Category: Blogging

Are There Special TARP Appropriations for Silencing Bloggers?

The Paulson-Geithner-Summers regime has been remarkably adept at stonewalling people like Elizabeth Warren and otherwise avoiding transparency in the bailout. Now one of its main beneficiaries, Goldman Sachs, appears to be targeting mere commentators. They’ve hired a prestigious law firm to menace a writer who collects facts & commentary about the company at this site. As the Daily Telegraph reports,

Florida-based [Mike] Morgan began a blog entitled “Facts about Goldman Sachs” – the web address for which is goldmansachs666.com – just a few weeks ago. . . . [M]any of the posts relate to other Wall Street firms and issues. According to Chadbourne & Parke’s letter, dated April 8, [Goldman] is rattled because the site “violates several of Goldman Sachs’ intellectual property rights” and also “implies a relationship” with the bank itself.

How could anyone think Goldman itself would be affiliating with or authorizing a site that links it to devilry? Unfortunately, the strange range of results of UDRP decisions on similarly satiric sites mean that this is not an absurd legal argument. And given the apocalyptic consequences of the former investment bank’s “financial engineering,” perhaps a reasonable person would associate it with the “mark of the beast”–or guess that hellfire was just one more profitmaking angle for its partners.

Activity like this helps us understand why the wall of silence about the exact nature of and conditions (or lack thereof) on TARP/TALF funding are so important to Treasury. Imagine if we were able to track exactly how much more executives were being paid because of these funds than if they’d have been paid absent taxpayers’ subventions. What if we could track who was benefiting politically from donations by employees at the propped up firms? What if the firms in general start using their corporate welfare to silence more critics like Mr. Morgan? At what point does this become state action? And might we start asking whether the resistance to nationalization among policy elites might be due to a need to avoid state responsibility for what is essentially state-funded action by maintaining a fig leaf of “private ownership” over the banking system?

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Free Speech at a Cocktail Party

Yesterday, Dan posted a commenting policy for Concurring Opinions. Such things frequently bring forth muttered imprecations of speech control and the demise of the First Amendment. Of course the mutterers understand that Concurring Opinions, despite its obvious power and influence, is not a state actor, but still it seems like a public space. Shouldn’t we encourage the marketplace of ideas to let a thousand flowers bloom (to paraphrase Holmes and Mao)? Well no, not really.

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Blogging for a Living

The Wall St. Journal cites a rather questionable statistic about the number of bloggers who blog for a living:

The best studies we can find say we are a nation of over 20 million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, and 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income. That’s almost 2 million Americans getting paid by the word, the post, or the click — whether on their site or someone else’s. And that’s nearly half a million of whom it can be said, as Bob Dylan did of Hurricane Carter: “It’s my work he’d say, I do it for pay.”

Is the WSJ serious? Perhaps, the 452,000 people who blog as their primary source of income include any college or high school student who has a blog with Google Ads. Otherwise, the statistic seems quite dubious to me. According to a quote from the website where the WSJ cites as the source of the above statistic:

The average annual blogger revenue is more than $6,000. However, this is skewed by the top 1% of bloggers who earn $200k+. Among active bloggers that we surveyed, the average income was $75,000 for those who had 100,000 or more unique visitors per month (some of whom had more than one million visitors each month). The median annual income for this group is significantly lower — $22,000.

At Concurring Opinions, we get 100,000+ unique visitors per month, and sadly, our take home pay is far far south of $22,000. Where’s all the money? If it’s out there, it sure ain’t in our pockets, I’ll boldly state that we’re all keeping our day jobs!

Back to Basics

I’ve been a neglectful blogger, so I thought I might sign up for Robert Lanham’s “Internet Era Writing Course.” Despite my absence from Twitter, I’ve completed an embarrassing number of the prerequisites:

ENG: 232WR—Advanced Tweeting: The Elements of Droll

LIT: 223—Early-21st-Century Literature: 140 Characters or Less

ENG: 102—Staring Blankly at Handheld Devices While Others Are Talking

ENG: 301—Advanced Blog and Book Skimming

ENG: 231WR—Facebook Wall Alliteration and Assonance

LIT: 202—The Literary Merits of Lolcats

LIT: 209—Internet-Age Surrealistic Narcissism and Self-Absorption

On a slightly more serious note, check out the legal issues raised by D.T. Max’s moving profile of David Foster Wallace in the New Yorker.

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Constitutional Problems Under Nationalization

I want to thank Dan for inviting me to join the blog this month. My friends and family also thank him for relieving them of the exclusive burden of hearing my crazy ideas.

One of the major issues confronting the Obama Administration is how to fix the financial system and other industries that are reeling from the Panic of 2008. In several instances, firms that were deemed “too-big-to-fail” were nationalized to prevent a disorderly bankruptcy (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG) and in other cases the specter of nationalization looms (Citigroup, Bank of America, and General Motors). While I certainly hope that these takeovers will be few and brief, there is a real prospect that this will not be the case. And this presents a constitutional problem.

Put simply, there is almost no precedent for direct governmental ownership of private firms. The Populist Party of the 1890s, which is the subject of my next book, campaigned on a platform of nationalization, but that effort failed (or was just way ahead of its time). The Tennessee Valley Authority raised some questions about active state participation in the marketplace, but they were never really resolved. As a result, lawyers may be forced to think about some difficult issues over the next few years without much guidance. Here are some examples:

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Thanks, and Goodbye

Thanks to my hosts for a fun month of blogging here at Co-Op. I had planned to blog on some additional topics, but there’s nothing like a deadline (for me: to answer this Call for Papers) to focus the attention on writing. I really enjoyed the time here and especially thank the commentators on my posts for the helpful back and forth!

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Niche Blogging

I want to thank Dan and the rest of the Concurring Opinions bloggers for having me. I figured I would start by posting about something close to home for me.

Doug Berman, at Sentencing Law & Policy, recently called for more people in the criminal justice world to take up blogging. Specifically, he explained that issue-focused, niche blogs serve the valuable function of expanding the debate about important topics. I have been a blogger for over two years in a very tiny niche: sex crimes. There are definitely positives and negatives to being a single-topic blogger.

For me, the negatives have not been too pronounced, but they do come up from time to time. A niche blog audience tends to be narrower and there are less regular readers. Instead, narrow-focus blogs are consulted more often when a hot topic intersects with the blog’s subject matter. Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog is a good example of that trend as his traffic patterns substantially change during election season. That means that the niche blogger has to a lot more work during the off-peak times to draw attention to the blog. I am not one who revels in promoting my blog so that has been the toughest thing for me. The other significant negative is there are times when I see a post around the web unrelated to sex crimes to which I really want to respond, but I cannot justify it on my blog.

The positives have, so far, outweighed the negatives for me. Most importantly, the people who read my blog, regularly or irregularly, tend have much higher interest levels about the topics on which I blog. I would guess, for that reason, I get a much higher volume of email from blog readers than I would on a general topic blog. That has allowed me to get to know a lot of people with different perspectives about sex crime laws. Since that has been the primary focus of my scholarship, the reader feedback has served me well in enhancing my scholarly work. I also think there is tremendous value in the disciplinary nature of niche blogging. My blog forces me to read and think about the issues which interest me on a daily basis. While I think there are times when every blogger wonders if blogging is trading off with more productive activity, I think the net effect for me has been to increase my overall work rate.

So, I would extend Berman’s call for more single-issue bloggers beyond the criminal justice area. While I enjoy a lot of group and general interest blogs, there is an important place in the legal blogosphere for niche blogs.

Cross-posted at Sex Crimes.

Visiting Yale, Balkinization, and Law & Tech Theory

I just wanted to make a note that I’ll be posting less frequently than normal this month, for a few reasons. First, as many of our law prof readers know, the dreaded “March publishing cycle” is upon us. Second, I’m visiting at Yale this term, and it’s always a bit hard to “find your feet” at a new place. Finally, I’m posting at Balkinization and Law & Technology Theory this month.

I hope that SourceHub will add these posts to its apparent aggregation of my blogging at their site. (According to their metrics, I am a “highly opinionated, somewhat negative” writer–leading me to renewed skepticism of number-crunching!)

For those interested, my Balkinization posts have mainly followed up on these reflections on Google; I talk about the book settlement here, and conservative complaints that Google favors Obama here. The theme of Law & Tech Theory this year is technology and human autonomy; I’m concerned with performance-enhancing drugs, revising and updating some posts that first appeared here on Concurring Opinions.