magically remove all of your simulated cellulite simply by applying a lotion to affected areas of your body. Best of all, it's free. (To try....) At that price, it's worth every penny. {cough}

(Ad spotted on Slate.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What Do Web Surfers Look At

One of the important considerations in creating a site is trying to figure out where to place important information, and what design elements help readers find content or make it more likely that they will remain on a site and read its content. Although not new, Poynter Extra's eyetrack studies provide a lot of information about how people actually read online content. Through Google Adsense you can find helpful information about where people are most likely to click ads on content pages, forum pages, and weblogs - information which you can use on any site, if you wish to draw reader attention to particular information, links, or features. And this little graphic from WebmasterWorld tells you why coming in within the first four results on a search engine is key to generating traffic. (It can at times be better to come in 11th - being the first listing on a second page of search engine results - than to be in spots six through ten on the first page.)

Would You Take The Case?

You're offered the opportunity to take a very high-profile double murder trial... triple if you count the fact that one of the victims was pregnant... if you agree to work for free. Court TV will likely cover the trial, which will all-but-certainly end with your client's conviction and sentence to mandatory life without parole. If you wish to present any sort of mitigation of your client's guilt, you will probably have to expend a considerable amount of your own money for expert witnesses. But in the interim you'll get tons of publicity.

By my calculation, it isn't worth it. Would any of the lawyers reading this beg to differ?

It Helps To Actually Have A Twin....

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall describes a former Bush advisor's attempt to beat retail fraud charges with an 'evil twin' defense. (i.e., "My twin brother did it.")

It sounds like the defense may fail, but the defendant still has an advantage over a client I once represented who tried the same claim.... That is, in this case the defendant actually has> a twin brother.

Who "Owns" Your Name

Over at The Legal Underground, Evan Schaeffer points to a couple of blog posts about legal websites. I think that the posts are most helpful to corporate firms, as opposed to solos and small firms, but if you have a law firm website (or are considering getting one) they're worth reading.

But there's something a lot of lawyers aren't considering - at least that I can see - in the Internet era. Specifically, what comes up in a search engine when somebody types in their name. If you have a generic name, it can be difficult to "own" your name - that is, to have your site come up as the number one search engine result for "John Smith", "John Smith Lawyer", or "John Smith Attorney". (But you still may be able to achieve that result for "John Smith Kalamazoo" or "John Smith Michigan Lawyer".) If you have an unusual name it will often be easier to lay claim to the number one search engine spot - but not just for you.

I had a lawyer call me recently to complain that one of the top Google results for his name was a client rant posted on I have seen lawyers whose name draws as the first result a news article or official online announcement of disciplinary proceedings. It is easy to post a site, or publish an online review, criticizing a lawyer - and if you haven't taken some time to optimize for your name, when new or potential clients search for you on the Internet they may well see such a review before they find your actual firm website.

If you're hiring a web designer, one of the topics of discussion should be search engine optimization, and which keywords you wish to emphasize on your site. I would suggest that, among the keywords you designate as being important, you include your name.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Is This The Model For The U.S. To Follow?

An interminable trial ends with the death of the incarcerated defendant. Does this mean that, assuming we apply the rules of a trial by ordeal, Milosevic was innocent?

Oh, sure, it wasn't intended to be a trial by ordeal, but the Milosevic trial hardly stands as a model of international justice done right.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Editorial Cowardice

Despite the state legislature's decision to make South Dakota an epicenter of a renewed war over abortion rights, CJR Daily describes how the state's largest newspaper, the Argus Leader, has announced that it will not publish editorials on the subject.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Darn The Censorious Government

Perhaps somebody can explain this to me. Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Bernstein rails against censorious public employers, concluding,
Yes, I'm troubled by the fact that the government, acting as employer, has such censorious powers. In the case of the prosecutor, it's pretty much unavoidable. In Mr. Gray's case, it provides another reason to support privatization of peripheral government functions.
Leaving Emerson aside for the moment, isn't that a non sequitur? Does Professor Bernstein really think that private employers are more tolerant of employee speech than public employers?

Returning to Emerson, is running a law school a peripheral government function, or is Prof. Bernstein's concern limited to peripheral functions that don't pay his salary?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Looking For Courage In All The Wrong Places....

The Chicago Tribune blares, "Bush's Pakistan visit not 'risk-free'". Well, duh. What is risk-free? Not even sitting in front of a television and eating pretzels is risk-free, and let's not even talk about hunting with the Vice President. Confronting the danger,
Bush planned to spend the night at the well-fortified U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
As one would expect.

Is this unfair? It's just that I see the White House announcements about risk being an attempt to make Bush seem brave for making this trip, during which he presumably will never set foot outside an awesome and extraordinarily expensive "security bubble", and to overshadow the more significant stories (and problems) that are dogging his administration.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Shattering All The Stereotypes....

The context. (They're broadcast television stuff, but these links aren't appropriate for every workplace.)

In response to this, and apparently more directly to this:

an apparently real Playboy Bunny asks,
Why is a shark/whale/ocean your mascot? It's not called the shark pit.
In furtherance of her effort to shatter stereotypes, I understand that she also likes butterflies and flowers, and prays every night for world peace.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sleep Apnea - A Quick Self-Check

Do you:
  • Snore?
  • Wake up several times during the night?
  • Feel tired during the day?
If so, you should consider the possibility that you have sleep apnea, and discuss your situation with your doctor.

And The Difference Would Be... What?

Howard Stern is being sued by CBS Radio, allegedly for promoting Sirius Satellite Radio during his last months with CBS. The allegation appears to be that Stern didn't disclose that he had a stock deal with Sirius "valued at approximately $220 million, if Sirius reached certain subscriber levels at a date as early as this year".

What difference does that make? Were the comments Stern made about Sirius somehow transformed by the deal? Because "We knew he was promoting Sirius, and we knew how much the airtime was worth, but didn't realize how much he would be making" doesn't strike me as a particularly compelling reason to sue. If he was, in fact, misappropriating air time, CBS should have taken action the moment they detected his misconduct.